February 16, 2020 – Rocky Hill, Connecticut
Length: Approximately 3 miles
Max elevation: 170 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 173 ft.
Route type: Circuit
Trailhead parking: (Adjacent to) 262 Old Main St, Rocky Hill, CT 06067
Quarry Park is a state owned, town managed park. It is made up of 84 acres with views of Hartford, Glastonbury and the Connecticut River. The park offers passive and active recreational opportunities to the public such as hiking and bird watching.
It is located in northeast Rocky Hill on a former trap rock quarry that was worked from the 1901 – 1957. The quarry floor is on several levels, and the highest rock face near the north end is about 60 feet high.
It is bound by Old Main street to the west, an abandoned railroad property to the east, and residential properties to the south and north. Entrances are located on Old Main Street, across from Parsonage Street, or from the parking lot on Old Main Street on the corner of Matteson Avenue across from Marshall Road.
Quarry Park, the basalt (traprock) ridge that gave Rocky Hill its name, was formed 200 million years ago when the Connecticut countryside was populated with dinosaurs. Pre-historic artifacts uncovered from the Lone Pine Site in the Quarry show that Native Americans lived here as far back as 6,300 BC.
The Quarry began operating as the Rocky Hill Stone Company in 1901 shortly after the Connecticut Valley Railroad was built in 1871. The stripping of the top ledge was initially done by hand, with dump carts moving traprock along tracks to be crushed and loaded on to trains.
Later work was done using steam, then air, to drill holes to set 3/4-inch sticks of dynamite. Steam shovels, dump trucks and bulldozers loaded traprock on to trucks that furnished the river side of the dikes around Hartford and trucked rock across CT, New York and Massachusetts. The Quarry operation stopped in 1957, but from 1925-1944 over a million and a half tons of traprock was sold from this Quarry.
Looking North in the early days at the top and the second level (sometime between 1902 -1908)
A concrete batching plant, an asphalt plant, a blacksmith shop, the CT Gun Guild, the Rocky Hill Vault Co. and the Town Garage also operated on these premises.
AC Mack dump truck under the crusher on bottom level – 1938
During WWII an airplane spotter station was constructed on Liberty Hill at the south end of Quarry and a U.S. Army encampment in 1942 was also stationed here. The soldiers maintained searchlights and listening devices to protect from possible air raids on Pratt & Whitney Aircraft or Colt’s Patent Firearm plants in the Hartford area.
In 1948 the Wethersfield Ski Club used the northern most hill in the Quarry to ski. The remains of the 1936 Buick which powered the rope tow, rests as a reminder, on top of the hill.
A 1986 development proposal to build 30 single housing units and 441 multi housing units on this land was defeated by the Rocky Hill Neighborhood Association. In 1991, their plan to Save the Rocky Hill, led to the purchase of this land for a State Park by the Town and State for 1.3 million dollars under the Recreation and Natural Heritage Act.
Quarry Park, officially opened in 1991, is historic land with majestic views of the Connecticut river valley and the Great Meadows. Ruins of the Quarry operation past are scattered throughout this land which is being reclaimed by nature. A coniferous and deciduous forest, along with ponds and streams support frogs, turtles, rabbits, deer, coyotes, foxes, bob cats, vultures, herons, eagles and humans.
There are three blazed trails at Quarry Park. They are not laid out very skillfully, but are well blazed.
On our visit, we only hiked the Blue and Yellow trails. These two trails are relatively easy and there are only several sections with steep inclines, but they are short lived. Most of the points of interest are on the two trails that we hiked. The hike was done sort of counter clockwise.
At the southeast end of the parking area, look for a triple blaze on a tree. This is the start of the Blue Trail which you will be following for much of the hike. There is a trail map in a wooden frame and you may want to capture an image of it with your phone. Proceed ahead, following the blue blazes as they cross the paved Matteson Ave. and proceed uphill on a dirt road.
In a short distance, you will come to a junction with the White Trail which leaves to the left. Following the Blue Trail, you are proceeding along an old roadway into the quarry. On this trail you will find the rusty remains of an old 1936 Buick that had been set-up to run a ski tow. The club that used it was organized in 1948, at which time the hillside was devoid of trees.
As you continue along the Blue Trail, bear right when the trail splits. Continue uphill until you reach the Quarry Park lookout. When you do, you will have passed the location where a small U.S. Army encampment had been in 1942 at the start of WW II. Stationed here, the soldiers maintained searchlights and listening devices to protect from possible air raids on Pratt & Whitney Aircraft or Colt’s Patent Firearm plants in the Hartford area.
This location is one of the Northern most areas of the Quarry. Elevated and largely unobstructed by trees, it provides an excellent view of the area, including Glastonbury and the Meadows. Looking down into the Quarry from the ridge, you can see a large pond that is filling in with the invasive species Phragmites. Before they arrived, the pond had been inhabited by many animals, as cattails grew on the banks and provided a ready food source. Next to this pond, is a smaller, deeper pond that served as a swimming area. Before being tested and found polluted, it had a makeshift diving board to take advantage of its depth.
The Blue Trail continues to the left and descends the ridge rather steeply. Soon the Blue Trail splits again. Take the right leg of the Blue Trail, keeping the pond on your left with the cliff on your right.
At the base of the ridge just below the the Quarry Lookout, the Connecticut Gun Guild had a target range in the late 1940’s. Here, they fired a variety of firearms using the rock wall as an effective backstop for any fired rounds.
Continuing south on the Blue Trail, and a short way beyond the pond on your left, there are some low cement pilings. In this area there had once been a forge and blacksmith shop, in addition to a water tower. On the high ridge at the south end of the quarry excavation area is where the aircraft-spotting tower was located during World War II. Maintained by citizens of both Rocky Hill and Wethersfield, it watched for possible enemy aircraft 24-hours a day.
Several unmarked side trails lead to spots that overlook the quarry pit. Exercise caution in these areas as there are steep drop offs and the ground is unstable.
Turn left on the Yellow Trail and follow it as it runs along the rim of the quarry pit. It soon descends along a pond and crosses a stream on a log bridge. Turn left here, leaving the Yellow Trail and follow the blue blazes a short distance and look for a footpath on the left.
Up the steep hillside are what is shown on the map as a vista. It’s worth the effort to check out, but the loose rock and sand make the footing unstable in this area.
According to Edward Chiucarello, President of the Rocky Hill Historical Society, “I think there was a pulley inside that cave and a cable ran through it then below towards the pond. It must have been used to transport stone. The cable as you probably are aware is laying on the ground below the cave.”
When you are done checking out this interesting feature, retrace your steps back to the Yellow Trail (do not recross the log bridge). Continue ahead a short distance and bear right where there is another log bridge. Cross this log bridge and immediately you will come to the Rocky Hill Stone Company ruins.
The Compressor House was used in the 1930’s and perhaps the late 1920’s. This location was used as the housing for air compressors. Running the pressurized air iron pipes, these compressors were used to power the drills up top, in order to quarry the stone. It was taken apart in the 1950’s, when the quarry closed.
This is the Secondary Crusher, of the other locations, this is the largest. Encompassing both the concrete structure at the base of the hill and the pillars farther down the trail, it would further crush up the quarried rock. From there, it would load up the pulverized stone onto the nearby trains, then distributed to buyers.
A little farther down the trail there are more remnants of the former quarry operations.
When you are ready to continue, proceed along the Yellow Trail a short distance. As the trail curves to the right, private residences on Esther Road can be seen to the left. The Yellow Trail ends at a T-intersection with the Blue Trail which comes in from the left, off of Esther Road. Turn right onto the Blue Trail which soon comes to a Y-intersection.
At the Y-intersection, take the right fork of the Blue Trail. Which climbs slightly just above the quarry ruins which may be visible through the trees down below on the right.
The Blue Trail comes to the log bridge that you crossed earlier. Cross the log bridge, turn left and follow the blue blazes as they pass by the “cave” area and continue in a northerly direction. The Blue Trail goes through an open area and is soon joined by the White Trail which comes in from the right.
As the white blazes leave to the right, continue to follow the blue blazes as they lead around the pond. The trail climbs steeply to the ridge and turns left, now retracing your steps from earlier in the hike along the top of the cliff.
You may want to take a moment to take in the view one last time before you go.
Retrace your steps on the dirt road, still following the blue blazes, passing the 1936 Buick, crossing the paved Matteson Ave. and back to the parking area, where the hike began.
This is a really nice park for a short easy hike. It has enough distinctive features to keep anyone’s interest. The view at the beginning rivals those seen on any trail in the area. The extensive ruins are compelling and fun to explore. The trails although well blazed, could use a better layout, possibly making the spur trails different colors. For example, the Blue Trail has many offshoots that could be different colors to avoid confusion. Nevertheless Quarry Park is small enough that it is difficult to get lost in. Overall a nice relaxing walk on fairly level trails with several payoffs that make it worth the visit.
Scenic view, historical features, Rocky Hill Stone Company ruins, quiet area.
Trails can be confusing.
Take a hike!