May the Forest Be With You
Autumn is an enchanting time in Litchfield County. The air is crisp and the hillsides come alive in a kaleidoscope of colors. What better time to lace up your hiking shoes and head for the hills in search of breathtaking views?
Earlier this month, the Kent, Conn.-based Northwest Connecticut Land Conservatory (NCLC) sponsored a trek to its Cobble Mountain Preserve, accessible from Macedonia Brook State Park. Those who participated were treated to magnificent views of the Taconic and Catskill Mountain ranges.
The trail passes along Macedonia Brook and includes a steep ascent over a rocky outcrop to the blue-blazed Macedonia Ridge Trail. Referring to Cobble Mountain, “This is a special preserve because it is adjacent to Macedonia State Park and visitors park at the state park,” noted Elizabeth Schrang, Membership Engagement Manager at NCLC. The conservancy has protected 192 acres of Cobble Mountain and the surrounding area, which includes 86 acres of ridgeline and the northwestern hillside.
VIEWS OF THE BERKSHIRE AND LITCHFIELD HILLS
There are many other worthy sites to hike throughout Litchfield County. Trails run through high land and low, across difficult and easy terrain, and they offer unique insight into the history, geology, flora and fauna of the area.
Lion's Head in Salisbury, Conn. is a rather short hike in total distance, but it offers a stunning vantage point. The overview at Lion’s Head is high above the valley you hiked up from, and you can see for miles into the distance. Take in the view of the Litchfield Hills south to southeast, Twin Lakes to the east, Massachusetts north and northeast, and surrounding mountainsides, farmland, and woodlands.
Rand’s View, also in Salisbury and part of the Appalachian Trail system, also has some spectacular views, as you can see the Berkshire Hills in the distance. The hike is through some woods and about four or five miles in total, so it is very doable even for beginners.
Salisbury’s Mount Riga State Park is an undeveloped public recreation area and offers hiking, such as the Undermountain Trail, which connects to the northernmost section of the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut.
FOREST HIKE REVEALS RARE WETLANDS
The Sharon Land Trust’s 197-acre preserve located on the Kent/Sharon town border is a delightful place for a short autumn hike. The preserve is predominantly forested and also encompasses several post-agricultural fields and extensive wetlands, which includes rare, red spruce wetlands, considered to be one of Connecticut’s critical habitats.
Here a few other great hikes to enjoy this autumn, according to Visit Connecticut:
Roxbury has several natural preserves that are perfect for hiking, but among the most interesting is the Mine Hill Preserve that runs past old iron mines, granite quarries and the ruins of a 19th-century iron-making complex. You’ll pass a sparkling reservoir, two mine tunnels, a series of grated air shafts and granite cliffs as you eventually descend back to the Shepaug River Valley, past an abandoned quarry and finally to a former furnace complex.
The 4,000-acre White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield has 35 miles of trails, including interpretive nature trails, a boardwalk trail that circles a wetland habitat and a good portion of the Mattatuck Trail. Before heading out or after your walk, you might want to visit the Conservation Center, which features displays, hands-on exhibits, live animals, an outdoor bird sanctuary and a gift shop.
Macedonia Brook State Park in Kent encompasses 2,300 acres and crosses over mountains and peaks, giving visitors an opportunity to enjoy various levels of hiking and trekking. One of the most popular trails includes the 6.5-mile blue-blazed Macedonia Ridge Trail, which crosses the aforementioned Cobble Mountain. You will pass by numerous springs and streams.
A hike along the Tunxis Trail in Barkhamsted leads to Indian Council Caves, where you make your way into the woods from Route 219. After reaching an old woods road, a small climb reveals a lush evergreen forest enveloped in tranquility.
GREEN CIRCLE TRAIL HUGS THE SHEPAUG RIVER
One of Connecticut’s most spectacular land trust properties, Steep Rock Preserve in Washington, Conn., has many trails within a 974-acre natural setting. Just a few are the four-mile Steep Rock Loop, which showcases many of the preserve’s features, and the three-mile Green Circle Trail which follows snaking curves of the Shepaug River.
Hidden Valley Preserve, also in Washington, offers 700 acres of mixed forest and meadows crisscrossed by nearly 17 miles of trails which offer a variety of terrain for hiking. Wooded hillsides slide into a river valley below, and there are spectacular views from the Lookout and Pinnacle.
These are only a sampling of recommended hikes to enjoy this fall. You can easily find your own special path by merely taking a drive, stopping at a roadside pull-off and venturing into the woods. You never know what wonders await.