July 10, 2022 – Sharon, Connecticut
Difficulty: Moderate – Strenuous
Length: Approximately 2.8 miles
Max elevation: 1,158 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 814 ft.
Route type: Circuit
Avenza Map: Housatonic Meadows State Park Avenza Trail Map
Trailhead parking: US-7 – Sharon, CT 06069
No entrance or parking fees – No bathrooms on site
Gravel parking lot for about 20-25 cars
Open from 8am to sunset.
The Pine Knob Loop Trail is located in Housatonic Meadows State Park and Housatonic State Forest on the west side of the Housatonic River, north of Cornwall Bridge. A short and challenging trail, it is coaligned with the Appalachian Trail for about 0.7 mile. Hikers will enjoy scenic vistas over the Housatonic River Valley. The trail is accessible from a dedicated lot on US-7 in Sharon, Connecticut and also from the state park’s campground and group camping area via unmarked trails.
From the mid-eighteenth century until the early twentieth century, the area was home to a thriving iron industry. The foundries and blast furnaces were heated by charcoal to the extreme temperatures required to melt raw iron ore into molten crude, or pig iron. The charcoal was produced by itinerant colliers who chopped wood cut from the forested hills, stacked it into huge mounds, and burned and smoked it over several weeks. Remains of these hearth sites (flat circular areas) can be seen along some of the trails. More than 3,000 acres of original purchases for Housatonic State Forest were from one iron company in 1927.
The Pine Knob Loop Trail is part of the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail System, With more than 825 miles marked with blue rectangular blazes. The Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA) established the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail System in 1929, when the Quinnipiac Trail was created. These trails pass through 88 towns traversing both public and private lands.
The Pine Knob Loop Trail is probably the most popular hike in the area and offers nice views from near the top of Pine Knob of the surrounding hills. If doing the hike counterclockwise as described here, the route is more difficult and at times you’ll have to use both your hands and feet to climb over some of the steeper rocky sections.
Going clockwise, the ascent is not as steep, but the descent will be.
The trail is well marked in most places, but there are certain areas that could use an extra blaze or two.
Please Note: The trail travels over large sections of slanted rock slabs which could be hazardous if wet or icy. A good pair of hiking boots with good gripping soles is recommended for this hike.
This is one of those hikes that I have had on my list for several years. From what I read, the Pine Knob Loop Trail is probably the most popular hike in the area. Since it is about 1-1/2 hours from my home base, it meant getting there early to secure a parking spot and beat the crowds. When we arrived at the trailhead parking lot on a Sunday in July at about 8:30am, there were three cars in the lot. At the conclusion of the hike, the lot was full.
Whenever possible, in an effort to save my knees, I prefer to do steeper uphills and more moderate descents. Several hike reports that I read said that the preferred route is counterclockwise, but on the day of this hike, it seemed that everyone was doing it clockwise. As we passed a couple of hikers and exchanged pleasantries, one of them commented “you went up the hard way.” I answered “I guess so.”
There are several stream crossings and waterfalls that were dry on our visit, but I have seen images posted by others on social media that were impressive.
This hike begins and ends at the Pine Knob Loop trailhead on US-7 in Sharon, Connecticut. As stated previously, this particular hike was done counter clockwise, but you can choose the route that you prefer.
It’s a steep climb early on, gaining about 630 feet of elevation in under a mile to get to the first viewpoint. Once at the first viewpoint, the bulk of the elevation is done.
At the northern end of the parking lot there is a light blue blaze painted on a tree. That is the start of the Pine Knob Loop Trail. You will be following the blue blazes for the entire hike. Proceed ahead on a footpath that enters the woods and soon crosses Hatch Brook on large rocks. After passing through a break in a stone wall, the trail comes to the start of the loop. Either way that you go, will bring you back to that spot if you follow the blue blazes.
To proceed in the direction of the hike as described here, turn right on the Pine Knob Loop Trail which borders a stone wall at first, then passes through it. The trail slowly gains elevation as it travels through the heavily wooded tract. The trail soon crosses an intermittent stream and begins to climb Pine Knob on switchbacks, gaining elevation quickly.
If you are lucky, you may see water cascading down this rock.
The trail levels off briefly, then steepens again. As the trail gains elevation, you may be able to catch glimpses of the surrounding countryside through the trees. More so during leaf-off season. As the Pine Knob Loop Trail becomes even more steep, you may have to use both hands and feet to climb over some large rocks.
The trail travels over some massive rock slabs and ledges as it winds its way up Pine Knob.
In just under a mile from the start and about 630 feet of elevation gain, the trail reaches an east-facing viewpoint over the heavily forested hills of Mine Mountain, Dean Hill and Coltsfoot Mountain, among others.
The best thing about this view is that you can’t see anything that is man-made anywhere.
Extreme caution should be exercised here, especially if wet or icy. The trail goes directly across, but you can veer to the left to avoid this slanted rock ledge. There is a steep drop-off here.
The 1,120-foot-high overlook is filled with rock ledges surrounded by white pines, pitch pines, scrub oak, and fallen needles cover the ground. A nice place to sit and rest from the steep climb, as you gaze out at the Housatonic River Valley.
The trail climbs some more then descends steeply into a hollow. The scant blazing in this area makes the trail a little hard to follow. At the base of the descent, bear left slightly and look for the well beaten path.
A short distance later, the trail reaches a junction with the white-blazed Appalachian Trail, which is straight ahead. Turn left, now following the co-aligned Pine Knob Loop/Appalachian Trail.
The sign on the other side of the tree. You can’t see it as you approach the junction.
For the next 3/4-mile, you will be following both the white and blue blazes. Pay more attention to the blue blazes as the two trails will eventually part.
The trail now begins to climb gradually, with some short steep sections. In about 0.4 mile, from the junction with the AT, the trail reaches another east-facing viewpoint.
This view, although similar, is not as nice as the previous one.
From the viewpoint, the joint Pine Knob Loop/AT descends steadily. In about 0.3 mile from the viewpoint, the two trails split. Turn left to remain on the blue-blazed Pine Knob Loop Trail.
Now only following the blue blazes, the trail continues to descend on a wide footpath, paralleling then soon crossing an un-named mountain stream.
Soon the trail approaches and borders Hatch Brook. As the trail descends through the Hatch Brook ravine, it passes several large glacial erratics. It soon runs along the edge of the scenic brook.
The trail then widens to a narrow woods road, passing more interesting boulders. In about 0.7 mile from the split from the AT, the trail closes the loop, crosses Hatch Brook and returns to the parking lot, where the hike began.
The views are really nice, not the best that I have seen, but really nice. The hike itself was fun and challenging at the same time. It got the blood pumping early and often. It was a good call to do this hike in a counterclockwise direction. The final mile was much easier on the knees. This place can attract crowds so I would suggest getting an early start.
Nice views, mostly well marked trails, Appalachian Trail, interesting rock formations, nice water features during wet periods.
Some road noise can be heard on certain areas of the trail, mostly dry streams and cascades.
Take a hike!
- Two Views From The Top Of Sharon’s Pine Knob
- Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail System
- Pine Knob Trail
- Housatonic Meadows State Park
- Housatonic State Forest