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Outdoor Activities

Spend an Afternoon at East Rock

East Rock Park
Written by Sean Henri

If you’re in the New haven area and are looking for a relaxing getaway, look no further than East Rock Park, with its hiking trails and natural beauty.

East Rock is a favorite among locals, and with good reason: Views from the top look down into New Haven, the Long Island Sound, and Long Island itself. It’s one of our favorite parks, too. No matter the season (except for maybe the winter), East Rock has got the views and atmosphere to help you relax and forget all about your busy work week.

About East Rock

East Rock has a high point of 366 feet, with cliffs that rise more than 300 feet over New Haven. East Rock is part of the narrow, linear Metacomet Ridge that extends from Long Island Sound near New Haven, north through the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts to the Vermont border.

Beside the high point, East Rock has three other distinct peaks: Whitney Peak, 366 feet, a sharp-sided pinnacle on the north side of the ridge; Indian Head, 310 feet, just south of the high point; and Snake Rock, 205 feet , the southern buttress of the ridge.

On the summit of East Rock, clearly visible for miles below, is the 112-foot Soldiers and Sailors Monument. The monument honors the residents of New Haven who gave their lives in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War. If you’ve ever seen the monument and thought, I wonder what that is, well, now you know.

The park is popular amongst locals (us included) for a variety of activities. Whether you want to hike, bike, snow-shoe, cross-country ski, picnic, bird watch, or simply go for a leisurely stroll East Rock can soothe what ails you. The hiking trails aren’t terribly difficult, making them perfect for beginners, young children, and seniors alike, and dogs are allowed, making it a perfect location for families who want to hike with their dog.

Alcohol, rock climbing, and swimming are all prohibited due to safety concerns. This doesn’t always deter dumb young high school and college students: Every few years it seems we hear about another student (or batch of students) getting stuck on the cliff face after thinking they could climb it. Just be smart and keep the rock climbing indoors or some other designated area.

There are a number of facilities in and around the park that you can visit as well, once you’ve gotten your fill of hiking. The Trowbridge Environmental Center is open Thursdays and Fridays from 10am to 5pm, and at least one Saturday a month for public programs. It offers displays and information about the geology and ecosystem of East Rock. The Pardee Rose Garden and Greenhouse features roses and other flowering plants from spring to fall, and is a popular place to shoot wedding pictures.

If You Want to Visit

The park is located at 41 Cold Spring Road, New Haven (Though you can’t actually drive all the way there. You’ve got to park on one of the streets or lots nearby, such as on Park Road. The park is free and open to the public year round, but is at its best from early spring to late fall. The park closes at sundown. To view a trail map of East Rock, click here.

That all being said, it is also worthwhile to point out that common sense should always prevail. Muggings have been documented in and around the park after dark, as have other illicit activities (just like they happen everywhere else after dark!). Just be smart and leave before nightfall to ensure that you get home safely.

This post was originally published in 2008, but has been updated for accuracy and style. 

About the author

Sean Henri

Sean is the founder and editor of The Connecticut Weekender, and CEO and Founder of Pepperland Marketing. He's a lifelong CT resident and frequently blogs about the outdoors, beer, food, family life and small business in CT. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanHenri.

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