Mountain laurel in bloom

Mountain laurel in bloom
Mountain laurel is in bloom at West Rock, as seen on the Gold Trail.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Welcome to the West Rock Trails website

West Rock Ridge State Park is located in Hamden and New Haven, Connecticut (with a small portion in Woodbridge and Bethany). West Rock Ridge is the second largest state park in Connecticut with 1,722 acres of land (and growing).* 
There are many recreational opportunities available at West Rock.

This website has pages arranged by topic. Click on the web page name below or the links at the right to access the page that interests you.

(The date of Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010 is the date this website was started.
The most recent update took place Monday, June 19, 2017.)

The spring 2017 edition of Ridgelines, the newsletter of the West Rock Ridge Park Association, has been posted to the association's website. Past editions are available at the same link. The newsletter has a copy an article on the new Connecticut Walk Book, which is now available for purchase. The newsletter article I wrote before the book was released and the heavily revised article below, I wrote after purchasing the book. Link:

Connecticut Walk Book 20th Edition Has Arrived
The 20th edition of the Connecticut Walk Book: The Complete Guide to Connecticut’s Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails was published in spring 2017. The softcover book has a list price of $30, and is published by Wesleyan University Press.
This is the official guide produced by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA) for its network of 825 miles of Blue-Blazed Trails, including the Regicides, Quinnipiac, Sanford Feeder, and Westville Feeder at West Rock Ridge State Park. This is the comprehensive and only guide to this statewide trail network. For the first time, CPFA has contracted with an outside company to publish the book.
This is the first update since the book was previously published in 2005 as the Connecticut Walk Book East and 2006 as the Connecticut Walk Book West. There are new trails and many changes to existing trails, making this volume an essential purchase for anyone planning to hike these trails.
The two-edition walk book was created in celebration of the approximate 75th anniversary of the original book, which was published in 1937. The two thick volumes of that edition included turn-by-turn narratives, photographs, mileage tables, and essays on topics related to the trails.
The 20th edition returns to the one-book format with a minimalist approach, designed to keep the book to a reasonable size. Each trail gets a short introduction of a few paragraphs and a map. Longer trails also have a mileage table, indicating major points along the trail. Unlike previous editions, there are no turn-by-turn descriptions, which were really not necessary, as the mileage table conveys the essential information. “Hidden” inside the front cover is a fold-out map of Connecticut, showing an overview of where trails are located.
One big change from more recent editions is that the book has a binding, rather than using a ring format with removable pages. As a result, some map details are hard to see where two pages join, and even with the supposed lay-flat binding, it is difficult to scan or copy maps. Fold-out maps would have addressed this problem. Hikers also cannot remove and take with them the description and map for a particular trail.
The new book sometimes includes non-CFPA trails on state, town, and land trust properties, such as showing the trail locations at West Rock, which the previous editions did not have. Those trails are shown as a line that does not indicate the trail color. The book encourages people to visit the website for the local trails and download a map (if available) for a more-detailed look at a particular area.
A desirable future feature would be a link to a password-protected website where people who purchase the book could download a copy of the maps to their phones, or to their computers, so they could print them, rather than trying to photocopy or scan them.
Unfortunately, the new book also has no information on the trailheads, such as a street address, or approximate starting location, the number of parking spaces, and directions to the trailhead. Hikers have to use the “Blue Trails Interactive Map” on the CFPA website at for this information. The website has a link to Google maps, but that only lists street names (no numbers) and uses GPS coordinates, which cannot easily be input into a car-based GPS.
Those who own the older editions should keep them as a reference, as they have the essays, turn-by-turn descriptions (for those interested in them), and other information not in the new edition. The Regicides Trail section has essays entitled “West Rock and the Landscape Artists” and “Judges Cave.”
There are so many changes to the trails since the 2005/2006 editions that these older versions are not reliable sources of information. Changes include trail extensions and relocations, new trails, and abandonment of trails. Using the Paugussett Trail in Shelton and Monroe as an example, the trail has a southern extension not in the 2006 edition.
However, due to the production time for the 2017 edition, even the current edition does not reflect recent work done on this trail. As one example, the 2017 book shows a Blue-Yellow spur trail to Birchbank Mountain, when the trail was relocated to go directly to this overlook, and the former trail path in this area has been reblazed Blue-White as the spur trail. In spring 2017, CFPA did a relocation of the trail by Indian Well, adding a much-needed switchback, replacing a steep, eroded section of trail. These changes are documented on the interactive map, which should be a first stop for anyone before they head out on any Blue Trail.
I wrote a revised description for the Regicides, Sanford Feeder, and Westville Feeder Trails that appears in the new book. As I am familiar with other trails, I also wrote descriptions for the Lillinonah Trail and the Zoar Trail in the Paugussett State Forest in Newtown.
Purchasing the book helps support CFPA’s work on trails and conservation. The book is available at bookstores and outdoors stores, and may be purchased in person at the CFPA headquarters, 16 Meriden Rd. (Rt. 66), Rockfall (Middlefield), weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Revised West Rock map posted to the state website
The state has posted an updated trails map of West Rock to its website. This map shows all the updates to trails, updates which are detailed on the Trail Updates page. Be sure to print the new map when using the park. Website:
Link to the GPS friendly map, which can be used on a smart phone:

Revised Naugatuck State Forest map posted to the state website
The state has posted an updated trails map of the Naugatuck State Forest, West Block, and East Block to its website. The first map shows all the trail colors that resulted from the project I did (with help from others) in the West Block.
East Block map: details on the state forest are available on this page:

DOT Plans for the West Rock Tunnel
The Department of Transportation (DOT) hosted a meeting in Woodbridge regarding its plans for the West Rock Tunnel (Heroes Tunnel) in fall 2016 and in New Haven in June 2017. A meeting in Hamden is planned for fall 2017 on a date to be announced. These meetings were NOT covered by any newspaper or television station. A copy of the PowerPoint is available at the DOT website:
The DOT created a website for the tunnel project at with two historical documents, plus the PDF mentioned above.
I will write up details from the New Haven meeting, but for now read the details of the Woodbridge presentation, which includes a full explanation of the PowerPoint as explained by the presenters, on the West Rock Tunnel page on this website at

One historical document is a 38-page typed report from 1950, giving facts, figures, and many historical photos of the tunnel construction. The document describes the various options that were considered and why the current design was the best choice and location for a tunnel. The document is titled "The West Rock Tunnel on the Wilbur  Cross Parkway, New Haven, 1948-1949" and was compiled by the Connecticut State Highway Department.
When I downloaded the PDF, I rotated the photo pages and the separate caption pages, changing the orientation from portrait to landscape, so the photos could be properly viewed. The photo pages appear to be an old-style black paper onto which the photos were glued. Link:
The other historical document is 68 pages worth of engineering drawings for the tunnel. Link:

Fall colors frame the West Rock Tunnel (Heroes Tunnel) in fall 2015.

Limited Hours for Main Gate Opening
The main gate on Wintergreen Avenue, leading to the South Overlook and Judges Cave, reopened on Memorial Day weekend, and will be open weekends from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. until the fall. The other parking areas are readily available 8 a.m. to dusk with the nearest and best choice being the Lake Wintergreen parking lot, 40 Main St., Hamden.

The parking lot adjacent to the main entrance is open due to a broken chain. This parking lot is actually owned and operated by the Department of Parks, City of New Haven. According to Park Ranger Martin Torresquinterro, people keep breaking the chain, and the parks department has not yet implemented a more permanent solution. Martin recommends that if people park in this lot that they hide any valuables, since there have been break-ins in this lot. As detailed elsewhere on this website, I have seen broken window glass on the pavement from people parked both outside and inside the main entrance. Play it safe and park at Lake Wintergreen, or other locations.

 Emerald Ash Borer Invades West Rock
The emerald ash borer, an insect native to Asia, is killing the ash trees at West Rock Ridge State Park and there is no practical solution at the moment to save them in the forest.
Read complete details about how this pest is affecting West Rock at this page (scroll WAY down):

DEEP Agrees to Replant Tree in Hill Street Meadow
      The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has agreed to plant a tree in the meadow near Hill Street. This does not exactly replace the 100 year old tree that was cut down, but at least this is a step in the right direction. The West Rock Ridge Park Association is concerned because the DEEP is proposing placing the tree closer to the gravel road, rather than near the location of the former tree in the center of the field. The New Haven Register published a story on this topic on Nov. 10, 2016:

General Information
Trail Descriptions
Information for Specific Activities
Natural Features
Historical Information
Trail Maintenance
The trail descriptions are spread across so many pages to make the information easier to access.

* The largest state park by area is Macedonia Brook State Park in Kent with 2,302 acres. Sleeping Giant is third in size for state parks with 1,673 acres of property. Gay City places fourth in size with 1,569 acres. 
All these state parks are dwarfed Pachaug State Forest in northeastern Connecticut with 28,804 acres, Cockaponset State Forest with 17,186 acres divided among multiple properties in eastern Connecticut, Centennial Watershed State Forest spread over 15,370 acres of current and former watershed land in Fairfield County, Housatonic Meadows in Litchfield County with 10,894 acres, and Meshomasic State Forest, east of the Connecticut River with 9,026 acres.
There are numerous other state forests larger than any state park.

The state of Connecticut continues to add land to West Rock Ridge as it comes on the market (or is donated) and as funds are available for purchase. The legislation that created the park legally requires homeowners within the park's legal boundaries to give the state a right of first refusal for purchase.

What is the difference between a state forest and a state park? There are two basic differences. The state actively manages state forests for both lumber and habitat, cutting areas of trees on a regular basis. The state also allows hunting in state forests, except where they are close to roads and buildings.
Hunting is generally prohibited in state parks. One exception is a limited deer hunting season at Collis P. Huntington State Park in Redding/Bethel. The park name is a coincidence, as it was named for its wealthy donor.

West Rock Ridge is part of a much larger greenbelt in south central Connecticut. On the western side of the ridge is open space land owned by the South Central Regional Water Authority (RWA) and the town of Woodbridge, among others. Between Rt. 69 and West Rock there is is 3,753 acres of land. There is another 8,912 acres of protected open space nearby, but not adjacent to West Rock, in Hamden, Woodbridge and Bethany, plus the sliver of the Naugatuck State Forest, Mt. Sanford Block, extending into Cheshire.

On the eastern side of the ridge on Hill Street is land owned by the town of Hamden. Part of the open field and woods near Farm Brook Reservoir is 42 acres of Hamden land. On the east side of Hill Street is Laurel View County Club, a golf course owned by the town of Hamden, which is 161 acres.
These numbers were derived from online GIS maps for Woodbridge, Hamden, Bethany, and Cheshire.

These numbers exclude other open space in Cheshire, and the acreage for the Naugatuck Forest Eastern Block extending into Beacon Falls. Any errors in identifying and totaling these numbers are strictly mine.

Open Space Near West Rock

East of Rt. 69 (adjacent to West Rock)

RWA, including Lake Watrous, Lake Dawson
Darling House property
Konolds Pond: private
Town of Woodbridge
by Konolds Pond and athletic fields
City of New Haven land

RWA, including Lake Bethany

RWA, north of West Rock

Town-owned land by Farm Brook Reservoir
Laurel View Country Club

Open Space Contiguous to West Rock

Open Space Near West Rock

Between Rt. 63 and Rt. 69
Bethany: RWA including Lake Chamberlain
Woodbridge, RWA, including Glen Lake
Town of Woodbridge

West of Rt. 63
Bethany, RWA, west of Rt. 63
Naugatuck State Forest, Bethany
Woodbridge, RWA
Town of Woodbridge

Bethany Townwide
Bethany Conservation Commission
Bethany Land Trust

Sleeping Giant State Park
Brooksvale Park
Naugatuck Forest, Mt. Sanford Block
Regional Water Authority

Naugatuck State Forest

Open Space near West Rock