September 26, 2020 – Watertown, Connecticut
Difficulty: Easy – moderate
Length: Approximately 2.3 miles
Max elevation: 709 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 409 ft.
Route type: Circuit
Free Web Maps: Black Rock State Park Trail Map (DEEP)
Avenza App Map (FREE): Black Rock State Park Trail Map
Trailhead parking: 2065 Thomaston Rd, Watertown, CT 06795
There is a $15.00 daily parking fee in season for non-residents on weekends and holidays. $10.00 on weekdays. Campsite fees are charged separately.
The park is open from 8am to sunset. Gates are open on weekends only, from the second Saturday in April until Memorial Day, 8am to sunset. From Memorial Day to October 1st, they are open daily between 8am and sunset.
Black Rock State Park is a seasonal public recreation area adjoining Mattatuck State Forest in the town of Watertown, Connecticut. The state park covers 439 acres and is known for its large rock face, Black Rock, that affords views of Thomaston, Watertown, and portions of Waterbury.
Black Rock State Park offers excellent swimming, hiking, scenic views, and Indian legend all tucked into the scenic rolling hills of the western highlands of Connecticut. Black Rock Campground has 96 sites in a wooded setting. The camping season is mid-April through September 30. This is a designated trout park. Activities include picnicking, field sports, swimming, and pond fishing.
Facilities: bathrooms, food concessions, picnic tables and charcoal grills. The park is managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
The land that is now Black Rock State Park, was originally home to several Native American Tribes such as the Paugussett, Mohegan, and Tunxis. In fact, tribal artifacts such as arrowheads and carved stone tools are still being found in the park today.
In 1657, the tribes granted early settlers to the Naugatuck Valley, access to their lands and gave them permission to mine the area for “black rock,” more commonly known today as graphite lead. This dark black mineral inspired the park’s name and it stuck throughout the years.
Black Rock was given to the people of Connecticut in 1926 through the efforts of Black Rock Forest, Incorporated, a citizen’s conservation group interested in woodland preservation. Development of access roads and facilities later became part of the Civilian Conservation Corps’ economic recovery program.
The park is crossed by the Mattatuck Trail, part of the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail system, managed by the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA). The Mattatuck Trail offers scenic views of the Naugatuck Valley; side trails have views of Black Rock Lake and Black Rock Pond.
There is one other marked trail in the park, blazed red (0.4 mile), that can be combined with the Mattatuck Trail to form a short loop hike. There are numerous unmarked woods roads and footpaths throughout the park and around Black Rock Pond that one can explore as well.
Hiking trails are maintained in cooperation with the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA), which provides volunteer assistance.
Dealing with some foot issues, I was looking for a short hike with some decent views. This hike fit the bill perfectly. Since we visited after Labor Day, we didn’t have to pay the out-of-state vehicle fee. It was extremely foggy in the morning and when got up to Black Rock, there was no view. We decided to wait out the fog and it eventually dissipated, displaying the view that we came here for. The entire time that we were there, not another soul around.
After the hike, we found a picnic table by a small pond and enjoyed a nice lunch.
We walked to Black Rock Pond both at the start and at the end of the hike.
We drove in and parked just past the paved park road that leads to the beach (Black Rock Pond). You can see the closed gate to the left of the booth. If the gate is open, there is parking closer to the pond.
We walked past the gate and proceeded up the paved park road towards Black Rock Pond. Since it was extremely foggy, we were in no hurry to get to the viewpoint.
Black Rock Pond (9.5 acres), is a popular spot for fishing and swimming. From the “Report of the State Park and Forest Commission to the Governor – 1926” – “a small pond of clean water, known locally as the “Sand Dam.” It was a popular swimming “hole” before it came into the State park system.”
A nice spot to grill some food.
After lingering about, we made our way across the steel footbridge and turned left on a woods road, crossing a small wooden footbridge.
In about 280 feet (from the steel bridge), the blue-blazed Mattatuck Trail crosses the woods road. We turned right and began following the blue blazes, which run along another woods road. In a short distance, The Red Trail begins on the right. That would be our return route, for now, we followed the blue blazes all the way to Black Rock.
The Mattatuck Trail climbs gradually at first then the grade steepens on the extremely eroded and rocky woods road. The more the trail climbs, the steeper it gets.
After a particularly steep section, the trail levels off briefly, turns right and continues to climb, then levels off again.
The trail steepens again just before reaching Black Rock.
When we got to Black Rock, it was so foggy that you couldn’t see anything beyond Black Rock itself. We were a little bummed, but decided to see if we could wait out the fog.
This rock made a good spot to sit and gaze out at the fog.
In due time, the fog began to roll away and the views opened up. The field in the distance, is alongside the entrance road, adjacent to where we parked. On the far right is Black Rock Pond, looking like a small dot.
When we were ready to go, we continued ahead on the Mattatuck Trail as it descends Black Rock.
In about 500 feet, the Mattatuck Trail crosses a power line corridor and reenters the woods on a woods road.
In about 400 feet, the Mattatuck Trail crosses another woods road. The Red Trail begins here, so we turned right, leaving the Mattatuck Trail and now following the red blazes. In another 400 feet, the Red Trail crosses the power line corridor again as it heads southeast.
An interesting rock formation along the Red Trail.
We followed the Red Trail until its terminus, at a junction with the Mattatuck Trail, where we turned left, now retracing our steps from earlier in the hike.
As the blue blazes veer right, we turned left on the unmarked woods road, crossing the small wooden footbridge, then turning right and crossing the steel footbridge.
We took a walk over by Black Rock Pond to get another look then made our way back to the parking lot via the paved park road.
On the way back down the park road, Black Rock is visible in the distance.
After walking to the vehicle and gathering up our lunch supplies. We walked back to this spot and spent a few hours here. There are several picnic tables and grills scattered about for one to enjoy a picnic or a barbecue.
A truly beautiful park with lots of available activities. The marked trails in the park don’t provide a lot of distance, but the Mattatuck Trail offers hikers choosing to extend their hike, an option. Although the majority of the hike is on woods roads, it is still rugged enough to keep you focused. The view from Black Rock is first-rate as is the surrounding landscape. This park is definitely worth a visit if only for the view.
Black Rock, Black Rock Pond, scenic views, rugged terrain, well marked trails.
Take a hike!