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Sunday, September 13, 2020

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 1,722 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.

(This website was started on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010.
The most recent update took place Sunday, Sept. 12, 2020.)

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.

Aug. 26, 2020 Press Release from the Connecticut DOT:

Heroes Tunnel Concrete Liner Assessment in Woodbridge, Hamden, and New Haven on Route 15

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is announcing that nighttime work will be performed on Route 15 (Wilbur Cross Parkway) in the Heroes Tunnel, with nightly lane closures in each direction beginning on September 9th, 2020. Work hours will be Sunday through Thursday from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., Friday from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., and Saturday from 10:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m.
The work consists of a concrete tunnel liner assessment in the Heroes Tunnel and is being completed in advance of State Project No. 167-108 -  the Heroes Tunnel Project to support the process of exploration of alternatives for rehabilitation or replacement of the tunnel as required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA). For additional information, please visit the Department’s Heroes Tunnel Project website at,
Both northbound and southbound Route 15 motorists will be shifted to one barrel while work is performed in the adjacent barrel with a crossover traffic pattern using traffic control personnel, state police, and signing patterns to guide motorists through the work zone.  Delays can be expected along Route 15 (Wilbur Cross Parkway) between Exit 57 (Route 34, Derby Avenue) and Exit 60 (Route 10, Dixwell Avenue).
The work is scheduled to occur between September 9th, 2020 through September 24th, 2020.  There are no detours anticipated with this work, however motorists may wish to seek alternate routes.
Motorists should be aware that modifications or extensions to this schedule may become necessary due to weather delays or other unforeseen conditions.  Motorists are advised to maintain a safe speed when driving in this vicinity.

TELEPHONE: (860) 594-3062
FAX: (860) 594-3065
Link to the release:

Inside the northbound tube of the West Rock Tunnel in January 2020.

Tropical Storm and Tornado Affect West Rock
West Rock experienced storm damage in August, due to Tropical Storm Isaias on Aug. 4, and the tornado of Aug. 27. Trails and Baldwin Drive were blocked by these storms. As of Sept. 9, the road was opened up with a combination of volunteer and state labor, and the Regicides Trail was cleared by volunteers.
The number of pictures and the narrative to describe these storms has gotten long enough that all information and updates may be found on this page on this website:

The northern end of Baldwin Drive (top photo) and the Regicides Trail (third photo) are completely blocked by multi-trunk oak trees across the road and trail on Aug. 31, 2020. The road and trails are accessible as of Sept. 9, 2020.

Blue-White Replaces Gold on Water Tank Trail
The trail color on the trail from Lake Wintergreen to the water tank and up the ridge to Baldwin Drive and the Blue-Blazed Regicides Trail changed to Blue-White from Gold on Aug. 18, 2020. I placed signs at the junction with the Regicides Trail and the White Trail to explain the change. I had permission from the state to make the change submitted a request to the state parks office to update the West Rock map with this change.
Why the change? When I first blazed the trail in 2010, I needed to select a color because the trail had never been blazed. There are only so many basic colors that it is a challenge to find a color to use at a park like West Rock with so many trails. I chose Gold because it seemed distinct enough from other colors and was not being used at the park.
Over the years, I heard enough people refer to the trail as Yellow that I knew I had to make a change. There is already a Yellow Trail at the park, which connects Mountain Road to Baldwin Drive and the Regicides Trail. For someone hiking on Baldwin Drive or the Regicides Trail, this creates potential confusion.
The solution? Use a different color. Why Blue-White? It's simple. The water tank trail connects the Blue-Blazed Regicides Trail to the White Trail at the base of the ridge. The Blue-White Trail is the most direct connection to the Regicides Trail and Baldwin Drive from Lake Wintergreen, which is the main parking area at West Rock.

A fresh Blue-White blaze with a sign explaining the color change from Gold to Blue-White on that trail near the junction with the White Trail on Aug. 18, 2020. The wording is a summary of the explanation written here.

Trails are Getting Narrow
With the warm weather and sun, plants are growing fast, so I am aware that trails are getting narrow and some sections maybe getting thorny. With 25 miles of trails, it takes time to make the rounds to prune everything back. In multiple visits, I spent 8 hours of time just to prune back the Teal Trail and the Westville Feeder Trail off the ballfield in Westville. Even after I was done, the trails are still fairly narrow. I estimate it takes 3 to 10 hours per mile to prune back a trail, depending on its condition. Most of the overgrowth problem is related to all the invasive plant species. I will continue to prune back trails as my schedule allows, which is typically about 3 hours per week.
Any of the trails described in the section on storm clearing, have been pruned back.

This Website Updated
I carved out time to perform some detailed updates to this website, and still have more to do. Part of what I did was update web links that changed, particularly related to the state parks website.
I also greatly expanded my list of recommended hike areas. This information was previously listed on one page with an overview called "Characteristics of a Good Hiking Area." The characteristics essay now has its own page. The hiking information is located on five different pages by county, plus an additional page for the Mattabesett Trail.
In late June 2020, I added a page for hikes on the Regional Water Authority properties, which require an RWA permit to hike.
In addition, I have added postcards and contemporary pictures of postcard areas. I also added a page for the Margaret Fisher Memorial Fireplace.
The pages are listed to the right and below.

Spring 2020 Newsletter Published
The spring 2020 newsletter for the West Rock Ridge Park Association is available at this website:
The park association is the volunteer organization responsible for the formation of the state park.

Regicide Drive Open for the Season
The gate to the main entrance at 1134 Wintergreen Ave., New Haven, which provides access to Regicide Drive leading to Judges Cave and the South Overlook, reopened early this year at the beginning of May. The gate will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will close for the season at the end of October. People have been locked inside the park because they failed to pay attention to the 6 p.m. closure time, and have had to be let out by the state Environmental Conservation police.

Climbing Wall Fully Reopened, Aug. 29, 2020
The Ragged Mountain Foundation posted a notice on its website and also at the base of the climbing wall about a portion of the wall being closed to climbers effective March 20, 2020 to protect the nesting peregrine falcons on the cliff.
An updated notice states the wall has been reopened, effective Aug. 29, 2020, but cautions climbers to avoid routes where falcon activity and guano are visible.
Due to their growing population numbers, peregrines are no longer listed as an endangered or threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but are still protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Peregrines are a state threatened species in Connecticut:
Since the falcons will probably breed at West Rock in spring 2021, one or more parts of the climbings wall are likely to be closed again next spring, as the closure is determined by nesting activity.
State Parks and Forests Website Has Been Redesigned
The state parks and forests website has been redesigned, which I noticed in March 2020. This means that past links are all outdated. The new website also requires more work from the user. The former website has one page for each park where the viewer could scroll down to read the necessary information. With the new website, each park has a landing page and the individual sections are listed in the left column and people have to click each section to access that information, which is annoying and a waste of time.
This is the new page listing all the parks and forests:
This is the new West Rock page:

Download a West Rock map from the state website
Before heading out into the woods, be sure to download a map of West Rock from the state website. When I read negative comments about the park on websites like Trip Advisor and Yelp from people who have trouble finding their way, it is obvious they did not bring a map with them.
Link to the GPS friendly map, which can be used on a smart phone:

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

State Parks by Size
* 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.