Step outside of New Haven, leave the city, and traffic behind. Hop in your car and within 30 minutes you can be at one of these hiking trails, enjoying nature and relaxing from everyday stress. Take a stroll with your friends or family. Explore remnants of the past at local land trusts, follow some of Connecticut’s over 800 miles of Blue Blazed Trail, or even tackle a Giant. Everyone can benefit from being outside and getting a good dose of Vitamin N(ature).
East Rock Park
So you don’t actually have to leave the city to enjoy East Rock Park. The park is located in New Haven and has both paved and dirt trails to the summit. Skip the drive up and work those quads with a hike up the Giant Steps to enjoy sweeping views of Long Island Sound and downtown New Haven.
West Rock Ridge State Park
Stretching from New Haven and into Hamden West Rock Ridge State Park provides views to Long Island Sound and north to Sleeping Giant. Bypass the crowds and follow the Blue Blazed Regicides Trail walking along the park’s namesake ridge. If you have the time, be sure to also visit the farm animals at Common Ground’s Urban Farm right next to the park.
With over 39 miles of trails Westwoods in Guilford has plenty to keep you busy on your hike. A highlight for most people is Lost Lake in the middle of this land trust property. Don’t stop there since the property is littered with amazing glacially formed features.
This is the spot to go to if you want to take your dog along for the hike. Part of the Branford Land Trust the Supply Pond has both single track trails and dirt fire roads. Dogs, runners, mountain bikers, and hikers all seem to enjoy the trails. There is even a great spot for your four legged friends to cool off in a river.
Stony Creek Quarry
Explore where the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty came from. The Stony Creek Quarry in Branford takes you around the still operating quarry through some of the remnants of past quarry operations. Stony Creek pink granite can be found in major landmarks including The Smithsonian and Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Site. History and hiking all in one.
Farm River State Park
Here is the perfect spot to take the kids for a hike or picnic. Farm River State Park in East Haven has easy trails and great views along the Farm River. What makes it even more of a plus for the family is the self guided nature trail highlighting flora and fauna along the way.
Sleeping Giant State Park
From a distance these hills in Hamden look like a giant sleeping on his back. If it wasn’t for the Sleeping Giant Park Association coming in the early 1920s this land would most likely be flat from quarry operations. Instead it is now filled with hiking trails for many abilities. Bonus: hike all of the trails in the park to become a Giant Master.
The best ridge walk in the state is located right off I-91 in Middlefield. Part of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association’s Blue Blazed trail system the Mattabasett Trail follows along the beginning of the traprock ridges that extend all the way into Massachusetts.
The beginning of the Mattabasett Trail in Durham also affords some nice views that you will have to work for. Granite ledges will greet you as your reward. Don’t just do an out and back though. Loop into the Madison Land Trust property to see more streams and vernal pools.
Roaring Brook, Connecticut’s highest single drop waterfall, is best viewed after it rains. Otherwise it’s more of a trickling falls. After the snow melts or after we have had a good amount of rain is prime time to see the brook cascading 80 feet down. Approach the cascades from the bottom along the Cheshire Land Trust Property to also view a pond that the brook flows into.
Pequonnock River Valley State Park
Not only does this State Park in Trumbull have single track trails for hiking and mountain biking, the 16 milelong Pequonnock River Greenway Linear trail goes right through it along the Pequonnock River. This lets you easily explore from Bridgeport up into Monroe.
Take a step back in time along the Trolley Trail in Branford. At one time a trolley took vacationers from New Haven to Stony Creek in Branford to cool off during the hot summers. Now the trail is crushed gravel with some cement walkways over beautiful marsh land with views into Long Island Sound.
Hike past history as you explore the remains of the Hammonassett Mill in Madison. While most of the mill has been destroyed, it is included in the National Register of Historic Places so the land around it is preserved today. Don’t just stop at the mill, continue the loop hike and enjoy walking alongside the Hammonassett River.
Chauncey & Lamentation Mountain
Mountains are not the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Connecticut, but Chauncey Peak and Lamentation Mountain in Meriden can really get your heart pumping. The hike up Chauncey Peak is steep but you come to the summit with sweeping views along the Hanging Hills of Connecticut. Just be careful because part of the mountain is still an active quarry. Once down Chauncey it is only a short distance (and not as lung busting) of a hike to Lamentation and more sweeping views, this time to the west.
Once you have explored these trails, fill up the car with a little more gas and keep exploring the other wonderful State Parks, Land Trusts, and even the nationally recognized Appalachian or New England Trails. to get more details about these hikes and others in Connecticut visit our Local Trails page.