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CT Celebrates the New Year with First Day Hikes

Hikes scheduled at 15 parks across the state

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) State Parks and its partners are sponsoring free, guided hikes in many state parks on New Year’s Day as part of America's State Parks’ First Day Hikes initiative taking place in all 50 states.

America’s State Parks’ First Day Hikes offer individuals and families an opportunity to begin the New Year rejuvenating and connecting with the outdoors by taking a healthy hike on Jan. 1, 2020 at a state park close to home. First Day Hikes offer a great way to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature and welcome the New Year with friends and family. Hikes are planned state-wide, many within Connecticut Forest & Park Association’s blue-blazed hiking trail system.        

“Connecticut is pleased to host First Day Hikes and join others nationally in promoting and encouraging people to get outside and into our beautiful state parks,” said CT DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes. “Where ever you live in Connecticut, you’re no more than about 15 minutes’ drive away from a state park or outdoor recreation area offering hundreds of miles of hiking trails appropriate for all levels of experience and ages. We hope you’ll join us as we celebrate the New Year outdoors.”

DEEP State Parks staff and volunteers will lead the hikes, which average 1 to 2 miles or longer depending on the state park. Details about hike locations, difficulty and length, terrain and tips regarding proper clothing are listed on the America’s State Parks website. Visit to find a First Day Hike nearest you.

Each year more than 9 million visitors visit the 110 Connecticut State Parks across the state. Established in 1913, the mission of the Connecticut State Park System is to provide natural resource based public recreational and educational opportunities through a system of state park and forest recreation areas, environmental centers and nature centers which provide an understanding of, access to, and enjoyment of the state’s historic, cultural and natural resources.

In Connecticut, hikes will be offered at the following locations and times. Visit: Connecticut State Parks & Forests page.

  • Burr Pond State Park, 384 Burr Mountain Road, Torrington, CT, 1 p.m., moderate to difficult, if icy. Meet at parking lot kiosk. Dogs allowed on leash. Bring sturdy hiking boots, water, snack and hiking poles if desired. Contact: Lance Hansen (860) 882-9632. This trail was created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936 and named after former United States Senator, Frederic C. Walcott. Trail has many interesting glacial erratics including the Boulder over Burr and the memorial for Phil Buttrick. Sponsor: Torrington Trails Network, Connecticut Forest and Park Association and CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
  • Candlewood Hill Wildlife Management Area, Groton, CT. Meet at 1425 Gold Star Highway, Groton, watch for Groton Open Space Association signs. The hike will begin at 10 a.m, challenging and uneven terrain. Several quarries on site, rare pitch pine preserve, extensive wetlands, cliffs and views to Long Island Sound. No pets allowed. Bring water, snack, hiking poles, wear weather appropriate clothing, and good footwear with traction especially if icy. Heavy rain or snow cancels. Contact: Joan Smith at (860) 536-9811. Sponsor: Groton Open Space Association
  • Gillette Castle State Park, 67 River Rd., East Haddam, CT. The hike will begin at noon. Meet at the Visitor’s Center.  Hike will follow the old rail bed, easy hike for approximately 45 minutes to an hour. After the first hike, a second hike of approximately ¾ of a mile will be offered; this hike will include river views.  Sponsor: Friends of Gillette Castle.  Websites: Paul (860) 222-7850
  • James L. Goodwin Conservation Center, 23 Potter Rd., Hampton, CT, 11 a.m., moderate, 2-hour hike, 2 miles; dogs on leash allowed. Bring water and weather-appropriate clothing and footwear. In case of inclement weather call Goodwin Center at (860) 455-9534. Contact: Lena Ives -
  • Haddam Meadows State Park, Route 154, Haddam, CT, 1 p.m., easy, 2-mile hike. Meet at the parking lot entrance. Walk along the Connecticut River, learn about the background geology, floodplain habitats, and human impact on landscape. Bring water, snack and snowshoes, if needed. Dogs well behaved and on leash allowed. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Cancellation: If bad weather, hike will be cancelled. Check weather conditions for Haddam.  Website: Contact:  Gail Reynolds at Sponsor: Friends of Haddam Meadows State Park.
  • Hammonasset Beach State Park, 1288 Boston Post Rd., Madison, CT, 1 p.m., easy walk, less than one mile.  Meet at the Meigs Point Nature Center; No pets on walks. All ages welcome; terrain not suitable for strollers. Bring water and weather-appropriate clothing and footwear.   Website: Cancellation: Call the Nature Center at (203) 245-8743. Contact: or Sponsor: Friends of Hammonasset.
  • Hopeville Pond State Park, Route 201, Griswold, CT, 11 a.m.. Meet at main parking area on the left after you enter the park. Easy 3-mile hike. Bring water and snacks. Wear weather appropriate clothing and footwear. Contact: Sponsor: Friends of Pachaug Forest.
  • Kettletown State Park, 1400 George’s Hill Rd., Southbury, CT, 1 p.m., moderate, 2-mile hike. Meet at the trail head for Miller Trail. Drive into the park, take every right fork to the trail head. This hike will offer views of much of the tornado damage from May 2018.  Bring water, snack, sturdy footwear, and a sense of adventure.  Dogs on leash allowed. Cancellation: (203) 264-9028. Contact: Bob Sponsor: Connecticut Forest & Park Association
  • Mansfield Hollow State Park, Bassett’s Bridge Rd., Mansfield, CT, 11 a.m. (arrive by 10:45 a.m.), moderate, 2 hikes - 4.5 mile & 2.2 mile, the 4.5 hike is more difficult. Wear sturdy shoes, bring water and a snack. Meet in the Mansfield Hollow Recreation Area parking lot. Dogs on leash allowed. Website: Contact: Debbie Tedford Sponsor: Friends of Mansfield Hollow.
  • Peoples State Forest, Matthies Grove Picnic Area, 106 East River Road, Barkhamsted, CT, 1 p.m., intermediate hike. This loop hike will start on the Robert Ross Trail. Bring water, snacks, snowshoes, cleats or micro spikes if weather dictates, otherwise boots. No dogs, please. Hike will be cancelled if there is freezing rain or downpour. Website: Cancellation: Ralph Scarpino, or (860) 921-1756. Sponsor: The Friends of American Legion and Peoples State Forests (FALPS).

  • Scantic River State Park, Melrose Road, East Windsor, CT, 1 p.m., moderate, 2.5 mile hike, 2 hours.  Meet in parking area at end of Melrose Road off Broad Brook Road. Donations will be collected for the local food pantry (human and pet items). Dogs on leash welcome. Contact:  Debbie Sponsor: East Windsor American Heritage River Commission. 
  • Sessions WoodsSky’s the Limit Hike, 341 Milford Street Burlington CT, 1 p.m., hike will follow the Beaver Pond Trail and Forest Meadow Trail. Between 60 and 90 minutes. Dogs on leash welcome. Join us for cocoa in the Conservation Education Center afterwards.  The awards ceremony for the Sky’s the Limit winners will begin at approximately 3 p.m. Contact: @CTStateParks on Twitter. Sponsor: Connecticut State Parks. 
  • Sleeping Giant State Park, 200 Mt. Carmel Avenue, Hamden, CT, 1:30 p.m., moderate 3-4 mile hike. No pets. Meet at kiosk at main parking lot on Mt. Carmel Avenue. Bring snacks and water, hiking boots and clothing appropriate for weather. Hike status information can be found at 
  • Sunrise State Park, Route 151,  Leesville Road, East Haddam, CT, 1 p.m., easy to moderate. The trail is wide but can be steep in some places. Meet in the Machimoodus Parking Lot. Hike is approximately 2 hours. On the way to the water, we will pass by and through fields, tall evergreens and woodlands. Picturesque scene, perfect photo opportunity. Leashed dogs welcome. Wear appropriate footwear and bring water. Contact:  or Sponsor: Friends of Machimoodus-Sunrise State Parks
  • Topsmead State Forest, Buell Road, Litchfield, CT, 10 a.m., easy hike approximately 2 miles. Meet at parking lot by State of Connecticut sign. Bring water and snowshoes if needed. Dogs on leash welcome. Contact: Bruce Baldwin (860) 921-6374. Sponsor: Friends of Topsmead State Forest.


The mission of the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD) and America's State Parks is to promote and advance the state park systems of America for their own significance, as well as for their important contributions to the nation’s environment, heritage, health and economy.

First Day Hikes originated more than 25 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation – a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. America’s State Parks boast a variety of beautiful settings for year-round outdoor recreation, and each First Day Hike will offer an opportunity to explore the unique natural and cultural treasures close to home.  From Alaska to Florida, hikers can climb hills and mountain tops, walk along ponds and beaches, and traverse trails through forests, fields and prairies. Visitors can expect to be surrounded by the quiet beauty of nature in winter, experience spectacular views and vistas and benefit from the company of a knowledgeable guide

Twitter: @CTDEEPNews
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Kristen Bellantuono
((860) 424-3917

Kristina Rozek
Director of Communications
(860) 424-3110