April 21, 2019 – Meriden, Connecticut
Difficulty: Easy – moderate
Length: Approximately 3 miles
Max elevation: 767 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 508 ft.
Route type: Circuit
Trailhead parking: CT-71, Berlin, CT 06037
Please note: Park at the several roadside spaces where the Metacomet Trail crosses Rt-71, or at one of the spaces to the south.
South Mountain, at 767 feet, is a prominent traprock peak in the Hanging Hills of Meriden, Connecticut. Rugged and scenic, the peak rises steeply above the city of Meriden 400 feet below and is characterized by its vertical cliffs and sweeping views of southern Connecticut and the Long Island Sound.
South Mountain actually lies just outside of the 1,800-acre Hubbard Park, but connects to their trail system. The 62.7-mile Metacomet Trail crosses the wooded backside of South Mountain. A poorly blazed, but easy to follow woods road leads to the southern cliff face, offering panoramic views over the City of Meriden and the Hanging Hills. Activities enjoyed on the mountain include hiking, and in the winter, snowshoeing and backcountry skiing.
This hike follows the blue-blazed Metacomet Trail west from where it crosses CT-71 and follows it for about 0.5 mile. Then turning left on a poorly marked, but easy to follow woods road, to the summit of South Mountain where there are panoramic views. The return is on another woods road that is also poorly marked, but easy to follow. The return trail is shown as black on the trail map, but you may see some faded red blazes. The map shows no connection from the Red Trail to the Black Trail, but there is a footpath through the open woods that does connect both woods roads.
There are only several roadside spaces available along Chamberlain Highway (CT-71), where the Metacomet Trail crosses the road. If those are filled, there is roadside parking slightly south along the highway.
Follow the blue blazes past a water tank and the scenic Elmere Reservoir. Ascend a small embankment past some concrete blocks and pass through the intersection with an unblazed (there may be some faded red blazes) side trail that goes to the Anderson Pond (to the right) or the cliffs that overlook Target and the Mall (that will be your return route).
Continue following the blue-blazes on a rocky and possibly wet woods road, a short distance past the first intersection until you come to an obvious junction with another woods road on the left.
There are faded red blazes on a tree indicating a left turn. Turn left on the woods road, which has occasional red blazes.
Follow the woods road as it gradually ascends South Mountain.
Although you’ll see some “POSTED’ signs along the trail, this land was acquired under the State Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Grant Program.
There are several signs like this throughout the area, indicating it as “Open Space” and for “Public Enjoyment.” You are NOT trespassing.
As you approach the top, follow a poorly marked side trail on the right, to an open grassy area with a expansive views.
You have now traveled about 1.2 miles and have been rewarded with a gorgeous view of Merimere Reservoir, Mine Island, and East Peak with Castle Craig on the far left of the ridge
The open ridge has 180° panoramic views to the south (below), west and north.
A zoomed in view of Castle Craig on an overcast and cloudy day.
A view of East Peak and the Metacomet Ridge. The blue-blazed Metacomet Trail runs along that ridge.
Merimere Reservoir, nestled between South Mountain and East Peak and punctuated by the rocky mass of Mine Island, is particularly scenic.
Continue to follow the woods road as it dips a little then rises again, eventually coming to a south-facing viewpoint over the City of Meriden.
On a clear day, the Long Island Sound is visible in the distance.
The developed area of Hubbard Park and its the centerpiece, Mirror Lake is visible down below.
Castle Craig to the west.
Looking south over downtown Meriden. On the map, the Red Trail ends here, but continue to follow the ridgeline through the open woods.
You’ll dip down into a hollow (there was an encampment there on our visit) then climb back up towards the ridge.
Now on the east side of the ridge, sometimes referred to as the “Target View,” Target department store is directly below with Interstate 691 on the far right. The profile of the Metacomet Range are the hills in the distance, including Lamentation Mountain, Chauncey Peak and Beseck Mountain.
The “Sleeping Giant” is visible to the southwest.
Now the woods road becomes easily discernible as depicted on the trail map as the “Black Trail.” Follow the road as it runs along the ridge and soon veers away and into the woods. Occasional red blazes appear on trees as the road descends.
In about 0.6 mile, the woods road reaches the junction with the blue-blazed Metacomet Trail. Turn right and retrace your steps, passing the Elmere Reservoir, water tank and back to Chamberlain Highway (CT-71), where the hike began.
A really good short hike with plenty of views. We had just done the Castle Craig Loop at Hubbard Park the week before and decided to come back and do this one. The Metacomet Trail allows for a longer hike if so inclined. We only saw one person on the trail during the hike. Definitely worth doing if you are looking for a short hike with a big payoff.
Open views from the ridge, lesser traveled area, Metacomet Trail, Scenic landscape, Metacomet Ridge.
Take a hike!