Local Trail: Bluff Point State Park
Have you ever gotten up in the morning itching to get outside and you can’t decide whether you want to hike, bike or kayak. If you are planning to go to Bluff Point State Park in Groton, you don’t really have to make that decision beforehand. You can do it all or wait until the last minute and decide when you get there. Bluff Point is one of those outstanding outdoor destinations that has miles of hiking trails, many more miles of unmarked mountain biking trails and two protected coves on Long Island that are ideally suited for kayaking and paddle boarding. In addition to hiking, biking and kayaking, paddle boarding, Bluff Point is also used by some horse owners to exercise their mares. It is a very popular State Park that has a large parking area, some facilities (restrooms and picnic tables) and is absolutely free. No matter which activity you choose you are never far away from some great views of Long Island Sound and Fisher’s Island Sound. There is a nice sandy beach at the south end of the park. On summer weekends it is a popular spot for boaters to anchor and spend the day soaking up the sun. You can hike or bike to the beach, but it is a long haul (1 ½ miles) to cart any beach paraphernalia. And there are no lifeguards or facilities. Additional information and a park map can be found on the DEEP website.
The hiker, who likes to stick to the marked trail, will find six miles of extra wide tree lined trails that are for the most part flat. You can expect about 20-30 feet of elevation gain. The trails are basically two loops. One travels due south from the parking area along the Poquonnock River to the scenic Bluff Point with its expansive water views and then back due north on a parallel trail that passes the old foundation of Governor John Winthrop’s home. This loop is 3 ½ miles and is essentially a gravel road. The other loop heads east from the parking lot, runs parallel to the Amtrak train tracks for about a 1/3 mile then turns south into the woods. This section of trail runs along Mumford Cove for a while then turns west and joins the gravel road at the Winthrop foundation. Hike the gravel road back to the parking lot. This loop is 2 ½ miles. In addition to the marked trails you can also explore the park via the numerous unmarked biking trails.
The mountain biker will be treated to probably over 20 miles of trails in the park. In addition to the 6+ miles of marked hiking trail there are numerous unmarked trails that criss-cross the park. These trails are meticulously maintained by the biking community. The best way to find your way around the bike trails, since there is no map, is to just ride and explore. In a few locations multiple trails intersect in a configuration that rivals some interstate highway interchanges. There are biking trails that are suited to almost every level of experience.
If you brought your kayak or paddle board you will be treated to some great paddling. The parking lot is right on the water so it is a snap to get the vessel in the water. You will be putting in on the Poquonnock River, which is a protected body of water that eventually goes into Fisher’s Island Sound. For the learner, this is an ideal calm location. For those with more experience and time, venture out of the Poquonnock River, around Bushy Point Beach into The Sound. There are a few islands you can paddle around or just land on the beach and take in the sights and sand. This location is where the Thames River and The Sound meet. For those with even more time, continue east and paddle into Mumford Cove for addition great views of Groton Long Point and Fisher’s Island.