Mountain laurel in bloom

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

Search This Website

Bicycling, Horseback Riding, and Cross Country Skiing

Bicycling
West Rock is a good place to ride a bicycle, whether you want to stick entirely to pavement, or you enjoy riding on natural-surface trails. A mountain bike is the best choice for riding the unpaved trails. If the mountain bike has suspension, that will help smooth out the roots and rocks along the trails that have them.
A hybrid bicycle will work at West Rock, provided the rider sticks to the paved roads and the Red Trail between Lake Wintergreen and the southern crossing of Mountain Road. The White Trail, the Red Trail north of the this Mountain Road crossing, and the Red-White Trails would be too rough for the relatively skinny tires of a hybrid bicycle to handle.
For those with road bicycles, the streets around West Rock are low-traffic, scenic suburban streets. A mountain bike or hybrid bicycle is recommended for cycling within West Rock. 

Trail Restrictions for Bicyclists
Per park rules, bicycles are restricted to the paved roads, the Green Trail, the Red Trail, the Red-White Trails, the Yellow Trail and the White Trail. Trail options are slightly more limited than these restrictions imply.
The Red Trail has a steep climb at the southern end from the base of the ridge to the South Overlook. This steep climb includes many loose rocks. At the top, there are large steps. Both these characteristics make that part of the trail unsuitable for bicycling. Approaching this steep climb, cyclists first have to negotiate four sets of crumbling stairs originally designed for feet, not wheels.
Along Lake Wintergreen is a Red-White Trail that includes a short, rock scramble just south of the spillway. The sharp rocks and narrow spaces between them make this unsuitable, even for those into hard-core technical riding.

This is a typical view along Baldwin Drive.
This picture was taken midway between the Gold and Purple Trails.


Road and Trail Descriptions for Bicyclists
Regicide Drive (the paved road that extends from the main entrance to the South Overlook) has pavement that is smooth enough for a road bike.
However, the worn surface of Baldwin Drive (which runs the length of the park) is too coarse for comfortable riding on a road bike, and is rough on a hybrid bicycle. A mountain bike is well suited to handle the aging pavement. Excepting rail trails, there are few places that a cyclist can enjoy 5.6 miles of car-free pavement, as they can on Baldwin Drive.

The Red Trail has a moderately wide, flat to rolling mostly non-technical surface south of the main entrance to four sets of crumbling stairs. Riders are advised to turn around when they reach the first set of stairs, as the stairs are too steep for safe riding, and beyond that is the steep climb to the South Overlook.
From a curve on Baldwin Drive to southern end of Lake Wintergreen, the Red Trail has a has a narrow section, technical section that includes a set of stairs with a path along the stairs that ends at a guard rail.
From the southern end of Lake Wintergreen to the southerly crossing of Mountain Road, the Red Trail has a wide, flat non-technical surface, which provides about 2 miles of easy riding. The slight exception is a short, steep climb from Wintergreen Avenue to the lake level.

The Red Trail between Mountain Road is rugged single track with many roots and rocks for cyclists to negotiate, and is a favorite of those who enjoy technical riding. An advantage of this trail, as compared to other single-track trails in Connecticut is that a rider can focus on negotiating the obstacles without also dealing with riding up or down a steep hill. 
North of Mountain Road to Farm Brook Reservoir, the Red Trail is a wide, gravel road, which is suitable for non-technical riders. The gravel surface is ideally traversed by a mountain bike, as a hybrid bicycles thinner tires may get bogged down in the gravel.
At Farm Brook Reservoir, the Red Trail passes near Farm Brook Reservoir, and is bumpy single-track. Near the dam to Farm Brook Reservoir, be cautious when you enter the woods from the gravel road because the Red Trail descends over a stone wall when heading north. This would not be suitable for horses or cross-country skiers. Mountain bikers are reminded that bicycles are not permitted on the blue blazed Regicides Trail.

If you are headed north along the Red Trail, and you cross Mountain Road for the second time, and turn onto the gravel road that is blazed Red, you soon come to the Red-White Trail. This is an excellent single-track trail that parallels the gravel road, and crosses the Red Trail three times near the open field, and extends down to the parking lot for the Farm Brook Reservoir on Hill Street. The Red-White Trail has been mostly armored approaching Farm Brook, but there still is a short muddy section.

The White Trail is a wide woods road with a flat to rolling, non-technical surface along Lake Wintergreen. Between the northern end of Lake Wintergreen to its terminus at the Red Trail, the White Trail is moderately technical with roots and rocks and eroded sections of trail to negotiate. Horses could traverse this area, but cross-country skiers might find it difficult in sections.

The Green Trail is a steady climb from the Red Trail almost to Baldwin Drive, climbing about 200 feet in its 0.65 mile length with a slight descent to Baldwin Drive near the end. Most of the Green Trail is heavily eroded with loose rock with some slick rock sections. There is a small portion of the trail where it levels off that is a an easy woods road.

The Yellow Trail is a steady climb from Mountain Road to Baldwin Drive with generally good traction. The trail rises about 200 ft. in 0.35 miles. When entering from Mountain Road, be sure to turn right to stay on the Yellow Trail. Someone created an illegal, steep trail that heads straight up the hill from Mountain Road. I have blocked this off three times only to have someone unblocked it three times. There is no point in riding the Yellow Trail west of Baldwin Drive because it connects to the Regicides Trail where riding is prohibited, and difficult to do even if someone tried.
 
Mountain biking rules are posted on the map board at Lake Wintergreen. This sign dates from a time when riding was limited to only Red and White.

Suggested Routes for Bicyclists

These are three suggested routes for bicyclists at West Rock Ridge State Park. Links to GPX tracks and maps will be added as they become available.

Disclaimer: Use of these routes is strictly at your own risk. While deemed to be safe at the time this was posted, conditions could change, and the designer cannot be held responsible for the skills someone displays in riding a bicycle.


Lake Wintergreen to Farm Brook Reservoir Cruise

This mountain bike cruise is an excellent loop that offers a variety of riding, yet minimal climbing. The ride starts with an easy cruise along the Red Trail, gets technical between Mountain Road, switches gears to a wide gravel trail, and changes back to single track along the base of the ridge. Complete the loop by enjoying quiet, paved Mountain Road, and the varying single and double track White Trail. There is an optional finish with a cruise around Lake Wintergreen. When riding by Lake Wintergreen, be particularly aware of dog walkers and hikers. Bicycles always yield to pedestrians and equestrians.



Mileage
Direction
Trail Name
0.00
Right
Red Trail heading north
from the Lake Wintergreen parking lot
0.65
Left/Right
Red Trail at the Purple Trail
1.55
Straight
Red Trail at south end of Mountain Road
2.65
Right
Mountain Road
2.70
Left
Red Trail at green gate by gravel road
3.65
Straight
Red Trail along Farm Brook Reservoir: turn left at the end of the gravel road, then right into the woods: do not cross the dam, as that leads to private property with no access to the street
3.75
Left
Red-White Trail
4.15
Right
Red Trail at gravel road
4.60
Right
Mountain Road: follow around base of ridge
Option: return on the single-track section of the Red Trail by turning left
6.00
Right
Red Trail by black gate: wide woods road
6.20
Right
White Trail: just past the powerlines
7.15
Left/Right
White Trail by the Purple Trail
7.75
Straight
White Trail at north end of Lake Wintergreen **
8.50
Straight
Red Trail at south end of Lake Wintergreen
Caution: VERY steep descent
8.90
Straight
Red Trail by Lake Wintergreen dam:
Red-White Trail on left
9.25
Right
Lake Wintergreen parking lot

** Shorten ride to 7.85 miles
by turning left and riding up the hill into the parking lot.


Lake Wintergreen to Baldwin Drive, via Farm Brook Reservoir
This circuit is an excellent loop for a mountain bike that offers a variety of riding on both trails and roads, rewarded by outstanding views at the South Overlook. The ride starts with an easy cruise along the Red Trail, gets technical between Mountain Road, switches gears to a wide gravel trail, and finishes with a brief ride on the Red-White Trail out to Hill Street. After a steep climb, enjoy an extended cruise along Baldwin Drive, and a short, steady climb on Regicide Drive. There are no signs for Baldwin Drive or Regicide Drive.
This route uses some public roads near the park to complete the circuit, so be aware of vehicles on those roads. Riding Baldwin Drive north to south involves long climb from 290 ft. of elevation on Hill Street to a peak of 680 ft. of elevation a mile later on Baldwin Drive, for an 8.2 percent grade. After climbing this steep hill, the rest of Baldwin Drive is a delight with far more descents than climbs.
Be aware of the pavement conditions on Baldwin Drive, which may be broken in spots, particularly near the main entrance. The final descent to the main entrance on Baldwin Drive involves a series of switchbacks, followed by a fast, downhill ride that ends in a brown gate.
If you are riding between Memorial Day weekend and the end of October, Regicide Drive (the road to Judges Cave and the South Overlook is open to motor vehicles). When the road is closed, you will need to lift your bike over the main gate.


Mileage
Direction
Trail Name
0.00
Right
Red-Trail heading north
from the Lake Wintergreen parking lot
0.65
Left/Right
Red Trail at the Purple Trail
1.55
Straight
Red Trail at south end of Mountain Road
2.65
Right
Mountain Road
2.70
Left
Red Trail at green gate by gravel road
3.65
Bear left/right
Turn left onto Red Trail at the field by the dam at the end of the gravel road at Farm Brook Reservoir; then turn right into the woods at the start of the field
3.85
Right
Red-White Trail
4.00
Left
Hill St. (paved public street)
4.15
Left
West Shepard Ave. at stop sign
4.35
Straight
West Shepard Ave. at gate
Lift bike over gate: pavement in poor condition
4.65
Left
Baldwin Drive (paved):
Walk bike on left side of dirt barrier.
9.20
Regroup
If you wish to enjoy the view of Konolds Pond, dismount and walk your bikes up the Orange and Blue Trails before resuming the ride.
10.25
Straight
Regicide Drive (paved) and climb hill: ##
Walk bikes past brown gate near main entrance.
11.00
Bear right
Regicide Drive at split to Judges Cave
11.20
U-Turn
Regicide Drive at Judges Cave
11.40
Right
Regicide Drive to the South Overlook
11.90
U-Turn
Regicide Drive at the South Overlook
12.40
Right
Regicide Drive at stop sign
13.15
Left
Wintergreen Avenue from main entrance
13.50
Straight
Enter park by gate at sharp curve
near Lake Wintergreen
13.60
Right
Red Trail by brick building
13.85
Straight
Red Trail: Red-White Trail on left
14.35
Right
Lake Wintergreen parking lot

## Shorten ride to 12.2 miles (and miss the expansive view at the South Overlook) by turning left from Baldwin Drive to the main entrance. From the main entrance turn left on Wintergreen Avenue, following these notes from mile 13.15, although your computer will show 10.40 miles.

West Rock Road Runner
This ride uses the paved roads within the park: Regicide Drive to the South Overlook and Judges Cave, and Baldwin Drive. The ride completes the circuit with public roads on the east side of the park. There are no signs for Baldwin Drive or Regicide Drive. Pay attention to vehicles on the public roads. Be aware of the pavement conditions on Baldwin Drive, which may be broken in spots, particularly near the main entrance. The final descent on Baldwin Drive is steep and ends in a dirt barrier. The next descent on West Shepard Avenue ends in a gate. Due to the rough pavement on Baldwin Drive, a mountain bike is your best choice, but if you can deal with some handlebar vibration in spots, a hybrid bicycle can handle this route.

Mileage
Direction
Trail Name
0.00
Straight
Main Street
from the Lake Wintergreen parking lot
0.15
Right
Wintergreen Avenue at stop sign
1.25
Right
Regicide Drive at West Rock main entrance
(lift bike over barrier when closed Nov.-May)
1.35
Left
Regicide Drive
toward Judges Cave and the South Overlook
2.10
Bear right
Regicide Drive at split to Judges Cave
2.30
U-Turn
Regicide Drive at Judges Cave
2.50
Right
Regicide Drive to the South Overlook
3.00
U-Turn
Regicide Drive at the South Overlook
3.50
Right
Regicide Drive at stop sign
4.25
Straight
Baldwin Drive near park entrance:
Walk bikes past brown gate
5.30
Regroup
If you wish to enjoy the view of Konolds Pond, dismount and walk your bikes up the Orange and Blue Trails before resuming the ride.
9.85
Slow!
Ride carefully down the final decent on Baldwin Drive: dirt barrier across the road. Walk bikes on right side of barrier.
10.15
Straight
West Shepard Avenue: lift bikes over gate
10.35
Right
Hill Street at stop sign
10.85
Next Right
Dunbar Hill Road at stop sign
11.65
Next Right
Chauncey Road
11.80
Next Left
Main Street at stop sign
13.90
Right
Lake Wintergreen parking lot

Horseback Riding
I have never actually seen a horse at West Rock probably because the parking lot at Lake Wintergreen is too small for horse trailers. One suggestion option would be to park at Wintergreen Magnet School, 670 Wintergreen Ave., and ride the horse the short distance to the park along Wintergreen Avenue to Main Street. From Lake Wintergreen, head up the hill on Main Street to Wintergreen Avenue, turn right, and the school is on the left.

As with bicyclists, horses are restricted to the Green, Red, Red-White, Yellow and White Trails. The best options for horses would be to ride the circuit around Lake Wintergreen on the Red and White Trails. North of Lake Wintergreen, equestrians could ride the full length of the White Trail, and the Red Trail up to the southerly crossing of Mountain Road.

The technical section of the Red Trail between the two sections of Mountain Road is not a suitable place for a horse as the trail is narrow and pruned too low to accommodate a horse and rider.

The gravel section of the Red Trail between the northerly crossing of Mountain Road and Farm Brook Reservoir would be acceptable for a horse, provided the gravel surface is not too rough on their hooves.

The entire length of the White Trail should be fine for a horse. This trail has some moderate climbs and descents, but is mostly flat to rolling.


The Green and Yellow Trails are not suitable for horses due to their steep elevation. The Green Trail has lots of loose rock that could easily cause a horse to fall.

Those looking for longer options may wish to head to the Larkin State Park Trail in Naugatuck, which is 10.3 miles long. This natural surface rail trail used to be called the Larkin State Bridle Trail. The parking area is located at 820 Church St., Naugatuck, one mile north of Rt. 68. Website: http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?A=2716&Q=434808


A suggested loop for equestrians:
Start at Lake Wintergreen, cross the culvert separating the brook from the lake, and turn left onto the White Trail headed south. At the end of the White Trail, continue straight onto the Red Trail, descending the hill. It is easier to climb the hill on the Red Trail by the spillway when headed counterclockwise. Back at Lake Wintergreen, continue north on the Red Trail. Just before Mountain Road, turn left onto the White Trail to return to Lake Wintergreen. Turn left on the gravel road by the lake to return to the parking lot.

Cross Country Skiing
Cross-country skiers may plan their route based on the comments that apply to horses and bicycles.
The Red Trail between Lake Wintergreen and the southerly crossing of Mountain Road offers flat and easy skiing. At the Purple Trail, skiers can turn east toward Main Street for more flat, easy skiing, or turn west for a short climb up to the White Trail.
With a snow depth of at least a foot, the White Trail should fine for skiing from Lake Wintergreen to its northern trailhead at the Red Trail. With a shallower snow cover, rocks could be a challenge along parts of the White Trail.
The Red Trail between Mountain Road is rugged single track with many roots and rocks, so this would not be a suitable area for cross-country skiers.
North of Mountain Road to Farm Brook Reservoir, the Red Trail is a wide, gravel road, which is suitable for skiing. Getting here would require starting from the Hill Street parking lot.

The Red and White Trails around Lake Wintergreen are heavily used and may not have suitable snow for long, as a result. If headed from White onto Red at the southern end of Lake Wintergreen, be aware that there is a steep slope where the two trails meet.
The Red Trail south of the main entrance is suitable for skiing until the area with four crumbling sets of stairs.
The Teal Trail off the Red Trail is generally suitable for skiing, but has a couple of steep sections near Common Ground High School that would pose a problem.
The Gold Trail up to the water tank would otherwise be an excellent place to ski, except for the fact that the water company keeps it plowed.
Any of the trails that climb the ridge: Red, Green, Orange, Gold, Purple (except for the portion noted above), and Yellow are too steep for cross country skis.

Regicide Drive (from the main entrance to the South Overlook and Judges Cave) is NOT plowed during the winter, so it would be very suitable for skiing.
The southern section of Baldwin Drive is plowed during the winter to provide access to the two antennas, so skiing is not possible in this area. I have seen the entire length of the road plowed some years, but not other years. If the road is not plowed, the best option would be to park by the gate on West Shepard Avenue to access Baldwin Drive. The first section is a steep climb, but once they get beyond that point, skiers can enjoy rolling hills.

A nearby skiing option is the Farmington Canal Trail, provided the trail has not been plowed. The parking lot nearest West Rock is on Putnam Avenue at the trail, just east of Rt. 10. Map: http://www.farmingtoncanalgreenway.org/Pdfs/map.pdf

A sign along Regicide Drive offers users a choice.

No comments:

Post a Comment