I’ve been working in Guilford, Connecticut for almost 4 years now and had heard a lot of people talk about hiking at Bluff Head Preserve. Yet, I still never made it up there. Finally, I was convinced to go check it out when I saw in the latest Backpacker Magazine that one of the editors said that was the place where he fell in love with hiking. I gathered some friends and we headed out for a late Saturday morning hike.
I wanted to do more of a loop hike, but not walk on route 77, so we left one car at the Mattabessett Trail parking lot and drove up to start at the Lone Pine Trail parking. I intended to follow the third route on the Guilford Land Trust’s website but missed the dirt Pent Road off of route 77. I asked the friendly farmer across the street from the Lone Pine Parking lot where Pent Road was and he let us cut through his land to get there. (Please do not cut through private property unless you have permission.) As we walked along the farm we could see Bluff Head rise up just a short distance away.
We made our way to the old Pent Road and found ourselves on the Blue/Red blazed Lone Pine Trail. The trail follows along Hemlock Brook for a bit before we turned on to the White/Blue Blazed North Slope Trail. The North Slope Trail is a much more gradual incline and offered us more time to enjoy the Bluff Head Preserve.
There isn’t much in the way of views along this part of the trail. Although, without leaves on all of the trees, you could occasionally see out to the east. It was still pretty cool to walk along the trails surrounded by barren trees. Once the majority of our uphill was over we reached the Blue Blazed Mattabessett Trail that would eventually bring us back to our car. We headed east on the Mattabessett Trail before it made a turn to the south edging closer to the main attraction of Bluff Head.
We had more and more views out to the east. Views that you can only get in the winter when the leaves are all off the trees. Soon we were right near the edge of a steep drop off. There was an occasional lookout here and there. A sign warning us to proceed with caution let us know that we were nearing the main lookouts of Bluff Head. Some of the group was not as comfortable as others getting close to the edge for a look.
My fear of heights has improved somewhat so I went out on the rock ledges for a look. On a clear day you are suppose to be able to see north to Hartford and south to Long Island Sound. While the sky directly above us was clear the majority of the state was not so we couldn’t quite see those land marks.
We were still rewarded with a view of Meyerhuber Pond below us and hazy farm land around us in Durham and Madison. Up until this point we hadn’t seen any other people out on the trail. Now we started to encounter small groups. At no point did it feel crowded, but you could tell most people were on the trail to see this part of Bluff Head Preserve.
After checking out all of the lookouts along the bluff we headed the final half mile back to the parking lot. The trail was somewhat steep, but very manageable. Our whole hike ended up being three miles. If you are short on time you can just do an out and back hike starting at the Mattabessett parking lot since it’s only a half mile up to the bluffs. There is also a mile long Blue/Orange Blazed trail starting at the parking lot that goes up to the bluff.
Our whole group decided that we wanted to come back some again time and explore more of Bluff Head Preserve and neighboring James Valley Preserve. If you are heading out to Bluff Head for the first time don’t forget to check out a map of the area. This can help you decide which way you want to go. Happy Trails!