If you’re anything like me, you don’t spend anywhere near enough time outside. And that’s a shame, because Connecticut has so much to offer in terms of natural beauty. We would all be wise to take some time to appreciate the beauty Connecticut has to offer.
Hiking is one great way to explore our amazing state and really soak up the sun and nature on display, especially in the spring and summer (but, really, all year long!). We’ve got so many state parks offering unique landscapes, rolling hills, and nature walks, that it would be a waste to stay inside.
Thinking about your next excursion into nature? Here are 20 of Connecticut’s most stunning, beautiful hiking trails that you can explore by yourself, your family, or even your favorite four-legged friend.
1. Sleeping Giant — Hamden
Sleeping Giant is located right on the outskirts of Quinnipiac University, with miles of trail that provide a beautiful overlook of the Hamden area. With trails ranging in difficulty from beginner to more advanced sections, it’s a great place for hikers of literally any level of ability, and it’s easy to find yourself returning week after week and experiencing something different each time, from a peaceful hike along a stream, to a more advanced hike traversing an old quarry.
2. Talcott Mountain State Park — Simsbury
Hiking to the top of Talcott Mountain State Park takes about 30 to 40 minutes on average. When you reach the top of the mountain, you’ll find the “Heublein Tower,”, a historical home built in 1914 which now serves as a museum. From up there, visitors will see a stunning view of the surrounding Farmington River Valley and surrounding CT. On a clear day, you can even see Mount Monadnock, eighty miles away in New Hampshire!
3. Mount Riga State Park — Salisbury
Mount Riga State Park comes in just under 1,000 feet in elevation. The lake located in this state park seems like one of the last untouched beauties of nature our state has to offer. One of their trails connects to the northern part the Appalachian Trail, making it a great introduction to the famous hiking trail.
Growing up, I had the pleasure of camping a lot this trail, using one of the many huts built for campers sleeping along the trail. I highly recommend it!
4. Bluff Point State Park — Groton
Bluff Point offers a combination of wooded hiking and walks along the water. I used to visit bluff point as a child to watch small planes fly into the Groton Airport that is located a short distance from the park.
Designated a coastal reserve by the CT legislature in 1975, This park is great for hiking, running, and mountain biking, with terrain good for all hiking abilities and access to wildlife and plants rarely seen elsewhere in CT.
5. Devil’s Hopyard State Park — East Haddam
Don’t let the name scare you: This park is nothing to be afraid of. Home to beautiful waterfalls, the name “Devil’s Hopyard” comes from the mysterious round holes the waterfalls that have been eroded into the waterfalls over time. Sure, this may be the work of the devil, but is more likely the work of the water flow.
With grilling stations, campgrounds, picnic areas, and countless beautiful trails, the Devil’s Hopyard is just the spot for waterfall lovers, birders, and fishermen. Just be aware that swimming is technically not permitted, as there are no lifeguards on duty.
6. Wadsworth Falls State Park — Middletown
Wadsworth Falls State Park in Middletown is another hike that offers beautiful waterfalls. Cool off in the spray of the falls on a hot summer day after hiking or biking on the trails, go stream fishing with your buddies or little ones, or just enjoy the beauty of nature with a peaceful stroll through the trails. There are designated swimming and picnic areas, so if you’re planning on doing either of those activities just make sure to check their website before visiting.
7. Collis P. Huntington State Park — Redding
This state park was donated to Connecticut by the Huntington family in 1973. Consisting of more than 1,000 acres, the Huntington State Park park features densely wooded areas separated by open fields. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you are greeted by the sculptures of bears and wolves at the entrance to the park. It’s a great place for cross country skiing, horseback riding, birding, fishing, canoeing, and more, in addition to hiking.
8. Mianus River State Park — Greenwich
If you like biking, horseback riding, hiking, and fishing, then this is the park for you. The Mianus River is home to a variety of landscapes and activities for every outdoors-loving person. The forest within the park consists of numerous deciduous and evergreens that a wide variety of wildlife calls home, making a stroll through these woods the perfect excursion for everyone from nature lovers to Boy Scout troops.
9. Macedonia Brook State Park — Kent
Coming in at 2,300 acres, this park is large and in charge. From the top of the mountain, you’ll be able to see views of both the stunning Taconic and Catskill Mountains. Fall brings with it gorgeous views of the changing leaves, and camping opens in mid-April, making this a park for all seasons.
10. Ragged Mountain Park — Berlin
The summit of this mountain is about 800 feet high. Once you reach the top, you can enjoy views of central Connecticut, including beautiful reservoirs and ponds. Ragged Mountain is also home to some of the best rock climbing Connecticut has to offer. The trails are pretty moderate with some small inclines and flat stretches, making this the perfect hike for beginners and hikers of all skill levels.
11. Penwood State Park — Bloomfield
Penwood State Park is maintained by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. Stretching about 800 acres along a wooded ridge, the park offers year-round beauty for nature lovers. Go cross country skiing, picnic in the heart of nature, or just enjoy a beautiful hike. As winter melts away, the early spring offers amazing views of wildflowers that quickly whither in the summer heat, so be sure to catch a glimpse as early as possible. Follow the red and blue trails for a great day of adventure in the great Connecticut nature.
12. Black Rock State Park — Watertown
Black Rock offers excellent swimming, views, and hiking. Located in the western part of Connecticut, it is a prime example of the rolling hills native to that portion of the state. In addition to beautiful hiking trails, the area offers campgrounds, fishing holes, picnicking, swimming, and field sports, making Black Rock the perfect spot to while away an entire weekend.
13. Barn Island Park — Stonington
This 1,000-acre plot of land is home to tons of wildlife in the Stonington Area. I have personally been here and have to say that it really captures the beauty of southeastern CT. My dog loves the small trailside puddles to jump and play in as we walked along the flat trails. As you walk into the marsh area you can really experience the way the woods open up to reveal a tucked-away nature sanctuary. It’s one of the most unique hiking areas on our list, in my opinion.
14. Bigelow Hollow State Park — Union
Bigelow Hollow State Park is a next-door neighbor to the adjoining Nipmuck State forest. Together, they offer over an insane 9,000 acres of nature activities, including snowmobiling, hiking, cross-country skiing, boating, fishing and even scuba diving. Though the trails are not extremely rigorous, it should be noted that none of the trails are “loop trails” that circle back on themselves, so hikers should be prepared for an extensive hike.
15. West Rock Ridge State Park — Hamden/New Haven
On a very clear day, you can see the Long Island Sound and all of New Haven from the top of West Rock. The climb up rises in elevation at a pretty steady pace, so it makes for a quick hike. Not too difficult, but it definitely gets the blood pumping. If you still want to enjoy the views but don’t want to hike up it, you can drive up, so long as the road is open (it often closes at night).
16. Mashamoquet Brook State Park — Pomfret
Mashamoquet Brook State Park offers hiking, camping, fishing, and swimming perfect for the entire family. This park has two camping areas and 18 wooded sites. Their famous “Wolf Den” area has 35 a whopping campsites, which are often bustling with campers in the summer. If you’re a fisherman, head to the stream to catch some dinner, or just stroll the trails to see the beauty CT has to offer.
17. Southford Falls State Park — Southbury
Southford Falls State Park on the Oxford-Southbury border is one of the best-kept secrets of CT. Whether you want to go fishing, picnicking, play a field sports, run down a nature trails, or simply take a scenic stroll, you’ll always find something to do at Southford Falls State Park. The falls are bound to astound with their cascading water and the nature that surrounds the park that you along the trails. Southford Falls is a perfect adventure any day you are craving some fresh air.
18. Rocky Neck State Park — Niantic
Rocky Neck State Park is right on the water, meaning you can enjoy soft sandy beaches on your next hike. How crazy is that?. On your hike through the stunning area, keep an eye out for ospreys, cranes, and herons that make the park their home. Interestingly, you can even go saltwater fishing or crabbing if it strikes your fancy!
19. Lantern Hill — Ledyard
This lovely trail is tucked into the backdrop of Ledyard. The 2.5-mile hike provides rewarding views from the top looking over the small town of North Stonington. It’s known for beautiful wildflowers in the spring, and is dog-friendly (so long as Fido is kept on a leash). This is one of our favorites, offering truly stunning views of Southeastern Connecticut.
20. Burr Pond State Park — Torrington
The well-marked trails at Burr Pond State Park will bring you to the gorgeous falls and views of the lake. The southern end of the trials offers a quiet stroll through the woods while the north trails sit adjacent to the road. In addition to hiking, picnicking, swimming, and fishing are all encouraged, and Dogs are permitted.
Did We Miss Any?
Tell us about some of your favorite CT hiking spots and we might add them to the list!