When I first started this Connecticut State Parks series, I was thinking it would be 3 or 4 posts long. Turns out I drastically underestimated the number of state parks Pat and I have been to. I’m actually pretty impressed with us – the number is somewhere around 35.
But what’s even more impressive is that there are probably still 25-30 parks we haven’t been to. For such a tiny state, Connecticut has done a good job of setting aside land for state parks and forests. The unfortunate thing is that they set aside this land and then ran out of money to develop it. Many of the parks are so underdeveloped, in fact, that there isn’t even a sign marking the parking area. In some cases, there’s barely a parking area and there are certainly no trail signs or maps. We haven’t been to most of these tiny, undeveloped parks because, well, they’re hard to find and I don’t even know what there is to do once we get there.
But that’s okay, because there are plenty of more developed parks that do have parking areas and signs and trail maps. So we just stick to those instead.
On that note, I present to you part 4 of what’s shaping up to be a 7- or 8-part series on the state parks of Connecticut.
1. Bolton Notch State Park – Bolton, CT
First things first – a “notch” is the New England word for the low spot between mountains that settlers could pass through. I have a little bit of trouble understanding where exactly the notch is located at Bolton Notch State Park. But regardless, it’s a nice park with some easy walking trails and a pond. An old rail line also runs through the area, which has since been converted into a walking and biking trail that passes through the park and continues outside the boundary for many miles in both directions.
We visited here with a couple friends and walked a few miles along the trails and around the pond up to a high point.
One thing to note: GPS directions to this park are incorrect, and the turnoff is difficult to find. It’s off to the right as Highway 44 and Highway 6 westbound merge together, and there’s a median so it can’t be accessed from the eastbound side of the road. It took us a couple of attempts to figure this out.
2. River Highlands State Park – Cromwell, CT
We visited River Highlands with friends as well, which was probably the saving grace of this park. It’s a small walk-in park that’s mostly geared towards hiking and riverfront camping for boaters. All we could do was park and head down a trail (a ridiculously steep trail) to the river banks. It was a pretty horrible hike through fine dirt and slippery leaves and pine needles.
The river was pretty, though, so at least our efforts were rewarded with some views.
3. Farmington Canal State Park Trail – Cheshire, CT
The Farmington Canal State Park Trail is a subsection of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, which parallels the Farmington Canal for many miles through the center of the state. The canal was in use for about 20 years during the mid-1800s, running from Long Island Sound up to Massachusetts. A few years later, though, this route fell out of favor. Connecticut’s location really puts it at a disadvantage in terms of ports; New York and Boston are simply much more feasible shipping locations, and the Erie Canal was already in existence and difficult to compete with.
Anyway, today the canal sits un-used, but the trail is a nice wide, flat path for biking, jogging, cross-country skiing, or for a leisurely stroll. We opted for the latter, and walked for a couple miles along the canal. The path is lined with trees and flowers, and a few of the canal locks also remain.
4. Chatfield Hollow State Park – Killingworth, CT
Chatfield Hollow State Park borders the Cockaponset State Forest in south-central Connecticut. This is primarily a hiking park, though there are also picnic areas scattered throughout and a small swimming area in Chatfield Hollow Pond.
We followed a trail along the gently babbling Chatfield Hollow Brook to the “Indian Caves.” Though artifacts have been found that speak to the fact that Native Americans used to inhabit this area, there isn’t much left today. We climbed around the rocks and ducked into a few small caves, but there isn’t really much to see. Nevertheless, it was a nice place for a calm walk through the woods.
5. Hopeville Pond State Park – Griswold, CT
After being together for a couple years, Pat and I decided it was time for us to be real adults and start purchasing some of our own camping gear. Of course, camping gear is expensive and we were both broke grad students, so it took us a while to save up and acquire all that we needed.
Step 1 was to buy a tent. Step 2 was to use it.
So on Labor Day weekend, about two weeks after our new tent arrived, we spent 3 nights camped at Hopeville Pond State Park in east-central Connecticut. We were camped at site B7 which was probably the largest one in the whole place, despite the fact that our reservation was fairly last minute. I’m not sure how this keeps happening to us.
This is a fairly quiet park, with about 80 forested campsites, hiking, a pond for boating and fishing, and a large open sports field. They even had tether ball, which I hadn’t played since middle school.
Of course, we had to play a few games. It was going well until I went for the ball and smashed my hand into the metal pole instead. Hard. I had a nice bruised and swollen thumb for the next week.
6. Pachaug State Forest – Voluntown, CT
When we were camped at Hopeville Pond, we actually spent most of our time in the nearby Pachaug State Forest, which protects two disconnected sections of land. Both are full of trails and provided ample hiking opportunities.
The Chapman area is larger and offers camping, boating, fishing, hiking, as well as multi-use trails that accommodate horseback riders. We walked a short trail through a rhododendron sanctuary (though it was September so there weren’t any flowers) and then climbed up Mount Misery (how a 440-foot/134 m high hill counts as a mountain is beyond me, but that’s a whole different topic).
In the Green Falls area, we parked at Green Fall Pond and walked the Narragansett Trail, which tracks along the edge of the pond before splitting off and crossing over the border into Rhode Island. The trail was narrow and becoming progressively more difficult to follow so we turned around just past the border.
Camping, boating, picnicking, and swimming are also allowed at the Green Falls Area.
Well, this concludes part 4 of the series.
Click here to read parts 1-3.