Sky's the Limit Hiking Challenge 2022

Are you ready for an outdoor adventure exploring CT State Parks and Forests? Curious to discover some best kept secrets and build your awareness of CT’s history, nature, or landscapes?  Join Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) State Parks and Public Outreach Division as they ring in spring on Sunday, March 20, 2022 with the 2022 Sky’s The Limit Hiking Challenge (“STL”).  Take the challenge and get outside for some fresh air to experience this year’s STL theme, “Best Kept Secrets”. These 20 Best Kept Secrets can be the park or forest itself, or a component within such. Discover sunken boats, native plant gardens, scenic viewsheds, battlegrounds, caves, and more. Hike or walk as many of the locations as desired, photo documenting along the way. Participants who hike or walk 15 of the 20 trails receive a “Sky’s the Limit” hiking staff medallion and a certificate for their efforts.  For hiking all 20 locations, 50 participants will receive a hand-carved hiking staff made by the CT DEEP Sawyer; and names of all who complete the 20 designated hikes will be randomly drawn.

On January 1, 2023 names will be drawn from those who visited all twenty locations and 50 winners will receive a hand-carved hiking staff made by our DEEP Sawyer who works at our CT DEEP Sawmill. All entries are due by 3 pm on Friday, December 2, 2022.  

If you post your photos on social media, please use the #CTSTL2022 or #CTStateParks.

Helpful Information:  For the safety of fellow STL hikers, DEEP staff, and others enjoying the trails, please remember the following when walking and hiking with the STL Hiking Challenge:

  • If you’re not feeling well, stay home!

  • If you arrive at a park or forest and crowds are forming, choose a different park and trail, or return another day or time.
  • Warn other trail users of your presence and as you pass to allow proper distance and step off trails to allow others to pass. Signal your presence with your voice, bell, or horn.
  • While enjoying your hike or walk, be safe outdoors by staying on the marked trails, and most importantly, have fun exploring. 

  • Bring water or drinks.
  • Bring a whistle, sunblock, map and insect repellant. 

  • Dress for the weather.  It is best to dress in layers.  As you warm up while hiking, you can remove outer layers.

  • Wear proper footwear based on weather and site conditions.

  • Hunting is allowed in most state forests and some state parks so check out the CT Hunting and Trapping Guide and don't forget to wear orange during hunting season.  Also, bring a whistle or make noise so hunters know you are in the area. 

  • Be Bear Aware and do make your presence known by making noise while hiking.  If you see a bear, make enough noise and wave your arms so the bar is aware of your presence. 

  • Remember to protect yourself from Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. 

  • Dogs must be on a leash for their safety, the safety of wildlife and fellow hikers.  Please see Notes section below for more information.

  • Don't forget to bring a map and know what the trail blazes mean (don't think just because there is a wide open trail that is the correct way to go, there might be a spur trail that is not obvious.  Trail Blazes

  • Be aware of your surroundings and check out options. There might be a trail that takes you around a steep area, consult your map.   

  • Remember to check the State Parks Twitter to confirm the park is open and plan your trip accordingly. With the Passport to Parks Program, Connecticut residents are no longer required to pay a parking fee at CT State Parks and Forest recreation areas, due to DMV collecting a $10 fee ($5 per year) on behalf of DEEP at the time of registration and registration renewals for non-commercial motor vehicles.

The Sky’s the Limit Hiking Challenge promotes hiking and walking in Connecticut’s State Parks and Forests. Challenge family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to take the Sky’s the Limit Hiking Challenge 2022.


Please follow the steps below: 

Step 1:  Hike or walk the listed trails within the 20 CT State Parks or Forests.  

Step 2:  Snap a photo of yourself (and your dog if he/she joins you) by a designated sign in the park or forest (this could be a state park shield sign, a sign in a kiosk with the name of the state park or forest, or a trail sign identifying the location).

Step 3: Take a additional photos of yourself (and your dog if he/she joins you) at the location(s) described in the specific write-up below.  Please note:  Many locations will require several photos be taken.  

Step 4: To receive a medallion and certificate, email your photos from each of the fifteen parks and forests listed below, along with your name (and your dog's name, if applicable), address, email, phone number and signed photo release, to DEEP.SkystheLimit@ct.gov or mail to CT DEEP State Parks, Sky’s the Limit, 79 Elm St., Hartford, CT 06106. Entries must be received by 3 pm on Friday, December 2, 2022. 

Step 5: To be entered to win a hiking staff, send your photos (as described herein) from all twenty locations, along with your name (and your dog's name, if applicable), address, email, phone number and signed photo release to the email or mailing address above. On January 1, 2022, 50 winners will be chosen to receive a hand carved hiking staff. Entries must be received by 3 pm on Friday, December 2, 2022 to be entered into the drawing. 

Notes: For the 2022 Sky's The Limit, we are asking the STL hikers to provide one submission.  Please be aware that beginning on November 16, 2022, your Sky's the Limit "STL" 2022 submittal can now be completed/sent using a Google Form.  If using this form, a person may be required to sign-in to Google or set-up a Google account.  

If a person uses/submits this Google Form, no other document or email needs to be submitted. 

We are asking our participants to use the Sky's the Limit Hiking Challenge-Best Kept Secrets Google Form link above.  If participants are unable to use this form or prefer to submit in the conventional way (word documents, photo documents. email), please submit to DEEP.SkystheLimit@ct.gov .  Be sure to include a listing of all of the locations that were hiked with the associated photographs.  When providing attachments (photo or document)  please do no send links to external sources (Facebook, etc.).  We often have a difficult time accessing external sources. Please be sure to also include the following information:  name, address, email, phone number, and signed photo release Photo Release Form (each STL hiking participant shall submit a signed Photo Release). This form can be printed out, filled out and then a photo of the form can be taken and sent in with your submission.   

The majority of the park and forest maps attached below take you to DEEP maps (some of which are Geo referenced PDF Maps).  There are other non-DEEP map references as well, for example, AllTrails maps and Google maps.

Please check out the additional information section below for suggestions of other hikes on-site and other things to do while at the various State Park or Forest locations below. 

Since many of our STL participants hike with their canine friends, we will have a special give-away for the dogs again this year. 

Please read the following if hiking with a canine friend: The majority of Connecticut State Parks allow dogs, but according to state regulations the dogs must be on a leash no longer than 7-feet and under the control of the owner or keeper at all times.The shoreline parks (Harkness, Rocky Neck, Silver Sands, and Sherwood Island) prohibit dogs on the beach year-round. Leashed dogs are allowed on the beach at Hammonasset Beach State Park ONLY from September 30 through April 1, but they are not allowed at Sherwood Island State Park, anywhere in the park, from April 15-September 30. The “no dogs on the beach” rule provides protection for beach-nesting shorebirds, like piping plovers and least terns. Before bringing your dog to one of the state parks or forests, check “Related Information” on each individual park or forest webpage on the DEEP website to read the rules for pets and also visit the Responsible Recreation section of the DEEP website.

STL 2022 Google Map of Hiking Locations

Download a Map of CT State Park and Forest Locations 

 

 STL Hiking Locations for 2022:

Click on a location below to learn more:

 

Gillette Castle State Park

Goodwin State Forest

Topsmead State Forest

Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area

Sleeping Giant State Park

Penwood State Park

Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve

Harkness Memorial State Park

Gay City State Park

Mansfield Hollow State Park

Hop River State Park Trail in Bolton/Andover

Lake Wintergreen area within West Rock Ridge State Park

River Highlands State Park

Enders State Forest

Fort Trumbull State Park

Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park

Farm River State Park in East Haven

Putnam Memorial State Park

Beckley Furnace Industrial Monument

 

 

State Park or Forest: Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam

Trail Name(s): Purple Trail-Train Tunnel Trail (1.14 miles) and the Blue Trail (.34 miles) leading down to the CT River.   

Approximate Length of hike/walk: approximately 1.14 miles of the Purple Trail and .34 miles of the Blue Trail for a total of approximately 1.48 miles. 

Map: Gillette Castle State Park Hiking and History Map created by the Friends of Gillette Castle State Park, Gillette Castle State Park Map

Best Kept Secret:  Most of the historical features of the Gillette Castle grounds are found along two trails-the purple trail which follows the original path of Gillette’s quarter-scale, narrow-gauge railroad; and the blue trail which leads to the home of Gillette’s valet and confidant Yukitaka Osaki and to the wreckage of Gillette’s houseboat, the Aunt Polly.  While the tracks of the railroad have been removed, on this hike you will encounter the train tunnel.  While it is a bit dark inside, you must walk through it to get to the other side. One can imagine that this may have been a highlight of a William Gillette-led train ride around his property!  Other outdoor attractions relating to trains include the railroad station (Grand Central), the model train that can be found in the Visitors Center as well as Gillette’s train station that has now been turned into a picnic pavilion and has a spectacular view of the CT River.  Be sure to view the YouTube video Train Trail walk before heading out for the hike or better yet, you can view the video while visiting.  Also, be sure to view the YouTube video Yukitaka Osaki:William Gillette’s Right Hand Man

Parking Area: Main parking area or parking lot located northwest of the main parking area

Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Photo Locations: Gillette Castle signage, Gillette Castle, train tunnel on Purple Trail, Osaki House and Aunt Polly by the water (best to see at low tide)

Additional Information: After you have finished your hikes, visit the Gillette Castle Visitors Center.  You can also take a tour of Gillette Castle (additional fee charged, Castle is open- Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend, then open again during November and December for Holiday Programs). However, if you visit your local library prior to visiting Gillette Castle State Park, you can take out the NCLI Library PassThis day pass, valid from October 4, 2021 though December 31, 2022 waives entrance fees for the center or historic building (Gillette Castle) for two adults and up to 4 children ages 12 and under.  

 

State Park or Forest: Goodwin State Forest in Hampton

Trail Name(s): (Richard D. Haley Nature Plant Wildlife Gardens  and the .5 mile Forest Discovery Trail 

Approximate Length of hike/walk: Hike or walk amongst the 1.6 acres of the Richard D. Haley Wildlife Garden and the .5 mile Discovery Trail

Map: Goodwin State Forest Map

Best Kept Secret: The 1.6 acres adjacent to the James L. Goodwin Conservation Center is composed of the Richard D. Haley Native Plant Wildlife Gardens. Here one can take a self-guided walk among several gardens, each representing different combinations of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants that have wildlife value. Visitors can find a spot similar to their own backyard, and come away with ideas for high value wildlife plants that they could grow at home. Also, there is a .5 mile Forest Discovery Trail  that starts at the northwest corner of the gardens and follows a loop that brings the hiker through several managed forest areas before returning to the Center. The well-marked trails and gardens are picturesque and serene.  The area surrounding the James L. Goodwin Conservation Center and Pine Acres Lake is a living display of forest practices common in Connecticut. The lake vicinity has become the central hiking area of the forest and a great place to observe wildlife.

Parking Area: Potter Road entrance parking lot

Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Photo Locations: Goodwin State Forest or James L. Goodwin Conservation signage, anywhere within the Richard D. Haley Nature Plant Wildlife Garden, any area of the Forest Discovery Trail

Additional Information: Visit the James L. Goodwin Conservation Center before or after hiking/walking or attend a program being offered.  Be sure to visit any of the other well-marked trails on-site and stop at a viewing platform, overlook, boat launch ramp, bench, find old farm house cellar holes or read the informational kiosks.

 

State Park or Forest: Topsmead State Forest in Litchfield

Trail Name(s): Red Trail (1 mile) and the Edith Morton Chase Ecology Trail (.7 miles)

Approximate Length of hike/walk: 1.7 miles

Map: Topsmead State Forest Map, Edith Morton Chase Ecology Trail Map

Best Kept Secret:  Come discover this hidden treasure-a beautiful location and forest nestled in the Litchfield Hills.  This location offers diverse landscapes, including bike and nature trails, formal gardens, unique bird habitats and a English Tudor style cottage.  While visiting, be sure to visit the Orintas Family Butterfly Garden & Viewing Stand, the Edith Morton Chase Ecology Trail with interpretive signage.  Be sure to visit the Friends of Topsmead State Forest as well as their Facebook page for additional information about this location. 

Parking Area: Parking area off Chase Road

Degree of Difficulty: Easy Photo Locations: Topsmead State Forest signage, signage inside of the viewing stand, one of the interpretive signs on the Edith Morton Chase Ecology Trail

Additional Information: Between June and October, be sure to take a tour of the Chase Cottage.  Here you will learn about the history of the property and Edith Morton Chase who gifted the 510 acre state forest to the citizens of CT.  This cottage is an example of a Tudor Revival country estate house and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Wildlife Management Area: Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area in Burlington

Trail Name: Beaver Pond Trail (2.6 mile)

Approximate length of hike/walk: approximately 2.6 miles

Map: Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area Trail Guide;

Best Kept Secret: Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area is a gem of a location with beautiful scenery and trails for all skill levels.  It consists of a 700-acre tract of natural land set aside for wildlife that also serves to introduce visitors to wildlife and natural resources management through educational programs, demonstration sites, and self-guided hiking trails and displays. While hiking the trails at Sessions Woods, visitors may be able to view all different kinds of wildlife, from birds to frogs to deer.  Along the gravel trail is a 38-acre marsh with multiple beaver dams, as well as separate paths to an observation tower, wildlife viewing blind, waterfall and historic summer house.  Trial signs along the way highlight features and describe wildlife management practices that may be used by property owners to enhance habitat for wildlife.  Many types of habitats critical to wildlife can be seen along this trail, including mature forest, young forest, riparian forest, woodland meadows and wetlands. Please note that the beaver marsh boardwalk at Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area is currently closed for repairs until further notice.

Parking Area: main parking area off of Route 69, Milford Street

Degree of Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Photo Locations: Session Woods Wildlife Management Area Signage, area of Beaver Marsh, view looking out from the Summer House

Additional Information: Other trails to visit on-site are the .6 mile Forest Meadow Trail, .4 mile Cross-Cut Trail, .4 mile Tree-Id Trail as well as the Tunxis Trails.  Be sure to visit the Sessions Woods Conservation Education Center when open to view the wonderful educational exhibits inside. Please be sure to check the DEEP Calendar of Events for program offerings at the Center.  If bringing the family along for a hike or walk, be sure to view, print or pick up at the Sessions Woods Conservation Education Center the “Explore CT’s Wildlife at Sessions Woods” Booklet.  There are tons of facts, information, coloring pages and activities within the booklet.


State Park or Forest:  Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden

Trail Name:  Nature Trail (1.8 miles)

Approximately length of hike/walk: approximately 1.8 miles

Map:Self-Guiding-Nature-Trail-Guide-7th-Edition-2019.pdf Sleeping Giant State Park Map. Maps are also available in the kiosk near the parking lot.

Best Kept Secret: Two miles of mountaintop resembling a sleeping giant give this park its name, and make it a distinguishing feature on Connecticut's skyline. Many people visit the Sleeping Giant and are not aware of the Nature Trail.  We hope by hiking the trail you will gain more enjoyment from your visit by exploring it.  The “Trail Guide” will help you to interpret the natural world within the park. The Nature Trail is 1.8 miles in length and requires over an hour to walk. The first part is relatively level walking. The second part of the trail, after the turn near number 13, is rougher, steeper and, in places, rocky. The numbered trees or rocks beside the trail are matched with the numbered paragraphs in this booklet. When you reach a numbered tree or rock, look up the matching number in this Trail Guide and read about the natural features around you. The natural features covered in this guide have necessarily been limited to things that can be seen in all seasons. However, in the proper season look for the many flowers, birds, insects, and other wildlife which make their home on the Sleeping Giant. They will add to what is covered in this guide. The trail is well marked with Nature Trail blazes (white arrows on green circles) and the footprints of others who have explored this trail before you. We welcome you to the Nature Trail and ask that you leave our natural environment undisturbed. The newest edition of the Sleeping Giant Nature Guide, was written after the May 2018 tornado did significant damage to parts of Sleeping Giant State Park. The tornado damage necessitated many changes to the Nature Trail. As you hike along this trail there will be new stations as well as old ones and the trail now returns via the Tower Path rather than the Red Hexagon and Orange Trails.

Parking Area: Main parking area off of Mount Carmel Avenue
Degree of Difficulty: Moderate

Photo locations: Sleeping Giant State Park signage, photo of 2 different areas along the Nature Trail that you find unique or interesting

Additional Information: There are 32 miles of hiking trails to visit at Sleeping Giant as well.  You can find out more by visiting the Sleeping Giant Association page.  Also visit the Sleeping Giant State Park Association website for information about the park and for upcoming events.

 

State Park or Forest: Penwood State Park in Bloomfield and Simsbury

Trail Name: Loop Road Trail (3.0 mile Black Trail on map that goes through the center of the park)

Approximate length of hike/walk: approximately 3 miles

Map: Penwood State Park Map

Best Kept Secret: Penwood State Park offers almost 800 acres of four-season fun, is just a 20- minute drive from the Capital City, and offers neat little finds and great views.  This park is perfect for relaxing, hiking, and/or enjoying scenery.

Parking Area: Main parking area by the Park Entrance

Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Photo Locations: Penwood State Park signage, photo taken from the viewing platform by Lake Louise, area of the picnic pavilion (near Penwood Pond

Additional Information: Bring a lunch or a snack and take a rest at the viewing platform, at one of the picnic tables or in the picnic pavilion.  Time permitting- be sure to visit the Yellow or Blue Trail for a scenic vista. 

 

State Park or Forest: Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve in Groton

Trail Name: Gravel Road (3.45 miles) in Bluff Point 

Approximate Length of hike/walk: approximately 3.45 miles

Map: Bluff Point State Park Map

Best Kept Secret: Bluff Point is the last remaining significant piece of undeveloped land along the Connecticut coastline and includes the following natural habitats: coastal woodlands, beach and dune grasslands, coastal plain ponds, coastal bluff, tidal wetlands, intertidal mud flats and offshore eelgrass beds. Jutting out into the waters of Long Island Sound-this wooded peninsula, measuring one and one-half miles long by one mile wide, encompasses over 800 acres.. Bluff Point was designated a "Coastal Reserve" by a special act of the Connecticut legislature in 1975 to establish the area "for the purpose of preserving its native ecological associations, unique faunal and floral characteristics, geological features and scenic qualities in a condition of undisturbed integrity".  Bluff Point Coastal Reserve offers the visitor a delightful mixture of wooded hiking and biking trails coupled with spectacular wildlife viewing on Long Island Sound

Parking Area: Main parking area once you enter the park

Degree of Difficulty: Easy/moderate

Photo Locations: Bluff Point State Park signage, photo of the scenic view at the end of Bluff Point (shown as scenic view on the map), Sunset Rock (as shown on map) and Winthrop House foundation and signage

Additional Information: Prior to visiting, learn about the Biology and Geology of Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve.  Time permitting, be sure to visit Haley Farm State Park  (Haley Farm State Park Map) by way of Bluff Point State Park.  Head over the bridge by way of the Groton X-Town Trail.  Once you arrive at Haley Farm be sure to note the various stone walls that are located throughout the park.  

 

State Park or Forest: Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford

Trail Name: Take the Harkness Memorial Loop (1.3 mile) and the Niering Walk (.25 miles)

Approximate length of hike/walk: approximately 1.55 miles (be sure to walk the park and grounds)

Map: Harkness Memorial State Park Map, Harkness Memorial Loop-AllTrails

Best Kept Secret: Walk this beautiful park and grounds and take the Harkness Memorial Loop to see all this park has to offer-the mansion, boardwalk, wildlife viewing platform, gardens and the views of Long Island Sound.  Also, visit the Niering Walk for additional views of Goshen Cove. Visit the various Harkness Gardens on-site by visiting the Friends of Harkness website.  Enjoy the panoramic views of Long Island Sound from Eolia, the elegant summer mansion of the Harkness family set on over 230 seaside acres of sweeping lawns, with stately trees and spectacular gardens.

Parking Area: Main parking area in center of park

Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Photo Locations: Harkness Memorial State Park signage, photo from the Wildlife Viewing Platform on the Niering Walk, photo of/from the boardwalk as shown on the map, photo of one of the gardens, and a photo of the Mansion known as Eolia

Additional Information: Take a  virtual tour of Harkness Memorial State Park and view the various Passive Recreational opportunities offered.   

 

State Park or Forest: Gay City State Park in Bolton, Glastonbury and Hebron

Trail Name: Roadway to White Trail to Red/White Trail, to White Trail, to Blue Trail to Roadway (3.1 miles)

Approximate length of hike/walk: approximately 3.1 miles

Map: Gay City State Park Map

Best Kept Secret: The name "Gay City" derives from a now-extinct mill town that once occupied the site. Today only some tumbling stone foundations, several grass-filled cellar holes and a few silent tombstones suggest its former existence. Gay City State Park offers a glimpse into Connecticut's industrial roots with over 1500 acres of endless opportunities for outdoor fun including the exploration of extinct mill-town ruins and stone foundations. 

Parking Area: Park Entrance parking lot

Degree of Difficulty: Easy to moderate based on site conditions and weather

Photo Locations: Gay City State Park signage, gravestone area, mill Ruins/stone foundations, and a photo of one of the footbridges along the trail

Additional Information:An extensive trail system is maintained in cooperation with the Connecticut Forest and Park Association.  Learn more about the Geology of Gay City State Park. 

 
State Park or Forest: Mansfield Hollow State Park in Mansfield/Windham

Trail Name: Yellow Trail to the Flood Control Levee (1.75 miles)

Approximate Length of hike/walk: approximately 1.75 miles

Map: Mansfield Hollow State Park Map

Best Kept Secret Take in the water views by walking the Flood Control Levee. This trail is built on top of the Mansfield Hollow flood control levee/Mansfield Hollow Dam and paved most of the way.  The trail is raised up which gives good views of the lake and of the dam as well as the recreation areas of the park.  The damming of the Natchaug River by the Army Corps of Engineers has created this 500-acre lake which is used by many for boating and fishing.

Parking Area: Parking area off of 89, near Mansfield Hollow Lake or the parking area off of Basset Bridge Road by the Red Trail (as shown on the map)

Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Photo Locations: Mansfield Hollow State Park signage, Flood Control Levee or dam signage, photo from any location looking out along/from the Flood Control Levee

Additional Information: The Friends of Mansfield Hollow State Park help preserve, maintain, and enhance Mansfield Hollow State Park for the benefit of the general public. Visit the Friends of Mansfield Hollow State Park Facebook page for information and events.  

 

State Park or Forest: Bolton Notch State Park leading to the Hop River State Park Trail in Bolton/Andover (4.5 miles)

Trail Name: Hop River State Park Trail starting in Bolton Notch State Park

Approximate length of hike/walk: approximate 4.5 miles (between the parking lot in Bolton Notch State Park to the parking lot at the intersection of Burnap Brook Road and Ridge Road).  A shorter section of the Hop River State Park Trail can be completed if preferred. 

Map: Bolton Notch State Park Map, Hop River State Park Trail Map, Charter Oak Greenway and Hop River Trail Map

Best Kept Secret: Like a pathway through time, this serpentine path called the Hop River Trail passes among modern subdivisions and crosses roads, but mostly takes the trail user along a remote, quiet and long unused path through the eastern Connecticut countryside. This former railroad line is now a trail that winds 20.2 miles through the towns of Manchester, Vernon, Bolton, Coventry, Andover, and Columbia. 

Parking Area: Main Parking lot at Bolton Notch State Park and/or the parking lot at the intersection of Burnap Brook Road and Ridge Road

Degree of Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult due to length

Photo Locations: Bolton Notch State park signage, Hop River State Park signage, Bolton Notch tunnel, photo of a rock formation along the trail, photo of an interesting “find” along the trail (could be anything-the trail, an animal, building, tree, etc.)

Additional Information: View the interactive CT Rail Trail Explorer and click on the Hop River Park Trail.

 

State Park or Forest: Lake Wintergreen area of West Rock Ridge State Park in Hamden/New Haven 

Trail Name: Red Trail to White Trail looping around Lake Wintergreen

Approximate Length of hike/walk: approximately 1.54 miles

Map: West Rock Ridge State Park Map

Best Kept SecretTake in the beautiful lake views as you are hiking the nature trail surrounding Lake Wintergreen.  This area is peaceful and especially pretty in the fall, but any time of the year is a nice place to visit. Lake Wintergreen is part of West Rock Ridge State Park.

Parking Area: Parking area by the Lake Wintergreen boat launch ramp as shown on the map

Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Photo Locations: Lake Wintergreen signage, view of Lake Wintergreen from the trail, photo of an interesting feature or find on your hike (i.e teepees, animals, trees or tree root, etc.)

Additional Information: Bring your cart-top canoe or kayak and launch at the Lake Wintergreen Boat Launch.  Enjoy your paddle out on the lake.  Time permitting, take a hike on the other trails located within the park. 

 

State Park or Forest: River Highlands State Park in Cromwell

Trail Name: White Trail, Scenic View (1 mile)

Approximate length of hike/walk: approximately 1 mile

Map: River Highlands State Park Map, All Trails Map for River Highlands

Best Kept Secret: The bluffs overlooking the Connecticut River give this park a perspective that is unique among all others in the state park system. From the vantage point 150 feet above the water the view up and down stream is outstanding making every trip to this northern Cromwell location time well spent. But the real asset of the park is the view from the bluffs it protects. The Connecticut River, beautiful from so many locations, is at its best here. The bluffs are highest at the northern end of the park rising 130 feet above the water, and the view is ample reward for the hike to get there.

Parking Area: Parking area by Park Entrance off of Field Road

Degree of Difficulty: Moderate

Photo Locations: River Highlands State Park signage, photo from the area marked as scenic view on the map, photo from anywhere along the trail

Additional Information: The are many trails in the park to lead the hiker across wooden bridges, over streams, along the 150 foot high bluff, or down to the water’s edge past a unique geologic feature known as the blowhole. Here one can hear the wind as it whistles past the bluffs. The Native Americans came to listen to the "wind being caught by the spirit of the earth." When the colonists arrived they called it Devil’s Blowhole, believing it was an act of Satan. Sailors knew it as an area of quick winds as the park is just upstream of one of the tightest bends on the lower river.

 

State Park or Forest: Enders State Forest in Granby/Barkhamsted

Trail Name: Enders Falls loop-main dust trail (Purple blazes)

Approximate length of hike/walk: approximately 1 mile

Map: Enders State Forest AllTrails Map

Best Kept Secret:  Here visitors will find a peaceful forest and a beautiful waterfall-Enders Brook Falls.  It is these streams, combined with the forest’s hilliness and bedrock outcrops, which offer a variety of cascades, low water falls and plunge pools. Enders State Forest lies northwest of Hartford, predominantly in the town of Granby, sharing some of its diverse forests, wetlands, and waterfalls with the town of Barkhamsted to the west.  It if part of thousands of acres of dedicated open space in the area.  Please Note:  This area contains naturally occurring hazards associated with rocks, steep slopes and cliffs.  Rocks are extremely slippery when wet.  This area can also be very icy. Please exercise caution and stay on the main stone dust trail (marked with purple blazes).  Enjoy views of the falls from a safe distance.  Swimming or wading are not recommended in this area.

Parking area: Main entrance to park is located on Route 219 in Granby

Degree of Difficulty: Easy/Moderate with some uphill intensity

Photo Locations: Enders State Forest signage, photo of the trail and a photo of the Falls

Additional Information: Enders State Forest varies in topography from a high of just over 1,100 feet above sea level in its northern most sections to a low of around 900 feet at the wetlands on its western side. These wetlands combine with the hilly terrain to give rise to many streams which flow generally eastward to the west branch of the Salmon River. The full tree canopy over the trails frequently yields damp and sometimes slippery conditions of the forest floor and trails. The forest is managed for sawtimber, firewood, wildlife habitat, and recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, and bird watching. Some hunting is allowed in the newer, purchased acquisitions at the northeastern side of the forest. The DEEP hunting area map websitedepicts the areas where hunting is allowed. Hunting information may also be obtained from the DEEP’s Hunting and Trapping Guide in the Public Hunting Area Map section. 

 

State Park or Forest: Fort Trumbull State Park in New London

Trail Name: Riverfront Walk of historic sites (1.3 miles) as shown on the map

Approximate length of walk: approximately 1.3 miles

Map: Fort Trumbull State Park Map

Best Kept Secret: Get an interactive history lesson at the visitor's center, or just walk the Fort and ramparts for a view of the Thames River.  A visit to Fort Trumbull has something for everyone including a boardwalk and fishing pier. Fort Trumbull Visitor Center and Fort are open seasonally from Memorial Day thru Labor Day, Wednesday through Sunday 9:00 am to 5:00. pm  There is a  per-person charge for the visitor center. However, if you visit your local library prior to visiting Fort Trumbull State Park, you can take out the NCLI Library PassThis day pass, valid from October 4, 2021 though December 31, 2022 waives entrance fees for the center or historic building (Visitor Center) for two adults and up to 4 children ages 12 and under.  

Parking Area: Main parking area once you enter the park

Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Photo Locations: Fort Trumbull State Park signage, photo from inside or outside of the Fort (please note that the Fort is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, Wednesday through Sunday 9 am to 5 pm), photo on or from the Fort Trumbull Fishing Pier

Additional Information: Visit the Fort Trumbull Visitors Center when open Memorial day thru Labor Day (Wednesday through Sunday 9:00 am- 5:00 pm).  Take the Thames River Heritage Park Water Taxi from Fort Trumbull State Park to Fort Griswold State Park across the River.  Please note there is a fee for the water taxi (operational June thru September).  Spectacular fishing opportunities abound with a one-of-a-kind fishing pier boasting over 500' of shore-based access to the major game fish of Long Island Sound. Saltwater anglers will find a unique combination of sport fish including striped bass, bluefish, weakfish and tautog as they feed on the variety of bait fish found at the mouth of the Thames River. In addition to 24-hour access, the pier offers bright lighting and individual pole holders for angler comfort.  Anglers must be in in possession of fishing gear and license when fishing.  Read more about the History of Fort Trumbull.  Visit the Friends of Fort Trumbull website for more detailed information about Fort Trumbull State Park.  

 

State Park or Forest: Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park in Groton

Trail Name: Six stop cell phone walking tour of Fort Griswold (.5 miles)

Approximate length of walk: .5 mile walk Map: Map of Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park

Best Kept Secret: Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park is what remains of the Revolutionary War fort that was the site of the 1781 British massacre of American troops led by the traitorous Benedict Arnold. Those visiting can start with the cell phone tour, then view the shoreline from a 135-foot monument called the Fort Griswold Monument and also visit the Museum (both open Memorial day through Labor Day (9:00- 5:00); and can learn about and visit the Ebenezer Avery House.  

Parking Area: area off of Park Avenue

Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Photo Locations: Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park signage, photo of the monument or looking out from the monument, cell phone tour post and signage, view looking out from the constructed deck at Fort Griswold of the property

Additional information: Take the Thames River Heritage Park Water Taxi from Fort Griswold State Park to Fort Trumbull State Park to cross the River. Please note there is a fee for the water taxi (operational June thru September).  Read more about the History of Fort Griswold.  Visit the Friends of Fort Griswold website for more detailed information about Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park.   

 

State Park or Forest: Farm River State Park in East Haven

Trail Name: Shoreline Greenway Trail ( .6 miles) and the Farm River Nature Trail (.5 miles and Self Guided).  Please note: best to do during low tide conditions.  Approximate length of hike/walk: approximately 1.1 miles

Map: Farm River State Park Map, Farm River State Park Nature Trail

Best Kept Secret: Farm River State Park may not rank high on the list of parks by size but it is well placed when ranked by location.  Taking its headwaters to the northeast, the Farm River flows 16.5 miles on its way past the Park where visitors enjoy the sun, sights and salt air of Long Island Sound.  This quiet park has fascinating and picturesque geology. The uplands and bedrock outcrops, especially in the northern section, provide the landscape diversity and the topography that allow tidal marsh flooding to separate the park into its upper and lower portions. The river shoreline and its access points in the southern section provide a quiet and scenic respite not often accessible this close to the coast.  There are two primary access points, and from these the trails are measured in hundreds, not thousands, of feet. But off-trail exploration will lead you to scenic vistas that are definitely worth the walk.

Parking Area: Parking lot off of Short Beach Road by Park Entrance

Degree of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate based on site conditions/weather

Photo Locations: Farm River State Park signage, Shoreline Greenway Trail signage, photo taken along the Shoreline Greenway Trail, and a photo taken along the Nature Trail

Additional information: Bring your own canoe or kayak and enjoy a paddle on the river.

 

State Park or Forest: Putnam Memorial State Park in Redding

Trail Name: Gravel Road loop and loop around the Museum (1 mile)

Approximate length of hike/walk: approximately 1 mile

Map: Putnam Memorial State Park Map

Best Kept Secret: Create a hands-on history lesson by visiting the historic sites as marked on the map with a visit to Putnam Memorial State Park, site of the Continental Army's 1779 winter encampment under the command of General Israel Putnam. The site consists of remains of the encampment, reconstructed log buildings, and a museum. Check out the virtual tours to help plan for your visit! Please note that the Museum and Visitors Center are typically open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. 

Parking Area: Park entrance parking lot off of Conn 107

Degree of Difficulty: Easy Photo Locations: Putnam Memorial State Park signage, photos of 3 of the marked historic sites on-site (3 photos), and any other photo of your choosing

Additional information: You can learn more about the park's history and become familiar with the 14 listed areas of the park as outlined on the Visit the Park section of by Friends and Neighbors of Putnam Memorial State Park website. There are also many interesting geologic features at the park which include the Rock Shelter-Phillip’s Cave and Rock Clusters-Revolutionary War Foundations.

 

State Park or Forest: Beckley Furnace Industrial Monument in North Canaan

Trail Name: Walk the monument grounds at Beckley Furnace and visit the Industrial Monument (.25 miles)

Approximate length of walk: approximately .25 miles

Map: Friends of Beckley Furnace Map

Best Kept Secret: The Beckley Iron Furnace once produced iron for the manufacture of railroad car wheels.  It is Connecticut's best-preserved example of a technology that has long since vanished. The structure is part of the National Register of Historic Places.

Parking Area: The Monument is located 600 feet west of the intersection of Furnace Hill Road and Lower Road in the East Canaan section of the Town of North Canaan

Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Photo Locations: Beckley Furnace Industrial Monument signage, Beckley Iron Furnace, any other photo of the grounds or the furnace

Additional Information: Join members of the Friends of Beckley Furnace each Saturday morning from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. from May through mid-October for a personal tour of the Furnace. Learn how iron was made by walking in the footsteps of the iron makers. Stand in the hearth where temperatures reached nearly 3,000 degrees. Visit the only remaining turbine used to power a blast furnace.  To learn more, visit the following: History of Beckley Furnace, Beckley Iron Furnace or the Friends of Beckley Furnace website.

 

For the 20th hike or walk, we are asking you, our STL participants, to share with us what CT State Park or Forest location, a feature within such park or forest, or what trail you feel is the “Best Kept Secret” here in CT.  Please tell us the location, why it’s the Best Kept Secret” and share your photos with us.  We are looking forward to hearing from you!

 

 

 

 

 

Content last updated November 2022