There are many recreational opportunities available at West Rock.
(This website was started on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010.
Storm Elsa Drenches West Rock; Rain Prompts Plant Growth and Mosquitos
Storm Elsa dropped about five inches of rain on Hamden when it passed through the area in early July. Having done trail work in different sections of the park, I have seen little tree damage, as the storm was more rain than wind. In those areas, the only real problem was a tree completely blocking the Red Trail near Farm Brook Reservoir, one that I cleared with help from another volunteer. On my own, I cut a tree top on the Red Trail near Common Ground High School.
The real problem caused by Elsa was erosion. In the gullies that come down off the ridge with stormwater, the leaves were pushed to the bottom where they piled up. Trail sections that are steep show noticeable erosion. I could spend hours on the Westville Feeder moving the loose rocks to the side of the trail. The force of the water gouged out a chunk of the Blue-White Trail near the water tank.
With all the rain this spring and summer, plant growth has exploded, particularly that of the invasive plants. The Teal Trail near the climbing wall and the apartments is about a foot wide, despite a total of 260 hours of invasives clearing since 2019. The privet and multi-flora rose are growing back fast after being cut to the ground. The honeysuckle vines are smothering everything. Sections of the Westville Feeder are also quite narrow, as is the Regicides Trail near the South Overlook.
All that rain has also resulted in an explosion of the mosquito population. In the 20 minutes it took me to clear the tree near Common Ground, I got some 40 to 50 mosquito bites on my back and shoulder. Up on Baldwin Drive last week, I got zero mosquito bites, as the drier terrain up there does not foster their growth as does the soggy terrain lower down.
The invasive spotted lantern fly has been in the news as this destructive insect makes its way into Connecticut. The fly’s preferred plant is the invasive tree of heaven. In 2020, learned how to distinguish this undesirable tree from the native and similar looking staghorn sumac. Since that time I have been cutting this down wherever I see it at West Rock, sometimes with help from other volunteers.
Illegal trails have been sprouting at West Rock, with volunteers blocking off four of them. I am not describing their location because I do not want people to seek them to explore or uncover them. Blocking off trails is time consuming work that takes away from other trail projects.
Although they had been in place for only a few months, two of them were showing signs of erosion. I estimate the slope in those areas is 20 percent, which is too steep for a sustainable trail without extensive switchbacking. One of those trails was built by a runner who advertised it on Strava, and agreed to stop using and promoting the trail after being told what he did was illegal.
On an April morning while working on the Regicides Trail, another volunteer and I spent more than an hour blocking off two cut throughs that people had made on a switchback. In this area, the trail flows through two turns, using the natural landscape. The two cut throughs changed a flowing trail into a rock scramble, while also eroding the two cut through spots. To reach this spot involves a hike of several miles, so saving 200 feet of walking is pointless.
Lake Wintergreen Parking Options
With the explosion in popularity of outdoor recreation, parking has become a challenge at West Rock, particularly at Lake Wintergreen. It is common to see a line of cars along Main Street by the entrance, narrowing the road to little more than one lane in an area with a sharp curve and limited visibility. This is particularly a problem when there is snow.
The state has plans to add parking near Lake Wintergreen, and has begun to move forward on that process with no announced timeline for completion.
There are two safer nearby options for Lake Wintergreen parking. The first is Valerie Court, located only 0.1 miles away toward Wintergreen Avenue.
The other is Wintergreen Elementary School at 670 Wintergreen Avenue, Hamden, near the turn for Main Street, which is a 0.25-mile walk. While there are no sidewalks on either street, there is a flat shoulder to walk adjacent to the road for the short distance. This particularly good for those who are bicycling at the park because it's such a short distance to ride to reach the park.
These are better options to park for cars because there is no risk of being clipped by a passing vehicle trying to squeeze past. For the people exiting the cars, they are not standing in the brush on the passenger side, or in the travel lane on the driver’s side.
The Wintergreen Elementary School building is not actually an elementary school, but is the home to two Hamden Public Schools programs: the Alice Peck Learning Center (an early childhood program) and the Hamden Collaborative Learning Center (an alternative high school).
For those planning on hiking to the South Overlook or Judges Cave, there is plenty of parking behind the New Haven Montessori School, 495 Blake St., at the south end of the park.
People who park at the main entrance may wonder why the parking lot there is always blocked by a chain. That parking lot is owned and operated by the City of New Haven for the West Rock Nature Center. The city keeps the lot closed because when it is open, miscreants will dump items there, rather than bring them to the transfer station. The city blocked access to most of the other parking lot with jersey barriers for the same reason.
The park association is the volunteer organization responsible for the formation of the state park. Newsletters dating back to 2009 are available at this link: https://westrockpark.wordpress.com/newsletters/
- West Rock User Guide
- West Rock News Updates
- Safety and Comfort at West Rock
- West Rock Driving Directions and Parking Information
- Getting to West Rock by Bus and Foot
- West Rock Gets Press
- Web Links for Maps, Trails, General Info and Outdoors Clubs
- Trails Overview and Trail Map Updates
- Regicides Trail
- Westville Feeder, Sanford Feeder, and the Quinnipiac Trail
- Red, White, and Red-White Trails
- Colorful East-West Trails: Green, Blue-White, Gold, Purple, and Yellow
- North Summit, Old Oak, Teal, and Solar Youth Trails
- Suggested Hikes and Walks at West Rock
- Bicycling, Cross Country Skiing, and Horseback Riding
- Fishing and Boating at West Rock
- Rock Climbing at West Rock
- West Rock Options for Sleeping Giant Fans
- Animals at West Rock
- Interesting and Unusual Plant Species at West Rock
- Wildflowers at West Rock
- West Rock Natural Features: Geology, Geography, and Judges Cave
- On the Trail of the Regicides
- Looking Back Through a Window in Time: West Rock History
- West Rock Tunnel (Heroes Tunnel)
- West Rock Tunnel (Heroes Tunnel): Safety Improvements
- Margaret Fisher Memorial Fireplace
- Historic Airway Beacon on West Rock
- West Rock Historic Postcards
- Elements of Trail Maintenance
- Finding Fitness and Peace of Mind in Trail Work
- West Rock Wish List
- West Rock Completed Wish List
- Invasive Species: Natural World Bullies
- Invasive Animals Attack Trees
- Reclaiming the Native Forest from Invasive Plants
- Storm Damage at West Rock
- Characteristics of a Good Hiking Area
- Naugatuck State Forest, West Block and East Block
- Hikes Beyond West Rock: Fairfield County
- Hikes Beyond West Rock: Hartford County
- Hikes Beyond West Rock: Litchfield County
- Hikes Beyond West Rock: Middlesex County
- Hikes Beyond West Rock: New Haven County
- Hikes Beyond West Rock: New London County
- Hikes Beyond West Rock: Mattabesett Trail
- Hikes Beyond West Rock: Madison Trails
- Hikes Beyond West Rock: Redding Trails
- Hikes Beyond West Rock: RWA Properties
- Hikes to Waterfalls Near West Rock
- Web Links for Hiking, Bicycling, and Traveling
- Rail Trails in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Eastern New York
The trail descriptions are spread across so many pages to make the information easier to access.
* West Rock is 1,792 acres of state owned land, but there are also parcels that are next to the state owned parcels owned by Hamden, New Haven, and the Hamden Historical Society. If these parcels are included, the park is 1,874 acres.