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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Red, White, and Red-White Trails

The Red, White and Red-White Trails are located on eastern side of the ridge. The Red Trail climbs the ridge at either end, but is otherwise fairly flat for most of its length. The Red Trail features two of the finest views in the park. At the South Overlook, there is a panoramic view of south central Connecticut, including Sleeping Giant State Park, East Rock Park, New Haven and the harbor, Long Island Sound, Yale Bowl, and West Haven. At the northern end of the park, there is an excellent view over Laurel View Country Club, which also provides a clear view down the ridge to New Haven and the harbor.
The White Trail roughly parallels the Red Trail, other than a loop at either end to intersect the Red Trail.
The Red-White Trails are loops off the Red Trail that join the Red Trail at either end.


This shot of New Haven, the harbor, and Long Island Sound offers only a partial look at the panoramic view available from the Red Trail at the South Overlook.
Red Trail
The Red Trail as seen
on the state park map.

The main trail on the east side of the ridge is the Red Trail, which starts between two stone pillars at the South Overlook and extends for 6.75 miles to its northern terminus at the Regicides Trail. From the South Overlook, the Red Trail has a sharp descent of 200 feet, starting on a series of stone steps before changing to a rocky and eroded section of trail that levels off near the Teal Trail.

In this next section, the Red Trail is a marvel of engineering as it flows along the terrain in a series of twists and curves that includes four sets of crumbling stone steps. The trail gains about 200 feet of elevation before leveling off along Lake Wintergreen.


The trail passes the Red Diamond-White Trail (Old Oak Nature Trail) in two places and the two trails briefly share the same section of trail. In one area, the original Red Trail continued straight where a bypass now heads to the left. The need for the bypass is apparent because the original trail narrows to 6 inches, yes inches, where an entire section of trail collapsed and washed away.

The Red Trail starts between these stone pillars at the South Overlook in this view. Walk down the steps between the pillars, go straight for about 100 feet, and look for the steps descending down the ridge.


In this view looking up the ridge, this is the final section of the Red Trail before it reaches the South Overlook at the southern end of West Rock.
This series of stone steps descends from the South Overlook toward the base of the ridge. The closer to the top, the better condition of the steps.


The Red Trail is a steep, rocky slope with uneven footing.
 as it ascends to the South Overlook.
The Red Trail also passes the Teal Trail, which parallels the Red Trail near Common Ground High School, whose buildings and outdoor shelters are visible on the right through the trees. On the right, north of Common Ground High School is the Dark Blue-Yellow Solar Youth Trail that links to Wintergreen Avenue. Just before reaching the main entrance, the Red Trail passes the Green Trail on the left, which connects up to Judges Cave. Portions of the trail approaching the main entrance are nearly as wide as a woods road, and most sections have level, secure footing.
A mountain biker rides the Red Trail south of the main entrance.

The Red Trail heading south, as viewed from the main entrance road (Regicide Drive) to West Rock, off Wintergreen Avenue.


At the main entrance, turn left on the paved road (Regicide Drive), then turn right by the signboard and past a gate blocking vehicle access (except maintenance vehicles) to Baldwin Drive. This gate may be kept open when the main gate to the park is locked.


At the first hairpin turn in the road, continue straight and the Red Trail re-enters the woods as a series of steps. The steps soon turn to the left and head up to the next switchback of Baldwin Drive. Stay straight on the Red Trail, cross a wooden bridge, then descend sharply and continue along a narrow section of trail under tall evergreen trees. Just before the White Trail and Red-White Trail near Lake Wintergreen, take notice of a large, tall white pine on the right.

From this junction, where the White Trail turns left and the Red-White Trail goes straight ahead, turn right and Red Trail descends sharply. At the base of the descent, the trail heads past an old pump house dating from when Lake Wintergreen was water company property. As you cross the spillway to the Lake Wintergreen dam, the trail is a steady climb. Where the Red Trail levels off, the Red-White Trail heads south along the top of the Lake Wintergreen dam. From the dam to the main entrance, the Red Trail is a flat, wide woods road with a solid gravel surface.

The Red Trail follows Baldwin Drive for a short distance, just north of the main entrance of West Rock. Since the road is closed to vehicle traffic (except for the occasional maintenance vehicle), hikers and bikers can truly enjoy the road. The gate appearance has changed since this photo was taken.

This set of stone steps connects the Red Trail to two switchbacks on Baldwin Drive. Wwhen heading north, after crossing the guardrail, where this trail veers left,
continue straight to stay on the Red Trail.

At the Lake Wintergreen parking area, turn left and go 100 feet, and then turn right where the lake is on your left. The Red Trail continues as a wide woods road from Lake Wintergreen to the unnamed pond just past the southern crossing of Mountain Road. For this first section, Wintergreen Brook is on your left.

At the Purple Trail, cross over the brook on a culvert, turn right to stay on the Red Trail, and the brook is now on your right. Nearing Mountain Road, the woods change from deciduous, hardwood trees to rows of evergreen trees. Within the hemlocks, pines, and spruce trees, the northern trailhead of the White Trail is on the left, then the Red Trail passes under a set of powerlines before coming to a set of gates at Mountain Road.


Looking south from the Lake Wintergreen parking area, the Red Trail is a wide woods road with a solid gravel surface. The trail continues north from Lake Wintergreen as a wide woods road until the junction with Mountain Road.
The Red Trail is a wide, flat woods road, which has the appearance of a rail trail,
from Lake Wintergreen to the southerly crossing of Mountain Road,
as seen in this view near the Purple Trail.


The park is at its narrowest here as it crosses Mountain Road, and passes between two sections of a private farm. Walk over an iron decked bridge as you see a small, unnamed pond on your left. Once you enter the woods, the Red Trail changes in character from a wide, straight woods road to a twisting, narrow hiking trail with dense mountain laurel growth, and many roots and rocks underfoot. This section of trail is a favorite among mountain bikers.

At the northern section of Mountain Road, the Red Trail turns east (right), and then north (left) to follow a gravel-surfaced, wide woods road. Near a turn in the gravel road, the Red-White Trail veers off as a narrow, single-track trail that hugs the base of the ridge.

At Mountain Road when heading north from the single track section, if you look left, you will see a yellow blaze on a telephone pole. On the tree to your right is a double yellow blaze in the form of an equals sign.
In June 2015, I extended the Yellow Trail blazes along Mountain Road to provide a visual connection between the Yellow Trail (which exits the woods onto Mountain Road 0.3 miles from the Red Trail) and the Red Trail. The equals sign indicates the Yellow Trail markings end at that tree.


The Red Trail passes over the spillway to an unnamed pond near Mountain Road in this view looking south.
The Red Trail enters a dense set of woods just beyond an unnamed pond near Mountain Road. The pond is on the left behind the fence.
A small pond is located on the Red Trail near Mountain Road.

The Red Trail zig-zags around this large boulder,
which adds interest to the section between Mountain Road.
This is the section of West Rock that inspired me to begin trail work. I led a group hike in 2006. When I came to this section where all the blazes had faded away, I continued straight because that seemed to be the obvious choice at the time. When I ended up in someone's backyard, I realized I was no longer on the Red Trail. When I blazed this turn in 2007, I also tossed brush on the false trail, which does get removed by other people.
The Red Trail features numerous mountain laurel plants in this narrow, twisting section of the trail between the two crossings of Mountain Road.

The Red Trail heads south from the northern junction with Mountain Road, entering a section of twisty single-track. The blazes on the tree indicate the ending of the Yellow Trail, guiding users along Mountain Road between the two trails.
The Red Trail becomes a gravel road starting at this gate on the upper portion of Mountain Road in this view looking south toward the road.


Past the green metal gate and north of the second crossing of Mountain Road, the Red Trail is a wide gravel road extending to Farm Brook Reservoir. This view is looking north.

A new state-approved relocation of the Red Trail has moved the trail from the hay field to a route within the woods near Farm Brook Reservoir in August 2015. At the end of the gravel road, continue into the field about 100 feet, then turn right onto the new trail that was hacked through the autumn olive, multi-flora rose, and bittersweet vines. If you are on a bicycle, be careful on the unexpected descent over the stone wall and down a sandy slope.
The gravel portion of the Red Trail ends at the field.
Continue straight, then turn right into the woods in about 100 feet. This post was removed by a vandal in April 2016.
Autumn olive, a highly invasive shrub, lines both sides of the Red Trail near the hay field. Many autumn olive were removed to create the trail.

After entering the woods from the gravel road when headed northbound, descend this stone wall. Bicyclists should be cautious as this descent is not bike friendly.
The stone wall near the field as seen in this view looking northbound shows the challenge this descent poses for bicyclists.
Approaching the Red-White Trail, the relocated section of the Red Trail parallels are large stone wall as it descends a gentle slope.
At the Red-White Trail, the Red Trail passes between two trees in this view looking north. Turning right here onto the Red-White Trail leads to the Hill Street parking lot.
This view of the relocated Red Trail at the Red-White Trail shows the perspective when heading south toward the gravel road near the Farm Brook Reservoir dam.
Follow the trail through several turns. In a quarter mile, the Red Trail crosses the Red-White Trail for the first of three times. Continue straight across the Red-White Trail past a large stone wall, then turn left to cross a gap in the stone wall, pass over a private driveway, cross the Red-White Trail a second time, and ascend a gentle slope. Turn right to stay on the Red Trail just above the field, and cross the Red-White Trail a final time as you ascend a steady rock slope up to the overlook.
At top of the climb is a panoramic view looking east and south. Shortly past the overlook, the Red Trail ends at the Regicides Trail. This is the highest point on the Red Trail at 575 ft. above sea level.
Most of the Red Trail from the Wilbur Cross Parkway to the northern section of Mountain Road is about 275 ft. above sea level. The trail is also about this elevation at the South Overlook.


Just beyond the open field and the Red-White Trail at the north end of West Rock, the Red Trail takes a sharp left turn at this boulder. Missing this turn means hikers will be climbing a steep hill, off trail through mountain laurel.

The Red Trail climbs a rocky ridge past numerous cedar trees at the north end of the park, en route to a terrific overlook toward the east and south.
Cedar trees are a dominant feature of the Red Trail at the park's northern section.
The Red Trail ends just north of this magnificent overlook of the Farm Brook Reservoir and the Laurel Ridge Country Club in Hamden. Just to the right is a view of New Haven, the Long Island Sound, and Long Island.

This view of New Haven, Long Island Sound, and Long Island is from the overlook on the Red Trail, just south of the junction with the Regicides Trail. This overlook is informally referred to as the "hang gliders' overlook" because a parasailing group cleared trees off the ridge, making the overlook possible.
This summer view clearly shows downtown New Haven in the distance, with Farm Brook Reservoir off to the left.

Looking south from the northern overlook provides a panoramic view down West Ridge. The notch by the Wilbur Cross Parkway is clearly visible in this picture.
The Red Trail ends at the Regicides Trail
in the northern section of the park.

Red Trail Mileage Chart

Mileage
Trail Junction
 0.00
 South Overlook
 0.30
 Base of ridge near Teal Trail
 0.95
 White-Red Diamond and Teal Trails
 1.35
 Green Trail
 1.40
 Main Entrance
 1.65
 Leave Baldwin Drive
 1.80
 White and Red-White Trails,
 southern tip of Lake Wintergreen
 2.20
 Red-White Trail at southern end of dam
 2.55
 Lake Wintergreen parking lot
 3.20
 Purple Trail: zig-zag across Wintergreen Brook
 3.90
 White Trail near Mountain Road
 4.10
 Mountain Road, southern section
 5.20
 Mountain Road, northern section
 5.65
 Red Trail along gravel road at Red-White Trail
 6.15
 Red Trail at the end of the gravel road
 6.55
 Red Trail at Red-White Trail at base of climb
 6.75
 Red Trail at Regicides Trail


Red-White Trail
There are two Red-White Trails that are spur trails off the Red Trail. There is a 0.35 mile Red-White Trail parallel to the Red Trail that starts by the spillway at Lake Wintergreen and ends where the Red Trail intersects the White Trail at a southerly corner of Lake Wintergreen. This trail is potentially the most beautiful in the park with Lake Wintergreen on one side, tall white pines overhead, and an interesting and fun rock scramble beneath your boots. The rock scramble makes this trail unsuitable for bicycles or horses, and hikers should exercise caution in icy conditions.


The Red-White Trail traverses the top of the rocky slope along the southeast side of Lake Wintergreen in this view looking up from the Red Trail.
The Red-White Dot Trail offers an interesting, yet safe challenge (in dry conditions) for hikers near the south end of Lake Wintergreen.

The Red-White Trail as seen on the state park map. 
There is a 0.65 mile long Red-White Trail extending from the parking area off Hill Street that intersects the Red Trail in four locations: once near the reservoir, in two places north of the hay field near Farm Brook Reservoir, and at the trail junction along the gravel road north of Mountain Road.
The Red-White Trail starts in the open field along Hill Street, then quickly enters the woods at the far end of the field, where it briefly parallels, then crosses two streams before heading out to a second field. Following the Red-White Trail could be tricky if the meadow grasses have grown tall. The trail continues in the woods directly across from the first set of woods.
Where the Red Trail ascends the ridge steadily, the Red-White Trail heads south along a beautiful, single-track trail, crossing a couple of ravines, before ending along the gravel road that is part of the Red Trail.


The  Red-White Trail starts at the Hill St. parking lot.


The Red-White Trail enters the woods at the end of the field by the Hill St. parking lot.
The Red-White Trail crosses a bridge over a Farm Brook, a seasonal watercourse,
just north of Farm Brook Reservoir. While the watercourse may be dry in summer and a trickle at certain times, it was absolutely roaring in Dec. 2015.


The southern trailhead for the Red-White Trail is where the Red Trail is a gravel road linking Mountain Road to the Farm Brook Reservoir Dam.

 

My Work Vandalized
Regrettably in April 2016 some thoughtless person decided to undo some of the good work that I did. With my own money, I paid for two 4x4 posts and installed one on the Red Trail by the Farm Brook Reservoir dam, and one on the Red-White Trail where it crosses an open field, and the trail is not always obvious when the grass grows. A cedar post was donated by a fellow trail worker and installed on the gravel portion of the Red Trail just south of the dam. All three posts were pulled out in April 2016 by an unknown person. A park user contacted me to say she found them in the stream.
The purpose of the posts is to help hikers and bicyclists follow the trails. I did not need to spend my money and install them for my own use, as I know where the trails go. When I find the time, I may install them again, but I am not sure it is worth the effort if someone will just pull them up again.
 
This post on the Red-White Trail by the open field near Hill Street is important because the trail is not obvious when walking south from the ridge. This post was taken in April 2016.


White Trail

The White Trail
as seen on the state park map.
The next longest trail at West Rock is the White Trail, which is located west of the Red Trail, following the shoulder of the ridge. The White Trail extends for 2.3 miles, starting at the junction of the Red and Red-White Trails at southern end of Lake Wintergreen, and ending at the Red Trail, just before the southern section of Mountain Road.

With regard to terrain, the White Trail changes from nearly level to some mild rolling sections, never varying more than 50 feet from the highest point (about 300 ft. above sea level) to the lowest point (about 250 ft. above sea level).

Along Lake Wintergreen, the White Trail is a wide, hard packed woods roads with some gentle rollers. Near From the Gold Trail to the northern trailhead at the Red Trail, the White Trail is a woods road that is mostly flat, but has some short, gentle climbs in areas where the trail has been relocated away from eroded or wet areas. Near the northern end with the Red Trail, the White Trail narrows to a footpath.

North of Lake Wintergreen, the trail has some areas that are wet too many months of the year. Portions of this trail will be relocated as part of a future trails project that has no specific starting date. You can seen the original trail heading straight in a few sections where a relocation moves onto the ridge away from the mud. Follow the White blazes to stay on the trail. The White Trail turns east to connect to the Red Trail where the Red Trail has a row of evergreen trees.

The southern section of the White Trail features views of Lake Wintergreen. Near the junction with the Orange Trail is a grove of red pine trees. Just south of the junction with the Purple Trail is a grove of larch, a conifer that drops its needles in winter.

North of Lake Wintergreen, the White Trail is a more interesting trail than the Red Trail, as the White Trail twists and turns through the woods, while Red is a wide straight woods road.


The White Trail is a wide woods road as it passes along Lake Wintergreen.

Snow blankets the White Trail (appropriately enough) in winter.
This section is north of Lake Wintergreen.

"Armoring" a trail building term used to describe the placement of stepping stones along muddy areas of the trail to give people secure, dry footing. This armored section of the White Trail north of Lake Wintergreen also features a waterbar to channel the water off the trail to the right.

This is the junction of the White Trail where it meets the Red Trail, 0.2 miles south of Mountain Rd., underneath a grove of evergreen trees.
White Trail Mileage Chart

Mileage
Trail Junction
 0.00
 Red Trail / Red Dot Trail,
 southern tip of Lake Wintergreen
 0.75
 Gold Trail
 1.15
 Purple-White Trail
 1.35
 Purple Trail
 2.30
 Red Trail near Mountain Road

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