Devil’s Den Nature Preserve
Don’t let the name fool you, Devil’s Den is a beautiful Nature Preserve located in Weston & Redding, Connecticut. At 1,756 acres, including 20 miles of trails, Devil’s Den is the largest continuous property belonging to The Nature Conservancy’s Connecticut Chapter.
Devil’s Den is home to over 500 types of trees and wildflowers. On our visit in early June the mountain laurel bushes were starting to come into full bloom. All around us the Connecticut state flower was coming out and basking in the sun.
We made our way up and down some hilly terrain heading north along the Hiltebeitel and Sap Brook Trails. This got our blood pumping and had us reaching for our water to stay hydrated. Perhaps we were actually in the devil’s furnace…. The Sap Brook Trail ends at the much wider Godfrey Trail. The first thing I noticed was some old stone foundations. The history of Devil’s Den dates back to at least 3000BC when semi-nomadic Native Americans lived there. In 1767 an oscillating sawmill is thought to have been used to cut wood for homes.
More recently, in the 1800s until around 1920, the area was home to multiple sites that produced charcoal. Today you can find a large boiler that still remains out in the woods. This one location at the intersection of the two trails had so much history. We decided that this was a good spot to take a break and snap pictures of the old relics.
I cautiously peeked into the boiler hoping nothing would jump out at me. Lucky for me it was clear and I could see all of the way out the other side. My favorite piece of the old boiler system was the wheel sitting about 10 feet away from the boiler. I could be wrong, but I imagined that some type of belt would be looped around it as the steam from the boiler helped it to turn.
Once our break was over we headed south along the Godfrey Trail. The Godfrey Trail is a nice, wide trail allowing us to walk side by side and talk as we continued along. Our last major objective was to hike around Godfrey Pond. We reached the northern end of the pond and crossed a wooden bridge over Godfrey Brook. After good rainfall the brook cascades into the pond. Today, it was more of a dribble.
The pond itself is beautiful and many people come to just hike around it and enjoy sitting on a rock by the shore. With a nice pair of polarized sunglasses on you can sit and watch fish swim below the surface of the water. I kept trying to point out fish to my hiking companions and couldn’t understand how they couldn’t see them until I realized I was wearing polarized glasses. I then offered up my glasses for them to have a look see, but they are prescription glasses so that didn’t exactly help.
After another break it was time for us to head back to the parking lot. Altogether our loop hike was exactly 3 miles. When we got back to the lot it was packed. I highly recommend starting out on the earlier side to avoid parking issues. To see a trail map and plan your own trip to Devil’s Den visit The Nature Conservancy’s website.