Local Trails: Salmon River State Forest
My hike in the Salmon River State Forest almost didn’t happen. In fact I had all intentions of doing a quick drive-by of Salmon River and then stopping at Machimoodus State Park further down the Salmon River. This was the result of me looking at the Connecticut DEEP website for a map of the trails in Salmon River State Forest. There wasn’t one! The map showed the fishing and picnicking areas, but no trails. As luck would have it, when Cinnamon, my ever faithful hiking dog, and I arrived at the small parking area near the Comstock covered bridge, I spotted a nice kiosk that had a map of the hiking trail.
I was shocked to see that the State included a QR code on the kiosk map that will let you download the trail map to your smartphone. Way to go! Eventually I realized that the Salmon River hiking trail is included with the trails for Day Pond State Park, which is adjacent to Salmon River State Forest.
We started along the Salmon River trail about 10:45. The first ¼ mile is flat and wide and follows the bends in the Salmon River. There are some nice spots to stop along the river bank to view the cascading river and take some pictures. Then abruptly the trail starts heading up the side of the hill, away from the river. The trail gains about 150 feet or more over the next 1/3 mile. Then the trail flattens out again. There is a very picturesque spot at this point where you can view the river a few hundred feet below. This will be the last time you actually see the Salmon River along this trail. After a short flat section, the trail starts to slowly head up the hill and into the woods. What struck me along this section of trail were all the Hemlock trees that were growing here. Many were small, while a few were towering giants. Quite a bit of the Hemlock in Connecticut has been damaged by a pest that has infested the trees for the past 30 years. I was happy to see this stand was on a comeback. At about the one mile point on the trail I stopped to look at some animal droppings. I am not completely sure, but I think what I saw could have come from a moose. Just beyond this point my dog started to growl. My first thought was “there must be a moose following us!” We were surprised to see a woman and her two dogs heading toward us. We stopped to chat. She asked me if we were heading to the waterfall. I replied that I didn’t even know there was a waterfall nearby. This sounded like a great destination, so off we went in search of the falls. The trail continues to climb most of the way as it wanders through the middle of the forest.
At the 2 mile point the Salmon River trail branches into two directions, the South Loop and the North Loop. If you were to follow the entire loop around it would involve over 4 ½ miles. If you take the South Loop, in about ½ mile you would reach Day Pond. The waterfall is reached off the North Loop on a spur trail called the Day Pond Brook Trail by taking the other direction. We decided to take the shortest route to the falls because our small dogs were laboring a bit in the humid air and a 6 mile hike would be long enough for them. From the intersection, the North Loop starts heading downhill at a comfortable rate. At about ½ mile from the intersection you pick up the Day Pond Brook spur trail. This spur follows along the brook downstream until you reach a clearing in the woods after about another ¼ mile. The sounds at this location immediately tell you there is a falls nearby. This is a beautiful spot with a two tiered waterfall cascading down toward the Salmon River. If you are going to walk any part of the Salmon River or Day Pond trails, you must make this a destination. The trail is somewhat steep in the area of the falls so caution is needed, especially if the trail is wet.
After spending some quality time at the falls, we headed back the same way we came. The first ¾ miles is uphill so be ready for a bit of sweating until you reach the intersection of the loop trails. From this point on it is all downhill for the final 2 miles back to the Comstock Bridge. Just before reaching the covered bridge we encountered a snake in the middle of the trail, starting to eat a frog. Since its mouth was fully engaged we did not think it was a threat. We watched it consume the frog in one swallow. After some checking, I found out this was an Eastern Hognose snake, a non venomous variety. We were back at the car at about 1:30 pm. This six mile hike took close to 3 hours and was worth every minute. I highly recommend this trail or a shorter version by starting at Day Pond State Park and taking the North Loop to the Day Pond Brook trail.