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Hikes Beyond West Rock

The Sleeping Giant and West Rock Ridge are visible from South Mountain in Meriden, framed by beautiful fall colors in Nov. 2016

Every hiker has their favorite area for hiking and these are some of my favorites in western and central Connecticut. Before scrolling down to some recommended places, read through the elements I believe that make for an enjoyable hike, and those that detract from the experience. 

Characteristics of a Good Hiking Area
There are many characteristics of a natural area that determine whether a hike will be simply a pleasant stroll in the woods, a leg-burning, lung-searing endurance event, or a positive and memorable outing. In thinking about the many hiking areas I use, I see the following characteristics as those that make hikes interesting, enjoyable and safe.

Desired: Streams, Brooks and Hemlocks
My favorite elements are streams and brooks splashing down a rocky streambed under the filtered light of a hemlock grove, particularly when they are located within a deep ravine. The addition of snow makes the location even more enjoyable.
Regrettably, West Rock cannot claim this type of hiking experience.
Running water and hemlocks can be found in places like the Mattatuck Trail along Mad River in Wolcott, the Pequonnock River Valley in Trumbull, and Hidden Valley Preserve and Steep Rock Preserve in Washington Depot. Spruce Brook Gorge in the Naugatuck Forest in Beacon Falls has the additional benefit of a series of cascades passing through a narrow ravine under the shade of hemlocks.

Desired: Lakes, Ponds and Reservoirs
Lakes, ponds and reservoirs all add interest to a hike, due to their scenic beauty, which is often viewed with a backdrop of evergreen trees.
West Rock has the benefit of close lake and pond views with Lake Wintergreen, Farm Brook Reservoir, and the unnamed pond on the Red Trail near Mountain Road. On the Regicides Trail, hikers can enjoy more distant views of Konolds Pond, Lake Dawson, and Lake Watrous.
Multiple reservoir views can be found at the Naugatuck Forest on the Seymour side. Extended water views are available by the Saugatuck Reservoir in Weston/Redding on the Saugatuck Trail, along Lake Zoar on the Zoar Trail in the lower Paugussett State Forest in Newtown, and by Lake Lillinonah on the Lillinonah Trail in the upper Paugusett State Forest, also in Newtown.

Desired: Rock Formations
Another natural element that adds interest to hikes is rock formations, especially ones where hikers can walk through them and over them.
At West Rock, hikers get brief examples of these on the Red-White Trail along Lake Wintergreen, on the Red Trail above the open field, and on the Regicides Trail climbing up to the Quinnipiac Trail.
These experiences can be found at Chatfield Hollow State Park and the Chatfield Trail in Killingworth, at Leatherman’s Cave on the Jericho Trail in Watertown, and at Westwoods in Guilford.

Desired: Impressive Views
Impressive views are another highlight of hiking areas, particularly when they can be reached without long, uncomfortable climbs.
West Rock shines in this category with the panoramic views from the South Overlook, overlooking Konolds Pond, at Lake Watrous and above Farm Brook Reservoir.
A favorite area of mine is Minnewaska State Park Preserve near New Paltz, N.Y. with incredible views from peaks at 2,200 feet of elevation that are reached without extended climbing. Other places for great views include West Peak, East Peak and South Peak in Meriden, and East Rock in New Haven/Hamden.

Unwanted: Long Extended Climbs and Descents
There are certain characteristics of areas that cause me to avoid hiking there. These include long, extended climbs that seem endless, only to “reward” the hiker with a steep, knee pounding decent. In addition to being uncomfortable for the hiker, these types of trails are subject to severe erosion, so they are also bad for the environment.
This type of hiking is rarely found in Connecticut, simply because the elevations are too low, and this includes West Rock.
For those rugged hikers who believe they need this type of environment to build their endurance, they have two effective options: increase their pace and lengthen their hike distance.

Unwanted: Constant Up and Downs
The related bad cousin to long, steep climbs are areas where an uphill is immediately followed by a downhill that is immediately followed by an uphill.
West Rock is also a star in this area because the climbs are not that steep or long, and once a hiker has reached the top of the ridge, the climbs are mostly short and easy, excepting the dip over the West Rock Tunnel and the final rise to the Quinnipiac Trail, which have short, but steep climbs.
Trails that cross trap rock ridges can often have a series of climbs and descents. The Jericho Trail in Watertown, and Ragged Mountain Preserve in Berlin are two areas where the terrain is more challenging than the distance. For those hikers who seek this type of challenge, head for those areas.

Unwanted: Poor and Unsafe Footing
Another reason to avoid a hiking area is because the footing is unsteady, slippery and therefore potentially unsafe. This can include areas that are rocky, particularly when the rocks are loose, or when trails are slippery and muddy, and prone to icing, especially when the trails are angled toward a steep slope.
West Rock again does well in this category because footing is generally secure, other than a few isolated areas that can be skipped in icy conditions. There are some loose rocks on the trails up the ridge, but they can be navigated. The Regicides Trail has rocky footing, which can be irritating, but it is rarely a slipping hazard. Other unsafe situations are trails where a hiker literally has to get down on all fours to climb or descend past a rock formation, which is especially hazardous in wet and icy conditions. West Rock has two sections of the Regicides Trail that require hands and knees and that is only in icy conditions: just north of the junction with the Gold Trail, and at the northern end of Baldwin Drive. West Rock has no trail sections directly along the edge of a cliff.
The portion of the Zoar Trail along Lake Zoar in the lower Paugussett Forest in Newtown is best avoided in icy conditions because the trail has a tilt toward the lake. That part of the trail thaws later than most because it is sheltered from the sun by a steep slope. I also will not hike the trail through Spruce Brook Gorge in the Naugatuck State Forest in Beacon Falls in anything but dry conditions for similar reasons.

Unwanted: Trails Along Sharp Drop-Offs
Another potentially unsafe condition is when the hike is directly alongside a steep drop-off, which can feel uncomfortable from a perception standpoint. The hiking term for this is “exposure.”
At West Rock, the only cliff near a hiking trail is the Konolds Pond overlook, which is not directly along an official trail. There are unofficial trails that follow the cliff line in that area, but the key word is that they are unofficial trails, so hikers proceed at their own risk.
A local example of this is the Mattabesett Trail along Mount Higby in Middletown where the trail built right along the edge of the cliff. My poster child for this is the aptly named Breakneck Ridge in Cold Spring, N.Y., which rises steeply up from the Hudson River at a sharp angle along a precipitous drop. There are many hikers who enjoy this type of hiking because Breakneck Ridge is often named on lists of top ten hiking areas to visit.

Unwanted: Difficult Stream Crossings
One other safety problem can be stream crossings that are difficult to impossible to navigate with no bridge is present.
There are no problematic stream crossings at West Rock, since the seasonal streams are small, and Wintergreen Brook passes under the trail through culverts.
The Mattatuck Trail in Morris just south of Rt. 109 has a wide crossing at Morris Brook, which is a stream that can run strongly in the spring. The way I work around that challenge is to lead hikes that do not require crossing the stream. Further south there are two challenging stream crossings that are best completed in winter when they are frozen, which is my way of approaching that situation.

Desired: Varied Terrain
Another positive characteristic of a hiking area is varied terrain with moderate climbs and descents on a trail that follows the contours of the land, as compared to a straight, flat walk. Related to this is the importance of having a forest with varied plant life, having a mixture of larger and smaller trees with an understory comprised of different shrubs and wildflowers. Ideally, trail corridors are narrow and twisting, which creates a sense of mystery, “What’s around the next bend in the trail.”
West Rock does fairly well in this category because the trails wind around through terrain that is ever-changing passing through a healthy forest with many different types of hardwood and the types of evergreen trees one would expect in Connecticut. The understory has shrubs like high bush and low bush blueberry, mountain laurel in abundance, witch hazel, spicebush, and many different wildflowers.
The Lillinonah and Zoar Trails in Newtown, and the Pequonnock Valley in Trumbull are other locations with good understories.

Unwanted: Monotonous Woods
The opposite example would be places that have a mature forest with little to no understory where the hiker can see half a mile in every direction. Other forests may be dominated by only a few tree species, typically birch and beech. The trails themselves may be wide, woods roads over level terrain, which runs straight for long distances. These places are the answer to the question, “Where have you hiked that you would not want to hike again?” I will not name, names because places that I find boring may be the favorite hiking locations of other people.
A good example of wide, straight and flat at West Rock is the Red Trail from Lake Wintergreen to Mountain Road. Those looking for a more varied hiking experience can choose to hike the White Trail instead.

Desired: Good Maps, Well Marked, Well Maintained Trails
When hikers plan an outing, they probably start with reviewing a map of the area they plan to visit, a map that is hopefully available online, or may be in a map packet, or a guidebook. When they set off on their hike, they expect that the trails will match the map, and that the trails are well marked, easy to follow, and clear of overhanging branches and blowdowns. I have certainly faced the challenge of trying to navigate an area with no blazes, blazes that come and go, or blazes in various colors that do not match the map.
After eight years of work, I believe that the trails at West Rock are well marked and well maintained. At times markings may be older and more faded than I would like, or the forest grows faster than I can prune it back on my volunteer schedule, but overall the trails can be followed and hiked without difficulty.
I have hiked my share of areas where there are not enough volunteers to take care of the trails. I will spare naming names about problematic areas for blazing and clearing.

Desired: Various Loop Hikes Available
Another component of a good hike is being able to hike in a loop, going out on one trail or trails, and returning a different way. This maximizes the hiking experience by providing different scenery throughout the day. In areas where there is only one trail, hikers have two choices: a car spot or an out-and-back. With the car spot, hikers can easily spend 30 to 45 minutes at each end of the hike moving vehicles from the starting trailhead to the ending trailhead, and returning to the first set of cars at the end. I prefer an out-and-back hike because the views and experiences are different in the other direction, and there is no time or fuel wasted moving cars.
A related feature of a hiking area is being able to plan loops of different length, depending on your schedule, your desires, and your endurance.
West Rock is a star in this category because the trail design makes many loops of varying lengths and difficulties possible.
Some of the CFPA trails require an out and back or a car spot because they are the only trails in a particular area. Loop hikes are easy to create at Sleeping Giant State Park, Devils Den Preserve in Weston, and on CFPA loop trails like the Lillinonah Trail and the Zoar Trail.

Desired: Peace and Solitude
One reason people hike is the opportunity to spend time in a quiet place, away from the sounds, crowds, and views of urban and suburban life. Some hikes may pass near highways or overlook shopping centers and densely populated areas. In popular hiking areas, hikers continuously encounter multitudes of other people who are also “looking to get away from it all.”
West Rock has a split personality in this regard. The southern section of the park, south of Lake Wintergreen has a decidedly different feeling than the northern section of the park. The southern section of West Rock has traffic noise from the Wilbur Cross Parkway, and overlooks the city of New Haven. In the northern section, West Rock has a peaceful feeling with views of reservoirs and forests with occasional road noise from Rt. 69. West Rock can be busy around Lake Wintergreen, and sometimes at the South Overlook, but in most areas hikers can go for many miles without encountering other people.

This description of characteristics leads to a list of some of my favorite hiking areas in western and south central Connecticut, which is where I mostly hike, since I live in this area. These are areas to which I return year after year because I find them interesting enough to warrant repeated visits. Some of these areas are mentioned above as having potential footing concerns, but those mostly relate to icy conditions, so I simply hike these areas when they are dry, or wear traction devices on my boots.

New Haven County
East Rock Park
·  Starting Location/Parking: There are multiple parking options for East Rock Park, including a small parking lot at the base of the entrance road at 189 Davis Street in Hamden, and within the park itself at the top of the ridge on Farnham Drive. For individuals or a small group, you could park at the Eli Whitney Museum, 915 Whitney Ave., Hamden. It would not be fair to the museum for a large group to take their parking. Website: . My preferred location for group hikes is meeting at Wilbur Cross High School, 181 Mitchell Dr., New Haven. This location should not be used during school hours.

·  Directions to Wilbur Cross High School: I-91 to Exit 6. Right on Willow St. for 0.2 miles. Right on Mitchell Dr. for 0.4 miles. Right into school. Park in the lot between the tennis courts and the school.

·  Map link: The city-created map with the names of the various landmarks is at while the Regional Council of Government map (with mileage) is at My preferred map is the city map, but I recommend bringing along both.

·  GPS track: This is a 5.2 mile loop around the park’s perimeter:

·  Why you should go: East Rock has terrific views of New Haven and the Harbor from the top. There is a stunning view to the north looking at Lake Whitney from the English Shelter. This location also provides a good perspective on West Rock Ridge. The Giant Steps are literally that, a series of rock steps up the face of East Rock. A metal railing provides security for those with a fear of falling.

·  Trail Descriptions: There are many options for hiking, including walking along the paved roads. English Drive from the English Shelter is permanently closed to motor vehicle traffic. Trails have varied terrain, but since the park tops out at about 365 feet, none are steep for very long.

Farnham Drive, the main road to the top, is closed at certain times of year. Check with New Haven Parks, Recreation, and Trees for the schedule.  This page also has a link to the website for the Friends of East Rock Park.

·  Suggested Hike: From Wilbur Cross High School, walk toward East Rock Park on Orange Street to pick up the White Trail along English Drive and the Mill River. Turn right to head south and follow the Yellow Trail across English Drive and up the Giant Steps. At the top of the steps, turn left to enjoy the views from the overlook near the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Continue along the road to the English Shelter and pick up the Yellow Trail and head the northern end of the park.

One option at the northern end is to loop down to the Eli Whitney Museum.  From there, you can return on the White Trail along the Mill River. Another option is to take the Red Trail down the east side of the park and loop over Indian Head on the Orange Trail before returning to the high school via a combination of the road and the White Trail. Note that these directions are oversimplified and you really need to pay careful attention to navigation in the park.

·  Safety concerns: There have been enough personal crime incidents reported in the media over the years that I would recommend going to the park with others, particularly if you are going to more remote areas. I think the main overlook is fine because it is typically busy. I have never had a problem in the times I have visited the park, whether solo or with a group.

I would advise against using the Giant Steps during wet, snowy, and icy conditions. I would also recommend climbing the Giant Steps (rather than descending them). The White Trail offers a suitable alternative to the Giant Steps.

·  Special considerations: It is easy to get lost at East Rock, due to a combination of factors. There are many trails and blazes are not always clear. Some trails are not marked, which can add to the confusion. Both the White and the Red Trails have multiple branches, i.e., you are on the White Trail and you come to a junction where White heads off in two different directions.

Giuffrida Park, Meriden (Chauncey Peak and Lamentation Mountain)

·  Starting Location/Parking: The parking lot for Giuffrida Park is located at, 800 Westfield Road, Meriden. There are about 20 official parking spaces, which is small, given how much use this popular park receives. When the regular spots are full, people park on the lawn and along the entry road near the parking lot.

·  Directions: : Rt. 15 North to Exit 67 or I-91 North to Exit 16 (East Main St.). Continue straight at the light for about 2 miles on Bee St./Westfield Rd. The park entrance is on the left at the sharp curve just past the golf course. I-91 South to Exit 20 (Country Club Rd.) Turn left off the ramp, then right onto Country Club Rd. (becomes Westfield Rd.) for 2.3 miles. The unmarked park entrance is on the right at the sharp curve. From I-691, take Exit 12, Preston Ave. to Broad St./Rt. 5 North for 0.4 miles. Turn right on Westfield Rd. for 0.9 miles, and left for 0.2 miles to stay on Westfield Rd. The park entrance is on the left at the sharp turn just past the golf course.  

·  Map link: The best map is published by the Regional Council of Governments. Note that this map does not show the relocated section of the Mattabesett Trail as it ascends Chauncy Peak. The trail used to climb literally straight up the south face of the peak; now a switchback along the reservoir side brings hikers up to the top:

·  GPS track: This a GPS track of a 6.5 mile hike to Chauncey Peak and Lamentation Mountain. The hike can be shortened by not hiking as far north on the Mattabesett Trail on Lamentation Mountain.

·  Why you should go: Views, views, and more views. Chauncey Peak provides excellent views to the east looking toward Mount Higby in Middlefield, to the south to Sleeping Giant and West Rock in Hamden, and to the west to the Bradley Hubbard Reservoir at the park, and West Peak, East Peak, and South Mountain in Meriden. Lamentation Mountain provides a series of views, mostly to the east and north, including the Compounce Ridge, Hartford, and the Berkshires.

·  Trail Descriptions: The Blue-Blazed Mattabesett Trail over Chauncey Peak is a switchback climb to the top from the base of the reservoir near the parking lot, thanks to a relocation done by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association in Oct. 2016. The descent from the back of Chauncey Peak to the top of the reservoir is steep and slippery. When CFPA gets additional funding,  it plans to improve this trail section. The Mattabesett Trail, the Red Trail, and the Yellow Trail on Lamentation Mountain have good footing with a moderate climb to the top. The Mattabesett Trail out to Atkins Street in Middlefield crosses gently rolling terrain. The White Trail on the west side of Bradley Hubbard is generally a wide, gravel woods road with moderate changes in elevation. The trail along the east side of the reservoir (the side closer to Chauncey Peak) is a rocky walk with a couple of short scrambles. Although listed as White on the map, you are not likely to find blazes along the east side.

·  Suggested Hike: For a 6.5 mile loop, from the parking lot, cross the lawn below the dam to reach the Mattabesett Trail, and follow the trail over Chauncey Peak. At the back of Chauncey Peak, cross the footbridge onto the White Trail, and turn right. Almost immediately turn left onto the Red Trail and walk along the slope of Lamentation Mountain. At the Blue Trail, turn right and ascend Lamentation Mountain. Just past the Red Trail is the best overlook for a lunch break, although there will be others as you hike north. Continue north on the Blue Trail to the sign for the Berlin Land Trust. Turn around at this point and either follow the Blue Trail south, or follow the wide, unmarked woods roads that parallel the trail. When you read the Yellow Trail (the blaze is on the rock face and may be hard to see and will be hidden in snow) near the top of Lamentation Mountain, turn left and follow Yellow back to the White Trail near the reservoir. At the reservoir, follow the White Trail back to the parking lot. To make this a 4.5-mile loop, head back on the Yellow Trail when you see it heading north.

For a flatter hike, take the White Trail along the west side (Lamentation Mountain side) of the reservoir, and follow this to the Mattabesett Trail out to Atkins Street and return.

·  Safety concerns: Hiking to Chauncey Peak is NOT recommended in wet and icy conditions due to the steep terrain, even with the switchbacks, and especially because the trail off the back of the peak still is steep with lots of loose rocks. The “White” Trail along the east (Chauncey Peak) side of the reservoir ia not recommended in wet and icy conditions due to uneven footing, along with a short rock scramble.

·  Special considerations: Giuffrida Park is a popular location for dog walking, and dogs are often off leash, so be aware of this if you have a dog or are afraid of dogs.

Hubbard Park (West Peak, East Peak, and South Mountain), Meriden
Starting Location/Parking: Hubbard Park is located at 999 West Main St., Meriden. The largest parking location is between the playground and the pool near the I-691 overpass.

·  Directions: I-691 Exit 4. From I-691 West, turn left on Main St. From I-691 East, turn right on Main St. Go about 1 mile, make a left into the park, and drive around the lake until you see the pool, which is near 35 Mirror Lake Dr. Note that the main driveway at Hubbard Park may be blocked off, so this slightly complicates entry into the park. If the entry is blocked off, then continue past this driveway AND continue past the open driveway that has a “No Left Turn” sign (due to the blind curve). Past the curve, make a left into the small shopping center, turn around in the center’s parking lot, and head back up the hill on West Main Street. Turn right into the secondary driveway and head into the park.

·  Map link: Map at or  

·  GPS track (South Mountain): This is a 7-mile hike to South Mountain, which includes an unmarked trail to reach the Metacomet Trail:

(West Peak and East Peak): This is a 7-mile hike to West Peak and East Peak:

·  Why you should go: West Peak (with the antenna farm) is the highest point in New Haven County at 1,024 feet, and East Peak with Castle Craig (a stone tower) is almost as high at 976 feet. Both have impressive views. South Mountain is lower, but still provides commanding views to the east and south, including Sleeping Giant, West Rock Ridge, Chauncey Peak, and Mount Higby. South Mountain is the best place to see West Peak and East Peak. Hubbard Park was designed with help from Frederick Law Olmsted and his influence can be seen in the brook and bridges at the park.

·  Trail Descriptions: The Blue-Blazed Metacomet Trail climbing to East Peak and West Peak has steep sections with loose trap rock. The White Trail and Yellow Trail are moderately steep woods roads with loose trap rock. The Metacomet Trail along the back of South Mountain is rolling terrain with good footing. The Red Trail and the unblazed trail from the Metacomet Trail to the viewpoints on South Mountain are moderately steep woods roads with loose trap rock, but generally secure footing.

·  Suggested Hike: All hikes start and end with walking along Reservoir Ave. (the paved road past the Merrimere Reservoir). Be aware of traffic when the gate to the main parking lot is open.

For South Mountain: This 7-mile hike turns right from the road onto the Metacomet Trail by the closed gate to Park Drive (a residential street outside the park). After a short distance, you will see a woods road with faint Red blazes on the right. This woods road leads to an overlook with excellent views to the south and west. Backtrack on the woods road to the Metacomet Trail and continue heading east. Just before the Elmere Reservoir is an unblazed woods road leading to an overlook toward the east. Further up the mountain is a second overlook toward the south. Backtrack to the Metacomet Trail, turning left on the Blue Trail, and left again on Reservoir Ave. to return to the parking lot. You can shorten your hike to about 5.5 miles by skipping the second set of viewpoints.

For West Peak and East Peak: This 7-mile hike turns left onto the White Trail (a wide woods road) at the base of the Merrimere Reservoir. When you reach the large gazebo, turn right on the White Trail to reach the Metacomet Trail. Turn left on the Metacomet Trail to reach East Peak and Castle Craig. If you continue on the Blue Trail past Castle Craig, the trail dips down into a saddle before climbing up to West Peak. Make a U-turn on the Blue Trail when you have  gone the distance of your choice. Turning around when you can see houses along the base of the ridge yields the 7-mile distance. On the return, stick to the paved road to connect West Peak to East Peak. From East Peak, taking the Blue Trail north to Reservoir Ave. is challenging due to the uneven footing and loose rocks. You could also walk down the road back to the parking lot.

·  Safety concerns: Portions of trails to West Peak and East Peak are steep with lots of loose trap rock, so watch your footing at all times, and consider sticking to the road when conditions are wet or icy.

·  Special considerations: The park hosts the Meriden Daffodil Festival in late April, so parking is not available that weekend. There is a tag sale the weekend prior to the festival, so parking is limited that weekend. The road East Peak and Castle Craig is open to motor vehicles during the warmer months (typically May to October), so be aware of this as you are walking along this road from the parking lot.

Kettletown State Park, Southbury

·  Starting Location/Parking: Kettletown State Park, 1400 Georges Hill Road, Southbury

·  Directions: I-84 Exit 15 to Rt. 67 South for 0.1 mile. Right on Kettletown Rd. for 3.4 miles. Right on Georges Hill Rd. for 0.8 mi. Left into the park.  Head straight past the entrance booth for parking on left by the composting toilet about 0.2 miles from the entrance. Kettletown has other parking areas, but this is a centrally-located one for hiking.

·  Map link: The full-color state map is available at The trails are managed by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA). Trail information and a map are available in the Connecticut Walk Book (West). The book map is slightly outdated because the Blue-White Crest Trail now connects to the Pomperaug Trail, rather than the paved park road. The state map shows the correct connection. The Walk Book map shows the full length of the 4.6-mile long Pomperaug Trail, whereas the state map shows the trail only to Jackson Cove.  

·  GPS track: This is the 8-mile loop throughout the entire park with an out-and-back trip to Jackson Cove in Oxford:

·  Why you should go: Kettletown offers a variety of trails along Lake Zoar under the cover of a hemlock forest. Lake Zoar is a section of the Housatonic River, which is formed by the Stevenson Dam. Many loops are possible, so you can customize your hike many different lengths. Elevation changes are moderate, and footing is good throughout the park in all four seasons. The Pomperaug Trail extends beyond the park boundaries through Jackson Cove to Fiddlehead Road in Oxford.

·  Trail Descriptions: The Pomperaug Trail and the Crest Trail pass over rocky terrain with moderate climbs and descents. The Miller Trail is mostly an old woods road with easy footing. All three trails have occasional lake views, but the views are mostly screened by the trees. The Brook Trail is a gorgeous walk along the rocky cascades of Kettletown Brook.

·  Suggested Hike: If you would like to see most of the trails in the park, this 8-mile loop does nearly all of them, with a total of 1,600 feet of climbing. Starting from the parking lot by the composting toilets or the campground, walk up the paved road to the entrance booth, then turn right on the road toward the campground, and then left onto the Blue-Blazed Pomperaug Trail heading south. At the Blue-Yellow Crest Trail, you can continue on the Pomperaug Trail to Jackson Cove, or turn right to stay within the park. If you go to Jackson Cove, you are not permitted to use the beach and facilities at this town-owned park from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but can certainly use the picnic tables off-season. Beyond Jackson Cove, a second option is taking the Pomperaug Trail south and returning on the Blue-White Oxford Loop. Going beyond Jackson Cove is NOT recommended in icy conditions because the steep slopes have poor footing. Whatever your choice of hike, return on the Crest Trail, turn left on the Pomperaug Trail, and cross the paved road to the Yellow-Blazed Brook Trail. This trail ends at the paved road to the youth campground. Turn left up the road to pick up the Blue-Blazed Miller Trail loop, which heads to the right off the road. The Miller Trail is a loop. I recommend hiking it counterclockwise, saving the lookouts off the Blue-Orange Trail for last.

·  Safety concerns: There are no safety concerns with the park, as those trails offer good footing in dry and wet conditions. The Pomperaug Trail and the Oxford Trail south of Jackson Cove are steep and the footing is not the best during icy conditions.

·  Special considerations: Kettletown has camping and swimming during the warmer months. There is a parking fee between Memorial Day and Labor Day for all park users. During the warmer months, typically May to September, the lake is actively used by boaters, so you will hear powerboat engines at these times.

Naugatuck State Forest, Mt. Sanford Block, Hamden/Cheshire

·       Starting Location/Parking: Start at the cul-de-sac at 2620 Downs Rd., Hamden, adjacent the entrance for the YMCA camp. Be sure not to block the gate to the YMCA camp.

  • Directions: From Rt. 15, Exit 59, take Rt. 69 North for 7.8 miles. Look for the brown sign for “Broken Arrow Nursery” just before the turn. Right on Gaylord Mtn. Road for 1.1 miles, then left on Downs Road to the end. From I-84, take Exit 23 to Rt. 69 South for 7.7 miles. Left on Gaylord Mtn. Rd. for 1.1 miles, then left on Downs Rd. to the end. GPS cautions: Downs Rd. is NOT a through road, so if your GPS tries to take you directly from Rt. 69 North to Downs Rd., ignore it. The alternate spelling is Downes Rd. From Rt. 69 South, it is 1 mile south of Rt. 42 and the first left turn from that direction. From Rt. 69 North, if you reach Rt. 42, you went too far. 
  • Map link:
  • Why you should go: The Naugatuck State Forest in Hamden offers varied hiking experiences with 5.7 miles of marked trails, including a challenging climb over Mt. Sanford (890 ft. of elevation) with some limited views along the way, two scenic hemlock-lined streams (Sanford Brook and Brooksvale Stream), and a moderate trails through hardwood forests on most trails.
  • The Blue-Blazed Quinnipiac Trail runs north-south through the forest from Downs Road to the section north of Rt. 42, en route to Roaring Brook Falls and its northern terminus at Rt. 68 in Cheshire. Heading south from this trailhead, the Quinnipiac Trail intersects the Regicides Trail in 4.5 miles (in West Rock Ridge State Park), en route to its southern terminus on Old Hartford Turnpike in Hamden, on the eastern boundary of Sleeping Giant State Park. The Quinnipiac Trail is managed by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA) with information and a map available in the Connecticut Walk Book (West).
  • Trail Descriptions: The Naugatuck Forest section of the Quinnipiac Trail is steep climb from the gravel road up to the summit of Mt. Sanford at 880 ft. of elevation. The Blue-Red Blazed Quinnipiac Connector Trail (also known as the Sanford Alternate Trail) is 1.3 miles long, connecting at both ends to the Quinnipiac Trail, offers a gentler climb around Mt. Sanford. There are two east-west trails in the forest, the 0.8 mile Yellow Trail and the 1.1 mile White Trail. The gas pipeline is also an unblazed trail extending for 0.8 miles. There are numerous unblazed trails, including a beautiful one following the banks of Brooksvale Stream. The Naugatuck Forest shares a boundary with the Hamden-owned Brooksvale Park which has a number of trails, all of them with faded blazes, making them challenging to follow.
  • Suggested Hike: A suggested loop within the forest is following the Quinnipiac Trail north from Downs Road, heading east on the Quinnipiac Connector Trail, then continuing east off the gravel road portion of this trail on the Yellow Trail (called Brooksvale Road on the map), and returning west to the start on the White Trail (called Brooksvale Trail on the map). This 4.9 mile loop essentially covers the entire state forest. 
  • Safety concerns: Footing is generally good throughout. In icy and snowy conditions, traction devices such as Microspikes are recommended for the steep portions of the Quinnipiac Trail. The White and Yellow Trails and the gravel road portion of the Quinnipiac Alternate Trail are open to mountain biking, so be aware there may be bikes sharing the trails. 
  • Special considerations: There is a small parking area for the Quinnipiac Trail (parking for five cars) where it crosses Rt. 42, but for those using the state forest, Downs Road is the preferred starting location, due to greater parking availability, and the fact that starting on Rt. 42 would involve an uphill climb on the return.

Naugatuck State Forest, Quillinan Reservoir, Ansonia/Seymour

·       Starting Location/Parking: There are three starting locations for the Quillinan Reservoir property.

·       There is a small dirt lot at the north end of the property that can hold maybe eight vehicles at an approximate address of 2 Rimmon Road (Rt. 313), Seymour.

·       There is parking for about 10 cars by 50 Buswell St., Ansonia, with more street parking available at the south end of the property, adjacent to the reservoir.

·       The largest parking area is available on the adjacent Ansonia Nature Center property at 10 Deerfield Rd., Ansonia.

·       Directions:

·        To 2 Rimmon Rd., Seymour (MapQuest and Bing recognize 2 Rimmon Rd., as a destination. Google maps does not recognize this address and will incorrectly put you 3 miles away on Rimmon STREET. Your car GPS may not recognize the correct address either, so plan accordingly.) 

·       Rt. 15 North to Exit 57 and continue onto Rt. 34 East for 0.9 miles. Left on Rt. 114 North for 3.5 miles. Left on Rt. 313 West for 2.1 miles. The parking lot is on the left, just before Clinton Road/Maple St. Rt. 15 South to Exit 59. Left on Rt. 69 North for 0.2 miles. Next left on Lucy St. Right on Rt. 63 North for 1.1 miles. Left on Rt. 114 West for 3.2 miles. Right on Rt. 313 West for 2.1 miles. The parking lot is on the left, just before Clinton Road/Maple St.

·       To 50 Buswell St., Ansonia: Rt. 8 North to Exit 16 and continue onto Pershing Drive. Right on Rt. 334 (Bridge St.), then right on Rt. 115 (Main St.). Next left on Tremont St. and following the curve across East Main St. Tremont St. changes name to Beaver St. Right on Myrtle Ave., then left on Buswell St. and drive to the end. Rt. 8 South to Exit 19 and continue onto Derby Ave. Left on Rt. 334 at the light, and follow over the bridge where you take a right onto Rt. 115 (Main St.) Next left on Tremont St. and following the curve across East Main St. Tremont St. changes name to Beaver St. Right on Myrtle Ave., then left on Buswell St. and drive to the end.

·        To the Ansonia Nature Center, 10 Deerfield Rd., Ansonia: Rt. 8 to Exit 15 to Rt. 34 West. Left on Rt. 115 North. Bear right on Rt. 243. Left on Prindle Ave. Right on Benz St. Left on Milan St. and continue straight onto Deerfield Rd. and the center. Rt. 15 to Exit 58 to Rt. 34 West. Right on Baldwin Rd. Left on Rt. 243 West. Right on Benz St. Right/left at Ford Rd. to stay on Benz St. Right on Milan St., and continue straight onto Deerfield Rd. and the nature center.

·       Map link: and map for mobile apps at

·       GPS track: This is a 5.4 mile hike that starts from the Ansonia Nature Center:

·       Why you should go: The Quillinan Reservoir property has about 7 miles of trails over varying terrain with small rock formations, Moulthrap Brook, and the Quillinan Reservoir as features, along with some large trees. Footing is good along the trails and elevation changes are generally mild. The trail system was fixed and extended by a group of people from the New England Mountain Biking Association (NEMBA). The reservoir property also connects directly to the Ansonia Nature Center and indirectly to Regional Water Authority's Pine Hill Trails for those looking for a longer hike. Of the three properties, the Quillinian parcel is by far the most interesting.

·       Trail Descriptions: The woods road along the western side of the property has rolling terrain. The Purple Trail and the White Trail along the eastern side of the property gently follows the contours of the terrain. The short trails running west to east are moderately steep.

·       Suggested Hike: From the Buswell Street parking lot head north on the Purple Trail and continue onto the unmarked woods road to the Rimmon Road parking lot where you can follow the Purple Trail south along the eastern side of the property. For a shorter hike, stay on the Purple Trail. For a longer hike, loop off onto the White Trail before returning to the Purple Trail.

·       Safety concerns: With multiple Purple Trails, unmarked trails, and unofficial trails, this area can be confusing to navigate. I had offered to improve the color scheme of the property by blazing the north-south woods road in Blue, changing one of the Purple loops to Purple-White, but the DEEP wanted to use Purple to cover previous unapproved blazes of other colors.

·       Special considerations: The adjoining Ansonia Nature Center property can be used to extend your hike by following its trails, which total about 2 miles. The natural center has the largest parking lot in the area, and when the center is open, you can use the restrooms. The White Trail on the Quillinan Reservoir property connects to the Green-blazed Raptor Woods Trail north of the ballfields on the nature center property. Starting from the nature center does mean you will have an uphill hike on the way back. Nature Center map:

·      The Regional Water Authority's Pine Hill Trails are across Rimmon Road, but you have to walk up the road about a third of a mile to access the entrance, as there are no official trails near the Quillinan Reservoir entrance at 2 Rimmon Rd. An RWA hiking permit is required to use these trails, which total about 3 miles. The White Trail has some limited views of the Peat Swamp reservoir. These trails overlap with unblazed woods roads and take some sharp turns, so keep an eye on the blazes to make sure you are on the trail. Pine Hill Trails map:

  • Timberlands, Guilford
  • Westwoods, Guilford

Fairfield County
Lillinonah Trail, Upper Paugussett State Forest, Newtown

  • Starting Location/Parking: There is a dirt parking lot at the Pond Brook Boat Launch, 160 Hanover Rd., Newtown.
  • Directions: I-84 Exit 10 to Rt. 6 W. for 0.6 miles. Right on The Boulevard (becomes Hanover Rd.) for 3.4 miles. 
  • Map link: Upper Paugussett State Forest map, The Lillinonah Trail is a Blue-Blazed Trail managed by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA) with information and map available in the Connecticut Walk Book (West).

  • Why you should go: The Blue-Blazed Lillinonah Trail is located in the Upper Paugussett State Forest and winds through through a hemlock forest and rock formations adjacent to Lake Lillinonah, a 1,900-acre lake formed on the Housatonic River by the Shepaug Dam. About half of the hike is along the lake and Pond Brook, an inlet to the lake.
  • Trail Description: The Lillinonah Trail is 6.5 miles long, and winds up and down many climbs and ascents totaling 1,200 feet of elevation gain.
  • Suggested Hike: Starting from the Pond Brook parking area, turn left on Hanover Road. The blue trail markings are on the left in about 0.1 miles. Follow the markings in your choice of direction, clockwise or counterclockwise, to complete the loop. You can use the Brody Road (a dirt woods road) or the Upper Gussy Trail to create shorter loops.
  • Safety concerns: A few portions of the trail have short, steep climbs, so this trail is best used in dry conditions for maximum traction. Hunting is permitted, so wear blaze orange during hunting season (primarily September to December), or hike on Sundays when hunting is not permitted. 
  • Special considerations: There are other trails and woods roads within the state forest. Pay careful attention to the blazes as the trail crosses and sometimes follows woods roads. Along the way, you may see other markers for Al's Trail, a trail that passes through the forest. The most scenic part of the trail is closed from Dec. 15 to March 15 to allow eagles to nest.  During the warmer months, typically May to September, the lake is used by boaters, so you will hear boat engines at these times. Lake Lillinonah gets much less powerboat traffic than Lake Zoar.
Pequonnock River Valley, Trumbull

·     Starting Location/Parking: There are three parking areas for the Pequonnock River Valley. Two parking areas provide direct access to the Housatonic Rail Trail. One parking area is on Tait Road, off Route 127 (Church Hill Road/White Plains Road). The other parking area is off Whitney Avenue, east of Main Street (Route 111). The Tait Road parking area is frequently full with cars parked along the length of the road. The Whitney Avenue parking lot is small (maybe 5 to 7 cars) and may not have any room available on a busy weekend. There is no street parking available on Whitney Avenue. The Pequonnock River Valley is adjacent to Indian Ledge Park, a Trumbull town park. If you do not have a current Trumbull parking sticker (available only to residents) and you park at Indian Ledge, the Trumbull park ranger will surely find your car and issue a parking ticket. The commonly-used parking area for the east side of the Pequonnock River is the state Park and Ride lot (aka commuter parking lot) at 50 Park St., off Route 25, Exit 9.

·       Directions: For the Park and Ride: Take I-95 Exit 27A (Rt. 25 North) or Merritt Pkwy. Exit 49 (Rt. 25 North). Rt. 25 to Exit 9 (Daniels Farm Road). Left onto Daniels Farm Rd. at light, then next right onto Park St.  CPL will be on the left. From I-84, take Exit 9 (Rt. 25 South). At Rt. 111, Rt. 25 becomes a six-lane highway. Get off at Exit 9 (Daniels Farm Road.). The CPL will be opposite the exit ramp. For the rail trail parking at 10 Tait Road, follow the directions to the Park and Ride (with these changes). From Rt. 25 North, turn left onto Daniels Farm Road, then right onto Church Hill Rd. (Rt. 127), and right onto Tait Road. From Rt. 25 South, turn left onto Park Street, right onto Daniels Farm Road, then right onto Church Hill Rd. (Rt. 127), and right onto Tait Road.

·       Map link: The Pequonnock River Valley is owned 60 percent by the state and 40 percent by the town, which means it can fall between the cracks with regard to any maintenance. There is no official state or local map for the property. However, Rich Coffey, a dedicated mountain biker did some valued trail work in the property and created this map:

·       GPS track: This is a 6-mile loop on the eastern side of the Pequonnock River with a mild 550 feet of elevation gain:

·       Why you should go: The Pequonnock River Valley is a beautiful property along the Pequonnock River with hemlock-lined trails set against a backdrop of rock formations. The western side of the river offers an easy loop along a well-groomed stone dust surface rail trail that is 2.5 miles from Tait Road to Whitney Avenue. You can extend your walk (or ride) to 3.5 miles by continuing through Parlor Rock Park and Old Mine Park in Trumbull. The rail trail is 10 miles long, passing through Monroe and ending in Newtown, but there are several on-road sections in Monroe. The eastern side of the valley has trails that are mostly flat along the river with some mild inclines as you get closer to Route 25. Footing is good in all four seasons, although some of the flatter trails may ice over in winter and early spring.

·       Trail Descriptions: The White Trail is a wide, mostly flat woods road that runs the length of the property. The Blue Trail is a narrow single track trail with lots of roots, and it follows the river. The Red Trail and the Yellow Trail have some modest climbs. You may hear road noise on these trails as they are close to Route 25.

·       Suggested Hike: Starting from the Park Street lot, turn left on Park Street. At the cul-de-sac, turn left into the forest. You have to cross the stream on rocks, which is not always easy to do. After crossing the stream, turn right on the White Trail and then right again on the Red Trail. The Red Trail and the Yellow Trail intertwine, so you can follow one, the other or both, which eventually merge back with the White Trail near Indian Ledge Park. Follow the White Trail to Indian Ledge Park where you can find some picnic tables to eat your lunch. Take the Blue Trail south, which connects off the White Trail. The Blue Trail parallels the river and eventually merges back with the White Trail. Follow the White Trail out to the stream crossing and Park Street. Expect that you may get turned around as trail markings are not always consistent, especially in the area of the old reservoir bed where there are few trees to blaze.

·       Safety concerns: The valley east of the Pequonnock River is open to hunting from October to December on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The area is so well used by mountain bikers and hikers that I doubt many hunters are in the woods, but wear blaze orange just in case.

·       Special considerations: The rail trail and the single-track trails east of the river are VERY popular with mountain bikers, so be aware that they may appear without warning. There are many unmarked trails in the valley, so pay careful attention to the trail blazes, as it is easy to get lost. You cannot get too lost as you are bordered by the river on the west and Route 25 on the west. Some trails are low-lying and may be muddy portions of the year, so wear waterproof boots. Entering the property from Park Street, you have to cross a stream that is about 20 feet wide on the rocks, as there is no bridge. You cannot easily create a loop using the rail trail and the trails east of the river, due to a lack of bridges. You could hike the regular trails out to Indian Ledge Park, turn left and walk on Whitney Avenue (which is narrow with no sidewalk) to the rail trail, and turn left on the rail trail to return south, but then you have an uphill walk along busy Daniels Farm Road (with a sidewalk) to return to the Park Street lot.

Saugatuck Falls Natural Area, Redding

Saugatuck Trail, Redding/Weston

Zoar Trail, Lower Paugussett State Forest, Newtown

·  Starting Location/Parking: There are multiple trailheads for the Zoar Trail, but the largest and most commonly used one is located at the end of Great Quarter Rd., Newtown, off Route 34, just west of the junction with Route 111. The address 990 Great Quarter Road should work for GPS to get you close.

·  Directions: I-84 Exit 11 to Rt. 34 East for 4.9 miles. Left on Great Quarter Rd., just before Rt. 111, and go 1.3 miles to end. From Rt. 15 or I-95, take Rt. 25 North to Rt. 111. Right on Rt. 111 North to the end. Left on Rt. 34 West for 0.2 miles. Right on Great Quarter Rd. to the end.

·  Map link: Lower Paugussett State Forest map, The Zoar Trail is a Blue-Blazed Trail managed by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA) with information and map available in the Connecticut Walk Book (West). The Walk Book map is slightly outdated because it shows a road walk along Great Quarter Drive, which was eliminated in 2011.

·  GPS track: 7-mile counterclockwise loop using the full Zoar Trail (1,400 ft. of elevation gain: mile clockwise loop using the Zoar Trail to the Blue-Yellow Bypass Trail (1,200 ft. of elevation gain):

·   Why you should go: The Zoar Trail features a mixture of water views and rolling inland hills along the Lake Zoar section of the Housatonic River, which is formed by the Stevenson Dam. Midway along the lake, Prydden Falls offers a long, multi-step drop into the lake with excellent views from a side trail. Across the lake are the forested slopes of Kettletown State Park.

·  Trail Descriptions: The Zoar Trail is rugged with many climbs and descents that will give you a good workout. The eastern side parallels Lake Zoar, giving ongoing water views. The western side passes through upland rock formations. Hemlocks provide shade throughout the forest.

·  Suggested Hike: My preferred direction is hiking clockwise because this places more of the climbing in the first half of the hike, and if you do the full Zoar Trail, you descend the steep slope. To hike clockwise, start from the trailhead to the left if you are facing the cul-de-sac. If you immediately get a water view, you are hiking counterclockwise. I recommend taking the Zoar Trail to the Blue-Yellow Bypass Trail, which is a woods road, to avoid the steep slope. Be sure to walk down the unblazed trail along Prydden Falls to enjoy views of the waterfall. You can create shorter loops using the other Blue-Yellow Trail in combination with the woods roads and unblazed trails. I have not walked the unblazed trails, so I cannot say if they are easy to follow or even exist.

·  Safety concerns: The trail along the lake is angled slightly downhill, so footing can be perilous in icy conditions, which may last well into April. There is a steep climb (heading counterclockwise) or descent (heading clockwise) at the northern end of the forest with a 29 percent slope, where the footing can be challenging, even in the best of conditions. The Zoar Trail is best used in dry conditions for maximum safety. Wear traction devices in icy conditions. There are two significant crossings of Prydden Brook, which can be difficult at times of high water, as there are no bridges. Hunting is permitted, so wear blaze orange during hunting season (primarily September to December), or hike on Sundays when hunting is not permitted. There are THREE Blue-Yellow Trails in the forest, so be sure you are following the correct one if you are using the Bypass Trail.

·  Special considerations: A 1-mile section of the Zoar Trail along Lake Zoar is closed from April 1 to August 15 to protect nesting hawks. Use the Blue-Yellow Bypass Trail (which has the benefit of avoiding the steep hill at the northern end of the forest. There are other trails and woods roads within the state forest, so keep a careful eye on the blazes to stay on the correct trail. During the warmer months, typically May to September, the lake is used by boaters, so you will hear powerboat engines at these times.


Litchfield County

Hidden Valley Preserve, Washington Depot

·  Starting Location/Parking: There is a dirt parking lot at 110 Bee Brook Rd. (Rt. 47), Washington Depot, south of the bridge over the Shepaug River, 1.2 mi. N. of jct. with Rt. 199 in Washington Depot, or 2 miles south of Rt. 202. 

·  Directions: I-84 Exit 15 to Rt. 67 North for 5.4 miles. Left on Rt. 47 North for 10.3 miles. The parking area is on the right BEFORE the bridge over the Shepaug River. From central Conn., take Rt. 4 West to Rt. 118 West to Rt. 202 West. Ten miles west of Litchfield Green, turn left on Rt. 47 South for 2 miles, and park on the left AFTER the bridge over the Shepaug River. 

·  Map link: This is the latest map of the preserve, but as of Nov. 2016, it does not show the suspension pedestrian bridge near the parking lot, which parallels the road bridge along Rt. 47. The bridge connects the Orange Square Trail to the White Circle Trail.

·  GPS track: This is an 8.7 mile loop up to the Pinnacle, over to the quarry, and along the river which can easily be shortened to 6.6 miles by skipping the section along Bee Brook,

·  Why you should go: Hidden Valley is a 650-acre preserve that offers the opportunity to hike along the twisty Shepaug River and narrow Bee Brook under the cover of large hemlock trees in an area that feels ancient and untouched. Other features include a view of the area from the Pinnacle, an old quartz quarry, rugged rock formations, and two impressive pedestrian bridges over the river.

·  Trail Descriptions: Trails are generally wide with good footing and are clearly blazed. Intersections can be confusing because Hidden Valley sometimes has the same color headed in three directions. Also note that there are various White Diamond Trails in the preserve, which is Hidden Valley's way of denoting short connector trails.

·  Suggested Hike: From the parking lot, follow the Yellow Circle Trail to the Pinnacle for the view, and then head north to the Lookout and the Quartz Mine. Return to the parking lot along the Yellow Circle Trail. In dry conditions, switch from the Yellow Circle Trail to the Orange Square Trail for closer river views along the last portion of the hike. As noted in the Safety Concerns section below, do not use the Orange Square Trail in icy conditions.

Extend this hike by taking the Green Square Trail east from the Quartz Mine, and heading north along the Yellow Square Trail. Return back to the Quartz Mine area along the Shepaug Railroad bed using the Yellow Square to the Green Square Trails. As with the shorter loop, return to the parking lot using either the Yellow Circle Trail, or the Yellow Circle Trail to the Orange Square Trail.

A second extension is possible from south of the Quartz Mine by crossing the pedestrian bridge and turning right onto the White Circle Trail and following that loop along the Shepaug River and returning along Bee Brook to the suspension bridge and the parking lot. As noted in the Safety Concerns section below, do not use the White Circle Trail in icy conditions.

For a relatively flat, easy hike, simply follow the various trails along the river, out and back. These include Yellow Circle, Green Square and Yellow Square.

·  Safety concerns: The Orange Square Trail and the White Circle Trail along the Shepaug River are narrow and fairly close to a steep slope down to the river. These trails should be avoided in icy conditions. On the map they are shown with a dashed line, indicating they are for hiking only (no horses or bicycles). In such conditions, the Yellow Circle Trail is a suitable alternative to the Orange Square Trail. The Green Circle Trail could be used as an alternative to the White Circle Trail. After crossing the bridge on the Yellow Circle Trail, there is a long staircase with switchbacks to reach the White Circle Trail. This, too, would be difficult to navigate safely in icy conditions.

·  Special considerations: Maintaining this preserve is expensive, so consider becoming a member of the Steep Rock Association:

Steep Rock Preserve, Washington Depot

Mine Hill and Carter Preserves, Roxbury

This is my format for future hikes to add:

·  Starting Location/Parking: T

·  Directions: T

·  Map link: T

·  GPS track: T

·  Why you should go: T

·  Trail Descriptions: T

·  Suggested Hike: T

·  Safety concerns: T

·  Special considerations: T

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