Hiking can provide some incredible and memorable experiences. It can also connect you with a community, the land and provides us with many health/well being benefits. It may not seem like it, but Connecticut has a lot of beautiful, unique places to explore. The state is also home to two nationally designated long distance trails in the U.S., the legendary Appalachian Trail and the New England Trail. With so many options around the entire state or right in our backyards, there's no excuse to getting out and enjoying nature. Below are 11 of my favorite spots to hike in Connecticut (in no particular order). Some easy, some rigorous. See you out there!
1. Bear Mountain (Salisbury) - Connecticut's highest peak (2,316ft) is a popular spot any time of year. Make your way through ancient forests, hike on the Appalachian Trail and enjoy views of the Twin Lakes and rugged peaks of three states from the top of the mountain. (Moderate to Strenuous) (About 5 hours, 6 miles)
2. Mine Hill Preserve (Roxbury) - Take a step back in time as you explore remnants of an old iron ore developing facility, granite quarries and caged mineshafts. Finish up with a walk along the Shepaug River back to the parking lot. (Moderate) (About 3 hours, 5 miles)
3. Indian Council Caves (Barkhamsted) - This out-and-back trip will take you through mountain laurel thickets, a pine grove, along a marsh and out to house sized boulders. These boulders are the caves where native tribes used to hold important ceremonial gatherings. Explore the caves and take in the view of another beautiful pond nearby, before retracing your steps back to your car. (Moderate) (About 4 hours, 4.6 miles)
4. Westwoods Reserve (Guilford) - 39+ miles and over 1,200 acres sits in the Westwoods Reserve for you to enjoy. Check out rocky granite outcrops, stone carvings and be sure to visit the stunning Lost Lake. (Easy) (About 3 hours, 3.5 miles)
5. McLean Game Refuge (Granby) - Break away from civilization as soon as you walk away from your car and go on an adventure through over 4,800 acres of wild land. Walk among the giants of a hardwood forest, pass springs & ponds, take shade in a cabin-like shelter (Spring Pond Cabin) with a water view and finish up with a hike to the top of a peak created by lava flow many years ago. There are no shortage of trails here and you may even be rewarded with wildlife sightings. (Easy/Moderate) (About 3 hours, 4 miles)
6. Devil's Hopyard (East Haddam) - View the incredible and powerful Chapman Falls, hike along the Eight Mile River and enjoy the view from a beautiful vista overlook in this popular area of the state. Many of these now formed trails were once home to old farmland pastures. Get a little shade from hemlocks and woodlands while the glimmering mica reflects from nearby rocky outcrops. Consider checking out the "Devil's Oven," the other highlight here aside from the falls, during your hike. (Easy/Moderate) (About 3 hours, 3.5 miles)
7. Pine Knob (Sharon) - Pine Knob Loop is situated within Housatonic Meadows State Forest. This loop provides beautiful views of the valley from an overlook, rugged, rocky sections of trail and pine/hemlock groves. Part of this loop also runs along the Appalachian Trail. (Moderate) (About 3 hours, 2.7 miles)
8. White Memorial (Litchfield) - At over 4,000 acres, you could spend all day exploring the many extensive trails that are within White Memorial. Take the boardwalk loop for views of Little Pond (home to a few swans amongst many varieities of wildlife) or choose a trail that runs through old growth forest, along the popular Bantam River or even walk the grounds of the White Memorial Conservation Center/Museum and head down to an elevated platform where you can get views of the massive Bantam Lake. (Easy) (Anywhere from 1 hour to all day, 2.5 miles to 22+ miles)
9. Sleeping Giant (Hamden) - The iconic profile of Sleeping Giant is known by many and can be seen from many other peaks throughout the state. Many of its trails are rugged, steep and rocky, but don't let that deter you from visiting this very popular section of the Quinnipiac Trail. At the top is a four story tower you can go into to an observation deck where you will be rewarded with a 360° view which includes the Hanging Hills and Long Island Sound. There is a nice gradual and well cleared path right from the parking lot to the top. This is the most popular route up. Check out the Indian Rock while you are here too. (Easy/Moderate/Strenuous) (About 3 hours, 3.5 miles)
10. Housatonic River Walk (Kent) - If you are looking to hike a section of the AT, but want to take it easy, then this is a hike for you. This section follows the dirt path of River Road and along the Housatonic River. Get out, take a stroll and be able to say you have hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail. (Easy) (About 3 hours, 5 miles)
11. Penwood (Bloomfield) - The rugged, rewarding and challenging Penwood is home to a section of the New England Trail (also known as the Metacomet Trail). It contains a glacial formed gem known as Lake Louise which sits atop part of the ridge. There are many overlooks, microclimate ecosystems and the popular CCC steps dubbed the "Stairway To Heaven" by trail runners of the TrapRock 50 which lie within here. For those who prefer an easier trail with a view of Lake Louise, there is a red blazed section which leaves from the parking lot and gradually makes its way to the lake and as a connector to the Metacomet. (Moderate/Strenuous) (About 4 hours, 6.5 miles)
Have you explored any of these places? What would be on your list? Share them in the comment box below.