January 17, 2021 – Southington, Connecticut
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Length: Approximately 3 miles
Max elevation: 643 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 305 ft.
Route type: Circuit
Map: Crescent Lake Trails
Trailhead parking: 403-537 Shuttle Meadow Rd, Southington, CT 06489
**Bowhunting season on this property runs Monday through Saturday from September 15 to December 31. Hikers are advised not to stray from the blazed hiking trails on these dates for safety purposes. **
The Crescent Lake Recreation Area, located on Shuttle Meadow Road, is a 223-acre forested property containing a 56-acre lake. Boating, canoeing, fishing, hiking, picnicking and seasonal bow hunting are all available to visitors. In addition to being a Recreational Area, Crescent Lake is also the state’s first “Connecticut Grown Community Forest.” Ample parking is available and established trails run throughout the site.
Crescent Lake (also called Plainville Reservoir) occupies a bowl-shaped valley on the western side of the Bradley Mountain at an elevation of 420 feet above sea level. The 56-acre lake is open to the public, with no residency requirements. State-mandated licenses for fishing and/or boating are required. Crescent Lake is within the Quinnipiac River Watershed, which drains into the Long Island Sound.
Southington is located in the Central Lowlands, an area of gently rolling terrain between the State’s western and eastern highlands. Located around the Quinnipiac River and its tributaries, the Town is surrounded by Southington Mountain, Bradley Mountain and the Hanging Hills in Meriden. The latter two are part of the Metacomet Ridge system, a “spine” of traprock ridges that extends along Southington’s eastern edge as it runs from Suffield to Guilford.
The parcel was once owned by the Plainville Water Company, which secured water rights for the lake in the late 1800’s, and was known as the Plainville Reservoir. It supplied Plainville with water beginning around 1910. The lake was once surrounded by orchards and farmland in the 1930’s, a stark contrast from the dense woods that you see today.
In the 1960’s the water company stopped using the reservoir. It then sat unused for decades until the Town of Southington initially expressed an interest in purchasing it in 1983. At the time, the Plainville Water Company wasn’t interested in selling it, saying they wanted to hold onto it just in case it was ever needed.
In 1993, a tentative agreement was reached, followed by five years of negotiations and talks with company representatives and state officials. The town got the OK to purchase Crescent Lake on March 11, 1998. In 2000, it was finally opened to the public for use as a recreational area under its former name, Crescent Lake.
There are roughly 7 miles of blazed trails varying in difficulty, that are marked for use. There are also numerous unofficial unmarked trails and woods roads that criss-cross the property.
- Orange: Approx. 3 miles; rigorous & hilly
- Red: Approx. 2 miles; narrow, moderate elevation
- Green: Approx. 1.5 miles; open trail, some elevation
Please Note: The Red Trail can get really muddy and the mosquitoes can get bothersome.
The upper ridgeline and boundary of the Crescent Lake Recreation Area is also traversed by the 51-mile Metacomet Trail, (maintained by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association), which extends from the Hanging Hills of Meriden, Connecticut to the Massachusetts border.
We were looking for an easy to moderate loop hike with some decent views and decided to give this one a try and it didn’t disappoint. Arriving at about 9am on a chilly Sunday in January, the parking lot had plenty of available spots. The trails are relatively well marked, but there is a vast network of unmarked trails and roads throughout the property that paying attention to the blazes is imperative. Originally the loop was going to include the Red Trail, which circles the lake, but when we reached that area, the trail was very swampy so we decided to skip it. In dryer weather it may be better, but on the day we visited, the low lying areas near the lake were mostly flooded.
With the exception of one short steep ascent and a couple of short steep descents, the elevation gain on this hike is minimal.
With your back to the lake, proceed to the southern side of the parking area and pick up the Green Trail. Follow the green blazes as it winds its way through the woods in a southeasterly direction, passing some unmarked trails along the way.
In just under a 1/2 mile, the Green Trail turns left on a woods road and begins to head northeast. This road straddles the boundary with New Britain Water Department property on the right and Crescent Lake to the left.
In about another 1/2 mile, the Green Trail ends at a 4-way intersection, with the blue-blazed Metacomet Trail coming in from the right and joining the Orange Trail, which begins just ahead. Begin following the coaligned trails as they climb a woods road very steeply.
The trail reaches the ridgeline in under 500 feet and levels off, with partial views of Crescent Lake below on the left, during leaf-off season. Soon the trail veers left, leaving the woods road and continues north along the ridge.
The trail continues along the ridgeline above Crescent Lake with some minor ups and downs along this stretch.
Soon the trail levels off and passes alongside a large fireplace. A short distance later, the trail reaches a rock outcrop with a west-facing view of Crescent Lake and the Southington Valley. The Otis Elevator test tower is visible in the distance.
If you leave the trail and descend slightly to a lower rock outcrop on the right, there is a better view of Crescent Lake.
The trail continues along the ridge, turns left and descends steeply. It then turns right and follows along the cliff wall, passing under a large rock overhang as it continues its steep descent.
A look back at the traprock ridge that the trail descends.
The trail begins to climb again, only this time more gradually. After the trail dips down, it climbs a little more to a massive rock formation with partial views to the northwest.
Soon the trail descends steeply again. At the base of the steep descent, the Orange Trail turns left on a woods road as the blue-blazed Metacomet Trail continues ahead, climbing the ridge towards Bradley Mountain.
Turn left on the Orange Trail as it descends gradually on a woods road. As the trail nears Crescent Lake, the trail becomes muddy and in some sections, swampy.
The Orange Trail ends at the northwest corner of the lake as the Red Trail comes in from the left. To extend the hike, you can turn left on the Red Trail or do as we did and continue south. There are views of Crescent Lake just off the trail.
The Red Trail as it head south, veers right and runs along Shuttle Meadow Road a short distance and back to the parking lot, where the hike began.
A really nice place to spend a few hours in the woods. The topography of the area makes for an interesting hike and the view of Crescent Lake is quite lovely. For the most part, the main trails are well blazed and easy to follow. We saw very few people on the trails, but the parking lot was full when we returned. In the warmer months, the area around the lake could get really busy. Worth a visit to explore the trails.
Metacomet Ridge, Crescent Lake, well blazed trails, scenic view, lovely area.
Swampy trails near Crescent Lake.
Take a hike!