If you’re living in CT and you’re not sure what to do during a free day, I suggest taking a hike along the Appalachian Trail. The trail is over 2,000 miles long, running all the way from Maine to northern Georgia. In Connecticut, it runs through the northwest corner of Litchfield County over some of the state’s highest peaks, including Bear Mountain.
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Highest Peak in Connecticut
In 2007, my friends and I hiked to the top of Bear Mountain. With an elevation of 2,316 feet, it’s Connecticut’s highest peak. We started off on a trail about five miles south of the mountain. There’s a parking area on Bunker Hill Rd, which is only a short drive from the town center in Salisbury, that will bring you right to the beginning of the trail. After passing through a few fields we started a quick climb up the hill where the Appalachian Trail intersects. From there we continued to the top of “Lion’s Head” (1,738 feet) which gave us a seemingly endless view of Connecticut. If you’re ever looking for a quick hike that offers great views, I strongly suggest giving this one a try.
We didn’t stop there. Our destination was still another 4 miles away. From the top of Lion’s Head, we made a quick descent down a very steep and rocky path and then the trail gradually flattened out. The trail gave us a pretty smooth hike for several more miles. We passed by 3 different campsites along the way to Bear Mountain, two of which had natural sources of water.
We kept seeing postings that warned us of recent black bear sightings, so my friend Amber was getting a little nervous. It was every man (and woman) for themselves if we were ever to get attacked. Amber had the shortest legs, so she’d probably be the first to go.
About The Climb
By the time we reached the bottom of Bear Mountain, we had successfully completed 4.5 miles without any bear sightings. We were in good shape. The hike hadn’t been as bad as we thought it would be. The climb up the top finally gave us some strenuous hiking, although it wasn’t half as bad as I had expected. As you climb upwards the trees gradually disappear and there are only small bushes and other plants covering the landscape. We had some incredible views as we climbed up towards the top. We were able to look back behind us and see where we had begun, and off to our left, we could see the Taconic Mountains in New York and the hills of Connecticut to our right.
At the top, there is an eight-foot-tall pyramid made of large stones that were built in 1885. I tried reading the stone plaque at the base of it to find out who had put it there, but it was very difficult to read. We hung out on the top for about a half hour to catch our breath and to take in the views and made a few phone calls to brag to our friends that we were the highest three people in the state at the moment.
The Appalachian Trail
Shortly after we began our hike back, we ran into some thru-hikers. These guys had started hiking the Appalachian Trail back in Georgia sometime around mid-April and had just made it to Connecticut. I asked them if they thought it was worth it and one of them enthusiastically told me “absolutely.” He said he had quit his job and spent all his savings to pull it off. They expected to make it to the end of the trail in Maine in about six more weeks. Their body odor was overwhelming so we kept a good distance.
The hike back was much easier. We went much faster and took fewer breaks because we wanted to make it back before sunset. By the time we reached the top of Lion’s Head the sun had already gone down, so our last mile was unfortunately in the dark. By the time we finished we had been hiking for over 4 1/2 hours, but other than some minor pain from a few small blisters we were feeling pretty good.
If You Want to Go
Bear Mountain is located in Salisbury and is free to access. The best seasons to make the 10-mile hike to the top are spring through fall, but you can do it in the winter as well. It isn’t an extremely difficult hike, but if you’re a newbie or haven’t hiked in a while it may be too tough, so just proceed with caution.
For more information about Bear Mountain, including links to topographic maps, click here.
Note: This post was originally written and posted on my personal blog as “Ten Miles Along the Appalachian Trail” in September of 2007.