April 2, 2023 – New Fairfield, Connecticut
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
Length: Approximately 2.9 miles
Max elevation: 672 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 352 ft.
Route type: Circuit
Map: Squantz Pond State Park trail map
Avenza Map: Squantz Pond State Park Avenza Trail Map
Trailhead parking: 178 Short Woods Rd, New Fairfield, CT 06812
Admission and Fees: Out-of-State Registered Vehicle Fee from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day – $22.00 weekends, $15.00 weekdays. There is no charge for Connecticut Registered Vehicles.
Pets are not permitted in the park during the summer season from April 15 through September 30. Pets on a leash are permitted in picnic areas and on hiking trails from October 1 to April 14.
The park is open from 8am to sunset year round and offers bathrooms and picnic tables. It is an Alcohol-free park.
Squantz Pond offers four season enjoyment with steep, wooded slopes, a cool, blue pond and colorful foliage to delight visitors throughout the year.
Squantz Pond immerses the visitor in a “mountain like” setting. Steep, wooded slopes disappear into the cool, blue pond below. In the fall, the park becomes a haven for photographers capturing the colorful reflection of the foliage in the mirrored surface of the water.
The state park encompasses 172 acres on the southwestern shore of 270-acre Squantz Pond, offering opportunities for boating, swimming, fishing, and hiking. The park is bordered on the west by Pootatuck State Forest and is managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The park also offers scuba diving as well as a launch for motorized boating. The park also has canoe and kayak rentals, picnicking facilities that include anchored charcoal grills, and a nature center. The park’s hiking trails grant access to the adjacent Pootatuck State Forest.
In 1926 Squantz Pond was established as a state park through the purchase of a 138-acre farm. The pond and state park are named for Chief Squantz, a leader of the Schaghticoke tribe.
Squantz Pond State Park and Pootatuck State Forest contain approximately 1,155 acres and offer the best hiking in New Fairfield. There are some wonderful walks through magical mountain settings with breathtaking vistas, steep, wooded slopes, rapidly flowing streams and many interesting rock formations (including Council Rock), all straddling the cool blue waters of Squantz Pond. There are many miles of trails to explore and any number of loop hikes can be done.
“A common geological feature throughout the hike are large boulder falls hugging the steep hillside as far as the eye can see upward and down to the water’s edge. In addition to stepping across and between boulders, the loop’s upper portion winds past large rock formations, some of them modest caves.”
~ Steve Mirsky, Best Easy Day Hikes: Fairfield County (Falcon Guides).
The trails are not very well marked and the blazes are faded throughout both the White and Red trails, but for the most part can be followed especially if using the free version of the Avenza Maps app.
Trails used on this hike:
- White Trail~ Although the White Trail follows the western shoreline of the pond, it involves many ups and downs over rocky terrain with some tree roots and blowdowns thrown in for good measure. There are nice views of Squantz Pond from several spots along the trail.
- Red Trail~ The Red Trail roughly parallels the White Trail, but higher up on the ridge. It passes through an area with large rock formations and high cliffs. Its southern terminus is at a Fire Road a little higher up on the ridge.
- Fire Road~ An unmarked wide gravel road that descends to the south and ends at Shortwoods Road.
- Green/Teal~ I did not notice any blazes on this wide grassy path. This trail connects the Fire Road to the interior of the park. There is a nice view over the pond from the top of the hill.
I visited Squantz Pond State Park in June of 2019 and the adjoining Pootatuck State Forest in July of 2021 and really enjoyed the area. Trying to rebound from some medical issues, I was seeking out a spot where I could do a short loop with a bit of elevation thrown in. I decided to pay this spot another visit. Since I was familiar with the lay of the land, this was an easy choice. It had enough ruggedness without being too taxing.
This counterclockwise loop, is a slight variation from the hike that I did in 2019. It begins on the White Trail which follows the shoreline, then climbs on the Red Trail past Council Rock and other interesting rock formations. It finishes on a Fire Road and a grassy path with views over Squantz Pond.
Below shows the many ups and downs of the hike, but no significant elevation gain.
This hike begins at the southeastern parking area, but if you happen to park in a different lot, just head north towards the beach area of the lake and turn left (west), and follow the shoreline. Near the western shore of the pond, there is a sign post which may be the start of the White Trail, but I didn’t notice any blazes. Soon you’ll descend some railroad tie steps and follow a footpath along the edge of the pond. Descend another set of railroad tie steps, cross a wooden footbridge and turn right.
You may begin to see faded white blazes now. The White Trail heads north with Squantz Pond on the right. The White Trail is surprisingly rugged as it travels over undulating terrain. It passes by some large boulders that are scattered near the water. The warning signs are due to numerous deaths in this area over the years from people diving from atop the boulders into the pond. According to DEP records, 10 people have drowned at Squantz Pond since 1998. Most of the drownings have been linked to cliff diving and jumping.
The trail continues to rise and fall as it travels over rocky terrain. About a mile from the start of the hike, the White Trail reaches a rock outcrop with sweeping views of Squantz Pond. This is a good spot for a break to take in the scenery.
The White Trail climbs a little as it continues north. A short distance later, the trail descends to pond level and arrives at a junction with the Red Trail. This turn is easy to miss so keep an eye open for it.
The Red Trail climbs steeply then curves to the left and begins to head south, paralleling the White Trail below. This area is scattered with jumbled boulders that have fallen down the mountain and is quite scenic. At the time of our visit there were numerous fallen trees across the trail that we had to climb over, but nothing too difficult. Like the White Trail, the Red Trail travels over undulating terrain.
In just under 400 yards, the Red Trail reaches Council Rock, a massive round slab of rock that rests above other rocks forming a natural canopy. According to local traditions, the rock formation was a gathering place for the Schaghticoke tribe. Chief Squantz, who held sway over the Schaghticoke in the early 1700’s, could stand there, as if at a pulpit, and address a large gathering of his tribesmen.
To gain a better perspective of the enormity of this rock formation, the image below shows me standing in front of Council Rock.
The Red Trail continues south through the many rock formations that line the trail. There are many crevices that form small caves throughout this area and rock slab walls. After about 0.6 mile from the start of the Red Trail, it comes to a junction with the Purple Trail on the left. Bear right at this junction to remain on the Red Trail.
In another 280 feet or so, the Red Trail ends at a Fire Road. Turn left on this gravel road and continue in a southerly direction as the road descends gradually. In about 0.3 mile, The Fire Road crosses a small bridge over a stream. Immediately after crossing this bridge, turn left on the Green/Teal Trail. I did not notice any blazes, but this is a wide road (possibly very muddy after rainfall) that heads east, back into the interior of the park. If you miss this turn, the Fire Road ends at Short Woods Road just up ahead.
I thought that this boulder looked like a frog, so I named it accordingly.
The start of this trail is dirt, but soon turns into a grassy mowed path. From the top of the hill, there are nice views of Squantz Pond.
The trail continues around towards the front entrance to the park. When you reach the Ticket Booth, if you parked in the main lot, proceed back to your vehicle. If you parked at the Boat Launch parking area, continue across the grass field, back to where the hike began.
The trails are surprisingly rugged and scenic. We didn’t encounter any other hikers during our time on the trails, which was a pleasant surprise. If you prefer a longer hike, the trails connect with those in Pootatuck State Forest, which is definitely worth a visit as well. The trails do need some maintenance to clear the many downed trees that block the trails and some fresh paint on those faded blazes. Also maybe paint some blazes closer to the junctions to make them easier to see. A gorgeous park that is worth a visit.
Scenic landscape, well maintained picnic areas with many anchored charcoal grills, historical features, Council Rock, Squantz Pond.
Trail blazes could use a fresh coat of paint and a little maintenance to clear the numerous blowdowns along the trails.
Take a hike!