A hiking friend of mine recently told me about a newly created 14 mile trail in southern Connecticut with almost no hints of civilization. A long hike without passing signs of society too often? I became instantly hooked. I have always loved New England and the abundance of hiking opportunity that we have here. Opportunities rich in history and just as much with views. Sure we may not have the high elevations (our highest is Mount Washington at 6,288ft), but we make up for that with rocky, rooty constant steep ascents and descents. Throw in the unpredictable weather (especially in the White Mountains) and you have a recipe for a fun-filled adventure. Aside from the weather, as I had a perfect fall-like day, the Richard H. Goodwin Trail delivered on all other accounts.
Rocky? ✔ Roots galore? ✔ Steep ascents and descents? ✔. Yes, I know you're probably thinking "That can't be possible being not too far from the shoreline." With an elevation +/- of around +3500 ft and -3400ft, I too was thinking the same thing going into the hike and not expecting stats like that. Connecticut is always full of surprises.
The Richard H. Goodwin Trail was opened in June of 2016. It begins in East Haddam, CT just down the road from Devil's Hopyard State Park. It then continues through the towns of Salem and Lyme before finishing in East Lyme. As mentioned, the trail is currently 14 miles in length one way. There are options to park in various spots and hike sections. You can also shuttle with a group or friend to make it through the entire trail once or make it a 28 mile out-and-back if you're up for the challenge.
I hiked the trail one way in it's entirety with a small group. The entire trail is well blazed and is marked with yellow diamond plates with a dark green G the middle. You can see one in the photo above as well as in a few other photos throughout this post.
The trail begins from Chapal Farm located close to the junction of Rte 82 and Rte 156. There is ample parking and it is hard to miss. Just keep an eye out for the sign pictured above.
Soon after entering the woods you'll come to a bridge crossing and below it, The Eight Mile River. This bridge was recently built and allows for easier, drier travel along this section of the trail. Notice the trail marker on the bridge.
We couldn't help but enjoy the clarity and calmness of the river before continuing the hike.
From there, the trail gives you a taste of what to expect throughout your trip. Constant change. We passed a marshy wetland area and then quickly noticed it became deep woods. The changes aren't the only thing that make this trail unique and fresh. You'll also notice that with the change in scenery comes the change in everything else. The smells, the sounds, the feel of the trip.
Passing through high grasses along the trail.
There are a few spots along this entire trail where you will come to a junction. These junctions are well marked and mapped. We didn't have any problem seeing where we were and following the markers in conjunction with a map we used.
The Richard H. Goodwin Trail crosses roads only a few times throughout the entire trip. A rarity in a time where everything feels overly developed anywhere you look. Here we crossed the road and town lines into the town of Lyme.
Connecticut is always full of surprises. This was one of them on this trail. Snout Rock. I always love seeing glacial erratics in New England. It is something very unique to the northeast and there is no shortage of them here. Along with this geologic oddity, you'll also see tons of massive boulders in places that make you picture a behemoth giant setting them down gently between the trees. This was one of our chosen spots to stop and enjoy a bit longer. It was also a great time to refuel.
In his recent article about the trail, Hartford Courant nature writer Peter Marteka mentions having a craving for Gatorade since the markers have a striking resemblance. I couldn't help but grab a bottle of the sports drink for this trip. Not only was he right, but it was also a very refreshing choice. Thanks Peter.
Next, we made a moderate climb through mountain laurel thickets that reminded me of sections along the Connecticut portion of the Appalachian Trail and Tunxis Trail.
After making your way through the thickets and a short section of forest we arrived at Bald Nubble. There may be no panoramic view from the trail here, but it's not always about the tops of peaks. It's about just being out. This spot still rewarded with how open it was due to the rocky terrain. Here there were few hints of fall beginning to show. To continue from here we followed a couple of cairns and found our next marker.
Here's one of the cairns.
After hiking a bit more through deep forest we made our way to the next junction and almost to Nehantic State Forest. This map was also a great reference point for some of the features we had seen along the way such as Snout Rock and Bald Nubble.
From there, the trail brought our hike down and up an old farmstead road. There seemed to be fewer trail markers here, but for good reason as the road was a distinct path to follow. We then made one more slight descent down to what is one of my personal favorite spots on the entire trail. From out of nowhere was this meadow that left us awestruck. Another refuel spot and some time to marvel at the beauty that surrounded us.
A group photo and one more moment to enjoy this spot before we continued along the trail. I believe this was also around the halfway point. It is around here that we noticed along with the "G" trail markers the trail also followed white blazes toward the end.
In Nehantic State Forest we saw this tree. It's always amazed me how powerful, yet beautiful nature can be. How did this happen? Wind? Flooding? The rocky foundation below? A combination of all at the same time? When you see something like this, it's hard not to feel so small. It's also further proof that nature makes us humble.
An old dirt road continues from the tree onward for a good 5 to 10 mins, depending on your pace.
From hiking on smooth dirt roads to taking on a scree filled scramble and slight climb up, this trail is still full of surprises.
Getting closer to the finish, but here come more of those surprises.
One surprise was a short pine grove complete with a pine needle path to help soften each step as we near the end of the trail. Just a few miles to go.
As we exited the grove and scent of pine we came to a spot on the trail showing signs of past civilization. Old farmstead remnants strewn across at our side and the scent of now surrounding plants, filling the air. This was something we noticed quite often. As we made our way along the hike, the smells of the present area were in abundance. Either our senses were heightened on this trail or it added to its unique quality.
A couple more of those glacial erratics. They were becoming more prevalent here and along with the flora it made me feel like we were entering a prehistoric land where dinosaurs roam. The once solid dirt path now transitioned to sand in a few stretches. Faint hints of salt filled the air.
The rocky, root filled path of the Richard H. Goodwin Trail forces you to focus on the present moment and your surroundings throughout your hike. Something that can seem very hard to do during a time where everything seems tech-driven.
After many miles, the journey brought us out of the woods and into one more field. The path led us to a kiosk where we then took a right and headed up on more hill to the parking lot on Woods Rd (according to Google Maps) off of Mostowy Rd and the end of the Richard H. Goodwin Trail.
Feeling refreshed and reconnected to the outdoors at the end of our trip. This trail is brilliant! It has something for everyone and it's great to see communities and towns come together to connect all of these beautiful unused spaces.
A view of Darrow Pond by the end of the trail.
A look at our recorded trip.
I hope you enjoyed this post and that inspires you to check out this beautiful newly created trail. If you're looking to get out with a group or solo and don't want to go alone, you can always book a trip with Reach Your Summit and take a guided hike here.
Have you hiked any or all of this trail already? I'd love to hear about it. You can share your experience and pictures in the comment box below or on Reach Your Summit's Facebook page.
Any questions or comments? Please feel free to get in touch. See you out there!