Hubbard Park & Castle Craig
What: Town Park, Castle Tower and Scenic View
Where: 199 Notch Road, Meriden, Connecticut (map)
Trail Map: Click here (PDF)
Admission: Free and open to the public
Best Time of Year: April through October
Hubbard Park, located in the Hanging Hills of Connecticut, is a wooded, mountainous park located just north of downtown urban Meriden, Connecticut. It comprises approximately 1,800 acres of carefully kept woodlands, streams, dramatic cliff faces, flower gardens, and the James Barry bandshell and picnic spots, as well as its showpiece, Mirror Lake.
Most of the land was given to the town by Walter Hubbard, president of the Bradley & Hubbard Manufacturing Company. In his donation, the land was given outright, with the stipulation that everything connected with the park was to remain free of charge for the people of Meriden, and that no concessions for profit were ever allowed within the park area.
Hubbard spent a great deal of time and energy creating the park. He personally spent between $400,000 and $500,000 to clear land, build roads, and construct Mirror Lake with the help of Frederick Law Olmsted, who is best known for designing New York’s Central Park.
He built a tower on East Peak, known as Castle Craig, to resemble the towers built by the Turks along the Danube River in the 12th century. The tower is constructed of traprock and is 32 feet in height and has a base 58 feet in circumference . A metal interior stairway was used to get up to the observation area on top, but is currently closed off to the public. It stands 976 feet above sea level and provides an expansive view of the greater Meriden, Connecticut area.
The park is nestled within the Hanging Hills, a dramatic traprock mountain ridge overlooking the city of Meriden and the Quinnipiac Rivery Valley 900 feet feet below. Two of the peaks are located within the park, South Mountain at 767 feet, and East Peak, at 976 feet. West Peak, at 1,024 feet, is located just outside the park boundary to the west. Considered particularly scenic are Merimere Reservoir (punctuated with Mine Island) and Mirror Lake, nestled between South Mountain and East Peak. East Peak is often cited as the highest mountain within 25 miles of the coastline from Cadillac Mountain in Maine to Florida, however, nearby West Peak is higher.
The ridge was formed by volcanic activity 200 million years ago during the rifting apart of North America from Eurasia. Two major lava flows covered the red sandstone valley in Meriden. Each cooled and hardened into traprock (also known as basalt) and was gradually covered by sand and mud which eroded from the surrounding hills. Once the volcanic activity stopped, the whole region fractured and tilted to the west. Since then, hundreds of feet of the softer sandstone bedrock have eroded from the valley, leaving the dense, hard volcanic traprock ridge layers standing out far above the surrounding landscape.
Today, Hubbard Park is a popular outdoor recreation destination. The park is crossed by a number of hiking trails, most notably the 51-mile blue-blazed Metacomet Trail, which traverses East Peak and West peak the park. Trails are open to hiking, backcountry skiing; roads are open to bicycling and mountain biking. Swimming and rock climbing are prohibited.
The park also features a bandshell and flower gardens and is the site of a variety of local festivals and concerts, most notably the spring Daffodil Festival. According to local folklore, Hubbard Park is said to be haunted by the ghostly presence of the Black Dog of the Hanging Hills.