March 5, 2022 – Middletown, Connecticut
Length: Approximately 3.2 miles
Max elevation: 596 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 700 ft.
Route type: Lollipop Loop
Trailhead parking: 1-147 Dripps Rd, Middletown, CT 06457
No bathrooms on site – No entrance or parking fees
Parking for approximately 5 vehicles alongside road at the trailhead.
Spiderweed Preserve offers a three-mile hike through dry oak woods, along massive rock outcrops to a rock bluff with a view toward the south of the Connecticut River Valley. Along the way the stone ruins of Helen Lohman’s rustic country retreat are there for hikers to explore.
This 157-acre property is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy and the Middlesex Land Trust.
Spiderweed Preserve was created by a donation from Helen Lohman of Middletown in 1975; she named the area after the sad state in which she found her gardens every spring.
Located in Maromas (the original Indian name Regowset), a district in the Town of Middletown. Maromas is situated in the southeastern section of Middletown on the western bank of the Connecticut River. Maromas is an area of hills, valleys and ridges. The highest point is Bear Hill (650 ft.), which is sometimes spelled “Bare” because of its steep slopes and numerous areas of exposed bedrock.
Spiderweed, historically known as the “Soloman Hubbard Farm,” was originally built as the homestead of Soloman Hubbard in the mid 18th century. His father, also named Soloman Hubbard had also farmed in the “Great tier of Lotts,” and his house stood nearby. The younger Soloman Hubbard, builder of this house, accumulated land from his father’s estate and from his neighbors. In 1817 Soloman Hubbard deeded the house and land to the Town of Middletown for the payment of debts, reserving life tenancy for himself and his wife. Hubbard is said to have been prevented from operating the farm due to an injury suffered in the Revolutionary War.
After Hubbard’s death, the Town of Middletown sold the 2-1/2 story, 27 ft. x 31 ft. Center-Chimney Colonial to the Bailey family. It was then sold to the Dripps family in 1866. The house primarily remained in the hands of the Dripps and Meader families (related by marriage) until purchased by Miss Helen Lohman in 1936. Miss Lohman kept intact the acreage which had been acquired through the years of the home’s use as a farm. Renaming it Spiderweed, Miss Lohman used the property as a rustic country retreat. The home never had modern heat or plumbing.
Helen Lohman demonstrated her concern for the house and land by deeding it to the Connecticut Chapter of The Nature Conservancy in 1975. Today the property reflects the continued use of the land for over 200 years, both as farm and as a country retreat. It is now mostly heavily wooded with overgrown fields. The Nature Conservancy maintains the 157-acre property as a nature preserve.
Spiderweed Preserve has one official trail that is blazed white and runs through the property using a combination of old farm roads and footpaths. There are three short spur trails, one leading to the stone ruins of Helen Lohman’s rustic retreat, and the other two leading to viewpoints over the Connecticut River Valley.
An unmarked trail (not shown on map), leaves the preserve and heads towards the summit of Bear Hill and the Mattabesett Trail (New England National Scenic Trail) which allows hikers to form longer loop hikes.
This hike is entirely in the Spiderweed Preserve utilizing the White Trail and the short spurs that branch off of it. We arrived at the trailhead on a Saturday morning shortly before 9am. The temperature was in the low to mid 20’s and there were no other vehicles when we arrived. We only saw two other hikers the entire time we were there, as we were nearing the end of the hike. It was a quiet and peaceful day in the woods, not even the birds were chirping.
This is a moderate hike with several short, steep ascents. Although it’s technically a “Lollipop Loop,” the loop is small and the “stick” is long, making it more of an out and back.
There were plenty of maps in the kiosk at the trailhead, but it is a good idea to print one beforehand just in case.
This hike begins at the trailhead on Dripps Road. Proceed past the gate onto the woods road as it leads uphill on a moderate grade. This is the White Trail, which you will be following for the entire hike. The White Trail follows what was once the entrance road or driveway to the Helen Lohman house.
In about 0.5 mile from the start, there is a short spur trail (a wide woods road) on the left that leads to the Spiderweed Ruins. You may want to take some time to explore this interesting historical feature. Please use caution as the walls can be unstable.
The front wall has collapsed and now lays on the ground of what once was a 2-1/2 story, 27 ft. x 31 ft. Center-Chimney Colonial farmhouse.
When you are ready to continue, return to the White Trail and turn left. A short distance later, you will see three white blazes on a tree. Turn right on this spur trail (also blazed white) and walk about 200 feet to a rock outcrop with southeast-facing views over the Connecticut River Valley.
The view is not the greatest, but it is better during leaf-off season.
When you are done admiring the view, retrace your steps, rejoining the main artery of the White Trail and turn right. Now heading northeast, the White Trail snakes through the woods with some magnificent rock formations that loom high overhead to the left of the trail.
About 0.8 mile from the start, the White Trail turns right. The unmarked trail that is straight ahead, leads to Bear Hill and the Mattabesett Trail, leaving the Spiderweed Preserve. Turn right to remain on the White Trail which soon descends steeply.
Near the base of the descent, the trail levels off briefly, travels through a wet area and soon continues to descend, now more gradually. The White Trail then crosses a small stream.
A short distance after crossing the stream, the White Trail turns left and follows an old farm lane bordered by a Colonial era stone wall.
In about 1.5 miles from the start of the hike, the White Trail comes to the loop section. Going in either direction will bring you back to this spot. We opted to go left and soon the trail begins to climb. The ascent is somewhat steep, but it is short lived. At the top of the rise, the trail turns right and reaches a rock bluff that overlooks the countryside.
The trail then descends steeply alongside that same rock formation. As you descend you can see the mammoth proportions of the rock formation that you were just standing on.
At the base of the rock formation there is an overhang that qualifies as a rock shelter.
The trail continues to descend, but now more gently. To the right of the trail, up on the hillside is another rock shelter that is worth checking out. During the warmer months, it may be obscured by foliage to some degree and thus harder to see.
The White Trail continues its descent, soon skirting private property. As the trail levels off, it crosses a small stream, passes through an area with some boulders scattered about then closes the loop.
After closing the loop, you are now retracing your steps along the stone wall, crossing another stream and turning left at the junction with the unmarked trail.
You may want to pay a return visit to the first viewpoint and if the leaves are down, you can venture slightly off trail for a different angle of the Spiderweed Ruins.
Continuing on the White Trail in a westerly fashion, it descends on the woods road soon returning to the trailhead where the hike began.
A great hike through a very scenic area. The views are nothing to speak of, but the stone ruins, massive rock formations, including the rock shelters, make this a worthwhile hike. This is a hike better done when the leaves are down. The views are more expansive and the rock formations that border the trail are more clearly visible. Some of the more narrow sections of the trail can become overgrown during the warmer months. On colder days, you are less likely to see many people. The trails are well marked, but there are some soggy sections. Appropriate footwear is advisable. I highly recommend the Spiderweed Preserve to anyone that is looking for an interesting moderate hike.
Spiderweed Ruins, massive rock formations, rock shelters, well marked trail, not much foot traffic.
Views are uninspiring.
Take a hike!