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Monday, November 6, 2023

Welcome to the West Rock Trails website

West Rock Ridge State Park is located in Hamden and New Haven, Connecticut (with small portions in Woodbridge and Bethany). West Rock Ridge is the second largest state park in Connecticut with 1,815 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.

(This website was started on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010. The most recent update took place Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. Despite the domain name, this an informational website, not a blog.)

This zoomed view of the West River Memorial Park, off Route 1 in New Haven, beautifully displays the south face of West Rock. The New Haven Park Department created this channel along the river, likely in part to highlight the view. What the view actually looks like can be seen below.

Main Gate and Regicide Drive Closed for the Season
The gate to the main entrance at 1134 Wintergreen Ave., New Haven closed for the season on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023. This allows park users to enjoy a car-free experience as they walk, run, and bicycle along Regicide Drive, the road that was freshly paved to the South Overlook (but not to Judges Cave) in spring 2023.
The road will reopen to motor vehicles on Saturday, May 25, 2024, and when that happens, it will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Sunday, Oct. 27, 2024. 

West Rock State Website and Map Updated
The state website for West Rock has been updated, using information this trail maintainer submitted to provide greater detail about the park, including improved directions.
The park map has also been revised and updated. The new map has been updated effective April 5, 2023, and is available at the state website.
State West Rock page:

New CT Parks Website Has Outdated Maps
The state announced on Sept. 20 the launching of a new CT Parks website with this press release:
I reviewed the site for various parks and found the new website has links to seriously outdated park maps for some parks. The West Rock page is using the 2016 map, not the 2023 map.
The Naugatuck State Forest, West and East Block is using the old map that combined both properties onto one map and does not show all the trail colors that I used in blazing the West Block. Maps for some parks and forests date back as far as 2001.
Use the existing website, which has the most current information:
On the positive side, the new website does have search features, which includes searching by activity.

Lake Wintergreen Parking Options

If the parking lot at Lake Wintergreen is full, these are some nearby options:

The closest option is to park on Valerie Court, located only 0.1 miles away toward Wintergreen Avenue. Walk carefully along the shoulder of Main Street back to the Lake Wintergreen parking lot.

The state has an overflow parking lot located on Wintergreen Avenue, a right turn when coming from the Lake Wintergreen lot. From this lot, follow the path down to the Red Trail by the lake.

A third option during non-school hours is to park at Wintergreen Interdistrict Magnet School at 670 Wintergreen Avenue, Hamden, near the turn for Main Street, which is a 0.25-mile walk. From the school, walk through the overflow parking lot and follow the path down to the Red Trail along Lake Wintergreen.

These are better options to park for cars along the narrow shoulder of Main Street 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.

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., New Haven, 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 had blocked access to most of the other parking lot with jersey barriers for the same reason, but in August 2021, pushed back those barriers to allow more parking.

General Information
Trail Descriptions for West Rock
Information for Specific Activities at West Rock
Natural Features at West Rock
Historical Information for West Rock
Trail Maintenance
Hiking and Bicycling Beyond West Rock

The trail descriptions are spread across so many pages to make the information easier to access.

State Parks by Size
* West Rock is 1,815 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 1,897 acres.

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 Colis P. Huntington State Park in Redding/Bethel. The park name is a coincidence, as it was named for its wealthy donor.