May 1, 2022 – New Haven, Connecticut
Length: Approximately 3.6 miles
Max elevation: 443 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 545 ft.
Route type: Circuit
Trailhead parking: Parking for West Rock State Park – 445 Blake St, New Haven, CT 06515
No toilets on site – No entrance or parking fees
Plenty of parking in paved lot
Rising up to 627 feet above mean sea level, West Rock Ridge is one of the most prominent features of the New Haven region. West Rock affords visitors a spectacular view. It is estimated that one can see approximately 200 square miles from various locations on the ridge with excellent views of New Haven Harbor and Long Island Sound.
West Rock Ridge State Park is located in parts of New Haven, Hamden, and Woodbridge, Connecticut. The state park is named for the 400 to 700 ft. trap rock West Rock Ridge, which is part of the Metacomet Ridge extending from Long Island Sound to the Vermont border. The park’s 7 miles of open west-facing cliffs offer vistas encompassing Metropolitan New Haven and suburban towns to the west. The park includes Judges Cave, a colonial era historic site; Lake Wintergreen; and the nearly 7-mile long Regicides Trail, part of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association’s Blue Trail system. The park is part of a larger area of protected open space including state, municipal, and non-profit owned land.
At the South Overlook, enjoy a panoramic view of south central Connecticut including the Sleeping Giant, East Rock Park, New Haven Harbor and the shimmering expanse of Long Island Sound. From some vantage points at South Overlook, the vistas from West Rock are said to encompass 200 square miles.
The park is open for walk-in access from 8 am to sunset.
The drive to the summit is open for vehicles on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day weekend until the last weekend in October from 8 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
West Rock Ridge State Park is a carry-in, carry-out park with no trash facilities, so users are asked to take out any items they bring with them.
In the 17th century, West Rock served as the hideout for Edward Whalley and his son-in-law, Gen. William Goffe, two of the three “Regicide Judges” whom New Haven honors by streets bearing their surnames. They had fled England, anticipating prosecution under King Charles II for signing the death warrant of his father Charles I. The rock shelter hideout used by the two is now called Judges Cave. Goffe and Whalley hid at Judges Cave in 1661 and again in 1664. The Regicides Trail is also named with this history in mind.
Regicide is the killing of a king (or queen). The word derives from the Latin regis, meaning “king,” and the ancient French cide, meaning “killer.” Today, the word regicide can also be applied to politicians who topple a president or prime minister.
The park began as a city park in 1826, when Elijah Thompson donated 50 acres to the City of New Haven. In 1927, Governor Simeon Baldwin donated over $100,000 to the New Haven Park Commission, leading to acquisition of a large portion of the ridge and construction of Baldwin Drive in the 1930’s.
In 1962, the State of Connecticut endorsed the need for open spaces preservation. In 1975, the State legislature unanimously created West Rock Ridge State Park and established the boundaries of the larger Conservation Area.
New Haven’s city park, which had grown to more than 600 acres, was transferred to the State in 1982, and the State continued to acquire parcels within the West Rock Ridge Conservation Area over the years, for a total now of over 1700 acres.
Amrhyn Field is named for Gustave Xavier Amrhyn, New Haven’s first Superintendent of Parks. He was hired in 1900 and remained Park Superintendent until his death on December 5, 1929.
There are more than 25 miles of marked trails in and near West Rock Ridge State Park, all of which are marked with painted blazes. If two blazes are stacked to resemble an equal sign, then this symbol indicates the end of the trail. There is no special marker to indicate the start of a trail.
The Green, Red, Red-White, Yellow and White blazed trails are designated as multi-use. Riding horses and mountain bikes on these trails is encouraged. All other trails are footpaths for hiking activity only.
Trails used on this hike:
Teal/White Trail (TW) is a short connector trail (0.18 mile) that connects to the Teal Trail. It begins to the right, immediately after crossing the footbridge over the West River. Look for the painted markers on trees along the edge of the field. It enters the woods by the third base dugout and a short distance later, ends at a T-intersection with the Teal Trail.
The Teal Trail (0.20 mile) runs mostly north-south along the eastern side of the park and connects to the Red Trail. The portion of the Teal Trail used on this hike, rises gradually through the woods.
The Red Trail (0.25 mile) in the section used on this hike is very steep and rocky. It climbs the ridge using stone steps in several places along with several switchbacks. This is the most physically demanding part of the hike, but it is short lived.
Located entirely within West Rock Ridge State Park, the blue-blazed Regicides Trail extends 6.8 miles northerly from the South Overlook of West Rock to its terminus at the Quinnipiac Trail on the west slope of York Mountain. Along the way, the Regicides Trail intersects with a series of different colored trails that climb the ridge. With these numerous trail options, hikers can easily customize the length of their hike.
The Regicides Trail starts by a stone wall and pavilion at the South Overlook in New Haven, passes historic Judges Cave, and follows the ridgeline through Hamden, ending at the Quinnipiac Trail in Bethany. From 375 feet above sea level at the South Overlook, the traprock ridge rises to more than 600 feet where the two trails join on the west slope of York Mountain. The trail is named in honor of William Goffe and Edward Whalley, two of the Regicides of King Charles I of England. Seeking to avoid capture by agents of King Charles II, Goffe and Whalley hid at Judges Cave in 1661 and again in 1664.
The Westville Feeder Trail (0.7-mile) connects the Westville section of New Haven to the Regicides Trail at the top of the ridge near Judges Cave. The Westville Feeder is a wide rocky path that steadily climbs up the side of the ridge. The trail starts at the pedestrian bridge over the West River near the ballfield off Valley and Blake streets in the Westville section of New Haven.
Having been to West Rock Ridge State Park the previous week, I decided to make a return trip to explore a different area. With the park roads closed off to vehicular traffic, you won’t find many people up on the ridge. Anyone that you run into at the South Overlook or Judges Cave, had to put in the effort by hoofing it up there. The lack of foot traffic near the ridge, is what makes hiking in West Rock Ridge State Park so enjoyable.
We parked in the lot behind The Well For Women: Massage Therapy and Elm City Montessori School, which share the same parking lot. That is an authorized parking area for West Rock Ridge State Park. A footbridge over the West River connects the parking lot with Amrhyn Field. Parking is also available in the adjacent Amrhyn Field lot.
We did the hike as a sort of “figure 8” loop and stayed up on the ridge once we got there. We turned around just before the Green Trail starts to descend.
The elevation profile of the hike below.
We parked close to the footbridge that connects to Amrhyn Field. On the railing of the footbridge is a blue-over-yellow painted blaze. That is the Westville Feeder Trail that goes left after crossing the bridge.
After crossing the footbridge, there are two offset blue-over-yellow blazes that indicate that the Westville Feeder Trail turns left. That will be your return route, but for now, turn right and follow the teal-over-white blazes that begin on the right.
Across the field is West Rock Ridge, your destination on this hike. If you look closely, you can see part of the stone wall that surrounds the South Overlook.
Follow the teal-over-white blazes as they run along the edge of the field. You can also just cut across the field and head towards the third base dugout, where this short connector trail enters the woods.
Follow the teal-over-white blazes behind the third base dugout where it turns right, enters the woods, and begins to climb. A short distance later, the teal-over-white blazed Connector Trail ends at a T-intersection with the Teal Trail that comes in from the left. Once on the Teal Trail, you are officially in West Rock Ridge State Park.
Turn right and follow the Teal Trail as it heads northeast along private property.
A short unmarked trail to the left leads to this kiosk near the rock climbing area. The Ragged Mountain Foundation installed it in September 2021.
Follow the Teal Trail for about 800 feet until you see a trail that begins on the left with a red arrow painted on a tree.
Turn left on this trail and follow it a short distance, where it connects to the Red Trail, that comes in from the right. When you get to the Red Trail, bear left as it climbs the ridge.
The Red Trail soon climbs rather steeply, at times coming close to the edge of the cliffs. There are several short trails that lead to the edge, offering some views of New Haven below. If you decide to get close to the edge, watch your footing and try not to dislodge or kick any stones off the ridge. There may be rock climbers just below on the cliff face.
The Red Trail continues its steep ascent, soon climbing over uneven and eroded stone steps. As the trail climbs, a rock outcrop on the right, provides east-facing views of Sleeping Giant and East Rock.
Soon the Red Trail climbs more stone steps and a short distance later, ends at the South Overlook.
The southernmost peak of West Rock Ridge State Park is known as the South Overlook. It includes a large circular parking area and a stone pavilion.
The South Overlook offers superb views to the west, south and east, including Sleeping Giant State Park with its distinctive profile, East Rock Park with its striking red cliffs topped by the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, the city of New Haven, including the harbor, Long Island Sound, and Long Island.
The outer area alongside the wall of the South Overlook.
When the interior roads of the park are open, this parking lot will be filled on a nice day.
When you are done taking in the views, look for a blue blaze at the break in the wall and head towards the back of the stone pavilion. The blue-blazed Regicides Trail begins here.
The Regicides Trail traces roughly, the route Edward Whalley and his son-in-law William Goffe traveled while attempting to evade arrest by order of King Charles II.
The Regicides Trail runs along the western edge of the traprock ridge, providing far reaching views from rock outcrops.
The beginning section of the Regicides Trail is mostly level with a railing or chain link fence in some sections, protecting hikers from the steep drop-off along the ridge. On the east side of the trail, a stone wall for Regicide Drive, the paved road that connects the main entrance to the South Overlook and Judges Cave, is visible at times.
The Regicides Trail provides frequent glimpses of westerly views through the trees.
The Regicides Trail travels through an opening in a wall and connects with Regicides Drive, a paved park road. We left the trail just shortly before and walked along the paved road, passing the opening in the wall where the trail joins the road.
A short distance later, The Regicides Trail which is now co-aligned the paved Regicides Drive, comes to a circle where Judges Cave is located. There is a picnic table in the center of the circle, which makes a good spot to take a break.
Judges Cave, more of a massive fractured boulder than an actual cave, stands at the circle on Regicides Drive. A cluster of fragmented rocks form a cave-like hideout
In the 17th century, West Rock served as the hideout for Edward Whalley and his son-in-law, Gen. William Goffe, two of the three “Regicide Judges” seeking to avoid capture by agents of King Charles II. With active help from local Puritans, they hid there
in May 1661, and briefly again in October 1664 before seeking refuge in Hadley, Massachusetts.
Both the blue-blazed Regicides Trail and the Green Trail, begin just north of the Judges Cave, just feet apart from each other. The Regicides Trail stays within sight distance of the western edge of the ridge, while the Green Trail is closer to the center line of the ridge. You can proceed ahead on either of the two trails. We chose the Green Trail, then returned on the Blue.
The Green Trail heads north on a footpath, which is soon joined briefly by the Regicides Trail which then departs to the left. We followed the Green Trail for about 0.4 mile, just before it began to descend. We then bushwacked a very short distance to the west and jumped on the Regicides Trail (Blue Trail) and began heading south.
The Regicides Trail travels through a rocky area and soon approaches the edge of the cliff. There are views through the trees of New Haven and beyond. A short distance later, the Regicides Trail joins the green Trail again briefly then reaches Regicides Drive.
Follow the blue blazes along Regicides Drive until you see the break in the stone wall. The blue blazes leave the road and begin travelling on a footpath, paralleling the park road.
Soon the Regicides Trail begins to descend on a wide rocky path. In just under 600 yards, the blue-blazed Regicides Trail, departs to the left as the blue-over-yellow-blazed Westville Feeder Trail begins on the right.
Bear right and follow the Westville Feeder Trail downhill on a wide rocky footpath.
As the trail nears the level of the West River, an unmarked trail comes in from the right. A short distance later, the Teal Trail begins on the left. Continue to follow the blue-over-yellow-blazed Westville Feeder Trail.
At the base of the descent, follow the Westville Feeder Trail along the edge of the ballfield, then turn right, crossing the footbridge, and return to the parking area, where the hike began.
A great hike in a beautiful park. The trails are well marked and litter free. The best part is that we only saw several people up on the ridge in that area. It was like we had the park to ourselves. I recommend visiting when the main gate is closed and there is walk-in access only. Worth a visit and I plan on going back to explore other areas of the park.
Well maintained trails, free of litter (let’s keep it that way), not much foot traffic, scenic landscape.
Could hear road noise on the Regicides Trail. A lot of sirens wailing from emergency vehicles on a Sunday.
Take a hike!