Nonnewaug Falls

May 8 & 14, 2022 – Bethlehem, Connecticut

Difficulty: Easy

Length: Approximately 1.3 miles

Max elevation: 637 ft. – total elevation gain approximately 241 ft.

Route type: Lollipop Loop

Maps: Nonnewaug Falls Trail Map

Trailhead parking: Falls Rd, Bethlehem, CT 06751

No toilets on site – No entrance or parking fees

Dirt and gravel parking lot for about 10-12 cars


Overview:

Nonnewaug Falls, sometimes called Leever Falls, is located in the Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve. The falls itself are in the Town of Woodbury, but the trailhead parking is located in Bethlehem, Connecticut. The East Nonnewaug River bends through sections of farmland in the northeast corner of Woodbury, flowing through a shadowy hemlock forest, where it drops over bedrock into an idyllic, moss-filled gorge.

Nonnewaug Falls

Nonnewaug Falls

The main falls is 18-20 feet high, cascading dramatically into the mouth of the gorge. Two smaller cascades, close to one another, are located several hundred feet downstream where the ravine narrows considerably. The upper of the two lower cascades is 4 feet high, followed by a 6 foot cascade. However, views of these lower cascades are currently extremely limited.

Please Note: Swimming is strictly prohibited here. Exploration of the falls is limited to the side of the river you arrived at as the other side is private property. Although water is likely to flow over the falls year round, high water showcases them best.


History:

Nonnewaug Falls was formed by glacial melt streaming over bedrock, carving a path into the landscape during the Last Glacial Period (LGP aka last ice age). So named for Chief Nonnewaug, the final leader of the territory’s long-vanished aboriginal inhabitants, Nonnewaug Falls has been a familiar and locally-celebrated landmark for nearly two centuries. Woodcuts published in the 1800’s portray Nonnewaug Falls with much the same rugged and secluded character that it possesses today.

On the opposite bank near the top of the falls, is a bronze tablet mounted on the face of a rock outcrop. It was placed there in 1916 by members of the Nonnewaug tribe of Seymour to memorialize the chief. It reads: “To the memory of Nonnewaug last chief of his tribe, friend of his white neighbors, who sleeps with his fathers near these falls which bear his name.” Nonnewaug is Mohican for “dry land.”

Nonnewaug Falls

Nonnewaug Falls

The legend is that the old Sachem Nonnewaug, distraught at the sale of his ancestral lands to the English by the young men of the tribe, jumped off the rocks at the top of the falls, was killed, and buried at the scene.

In 2002, Dr. Harold Leever (1914–2001) willed 50 acres of land at the falls to the Town of Woodbury and 12 acres of land to the Bethlehem Land Trust to ensure the waterfall’s preservation for perpetuity.


Trails Overview:

The trail map is not very helpful, but I used the Gaia GPS app with the “Outdoors” map layer. It shows the trails and will lead you in the right direction.

Nonnewaug Falls is reached by a fairly easy and pleasant walk on wide woods roads, through the forest and past open fields. There are several ways to get to the falls, but none are clearly marked.

One guide book reads: “There is a kiosk at the parking area that will show you a trail map. In addition, red posts have been put in place along the route to help guide you to the falls on the proper trails.” Neither is accurate. There is no longer a kiosk at the trailhead, at least I did not see one, and I looked for it. As for the red posts, I saw two and a couple of red blazes on trees, but nothing that will clearly lead you to Nonnewaug Falls.


Hike Overview:

Having done a short hike at Orenaug Park, we decided to check out Nonnewaug Falls as well. It is a short 12 minute drive (6.7 miles) from Orenaug Park to the Nonnewaug Falls trailhead. These two short hikes are ideal to be done in conjunction with one another.

We visited Nonnewaug Falls twice, just a week apart. The first time I couldn’t find the bronze plaque, but I didn’t really look for it. The second time, I was able to locate it. We took a different route each time. On the first visit, we took a steeper route which was a loop. The second time we did an out-and-back, a much easier route. Both routes were about the same distance. The only difference was the loop had about 100 more feet of elevation gain.

Nonnewaug Falls Loop

Nonnewaug Falls Loop

If you are looking for just an easy stroll to see the waterfall, then the route below is the one for you.

Nonnewaug Falls out-and-back

Nonnewaug Falls out-and-back


The Hike:

The hike begins at the parking area at the end of Falls Road. From the parking area, proceed past the metal gate and follow the unpaved road east, crossing a bridge that spans the Nonnewaug River. In about 500 feet, the unpaved road comes to a fork. Take the left fork and follow the rocky road steeply uphill.

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

bear left at the fork for the loop

bear left at the fork for the loop

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

At the top of the rise as the old road approaches the powerlines, bear right at another fork and follow the road as it heads into the woods. In about another 400 yards (from the powerlines), the road reaches a T-intersection with another woods road. Turn left on the woods road, passing two massive old Oak trees.

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

In a short distance, the road reaches an open field. Turn right, crossing the field and enter the forest once again. The woods road splits once it ducks into the forest. Take the left fork (there is a red post at this junction) and continue downhill to the site of the falls.

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

The best view of Nonnewaug Falls is from the base of it. This entails descending a steep slope where the soil is wet and the ground may be unstable. Hiking poles work really well here.

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls

Nonnewaug Falls

Nonnewaug Falls

Nonnewaug Falls

Looking downstream from the base of the falls.

Nonnewaug Falls

Nonnewaug Falls

William Cothren wrote in his “History of Ancient Woodbury,” published in 1854: “Viewed as a whole, it is as wild and romantic a place as can anywhere be found in our country.”

Nonnewaug Falls

Nonnewaug Falls

The red circle denotes where the bronze plaque is located.

Nonnewaug Falls

Nonnewaug Falls

Nonnewaug Falls

Nonnewaug Falls

Climbing out of the gorge is easier than going down.

Nonnewaug Falls

Nonnewaug Falls

Looking upstream from near the top of the falls.

East Nonnewaug River

East Nonnewaug River

When you have had your fill of nature’s beauty, retrace your steps past the old Oak trees then continue straight on the woods road, passing the junction that you came from earlier.

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

When you arrive at a Y-intersection, take the left fork as it runs along the top of the field, close to the tree line with broad views over the surrounding countryside. Soon the trail ducks back into the woods, passing the junction from earlier in the hike. Bear left and follow the woods road back to the parking area, where the hike began.

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve

Nonnewaug Falls Open Space Preserve


Review:

A really pleasant hike with the payoff being the gorgeous waterfall. On both occasions that we visited this spot, we’ve seen few people, mostly when we were on our way out. We were there about 11am the first time and 8:30am the second time. Since this is a short hike, it could be combined with another hike in the area.

Pros:

Gorgeous waterfall, scenic landscape, historical features, somewhat of a hidden gem.

Cons:

No signage or trail blazes.


Take a hike!

Nonnewaug Falls

Nonnewaug Falls


Sources:


Orenaug Park

May 8, 2022 – Woodbury, Connecticut

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: Approximately 2.5 miles

Max elevation: 587 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 553 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Maps: Orenaug Park Trail Map

Trailhead parking: Across the street from 30 Park Road, Woodbury, CT 06798

No toilets on site – No entrance or parking fees

Roadside parking for about 10 cars


Park Overview:

Orenaug Park is a striking cluster of trap rock cliffs, with blazed trails and a steel observation tower, from which six surrounding towns can be seen. On the east side of the Park is a natural stone amphitheater, known as Bethel Rock, where, according to tradition, the first religious services were held.

The 78.45-acre town park is located on a basalt (trap rock) ridge overlooking the Pomperaug River Valley in Woodbury, Connecticut that is used for passive recreation. The tract is comprised of rock walls that rise 140 feet into the air, flanked by stately old pines and ravines with sloping hillsides that are carpeted with ferns and mosses.

Orenaug Park is owned and managed by the Town of Woodbury and is open year-round from dawn to dusk.

Orenaug Park

Orenaug Park

The centerpiece of the park, a 67′ 4″ steel observation tower, at an elevation of 520 feet above sea level, offers 360° views of Woodbury and the Pomperaug River Valley.

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

At the Park Road entrance, the two pillars are constructed of colorful stones from all 50 states. The 127-year-old stone pillars, received a major restoration in 2020. Longtime Woodbury resident Chris Swainbank began the volunteer project back in August of 2020 and spent more than 60 hours fixing up the pillars and the 180-foot stone wall that runs along Park Road.

Orenaug Park

Orenaug Park


History:

In 1892, Susan B. Shove conveyed land to the Town of Woodbury, to be used as a park. Orenaug Park has been owned and maintained by the Town for the benefit and use by the public since that time.

Orenaug Park started as a combination of several pieces of land put together over the course of several years by Susan Shove, with the help of William Cothren. What began as 11 acres, grew to an area of over 60 acres when the land was officially presented by Mrs. Shove to the Town of Woodbury for use as a park in 1892. It has since grown to almost 80 acres.

The name Orenaug comes from the Pootatuck, the Native American tribe which resided in this area before being settled by colonists from Stratford, CT in the 1670’s, meaning “sunny place.”

This is the original wooden observation tower built by William Cothren on his land in what is now Orenaug Park. This Tower, which was built before 1859, collapsed in a heavy windstorm in 1901, as the current tower was being constructed.

Orenaug Tower 1898

Orenaug Tower 1898

Built in 1901, the 67-foot 4-inch Orenaug Tower looms over Orenaug Park’s hilly landscape. The tower was commissioned by Susan B. Shove as an observation tower so residents could view the town landscape, which was much more visible in the 1900’s when the town was significantly deforested.

This is a postcard of the Orenaug Park Observation Tower. This tower was built in 1901 to replace the wooden tower built by William Cothren. This tower still stands today, and provides 360° views of Woodbury and several surrounding towns.

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

The tower began to show signs of rust and wear, and in 2018 the town refurbished the Orenaug Park Observation Tower and gave it a fresh coat of paint.

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Today several hiking trails wind through the hilly park as well as a rock-climbing area for experienced climbers. The park can be accessed from three locations, all leading to the hiking trails, Bethel Rock and an observation tower from which up to six surrounding towns can be seen.

Side Note: I reached out to the Woodbury Historical Society for more information, but they did not know any of the history of the park. I also reached out by phone and email to the Recreation Department and the local library. They both promised to call me back, but neither did. 


Trails Overview:

Orenaug Park has three access points/trailheads. The main entrance is on Park Road, flanked by two stone columns with stones that have been cultivated from all 50 states. The red-blazed Fire Trail begins there. The second access point is from the back of the Woodbury Senior Community Center, which utlizes the orange-blazed Tower Trail. The third is on Park Lane, which is the trailhead for the yellow-blazed Bethel Rock Trail.

There are almost 2 miles of well marked trails in Orenaug Park as well as some unmarked footpaths that travel through the rugged trap rock hills.

There are substantial blowdowns throughout the park that have to be navigated around/under. In some cases the trail has been rerouted around the larger blowdowns, when possible.

Fire Trail (red blazes – 0.55-mile) ~ is the main entrance and begins on Park Road between the two stone pillars. It follows an old woods road north up to the steel observation tower, where it ends.

Tower Trail (orange blazes – 0.40-mile) ~ begins behind the Woodbury Senior Community Center and connects to the Fire Trail, just below the tower. We did not hike this trail so I don’t have any insight on it.

Loop Trail (blue blazes – 0.43-mile) ~ begins and ends at the Yellow Trail. It descends into the valley, surrounded by high rock walls. A beautiful area to hike and should not be skipped. We spotted a Black Bear on a cliff above watching us, as we stood in the ravine.

Bethel Rock Trail (yellow blazes – 0.50-mile) ~ begins near the observation tower at a junction with the Fire Trail (red blazes) and winds its way through the forest with some minor ups and downs. It passes by the historic Bethel Rock and concludes at Park Lane (a gravel road).

There are plans for additional trails to be cut and marked.


Hike Overview:

Being a fan of observation towers, hiking Orenaug Park is a no brainer. Although the tower was the attraction, the rest of the park is worth exploring as well. The high rock walls that loom over the small valleys in the park, dominate the landscape and give the area a prehistoric feeling. Hiking through this boulder strewn territory is like being transported back in time.

Loop Trail - Orenaug Park

Loop Trail – Orenaug Park

The hike was done clockwise beginning and ending at the pond.

Orenaug Park

Orenaug Park

The elevation profile of the hike is below.

elevation profile - Orenaug Park

elevation profile – Orenaug Park

We didn’t encounter any other hikers during our time spent on the trails, but did spot a Black Bear eye-balling us from a cliff while on the Loop Trail. It ran off when I pointed it out to my friend.

Since this is a short hike, it could be done in conjunction with Nonnewaug Falls. It is a short 12 minute drive (6.7 miles) from Orenaug Park to the Nonnewaug Falls trailhead.


The Hike:

We parked alongside Crystal Lake (aka Silver Lake, Webb’s Pond) which has roadside parking for about 10 cars if everyone parks correctly. This is an official parking area for Orenaug Park and is just about 150 feet west from the the main entrance on Park Road. The small lake is public property even though it appears to be part of a residence.

Crystal Lake near the entrance to Orenaug Park

Crystal Lake near the entrance to Orenaug Park

The hike starts on the red-blazed Fire Trail, which begins at the two stone pillars. The two stone pillars at the fire trail entrance are made of 50 stones, each one being from a different state. This gateway was donated and built by Susan B. Shove in 1895.

Park Road entrance - Orenaug Park

Park Road entrance – Orenaug Park

Park Road entrance - Orenaug Park

Park Road entrance – Orenaug Park

The Fire Trail begins heading uphill on a woods road, past a kiosk with a trail map on it. At first the trail climbs gradually, steepens then moderates again. In about 300 feet, the Fire Trail passes an unmarked trail on the left that leads to a rock outcrop with west-facing views of Woodbury and the surrounding area.

Fire Trail - Orenaug Park

Fire Trail – Orenaug Park

Fire Trail - Orenaug Park

Fire Trail – Orenaug Park

Fire Trail - Orenaug Park

Fire Trail – Orenaug Park

Fire Trail - Orenaug Park

Fire Trail – Orenaug Park

Fire Trail - Orenaug Park

Fire Trail – Orenaug Park

Fire Trail - Orenaug Park

Fire Trail – Orenaug Park

Fire Trail - Orenaug Park

Fire Trail – Orenaug Park

Fire Trail - Orenaug Park

Fire Trail – Orenaug Park

The Fire Trail continues heading north, uphill on the woods road, passing another side trail with similar views as the first and then about a 1/2-mile from the start of the hike, the Fire Trail reaches a junction with the orange-blazed Tower Trail, which begins on the left.

Fire Trail - Orenaug Park

Fire Trail – Orenaug Park

bear right to remain on Fire Trail

bear right to remain on Fire Trail

bear right to remain on Fire Trail

bear right to remain on Fire Trail

Bear right to remain on the red-blazed Fire Trail and in about 260 yards, you’ll pass a junction with the yellow-blazed Bethel Rock Trail which begins on the right. In another 200 feet, the Fire Trail ends at the Orenaug Park Observation Tower.

Fire Trail - Orenaug Park

Fire Trail – Orenaug Park

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

In 2018 the Orenaug Park Observation Tower got a fresh coat of paint. Previously, the tower had a metallic look, but now is a light green color. The $26,000 project to paint and repair the structure was completed in the summer of 2018 by Jim Casale of JNC Contracting Associates of Bethel. The contractor used scaffolding to paint and repair the hardest to reach areas.

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

You may want to ascend the observation tower’s 70 steps on the open grid stairway, protected by sturdy wire mesh, to the enclosed deck for 360° views of the Pomperaug River Valley. There is no view from the base of the tower.

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Unlike some of the other old fire towers that I have climbed, this one did not have any shake to it, but the floor of the cab does ripple underfoot.

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

view northeast from Orenaug Park Observation Tower

view northeast from Orenaug Park Observation Tower

view southwest from Orenaug Park Observation Tower

view southwest from Orenaug Park Observation Tower

view west from Orenaug Park Observation Tower

view west from Orenaug Park Observation Tower

When you are done enjoying the views, carefully descend the steps back to flat ground and retrace your steps for about 200 feet along the red-blazed Fire Trail to the junction with the yellow-blazed Bethel Rock Trail, which you passed on the way up.

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Orenaug Park Observation Tower

Turn left on the Bethel Rock Trail and follow the yellow blazes as they descend slightly and turn left, soon passing through an interesting looking area lined with rock walls. The trail passes below the the base of the tower, turns right then climbs the hillside.

Bethel Rock Trail - Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail – Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail - Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail – Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail - Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail – Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail - Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail – Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail - Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail – Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail - Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail – Orenaug Park

Soon the trail levels off somewhat and in about 350 yards, comes to a junction with the blue-blazed Loop Trail.

Bethel Rock Trail - Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail – Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail - Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail – Orenaug Park

turn left on Loop Trail

turn left on Loop Trail

turn left on Loop Trail

turn left on Loop Trail

Turn left on the blue blazed trail and follow it as it descends into the valley with high rock walls on the left. At the base of the descent, the trail turns sharp right. It was in this area that I looked up to the top of the cliffs and saw a Black Bear watching me. When I pointed the bear out to my hiking partner, it ran off. It then stopped, turned around and looked at me again. When I pointed to it again, it ran off once again. As luck would have it the trail took us right by where the bear was standing watching us. We were on high alert after that, but we did not see the bear again. My estimation is that the bear was 1-2 years old and about 150 pounds.

Loop Trail - Orenaug Park

Loop Trail – Orenaug Park

Loop Trail - Orenaug Park

Loop Trail – Orenaug Park

Loop Trail - Orenaug Park

Loop Trail – Orenaug Park

After a short, but steep climb, the trail soon comes to a junction with the yellow-blazed Bethel Rock Trail. Turn left and follow the yellow blazes as they head southwest, gradually downhill.

Loop Trail - Orenaug Park

Loop Trail – Orenaug Park

Loop Trail - Orenaug Park

Loop Trail – Orenaug Park

Loop Trail - Orenaug Park

Loop Trail – Orenaug Park

Loop Trail - Orenaug Park

Loop Trail – Orenaug Park

Loop Trail - Orenaug Park

Loop Trail – Orenaug Park

Loop Trail - Orenaug Park

Loop Trail – Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail - Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail – Orenaug Park

In about 500 feet, the Bethel Rock Trail reaches Bethel Rock. You may want to take a little time to explore this area.

Bethel Rock - Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock – Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock - Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock – Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock - Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock – Orenaug Park

Originally, we were going to retrace our steps, but due to the bear sighting, we decided to make a loop out of it using two residential streets. The Bethel Rock Trail continues in a southerly direction until its terminus on Park Lane, an unpaved road.

Bethel Rock Trail - Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail – Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail - Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail – Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail - Orenaug Park

Bethel Rock Trail – Orenaug Park

Turn right on Park Lane and follow it for about 1100 feet, to its terminus at Park Road. Turn right on Park Road and follow it for about 315 yards, passing an animal farm and returning to the parking area, where the hike began.

Park Lane - Woodbury

Park Lane – Woodbury

Park Lane - Woodbury

Park Lane – Woodbury

Alpaca along Park Road.

Park Road - Woodbury

Park Road – Woodbury

Alpaca along Park Road.

Park Road - Woodbury

Park Road – Woodbury

Park Road - Woodbury

Park Road – Woodbury

Park Road - Woodbury

Park Road – Woodbury

Park Road - Woodbury

Park Road – Woodbury


Side Note:

Woodbury which means “dwelling place in the woods,” is a beautiful town that is full of history and worth checking out. There are many historic buildings, some dating back to the 1700’s.  Woodbury is often referred to as Connecticut’s “Antique Capital,” with over 30 dealers offering virtually all categories, periods and styles of antiques, related accessories, gifts and bench made reproductions from every corner of the world.

A picturesque, New England setting, with a “tree lined” Main Street, it is worth taking a stroll around if you have the time. We stopped at the Soldiers’ Monument, just down the road from where we parked.

An 1871 obelisk and two cannons on Woodbury’s South Green honor the sacrifice of local residents killed in the Civil War.

Soldiers’ Monument - Woodbury

Soldiers’ Monument – Woodbury

The town’s contribution to the Civil War was 264, of whom 56 did not survive the war. In grateful memory, the Soldier’s Monument was dedicated September 26, 1871.

Soldiers’ Monument - Woodbury

Soldiers’ Monument – Woodbury

Review:

A great hike in a small tract of land. The observation tower is worth the trip on its own. The blue-blazed Loop Trail should not be missed as it is very scenic with its unusual rock formations. Bethel Rock is also worth checking out. The bear sighting was cool although it made us change our route. We didn’t see any other hikers during our time there. Worth a visit if you are in the area or even to make a special trip there. We drove 70 minutes (65 miles) to do this hike. Worth every mile and minute.

Pros:

Orenaug Park Observation Tower, Bethel Rock, well marked trails, interesting rock formations, Black Bear sighting, hidden gem.

Cons:

No loops unless you use public roads.


Take a hike!

Orenaug Park

Orenaug Park


Sources:


Judges Cave Loop from from Amrhyn Field – West Rock Ridge State Park

May 1, 2022 – New Haven, Connecticut

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: Approximately 3.6 miles

Max elevation: 443 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 545 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Maps: West Rock Ridge State Park Trail MapWest Rock Ridge State Park Avenza Map

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


Park Overview:

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

West Rock Ridge

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.

West Rock Ridge State Park

West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

South Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.


History:

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.

Judges Cave - 1851

The Judges Cave, New Haven

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.


Trails Overview:

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.

Westville Feeder Trail

Westville Feeder 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.

Teal/White Trail - Amrhyn Field

Teal/White Trail – Amrhyn Field

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.

Teal Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Teal Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Regicides Trail - South Overlook

Regicides Trail – South Overlook

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.

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Westville Feeder Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park


Hike Overview:

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.

Judges Cave Loop from from Amrhyn Field – West Rock Ridge State Park

Judges Cave Loop from from Amrhyn Field – West Rock Ridge State Park

The elevation profile of the hike below.

elevation profile - Judges Cave Loop

elevation profile – Judges Cave Loop


The Hike:

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.

footbridge over the West River to Amrhyn Field

footbridge over the West River to Amrhyn Field

footbridge over the West River to Amrhyn Field

footbridge over the West River to Amrhyn Field

West River - New Haven

West River – New Haven

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.

Westville Feeder Trail - Amrhyn Field

Westville Feeder Trail – Amrhyn Field

Teal/White Trail - Amrhyn Field

Teal/White Trail – Amrhyn Field

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.

West Rock Ridge State Park

West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Teal/White Trail – Amrhyn Field

Teal/White Trail – Amrhyn Field

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.

Teal/White Trail – Amrhyn Field

Teal/White Trail – Amrhyn Field

Teal/White Trail – Amrhyn Field

Teal/White Trail – Amrhyn Field

junction of Teal/White and Teal Trails

junction of Teal/White and Teal Trails

junction of Teal/White and Teal Trails

junction of Teal/White and Teal Trails

Turn right and follow the Teal Trail as it heads northeast along private property.

Teal Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Teal Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Rock Climber's Area - West Rock Ridge State Park

Rock Climber’s Area – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Teal Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Teal Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

turn left on unmarked trail

turn left on unmarked trail

unmarked trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

unmarked trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Soon the Red Trail climbs more stone steps and a short distance later, ends at the South Overlook.

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

terminus of Red Trail

terminus of Red Trail

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.

South Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

South Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

The outer area alongside the wall of the South Overlook.

South Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

When the interior roads of the park are open, this parking lot will be filled on a nice day.

South Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

South Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

South Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Regicides Trail - South Overlook

Regicides Trail – South Overlook

The Regicides Trail runs along the western edge of the traprock ridge, providing far reaching views from rock outcrops.

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

The Regicides Trail provides frequent glimpses of westerly views through the trees.

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Drive - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Drive – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Regicides Drive - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Drive – West Rock Ridge State Park

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

Judges Cave - West Rock Ridge State Park

Judges Cave – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Judges Cave - West Rock Ridge State Park

Judges Cave – West Rock Ridge State Park

Judges Cave - West Rock Ridge State Park

Judges Cave – West Rock Ridge State Park

Judges Cave - West Rock Ridge State Park

Judges Cave – West Rock Ridge State Park

Judges Cave - West Rock Ridge State Park

Judges Cave – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Regicides Trail and Green Trail near Judges Cave

Regicides Trail and Green Trail near Judges Cave

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.

Green Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Green Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Green Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Green Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Green Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Green Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

bear right on Westville Feeder Trail

bear right on Westville Feeder Trail

Bear right and follow the Westville Feeder Trail downhill on a wide rocky footpath.

Westville Feeder Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Westville Feeder Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

Westville Feeder Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Westville Feeder Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park


Review:

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.

Pros:

Well maintained trails, free of litter (let’s keep it that way), not much foot traffic, scenic landscape.

Cons:

Could hear road noise on the Regicides Trail. A lot of sirens wailing from emergency vehicles on a Sunday.


Take a hike!

Judges Cave Loop from from Amrhyn Field – West Rock Ridge State Park

Judges Cave Loop from from Amrhyn Field – West Rock Ridge State Park


Sources:


Konold’s Pond Overlook from Lake Wintergreen – West Rock Ridge State Park

April 24, 2022 – Hamden, Connecticut

Difficulty: Easy – Moderate

Length: Approximately 3.8 miles

Max elevation: 441 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 408 ft.

Route type: Circuit

Maps:  West Rock Ridge State Park Trail MapWest Rock Ridge State Park Avenza Map

Trailhead parking: Lake Wintergreen Parking Area

Composting toilets on site – No entrance or parking fees

Approximately 30 parking spaces at the Lake Wintergreen trailhead.


Park Overview:

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

West Rock Ridge

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 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.

Lake Wintergreen - West Rock Ridge State Park

Lake Wintergreen – West Rock Ridge State Park

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.

There is a composting toilet by the Lake Wintergreen parking lot, which is the only restroom facility available in the park.


History:

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. Baldwin Drive (once known as Baldwin Parkway) was built along the ridge by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) 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 has continued to acquire parcels within the West Rock Ridge Conservation Area over the years, for a total now of over 1700 acres.

Between 1863 and 1978 Lake Wintergreen provided water for the City of New Haven. The lake was created when an earthen dam was built by Fair Haven Water Co. to flood the bedrock basin. After they had used the water supply for 13 years, the Fair Haven Water Co. was bought out by the New Haven Water Company, which soon bought additional land in the watershed. In 1978 the lake was taken out of the water supply system because strict new Federal standards would have required construction of a filtration plant.

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park


Trails Overview:

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.

Red/White Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red/White Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

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:

The Red Trail (6.75 miles) runs roughly parallel to the Regicides Trail (Blue Trail) with several connecting trails cutting between the two. This allows hikers to make a variety of loops within the park. The trail has some rolling ups and downs in the middle and a steep downhill (or uphill) at the southern end and a similar climb or descent on the north end where the trail climbs up to meet the Regicides Trail (Blue Trail) at the ridgeline.

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 also crosses Baldwin Drive six times.

The Regicides Trail is considered one of Connecticut’s most spectacular cliff walks. Along the western side of the ridge, hikers are rewarded with extended views of reservoirs and forests in Woodbridge and Bethany. On the eastern side, the trail has a dramatic perspective down the length of West Rock Ridge, including Farm Brook Reservoir and the forested slopes of the state park.

The Red-White Trail is a short connector trail along the eastern shore of Lake Wintergreen, near the southern end of the lake by the Lake Wintergreen spillway. It is rocky and has a lot of exposed roots.

The Orange Trail is 0.3 mile long and starts at the southern end of Lake Wintergreen, near the intersection of the Red and White Trails, and ends at the junction of the Regicides Trail and Baldwin Drive. The trail is a steady climb from the lake up to the ridge, gaining about 200 feet of elevation. It is mostly rocky with a few wet areas.

A combination of park roads and an unmarked trails were also used.


Hike Overview:

This hike was a last minute change of plans which meant not that much research was done on the area. I did not know that the park roads were closed to motor vehicles until Memorial Day weekend. That meant that we had to park at the Lake Wintergreen parking lot. Although there are numerous approved parking areas near connecting trails just outside the park, I was unaware of some of their locations. Some of the parking locations along Wintergreen Avenue seemed a little desolate and quite frankly gave the impression of not being a safe spot to leave a vehicle unattended.

The hike that I had mapped out got scrapped and I made one up on the fly. Several points of interest from the original plan were not included, but it still turned out to be a good hike.

Using a combination of blazed and unmarked trails, along with park roads, we made our way along the lake and up to the ridge to enjoy some views. We ran into a few people, but mostly near the lake. Lake Wintergreen, the South Overlook, and Judges Cave, are the three most heavily-used areas at West Rock.

The hike begins at the northern end of Lake Wintergreen, heads south then climbs the Orange Trail up to the ridge for some west-facing views. Then south on the Regicides Trail past a ventilator shaft over the Heroes Tunnel and returns on the Red Trail.

Konolds Pond Overlook from Lake Wintergreen

Konolds Pond Overlook from Lake Wintergreen

This hike is rated easy-moderate with only one steep ascent on the Orange Trail. The rest of the hike is relatively easy.

elevation profile - Konolds Pond Overlook from Lake Wintergreen

elevation profile – Konolds Pond Overlook from Lake Wintergreen


The Hike

We walked towards the sign and turned left on the wide gravel road. That is the Red Trail. Almost immediately we turned right on an unmarked footpath and headed towards Lake Wintergreen. We walked on a wide footpath, which follows the contour of the scenic lake. In about 1/2-mile, the unmarked trail meets up with the Red Trail, where we turned right.

Lake Wintergreen - West Rock Ridge State Park

Lake Wintergreen – West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Lake Wintergreen - West Rock Ridge State Park

Lake Wintergreen – West Rock Ridge State Park

unmarked trail along Lake Wintergreen

unmarked trail along Lake Wintergreen

Lake Wintergreen - West Rock Ridge State Park

Lake Wintergreen – West Rock Ridge State Park

unmarked trail along Lake Wintergreen

unmarked trail along Lake Wintergreen

unmarked trail along Lake Wintergreen

unmarked trail along Lake Wintergreen

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

In a short distance, the Red Trail veers left at a junction with the Red/White Trail which runs across the top of the earthen dam. From this area you can get some of the finer views of Lake Wintergreen. The Red Trail will be your return route, for now continue straight on the Red/White Trail.

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Lake Wintergreen is a 44-acre artificially impounded body of water. It has a shoreline of approximately 1.6 miles and sits at an elevation of about 239 feet above sea level.

Lake Wintergreen - West Rock Ridge State Park

Lake Wintergreen – West Rock Ridge State Park

The Red/White Trail continues south on the earthen dam and soon crosses a footbridge over the Lake Wintergreen Dam Spillway.

Red/White Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red/White Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Red/White Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red/White Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

After crossing the footbridge, the Red/White Trail travels along a a natural rock ridge with steep drop-offs on each side. This section of the trail is covered with roots and is quite rocky. Exercise caution in this area, especially when the trail comes close to the edge. Please note: this section can be bypassed by veering left on the Red Trail by the earthen dam.

Red/White Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red/White Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Red/White Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red/White Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Red/White Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red/White Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Red/White Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red/White Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Red/White Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red/White Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

View of Lake Wintergreen from the southern end of the Red/White Trail.

Lake Wintergreen - West Rock Ridge State Park

Lake Wintergreen – West Rock Ridge State Park

In about 0.4 mile, the Red/White Trail ends at a junction with the Red Trail which comes in from the left. Turn right briefly joining the Red Trail. When the Red Trail turns left, continue ahead on the White Trail which begins at the southern end of the lake.

terminus of Red/White Trail

terminus of Red/White Trail

White Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

White Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

In about 200 feet, turn left on the Orange Trail. The Orange Trail climbs steeply on several switchbacks, gaining about 200 feet of elevation in less than 0.3 mile.

Orange Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Orange Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

At the top of the rise, the Orange Trail is joined by the blue-blazed Regicides Trail, which comes in from the left. Both trails cross Baldwin Drive.

Orange Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Orange Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

The Orange Trail ends where the Regicides Trail turns sharply right and continues north. Walk a few feet past the tree to Konold’s Pond Overlook, a west-facing view of the West River Valley and Konold’s Pond.

terminus of Orange Trail

terminus of Orange Trail

The ridge was quarried here, so the cliffs are steep and uneven with about a 300-foot drop. Be mindful of your footing at the overlook, staying a respectful distance from the edge and enjoy the views.

Konolds Pond Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

Konolds Pond Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

Looking southwest.

Konolds Pond Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

Konolds Pond Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

In 1911, the Pond Lily Company purchased twenty-six acres of land from William J. Konold. At the southern border of this parcel, they built an earthen berm and a cement spillway, creating Konold’s Pond. This project was done as a backup water source for their dyeing operation.

Konolds Pond Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

Konolds Pond Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

Looking northwest.

Konolds Pond Overlook - West Rock Ridge State Park

Konolds Pond Overlook – West Rock Ridge State Park

When you are ready to continue, retrace your steps to Baldwin Drive and turn right. Baldwin Drive is a paved park road currently closed to motor vehicles, except for maintenance. It was named for New Haven native Simeon E. Baldwin, governor of Connecticut from 1911 to 1915.

Baldwin Drive - West Rock Ridge State Park

Baldwin Drive – West Rock Ridge State Park

There is an unmarked trail between Baldwin Drive and the edge of the cliffs that provides more views from various rock outcrops.

rock outcrop near Baldwin Drive

rock outcrop near Baldwin Drive

rock outcrop near Baldwin Drive

rock outcrop near Baldwin Drive

unmarked trail along Baldwin Drive

unmarked trail along Baldwin Drive

rock outcrop near Baldwin Drive

rock outcrop near Baldwin Drive

rock outcrop near Baldwin Drive

rock outcrop near Baldwin Drive

Baldwin Drive continues south, not far from the edge of the cliffs. As Baldwin Drive makes a sharp left, continue ahead on a gravel road that connects Baldwin Drive to a tall antenna on the ridge. Soon you’ll pass an old airway beacon.

Baldwin Drive - West Rock Ridge State Park

Baldwin Drive – West Rock Ridge State Park

Baldwin Drive - West Rock Ridge State Park

Baldwin Drive – West Rock Ridge State Park

Airway beacons in the US were constructed by the Post Office and the Department of Commerce between 1923 and 1933. Approximately 1,500 airway beacons were constructed to guide pilots from city to city, covering 18,000 miles. Today, most of the beacons have been removed.

Airway Beacon - West Rock Ridge State Park

Airway Beacon – West Rock Ridge State Park

A short distance later after reaching a fenced off building, we turned right into the woods and jumped back on the blue-blazed Regicides Trail which descends steeply.

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

As the trail descends, the ventilation shaft for the Heroes Tunnel (formerly West Rock Tunnel) is visible through the trees on the left.

Regicides Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Regicides Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

The large stone building covers a concrete ventilation shaft marking the 1,200-ft. tunnel’s midpoint. There is a control room at the base of the shaft. The fans in the shaft would draw exhaust fumes from the tunnels below and blow it up into the shaft and out of one of the four ducts. The sounds of cars can be heard whispering below. If you have ever driven on the Wilbur Cross Parkway (Connecticut Route 15) between Exits 59 and 60, then you have literally driven under the park.

ventilator shaft - West Rock Ridge State Park

ventilator shaft – West Rock Ridge State Park

ventilator shaft - West Rock Ridge State Park

ventilator shaft – West Rock Ridge State Park

Shut the door on the way out.

ventilator shaft - West Rock Ridge State Park

ventilator shaft – West Rock Ridge State Park

ventilator shaft - West Rock Ridge State Park

ventilator shaft – West Rock Ridge State Park

A short footpath leads downhill from the ventilator shaft to Baldwin Drive. Turn left and follow Baldwin Drive down to the hairpin turn and proceed past the guard rail at the turn, joining the Red Trail that comes in from the right.

ventilator shaft - West Rock Ridge State Park

ventilator shaft – West Rock Ridge State Park

Baldwin Drive - West Rock Ridge State Park

Baldwin Drive – West Rock Ridge State Park

Baldwin Drive - West Rock Ridge State Park

Baldwin Drive – West Rock Ridge State Park

Follow the red blazes north as the trail climbs slightly, levels off then descends along a narrow section of trail under tall evergreen trees. The trail soon widens to a woods road as it nears Lake Wintergreen.

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

At the junction where the White Trail turns left and the Red/White Trail begins straight ahead, turn right to stay on the Red Trail as it descends around a curve. At the base of the descent, the trail passes the stone ruins of an old pump house dating from when Lake Wintergreen was water company property.

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

After crossing the Lake Wintergreen Dam Spillway, the trail climbs alongside the earthen dam and soon levels off at the junction with the Red/White Trail. The Red Trail is now a flat, wide woods road with a solid gravel surface. Follow the Red Trail a short distance north, back to the Lake Wintergreen parking area, where the hike began.

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail - West Rock Ridge State Park

Red Trail – West Rock Ridge State Park

Lake Wintergreen parking area

Lake Wintergreen parking area


Review:

A very nice hike with lots to see. The views of the lake are quite nice as well as from Konold’s Pond Overlook. The trails are well marked and easy to follow. Download the Avenza Maps app along with a park map and you won’t go astray. If you visit the park when the park roads are closed, the farther away you get from Lake Wintergreen, the less people you will run into. All in all a nice place to spend some time outdoors. I look forward to a return visit.

Pros:

Beautifully maintained park and trails, not much foot traffic.

Cons:

Some road noise can be heard near and around the tunnel.


Take a hike!

Konolds Pond Overlook from Lake Wintergreen – West Rock Ridge State Park

Konolds Pond Overlook from Lake Wintergreen – West Rock Ridge State Park


Sources:


Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

April 10, 2022 – North Haven, Connecticut

Difficulty: Easy

Length: Approximately 3.1 miles

Max elevation: 30 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 70 ft.

Route type: Out and Back

Map: Tidal Marsh Trail Map

Trailhead parking: 200 Universal Drive, North Haven, CT 06473 (Behind Target)

No bathrooms on site – No entrance or parking fees

Plenty of parking at the trailhead.


Overview:

Tucked behind behind the Target Department Store on Universal Drive in North Haven, the Tidal Marsh Trail offers visitors a rewarding experience. A leisurely stroll on a trail along the Quinnipiac River. Starting on a small bluff above the river, with stunning views of Sleeping Giant, lower Hamden, and the river’s marshes. The trail meanders south through stands of different species of trees between the river and abandoned train tracks. The trail is maintained by the North Haven Trail Association.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

The Tidal Marsh Trail offers wonderful opportunities to bird watch. You may spot Bald Eagles, Hawks, Ospreys, ducks, geese, and other migratory birds in or near the water, or riding the thermals high in the sky.

Ospreys - Tidal Marsh Trail

Ospreys – Tidal Marsh Trail

If you follow the sporadic blazes Just beyond, into the abandoned Cedar Hill Rail Yard, You will come across a 14-ft. tall Polar Bear sculpture made from wood, sheet metal and other items reclaimed from the dilapidated building that it rests in. The sculpture was created by Connecticut artist Michael DeAngelo.

Polar Bear sculpture - Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Polar Bear sculpture – Cedar Hill Rail Yard


History:

The North Haven Trail Association began developing the Tidal Marsh Trail in 2012 with the help of private and public funds to secure easements along the Quinnipiac River to provide North Haven residents access to the River for recreational purposes and to ensure protection of the River and its surrounding watershed.

The Quinnipiac River is a 45.5-mile long river located entirely in the state of Connecticut. The river rises in West Central Connecticut from Dead Wood Swamp near the city of New Britain. It flows roughly southward to Plainville, Southington, and Cheshire, west of the city of Meriden, through Wallingford and Yalesville, North Haven, and flows into New Haven Harbor, an inlet of Long Island Sound, east of downtown New Haven. The name “Quinnipiac” comes from an Algonquian phrase meaning “long water land.”

According to the 1928 issue of Railway Age magazine, there were once 14 yards at Cedar Hill with a capacity of 15,000 rail cars. The yard covered 880 acres and extended more than seven miles from New Haven into North Haven. It was 1.5 miles wide at its widest point.

The Cedar Hill Rail Yard was built by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (known simply as The New Haven) and first opened for service in December 1894, with a capacity of approximately 400 railroad cars in and around New Haven’s Cedar Hill neighborhood, which gave the yard its name. At its peak during World War II, Cedar Hill Yard handled more than 5,000 railroad cars per day. Following the end of the war, the yard’s importance began to decline as freight traffic across New England shifted to road transport, and heavy industry left the region. Much of the yard began to fall into decay following the New Haven Railroad’s bankruptcy in 1961.

In 1969, the bankrupt New Haven Railroad was merged into newly-formed Penn Central Transportation Company, which inherited the yard. Just one year after acquiring Cedar Hill Yard with the rest of the New Haven, Penn Central declared bankruptcy. The company was merged into Conrail in 1976, along with many other bankrupt or troubled railroads in the Northeast, making Conrail the yard’s new owner. Conrail began efforts to bring portions of Cedar Hill into a state of good repair, spending over $3 million (equivalent to $14,300,000 in 2021) on track resurfacing and tie replacement in 1976 alone between Cedar Hill and Hartford Yard. In 1978, two years into Conrail’s tenure, Cedar Hill was processing roughly 300 cars a day, significantly less than it had in the New Haven days. At this point the yard employed 200 workers, down from its peak of 1,000.

In 1999, Conrail’s lines in New England were purchased by CSX Transportation. As of 2021, CSX remains the owner and main operator at Cedar Hill Yard. Presently much of the yard now lies abandoned and is an attraction for urban explorers, despite the dangers of the old buildings and facilities which contain lead paint and asbestos.


Trail Overview:

Although the trail map (2016) shows the trail as blazed orange, it is marked with white blazes. The map indicates that the trail is about a 1/2 mile long (1 mile round trip), but it is approximately 1.5 miles to the Polar Bear sculpture. The intermittent white blazes are an indication that the trail was extended since the map was published.

Please note: I contacted the North Haven Trail Association and the reply that I received was “The trail is about 1 mile long. There is no “Polar Bear” sculpture on this trail.” Apparently the “Polar Bear” sculpture is on the abandoned Cedar Hill Rail Yard property and not part of the Tidal Marsh Trail. Since the entire route is blazed white, for the purpose of this guide, the entire trail will be referred to as the “Tidal Marsh Trail.”

There are a lot of leaning/fallen trees along the trail that you will have to step over or duck under.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

The well trodden trail is relatively easy to follow although most of the blazes are faded or the trees that they are painted on, have fallen.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven


Hike Overview:

There is plenty of parking at the trailhead which is behind Target.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Although this is an easy hike, from what I have read on Facebook, many people never find the Polar Bear sculpture, which is one of the highlights of the hike. When I was reading the comments on someone’s post, what stuck with me was “If you think you went too far for the bear… keep going farther. You’ll eventually come across the old rail building with the bear inside.” That comment was helpful in not turning back too soon.

The map below shows the route that we took. The trail is mostly flat with minimal elevation gain.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

This hike, from what I read, is better done during leaf off season. According to those that have visited, the trail gets overgrown, making the trail harder to follow. There are also a lot of bugs and ticks during the warmer months. Also, since it is located in an industrial area, it is probably better not to hike alone. We did not encounter any of these issues on our visit.


The Hike:

The hike begins in the parking lot behind the Target Department Store. The trailhead is clearly marked with a large sign and there are informational signs detailing the history of the Quinnipiac River. There is a bench for relaxing right at the trailhead.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Proceed ahead on the white-blazed trail which heads in a southwesterly direction along a bluff above the Quinnipiac River. As you walk along the trail, look for an Osprey stand on the edge of the marsh. We saw an Osprey fly overhead and land, joining the one that was already there.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Ospreys - Tidal Marsh Trail

Ospreys – Tidal Marsh Trail

You will probably have to do some ducking along the way as there are numerous trees laying across the trail. In August 2020, the area was hit by a tornado that barreled through Hamden, North Haven, and Bethany.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Next to the trail are lines of rusted tracks with large trees growing between the rails.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

A rusty ladder on a steel pole stretch high into the canopy.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

There are wide gaps in the trees that afford open westerly views across the river into Hamden.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

To the north, Sleeping Giant is visible in the distance.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

I believe that this marks the end of the Tidal Marsh Trail, which is about a 1/2 mile from the start. To continue on to the Cedar Hill Rail Yard and the Polar Bear sculpture, follow the trail to the left of the concrete culvert. Do not walk through the tunnel.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Once above the culvert, turn right and follow the train tracks. You may see some fallen Birch trees laying across the tracks. Proceed ahead and you will pick up the trail a short distance later.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

There are no visible blazes in this area, but continue southwest along the well beaten path. When the trail splits, taking the left fork will take you directly to the Polar Bear sculpture. We did not know that at the time so we stayed right which led us to a paved area of the rail yard that was interesting to check out.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

An old abandoned switch tower, that once guided trains into the Cedar Hill Rail Yard.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

The old light towers now serve as nests for raptors.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

A roofless switch tower.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Classification Yard.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Heavy machinery for rail maintenance.

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

The 110-foot tall Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument high above New Haven, is visible for miles on a clear day. The monument, at the summit of East Rock Park, was dedicated in 1887 to honor soldiers and sailors who fought in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War and the Civil War.

Soldiers and Sailors Monument - East Rock Park

Soldiers and Sailors Monument – East Rock Park

We took this unmarked path a short distance east until we hooked back up with the White Trail, where we turned right.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

The trail is obvious although it is sparsely blazed, but as you proceed southwest, white blazes start to appear.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

When you come to a metal, roofless building that is where the Polar Bear sculpture resides. This building is approximately 1.5 miles from the start of the hike.

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

If you enter from the south, you will see the back of the Polar Bear first. Continue past the white sheet metal until you are face to face with the work of art that is hidden in the ruins of an old rail yard.

Polar Bear sculpture - Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Polar Bear sculpture – Cedar Hill Rail Yard

The bear is the work of New Haven-based artist M.J. DeAngelo. “This guy is made from reclaimed wood and metal falling off of the decaying building he sits in, 14 feet tall, smashed, nailed together, sprayed with a fire extinguisher, and spray painted deep in the woods.”

Polar Bear sculpture - Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Polar Bear sculpture – Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Polar Bear sculpture - Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Polar Bear sculpture – Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Polar Bear sculpture - Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Polar Bear sculpture – Cedar Hill Rail Yard

A very cool Instagram video from May 2020 of the sculpture being created.

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

This was our turnaround point and we began retracing our steps. At times we wandered around a bit exploring the numerous railyard remnants scattered throughout the woods.

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

Cedar Hill Rail Yard

We turned left at the concrete culvert, descended back to the “official” section of the Tidal Marsh Trail and continued northeast along the Quinnipiac River, back to the parking area, where the hike began.

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven

Review:

A really good walk through the woods with lots to see. The Polar Bear sculpture is a worthy destination on its own. We got there early enough that we didn’t encounter anyone on the way in. As we were making our way back (about 1/2 mile from the trailhead), we did pass several small groups going in the opposite direction. All in all a nice hike with many points of interest to see and photograph.

Pros:

Scenic area, Polar Bear sculpture, First 1/2 mile of the trail is well marked, a lot of bird activity, plenty of parking.

Cons:

A lot of leaning trees which means a lot of ducking.


Take a hike!

Tidal Marsh Trail - North Haven

Tidal Marsh Trail – North Haven


Sources:


Eastern Pinnacles & Cat Rocks from Route 17A

March 20, – Warwick, NY

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: Approximately 4 miles

Max elevation: 1,278 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 584 ft.

Route type: Out and Back

Map: Sterling Forest Trails MapAvenzaSterling Forest State Park (FREE)

Trailhead parking: 385 NY-17A, Warwick, NY 10990

No bathrooms on site – No entrance or parking fees

Ample Parking in two parking lots on North side of 17A and two parking lots across the road


Overview:

This moderate out-and-back hike travels along the Appalachian Trail, the most famous marked footpath in the world. It climbs to two fascinating puddingstone rock outcrops, with panoramic views north and east over the hills of Sterling Forest.

Eastern Pinnacles - Appalachian Trail

Eastern Pinnacles – Appalachian Trail


History:

The Appalachian Trail is a 2,180+ mile long public footpath that traverses the scenic, wooded, pastoral and wild lands of the Appalachian Mountains, from Georgia to Maine. When Congress passed the National Trails System Act in 1968, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail was federally established as a unit of the National Park System that was to be “administered primarily as a footpath.”

Approximately 40 miles of that famous foot trail are in Orange County, NY and include some of the most beautiful, wild and challenging hiking in all of the Northeast. In fact, the Appalachian Trail, the most famous foot trail in the Western Hemisphere, was conceived, planned and born right in Orange County.

It began back in 1921, when forester, planner and conservationist Benton MacKaye, living in Arden Valley at the time, began promoting an idea for a trail that would wind along the mountaintops of the Appalachians. Shortly thereafter, the newly formed Palisades Interstate Park Trail Conference adopted the plan and just two years later, on Oct. 7, 1923, the first official section of the Appalachian Trail opened between Bear Mountain and Arden Valley.

The Town of Warwick, NY, in Orange County, was designated an official Appalachian Trail Community by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in 2012. Appalachian Trail Communities are noted for promoting and protecting the Appalachian Trail, in addition to being good neighbors to those who hike the AT.


Trails Overview:

Although this hike is almost entirely on the Appalachian Trail (AT), there are short stints on blue-blazed trails. A Blue Blaze is a spur, bypass or connector trail branching off of the Appalachian Trail that can be used as an alternate route of the AT that rejoins it further down the path.

The trails on this hike are well marked and easy to follow. The only challenging sections are where the AT climbs over the Eastern Pinnacles and Cat Rocks. In both instances there is a blue-blazed trail that lets you bypass the rock scramble. By bypassing the scramble over the two rock formations, you would also be bypassing the views as well.


Hike Overview:

This hike begins at the parking lot that is adjacent to the Bellvale Farms Creamery. This is the parking area for the Mount Peter Hawk Watch. I chose beginning the hike from here to avoid having to cross Route 17A. There are additional gravel parking lots on the opposite side of Route 17A, directly across from the Creamery.

From the parking lot on the same side as the Bellvale Farms Creamery, there are stone steps that lead up to the viewing platform for the Mount Peter Hawk Watch. A blue-blazed connector trail begins just to the right of the platform that connects to the AT in about 1,000 feet.

stone steps - Mount Peter Hawk Watch

stone steps – Mount Peter Hawk Watch

The AT travels along the ridge of Bellvale Mountain in the Town of Warwick.  Along the way it climbs and crosses over the Eastern Pinnacles, a puddingstone rock formation with dramatic views to the north and east.

The trail descends, then climbs to Cat Rocks, another fascinating puddingstone rock formation that protrudes out of the forest like a tower. Cat Rocks is the turn around spot for this hike. From there it’s just retracing your steps along the AT, using the Blue Bypass Trails if you don’t feel like reclimbing the rock formations.

Eastern Pinnacles & Cat Rocks from Route 17A

Eastern Pinnacles & Cat Rocks from Route 17A

Eastern Pinnacles & Cat Rocks from Route 17A

Eastern Pinnacles & Cat Rocks from Route 17A


The Hike:

From the gravel parking area, climb the stone steps about 150 feet to the start of the Blue Connector Trail. To the left is the Mount Peter Hawk Watch viewing platform. Take a moment here if you like to check out the west-facing views.

stone steps – Mount Peter Hawk Watch

stone steps – Mount Peter Hawk Watch

Mount Peter Hawk Watch is one of several famous hawk watches in the northeast and is the third oldest in the country. This scenic overlook provides an expansive view of the Warwick Valley through which record numbers of migrating raptors pass during fall migration.

Mount Peter Hawk Watch

Mount Peter Hawk Watch

Mount Peter Hawk Watch

Mount Peter Hawk Watch

Mount Peter Hawk Watch

Mount Peter Hawk Watch

Mount Peter Hawk Watch

Mount Peter Hawk Watch

When you are ready to continue, look for three blue blazes on a tree and proceed ahead on the Blue Trail. The Blue Trail descends towards Route 17A then turns left paralleling the road. In about a 1,000 feet there are three blue blazes on a rock signaling the end of the Blue Trail. Just ahead is the Appalachian Trail (AT), which comes in from the right. Continue straight (Do not turn right. If you cross the road you are going the wrong way.), now following the white blazes of the AT.

Blue Connector Trail

Blue Connector Trail

Blue Connector Trail

Blue Connector Trail

terminus of Blue Connector Trail

terminus of Blue Connector Trail

At first, the trail parallels the noisy Route 17A, but the road soon bends to the right, away from the trail, and the sounds of traffic disappear. The A.T. proceeds gently uphill, crosses a gas pipeline, and continues through an area with dense hemlock and mountain laurel. It then begins a gradual descent.

Appalachian Trail - Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail - Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail - Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail - Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

About 1.4 miles from the start, you’ll notice the start of a blue-blazed side trail. You’re now just below a spectacular outcrop of puddingstone rock known as the Eastern Pinnacles, and the side trail is provided so that A.T. thru-hikers won’t have to climb up the rock outcrop in bad weather (the rocks can be very slippery when wet). Hopefully, you’ve picked a day with good weather for your hike, and you’ll want to follow the white blazes ahead and scramble up the rock outcrop, which offers magnificent views to the north and east over the hills of Sterling Forest.

junction of AT and Blue Bypass Trail

junction of AT and Blue Bypass Trail

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

As you begin the climb of the Eastern Pinnacles, there is a shorter bypass trail on the left (also marked blue) that lets hikers skip the first steep climb.

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

The A.T. continues along the exposed rocks, with more views. You’ll have to use both your hands and your feet to negotiate this trail section.

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles - Appalachian Trail

Eastern Pinnacles – Appalachian Trail

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

That rock tower that protrudes out of the forest to the north, is Cat Rocks.

view of Cat Rocks and beyond from Eastern Pinnacles

view of Cat Rocks and beyond from Eastern Pinnacles

A zoomed in view shows two hikers sitting at the top of Cat Rocks enjoying a break.

Cat Rocks as viewed from Eastern Pinnacles

Cat Rocks as viewed from Eastern Pinnacles

At the end of the Eastern Pinnacles, the trail comes to the northern junction of the Blue Bypass Trail.

Eastern Pinnacles – Appalachian Trail

Eastern Pinnacles – Appalachian Trail

Eastern Pinnacles – Appalachian Trail

Eastern Pinnacles – Appalachian Trail

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

Eastern Pinnacles – Bellvale Mountain

junction of AT and Blue Bypass Trail

junction of AT and Blue Bypass Trail

The white-blazed A.T. now heads gently downhill. It goes through dense mountain laurel thickets and traverses a wet area, crossing several streams as it levels off.

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

Soon the trail begins to climb moderately then levels off somewhat.

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

The AT passes a skull-like rock formation along the way.

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

The AT then climbs to Cat Rocks, another dramatic rock formation. Again, there is a blue-blazed trail that bypasses this feature, but you’ll want to follow the white blazes to the top of these fascinating puddingstone rocks. The east-facing view from Cat Rocks has largely grown in, but this outcrop is even more spectacular than the Eastern Pinnacles because of the sheer drop from the top of the outcrop and the deep crevice on the left at the north end.

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

Cat Rocks - Bellvale Mountain

Cat Rocks – Bellvale Mountain

Cat Rocks - Bellvale Mountain

Cat Rocks – Bellvale Mountain

Cat Rocks - Bellvale Mountain

Cat Rocks – Bellvale Mountain

Cat Rocks - Bellvale Mountain

Cat Rocks – Bellvale Mountain

Cat Rocks - Bellvale Mountain

Cat Rocks – Bellvale Mountain

Cat Rocks - Bellvale Mountain

Cat Rocks – Bellvale Mountain

Cat Rocks - Bellvale Mountain

Cat Rocks – Bellvale Mountain

At the top of Cat Rocks, the AT levels off (this is the same spot where we saw hikers sitting in that the zoomed in view). Soon the trail begins to descend steeply to a junction with the other end of the Blue Bypass Trail.

Cat Rocks – Bellvale Mountain

Cat Rocks – Bellvale Mountain

Looking back at the route from which we just descended.

Cat Rocks – Bellvale Mountain

Cat Rocks – Bellvale Mountain

This is the turn around spot for this hike. Turn right on the Blue Bypass Trail and follow it to its terminus at a junction with the AT and turn left.

Blue Bypass Trail - Cat Rocks

Blue Bypass Trail – Cat Rocks

Blue Bypass Trail - Cat Rocks

Blue Bypass Trail – Cat Rocks

Now you’ll be heading in a southerly direction on the AT, retracing your steps.

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

Appalachian Trail – Bellvale Mountain

When you reach the Eastern Pinnacles, veer right onto the Blue Bypass Trail (unless of course you want to do the rock scramble again) and follow the blue blazes as they lead uphill with the Eastern Pinnacles visible through the trees on the left.

AT & Blue Bypass Trail junction

AT & Blue Bypass Trail junction

Blue Bypass Trail - Eastern Pinnacles

Blue Bypass Trail – Eastern Pinnacles

At the end of the Blue Bypass Trail, turn right, rejoining the AT. In about another mile, The AT turns left to cross Route 17A at a junction with the Blue Connector Trail. Continue straight, now following the blue blazes until its terminus near the Mount Peter Hawk Watch. Turn left and descend the stone steps that you climbed at the beginning of the hike, returning to the gravel parking lot, where the hike began.

Blue Bypass Trail - Eastern Pinnacles

Blue Bypass Trail – Eastern Pinnacles

AT & Blue Connector Trail junction

AT & Blue Connector Trail junction

Blue Connector Trail - Mount Peter Hawk Watch

Blue Connector Trail – Mount Peter Hawk Watch

You may want to stop at the Bellvale Farms Creamery which is adjacent to the parking lot. They have some of the best ice cream around. They are open from April 1st to October. Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t yet open for the season when we did this hike.

Bellvale Farms Creamery

Bellvale Farms Creamery


Review: 

This hike was very enjoyable and a lot of fun. Although we crossed paths with quite a few hikers, it didn’t feel crowded. In most cases they were going in the opposite direction. The AT is well marked and maintained. The Blue Bypass Trails make it easy for anyone that doesn’t want to do the rock scrambles to skip those sections. The views from the Eastern Pinnacles are some of the best around. A must do hike in the Hudson Valley.

Pros:

Eastern Pinnacles, Cat Rocks, Appalachian Trail, outstanding views.

Cons:

Some road noise at the beginning and end of the hike near Route 17A.

Take a hike!

Eastern Pinnacles & Cat Rocks from Route 17A

Eastern Pinnacles & Cat Rocks from Route 17A


Sources:


Spiderweed Preserve

March 5, 2022 – Middletown, Connecticut

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: Approximately 3.2 miles

Max elevation: 596 ft.– total elevation gain approximately 700 ft.

Route type: Lollipop Loop

Map: Spiderweed Preserve Trail Map

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.


Overview:

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.

Spiderweed ruins

Spiderweed ruins

This 157-acre property is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy and the Middlesex Land Trust.


History:

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.

The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy


Trails Overview:

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.

Spiderweed Trail Map

Spiderweed Trail Map


Hike Overview:

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.

Spiderweed Preserve

Spiderweed Preserve

elevation profile - Spiderweed Preserve

elevation profile – Spiderweed Preserve

There were plenty of maps in the kiosk at the trailhead, but it is a good idea to print one beforehand just in case.

kiosk - Spiderweed Preserve

kiosk – Spiderweed Preserve


The Hike:

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.

Trailhead - Spiderweed Preserve

Trailhead – Spiderweed Preserve

White Trail - Spiderweed Preserve

White Trail – Spiderweed Preserve

White Trail - Spiderweed Preserve

White Trail – Spiderweed Preserve

White Trail - Spiderweed Preserve

White Trail – Spiderweed Preserve

White Trail - Spiderweed Preserve

White Trail – Spiderweed Preserve

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.

Spiderweed stone ruins

Spiderweed stone ruins

Spiderweed stone ruins

Spiderweed stone ruins

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.