July 31, 2021 – New Fairfield, Connecticut
Length: Approximately 3.6 miles
Max elevation: 1,224 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 719 ft.
Route type: Figure-8 Loop
Avenza App Map (Free): Pootatuck State Forest Trail Map for Avenza
Trailhead parking: 230 Pine Hill Road – New Fairfield, CT 06812
No bathrooms on site – No entrance or parking fees
Parking for approximately 15 vehicles in a gravel lot at the Pine Hill trailhead.
Pootatuck State Forest is almost 1,200 acres. It is located primarily in New Fairfield, with a small portion in Sherman. The main block of the Forest rises steeply from the western shore of Squantz Pond. The trails can be accessed from Squantz Pond State Park trails as well as from the Pine Hill Trailhead, off of Pine Hill Road. Recreational activities include hiking, mountain biking, letterboxing, hunting, birdwatching, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing.
There are two smaller Pootatuck State Forest property parcels in New Fairfield, near to but disconnected from the main property and Squantz Pond State Park.
- The Western Pootatuck State Forest parcel is located north of Beaver Bog Road just west of the intersection of Beaver Bog Road and Short Woods Road.
- The Southern Pootatuck State Forest parcel is located between Short Woods Road and CT Route 39 slightly south of the intersection of Beaver Bog Road and Short Woods Road.
Pootatuck State Forest is comprised of steep wooded slopes, interesting rock formations and seasonal mountain streams with a scenic view from a rock outcrop, overlooking Squantz Pond and Candlewood Lake.
Pootatuck (also Pohtatuck, Potatuck) is an Algonquian term translating to “river of the falls,” “falls in river,” or “river with many falls,” depending on where you look.
Most of the Forest was acquired in the 1920’s for about $10 per acre. In the 1930’s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established a work camp (Camp Hook – May 24, 1933 to Oct. 30, 1935) at the adjacent Squantz Pond State Park. The CCC was very active in the Forest. They planted trees, built roads and fire ponds, salvaged dying chestnut trees for posts and poles, and did forest thinnings to produce firewood. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) left a legacy of hiking trails and fire roads in Pootatuck State Forest that are still in use today.
Pootatuck State Forest offers five miles of trails “with various degrees of difficulty.” The official trails are a combination of marked footpaths/old charcoal-wagon roads and wider unmarked fire roads that were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930’s. The scenic view of Squantz Pond and Candlewood Lake from a large rock outcrop, makes for a worthy destination. The trails in Pootatuck State Forest can be combined with those in Squantz Pond State Park. The trails that were hiked on this day were almost entirely shaded by dense tree cover.
The marked trails are well blazed and maintained. The fire roads, although not blazed are in great shape and easy to follow.
Still dealing with some knee issues, I was searching for a moderate short hike with decent views and no crowds. Having hiked Squantz Pond State Park in 2019, I decided to check out the upper trails that connect the State Park and Forest. I was not disappointed. This is a beautiful forest with slightly challenging uphills and a gorgeous view. Getting an early start and hitting the trail by 8:15am on a Saturday morning in July, we did not encounter any other hikers until we were on the last stretch of the Fire Road, less than 1/4 mile from the parking area.
This hike is a Figure 8 Loop, beginning at the Pine Hill Trailhead.
This hike descends from the top of the mountain at the start, leaving a lot of the elevation gain towards the back end. Although I have rated it as moderate, there are some short steep descents on the Blue Trail and a sustained ascent along the Yellow Trail from the Fire Road.
At the back end of the parking lot, walk past the metal barrier onto the fire road, labeled on the trail map as “Forest/CCC Road.” Proceed ahead on the Forest/CCC Road for about 300 feet until you reach the start of the Orange Trail which begins on the right.
This area was hit pretty hard by a tornado back in May 2018. Always stay alert for “widow-makers.”
The Forest/CCC Road continues ahead and will be your return route, but for now turn right on the Orange Trail as it heads in an easterly direction. In about 475 yards, the Orange Trail passes an unmarked woods road which begins on the right. Continue ahead following the orange blazes.
In just under a 1/2 mile (from the start of the Orange Trail), the Orange Trail ends at a T-intersection with the Yellow Trail. Turn right on the Yellow Trail and follow it for about 265 feet until you reach a junction with the Blue Trail, which begins on the left.
Turn left on the Blue Trail which dips down a little then climbs gradually on a wide rocky path. Follow the blue blazes for approximately 400 yards until you reach a rocky outcrop that overlooks Squantz Pond and Candlewood Lake.
Squantz Pond is down below on the left and Candlewood Lake in the distance.
This makes for a good spot to take a break and enjoy the view.
The beach at Squantz Pond State Park is visible down below.
A zoomed in view of the picnic area at Squantz Pond State Park with Candlewood Lake just beyond.
When you are ready to continue, proceed ahead on the Blue Trail which begins a steady descent, steeply at times.
At the base of the steep descent, the Blue Trail splits. The trail map shows a viewpoint if you continue straight. We followed the trail seeking out the viewpoint, but did not find one. We even ventured off trail a bit, but no luck. Perhaps it is a seasonal view or we missed it entirely.
If you skipped the seasonal view, turn left and continue downhill on the Blue Trail. If you decided to seek out the view, return to the junction and turn right. The Blue Trail continues its rather steep descent for another 510 yards until its terminus at the Forest/CCC Road.
The trail map shows that there are several mountain streams that flow down into Squantz Pond. I have seen images taken by others of lovely cascades flowing over large rocks. On this day the streams were dry, but after a heavy rain or during Spring thaw, you may have better luck. Nevertheless, we turned left and walked north a short distance to where the stream flows under the road. Finding the stream bone dry, we turned around and retraced our steps on the Forest/CCC Road.
From the junction of the Blue Trail proceed south on the Forest/CCC Road which descends gradually, passing interesting rock formations and massive boulders along the way.
Soon the Forest/CCC Road begins to climb gradually and passes over another dry stream. A short distance later, the road comes to a junction with the Yellow Trail which begins on the right, marked by a post.
Turn right on the Yellow Trail and follow it as it heads uphill, gaining all the elevation that you lost on the way down. For the next 1/2 mile, the trail consists of short steep ascents followed by relatively level stretches on switchbacks.
Keep your eyes on the yellow blazes as several unmarked woods roads converge with the trail.
In just over a 1/2 mile, the Yellow Trail passes the junction with the Blue Trail from earlier in the hike. Continue ahead on the Yellow Trail (the short section that you took early in the hike) for another 265 feet.
The blazes signaling a right turn are partially hidden by foliage. At the junction turn right to remain on the Yellow Trail. The Orange Trail which you began your hike on, is on the left.
The Yellow Trail descends gradually through the forest, heading north.
The Yellow Trail temporarily leaves the State Forest and enters property owned by the Candlewood Valley Regional Land Trust.
The Yellow Trail ends at the Forest/CCC Road. Turn left and follow the fire road uphill for about a 1/2 mile, passing the junction with the Orange Trail and back to the parking lot, where the hike began.
A really good hike that sees little foot traffic. The trails we took were entirely shaded which makes it a great hike for hot sunny days. The view is worth a visit on its own, but the geological makeup of the area keeps the hike interesting as well. The trails are well marked and the fire roads are easy to follow. The trails at Pootatuck State Forest can be combined with those at Squantz Pond State Park to form longer loop hikes. The area was free of trash, if you visit, please keep it that way.
Very beautiful forest, rock formations, scenic view, quiet area.
Take a hike!