Connecticut today is crisscrossed by hundreds of miles of hiking trails. These trails run through high land and low, across difficult and easy terrain, and offer unique insight into the geology, flora and fauna of the state. They serve as blissful, highly satisfying getaways from the noise and crowds of daily life.
Here are 10 notable hikes in Connecticut with features, gathered from sources such as The Hartford Courant,Connecticut Magazine, everytrail.com, alltrails.com, trailsoffreedom.com, trails.com and others:
- The Mattabesett Trail in central Connecticut offers marvelous views from atop the state’s famous trap rock ridges. One of the great vistas comes after a climb up from Meriden’s Giufridda Park to Chauncey Peak and Lamentation Mountain. Once there you’ll walk along a ridge from which you can see Hartford to the north, almost to New Haven to the south, and unlimited views to the west. This up-and-down hike covers about 2 miles.
- The Mattatuck Trail is located in Wolcott’s Peterson Park, just off Route 69. You will find yourself in a sort of natural amphitheater, with towering hemlocks, filtered sunlight, tumbling and splashing water, and an understory of moss-covered boulders, ferns and mountain laurel. Stick with the trail for another 5 miles and you’ll come eventually to Buttermilk Falls in Plymouth, one of Connecticut’s great secrets in the woods. For this 5.7-mile hike, you’ll have to park one car at the beginning and another at the end.
- Roxbury in Litchfield County has a number of natural preserves that are great for hiking. The most interesting is the Mine Hill Preserve that runs past old iron mines, granite quarries and the ruins of a 19th-century iron-making complex. The 4-mile trail passes a reservoir, mine tunnels, a series of grated air shafts, massive granite cliffs, the Shepaug River valley, an abandoned quarry and finally a furnace complex, where excellent signage will tell you about all you’ve just seen.
- Farm River State Park in East Haven is a smallish (62 acres) park that seems unpromising at first but serves as a nice immersion into salt marshes and seaside sights and sounds. Trail lengths don’t amount to much, but you’ll like the places they take you. As the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection states: “Despite its size, the park’s diversity is remarkable. Snowy egrets feed in the marshland and share the tidal wetlands and rocky shore with a wide variety of ducks, gulls and the occasional blue heron.”
- The Lucius Pond Ordway Devil’s Den Preserve in Weston and Redding encompasses nearly 1,750 acres and is the largest preserve in Fairfield County. Grab a trail booklet at the entrance and take off on a hike that seems best suited to you from among the preserve’s 20 miles of pathways. And if you see something that looks like a hoof mark in one of the stones along the way, well that’s how this preserve got its name!
- In Litchfield, the 4,000-acre White Memorial Conservation Center has long held the flag high for nature and environmental awareness. There is camping, as well as boating, picnicking, excellent birding and 35 miles of hiking trails, including interpretive nature trails, a boardwalk trail that circles above a wetland habitat and a good chunk of the Mattatuck Trail.
- The 4.8-mile Housatonic River Walk in South Kent is a unique section of the Appalachian Trail in that it is one of few long flat parts of the entire trail, which wends its way 2,160 miles from Georgia to Maine. The easy, relaxing walk on an old farming road provides ample opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty and varied wildlife along the river. It will allow you to brag that, you have hiked along the epic AT.
- Caves are a regular feature along Connecticut’s trails, although they are apt to be recesses in jumbles of boulders or old mines rather than the elaborate cave systems you might find elsewhere. For example, a hike along the Tunxis Trail in Barkhamsted (4.4 miles out and back) will take you to the Indian Council Caves. You make your way into the woods from busy Route 219 and embark on “a magical romp,” according to Peter Marteka of The Hartford Courant.
- The wilds of Northeast Connecticut are on ample display in Union’s Bigelow Hollow State Park, located within Nipmuck State Forest. Here, trails head off in every direction, but hardy hikers will be interested in the portion of the Nipmuck Trail that runs from the park entrance, out and around Breakneck Pond, and then back again. The round trip is somewhere between 6 and 7 miles, featuring many water views, awesome rock formations and all the sights and sounds of spring in Connecticut.
- One of Connecticut’s most beautiful land trust properties is deep within Litchfield County at Steep Rock Preserve in Washington. There are many trails within this 974-acre natural wonder – for example, the Steep Rock Loop (4 miles) takes in many of the preserve’s features and Green Circle Trail (3 miles) follows the curves of the Shepaug River.