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Hikes Beyond West Rock: RWA Properties

Pine trees grow on top of rocks along the banks of Lake Hammonasset in this view from the Green Trail in February 2012.

Disclaimer: The information presented here was believed to be accurate at the time it was posted in June 2020. Trails can change over time, including being closed, relocated, and blazed a different color. The website links were checked and working in June 2020. It is reasonable to assume that as organizations continue to update websites, links will change and old web addresses will not work. If a link does not work, just do a search for that trail or property to locate the current website.

RWA Overview
The South Central Regional Water Authority (RWA) allows hiking access to nine properties in south central Connecticut with more than 50 miles of trails. Six of those properties have a reservoir. Access to the property is through an annual permit purchased from the water company. Bicycling is permitted on three properties from April 15 to December 31. Five properties allow fishing from opening day in April to Nov. 30.
The RWA has properties where no public access is permitted. This includes Lake Chamberlain and Lake Dawson near West Rock, and Lake Gaillard in North Branford.

The RWA website lists the areas and their allowed uses, along with permit options and costs. When you purchase or renew a permit, the RWA will send you a black and white map for each property that includes information about the property and its trails. The permit comes with the secret code needed to unlock the gate to the parking area or entrance. Updated, full color maps are available on the website for the South Central Connecticut Regional Council of Governments: https://scrcog.org/regional-planning/regional-trails/

When I first became aware of these properties, I questioned why I had to purchase a permit to hike there when I had all these other areas I could hike for free. The reality is that owning land and maintaining trails has a cost.
State parks and forests are funded through taxes and the Passport to the Parks fee on vehicle registrations. Land trusts and organizations like The Nature Conservancy and the Aubudon Society are supported by donations. In all these areas, volunteers typically perform trail maintenance with perhaps some support from paid staff. The RWA uses paid staff to maintain and monitor its areas.

The permit price for a year of access is less than the cost of other activities, including tickets for ski lifts, amusements parks and movies.

I created this page because there is little information out there to discuss the trails from a user point of view. In this guide, I give map links, driving directions, suggestions for where to go, and extensions to adjacent properties.

The Claire C. Bennitt Recreation Program is named for Bennitt who was instrumental in the formation of the RWA as a means of protecting 27,000 acres of watershed land, and later served 32 years on the RWA’s Board of Directors, including 10 years as chairperson. In the 1970s, the former for-profit New Haven Water Company proposed selling 40 percent of its lands to raise the money needed to construct water treatment plants to meet the standards of the Safe Water Drinking Act of 1974. Bennitt was heavily involved in the movement to block the sale of the watershed land, actions that ultimately led to the creation of the non-profit RWA, which purchased the assets of that company, and preserved most of that land.
The RWA did sell off some non-essential properties that were preserved as open space. The Lake Wintergreen property that became part of West Rock Ridge State Park was sold because Lake Wintergreen was too small to justify constructing a filtration plant. The Racebrook Tract in Orange, which has no reservoir and became a town-owned open space area with hiking trails, was another property that was sold.
This 2011 article “RWA Renames Recreation Program for Bennitt” provides additional details on her work: https://www.zip06.com/article/20110106/NWS10/301069807


How These Hiking Areas Are Described
The theme of this RWA page is different than the other hiking pages on this website, which presents information on areas I find interesting enough to warrant repeat visits. I am including information about all these RWA properties to guide others in selecting a hike, since such information is not otherwise available.
There is really only one RWA property that I would recommend as a hiking destination that would provide an above-average hiking experience: Lake Hammonasset.
Two others are more interesting than other RWA properties: Maltby Lakes and the Pine Hill Trails, but they are on the smaller side, so they appeal to people who live nearby. Lake Bethany and Lake Chamberlain are each circled by a wide, uninteresting woods road that provides brief glimpses of a pretty reservoir, and are somewhat redeemed by other trail options described below.
Big Gulph, Genesee and Sugarloaf have no reservoirs for visual appeal. Big Gulph and Genesee are primarily composed of woods roads with some side trails for added interest. Sugarloaf has mostly foot paths, but falls into a special category because of its poor trail conditions that make it not recommended as a hiking destination, the details of which are discussed in that section of this guide.
If someone had to select an area to hike, there are options beyond water company properties that are better choices. Using Genesee as an example, if someone was looking to hike in that area of Connecticut, superior choices just a few minutes drive away include Lake Hammonasset, Chatfield Hollow State Park, the Chatfield Trail, and the Timberland Preserve, all of which have water and rock features that Genesee does not have, which add interest to a hike. As a result, if someone had never been to any of these places, any of these four would be a more interesting hike than Genesee.

General Overview of RWA Properties
Most RWA properties can be best described as a pleasant woodlands stroll perfect for the casual hiker. Since most trails are actually gravel woods roads that run as straight and flat as possible, they lack the interest that comes from hiking a narrow trail that winds its way over rolling hills through the woods. The woods roads also keep people away from the reservoirs, limiting views of these bodies of water. The maps show only those roads and trails that are open to the public. The properties typically have access roads that go to locations restricted to water company employees.
Another factor that limits the potential interest of these areas is that the RWA logs its properties on a regular basis, and also sells firewood permits. This means that in many properties the woods themselves are not that interesting, seemingly dominated by young trees that are six inches in diameter or smaller. If you see a small white sign with a person’s name in black marker on a tree, that is a firewood permit.

On the plus side, the RWA properties are uncrowded because the need for a permit limits those who actually use its trails. Hunting is prohibited, so that removes a factor that may keep people out of the woods during that season.
The wide woods roads have secure footing, making them good choices for hiking, even when conditions may be wet from rain or icy during the winter. They are also good choices for cross-country skiing. Since they are so wide, there is little danger of brushing up against plants that may be harboring ticks, excepting those places where grass is growing on the road itself. When you can see them, the reservoirs are scenic. The trails are generally maintained reasonably well, including adequate trail markings and pruning. The parking lots typically have a portable toilet.

For those who have never hiked the RWA properties, the permit is worth purchasing, giving someone a year to hike all the trails, and then decide if they like them enough to renew the permit. Other people I hike with find properties like Lake Bethany and Lake Chamberlain perfectly charming, so use these notes to form your own opinion.
One other important note about the RWA properties: since they are watershed, dogs are prohibited.

Three properties (Genesse, Lake Saltonstall and Maltby Lakes) allow mountain biking and that automatically makes them more interesting because a biker has to use a variety of skills to navigate the area and is typically more focused on staying upright than watching the scenery.

 

The hikes are grouped into two categories: those that have a reservoir on the property and those that don’t. The town name indicates where the parking area(s) are located. Properties are listed alphabetically. 

 

Listed in order of a quality hiking experience from most to least interesting:

Lake Hammonasset, Maltby Lakes, Lake Chamberlain, Pine Hill Trails, Lake Bethany, Genesee, Lake Saltonstall, Big Gulph, and Sugarloaf.

 

Reservoirs

Lake Bethany, Bethany

Lake Chamberlain, Woodbridge

Lake Hammonasset, Killingworth

Lake Saltonstall, Branford

Maltby Lakes, West Haven

Pine Hill Trails (Peat Swamp Reservoir), Seymour/Woodbridge

 

Woods Only

Big Gulph, North Branford

Genesee, Madison

Sugarloaf, Guilford

 

Lake Bethany, Bethany

·  Area Overview: The Lake Bethany property features this reservoir with a trail that loops around it, providing views of the lake. Trails to the south of the parking lot are footpaths that lead to a brief, but scenic view of the West River.

·  Starting Location/Parking: Park in the gravel lot at200 Hatfield Hill Rd., Bethany, which has room for about 10 cars.  

·  Directions: Rt. 15 to Exit 59, then north on Rt. 69 for 5.4 miles. Right onto Hatfield Hill Rd. for 0.5 miles. The parking lot is on the right, just past the powerlines.

From I-84, take Exit 23 to Rt. 69 South for 10 miles. Left on Hatfield Hill Rd. for 0.5 miles. The parking lot is on the right, just past the powerlines. 

·  Map link: http://scrcog.org/wp-content/uploads/trails/RWA/alt/RecTrails_RWA3_Alt_6-2-16.pdf 

·  Trail Descriptions: The White Trail is a 2.2-mile long wide, fairly flat woods road that loops around the lake. There are reservoir views along the way, particularly where the trail crosses an arm of the reservoir on its eastern side. The southern part of the loop is actually along the dam on Hatfield Hill Road, and this section has a brief hill. The northern part of the loop is briefly on Hoadley Road. The 0.3-mile long Blue Circle Trail is a spur trail off the White Trail that passes through an evergreen forest with some views of the reservoir. The 0.5-mile long Orange Triangle Trail links The White Trail to the 0.6-mile long Red Circle Trail. Orange is a woods road that narrows to a footpath at the Red Trail, which is also a footpath. Yellow Triangle is a brief spur trail to bring hikers to the West River for a view. Orange, Red and Yellow clearly do not receive a lot of use, so they may be slightly difficult to follow.

·  Suggested Hike: From the parking area, head south on the Orange Trail away from the road. At mile 0.6, turn right on the Red Circle Trail the second time you see it. At mile 0.9 turn left on the Yellow Triangle Trail for a scenic view of the West River where it passes through a ravine lined by evergreen trees. Return on the Yellow Trail, then turn left on the Red Circle Trail to complete the loop. At mile 1.3, turn left on the Orange Circle Trail to backtrack to the parking lot. At mile 1.8, turn left on Hatfield Hill Road and follow it west. At the end of the dam, turn right to enter the woods at mile 2.1 and head north on the White Trail. At 2.9 miles, turn right on Hoadley Road. At 3.2 miles, turn right on the White Trail and head south. At mile 3.8, turn right on the Blue Circle trail, returning to the White Trail at Hatfield Hill Road at mile 4.2. Go straight to head east along the road, then turn right to return to the parking area for a 4.3 mile hike.

By following the loop this way, the only real climb (the return back to the parking lot) takes place in the first part of the hike.

·  GPS track: This 4.3 mile hike uses all the trails in the preserve and has a minimal 400 ft. of elevation gainhttp://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/157117310 

·  Safety concerns: As you walk along Hatfield Hill Road, be aware of cars because the this narrow, low traffic road does not have a useable shoulder. 

·  Special considerations: Those looking for a longer hike have other options a short drive away. The natural choice would be the Lake Chamberlain property. The Quinnipiac Trail is nearby off Downs Road, as is the Naugatuck State Forest, Mt. Sanford Block. The Sanford Feeder trailhead on Sanford Road, Bethany, leads to West Rock Ridge State Park. 

 

Lake Chamberlain, Woodbridge

· Area Overview: The Lake Chamberlain property features this reservoir with a trail that loops around it, providing views of the lake. The real highlight of this area is to hike to the adjacent Sperry Park in Woodbridge for views of the cascades at Sperry Falls.

·  Starting Location/Parking: The parking lot with room for 20 cars is located at 97 Sperry Road, Woodbridge. Additional parking is available along Sperry Road.

·  Directions: If your car GPS or phone tell you to take Rt. 63 or Rt. 69 to Dillon Road to Sperry Road, DO NOT follow this route, as Sperry Road is a mile-long narrow and bumpy dirt road that is blocked off by two gates in the winter. Instead, take Rt. 69 (Litchfield Tpke.) to Morris Road, and then left to Sperry Road as described in the directions below:
Rt. 15 to Exit 59, then north on Rt. 69 for 4 miles. Left onto Morris Rd. at the Woodbridge-Bethany border (by the sign for Whitlock Farm Book Barn) to the end, then left onto Sperry Rd. The parking lot is the SECOND gate on the right, just past the “Road Closed Ahead” sign.
From I-84, take Exit 23 to Rt. 69 South for 11.7 miles. Right onto Morris Rd. and follow above directions.

·  Map link: http://scrcog.org/wp-content/uploads/trails/RWA/alt/RecTrails_RWA4_Alt_6-2-16.pdf 

·  Trail Descriptions: The Blue-Yellow, the Purple, and the Red Trails at Lake Chamberlain are mostly singletrack. The White and Green Trails are wide woods roads. Hikers are unlikely to use the Red or Green Triangle Trails to Old Mill Road or the Blue Triangle Trail to Sperry Road unless they live along those roads. The woods road extends beyond the Green Trail to connect to Sperry Road and the access to Sperry Park and Sperry Falls, which are a Woodbridge town property.

·  Suggested Hike: From the parking area, cross the footbridge, then turn left on the Green Trail and head toward the dam, going past the Purple Trail. At mile 0.2, turn right on the Red Circle Trail before the dam and follow the shore of the reservoir north. At mile 0.6, continue straight on the White Rectangle Trail, following the shore of the reservoir counterclockwise. At mile 2.2 at the base of the lake by the dam, walk across the grassy field bearing slightly to the east to pick up the Purple Trail.

(For those desiring a shorter hike of 2.5 miles, turn left on the White Trail, following it across the base of the dam. At the end of the dam past the Red and Purple Trails, continue straight to return to the boardwalk leading to the parking area.)

At mile 2.8, continue straight on the Blue-Yellow Rectangle Trail, just past the gas pipeline. At mile 3.2, turn left to stay on Blue-Yellow where an unmarked trail continues straight. At mile 3.3, turn left on Sperry Road heading north where Blue-Yellow turns right to follow Sperry Road south. At mile 3.5, turn sharply right onto the dirt road leading into Sperry Park, continuing along the woods road past the dirt parking lot. Arrive at Sperry Falls at mile 3.7, which is good timing for a break.

After enjoying the falls, follow the woods road back to Sperry Road. Continue straight past the gate on the unnamed woods road where Sperry Road turns right. Turn right just past the gate to follow the Green Circle Trail back to the parking area (Green also goes straight after the gate), arriving back in 4.4 miles. (The eastern part of the Green Trail is more interesting because it is a footpath, while the western part is a woods road).

For an additional loop, turn right on Sperry Road from the parking lot heading south. At 5 miles, turn right and go past the gate and continue straight on the Green Circle Trail where it follows the old road. (You previously wanted to turn right here.) At the base of the spillway, turn right on the Green Circle Trail, then right again to follow the footbridge back to the parking area for a 5.8-mile hike.

·  GPS track: This 5.8-mile hike uses most of the trails on the property, and can easily be shortened to 4.4 miles by not doing a second loop involving the Green Trail. Total elevation gain is a mild 500 ft. Track:https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/413832082

·  Safety concerns: When walking along Sperry Road, be aware of the occasional car. The road is little used and plenty wide, so there is plenty of room to walk.

·  Special considerations: The Lake Chamberlain property connects to the Bishop Estate East and Darling House Trails, which are to the west of the West Rock, via the Bishop West property with a one-way hike of about 1.5 miles.

Map at http://scrcog.org/wp-content/uploads/trails/woodbridge/alt/RecTrails_WO3_Alt_6-2-16.pdf 

 

Lake Hammonasset, Killingworth

· Why you should go: This is the RWA’s most interesting property because it has side trails off the main White Trail loop that have reservoir views and rock formations, plus a view of the rocky cascades on the Hammonasset River.

·  Starting Location/Parking: Lake Hammonasset parking lot, 551 North Branford Rd. (Rt. 80) in Killingworth. The parking lot has room for about 15 cars.

·  Directions: From I-95 North, take Exit 61 to Rt. 79 North for 5.6 miles, then right on Rt. 80 East for 1.6 miles. The parking lot is on the left, marked by a brown sign.
From I-95 South, take Exit 63 to Rt. 81 North for 5 miles, then left on Rt. 80 West for 2.4 miles. The parking lot is on the right.
From the north, take Rt. 9 South to Exit 9 to Rt. 81 South for 8 miles, then right on Rt. 80 West for 2.4 miles. The parking lot is on the right. 

·  Map link: http://scrcog.org/wp-content/uploads/trails/RWA/alt/RecTrails_RWA5_Alt_6-2-16.pdf

·  Trail Descriptions: The White Trail is mostly a wide woods road on the west side of the lake, but has some narrower sections along the east side. The southern end of the White Trail has a dramatic view of the Route 80 arch bridge over the Hammonasset River. The Green Trail and the Yellow Trail along the lake are narrow with potentially slippery footing in icy conditions, but have scenic lake views. The Yellow Trail is a wide woods road when not near the lake. The Orange Trail is a wide woods road with few lake views to reward hikers for the extra distance (as compared to simply staying on the White Trail, plus the footing is rocky). The Red Trail offers some scenic lake views. There are many unmarked woods roads on the property, so pay careful attention to blazes as you hike. Although the entrance is in Killingworth, more of the trails are in Madison.

·  Suggested Hike: This 8.6 mile hike uses virtually all the trails in the preserve, hiking in a clockwise direction, which places the more challenging trails in the first two thirds of the hike. The loop can be shortened by skipping the Yellow and Red Trail between the two forks of the lake, and the Green Trail at the southen end of the lake, but these are the most interesting trails on the property. The White Trail has some tricky twists and turns where it intersects similar-looking woods roads that are unblazed, so pay attention to the blazes as you hike.

From the parking area, follow the entry road toward Rt. 80, turning right on White Rectangle Trail just before the gate. At mile 01, turn right Green Trail (easy to miss) and ascend short, steep hill, looping past the lower portion of the lake. At the end of Green, turn right on the White Trail at mile 0.8, soon walking past the spillway and under the arched bridge for Route 80. At mile 1.2, follow the pathway to the dam for a reservoir view and return, heading north on the White Trail. Continue past the Orange Trail on the right and the Blue Trail on the left, each of which has two junctions with the White Trail. Those hikers who want to do maximum mileage could hike both loops. At mile 2.8, bear right to stay on the White Trail where an unblazed woods road goes left out to Summer Hill Road. At mile 2.9, turn right on an unmarked woods road that leads to a water view by brick building and return to the White Trail, continuing to head east. At mile 3.2, turn right on the White-Yellow Connector Trail, which is easy to miss. At mile 3.3, turn right on the Yellow Trail heading south between the two forks of the reservoir (Yellow also goes left here). At mile 3.9, turn left on the Red Triangle (Lookout Trail) for a lunch stop.
From the overlook, return to the Yellow Trail, turn left, and then soon turn right the Red Circle Trail heading south. Red starts out as wide woods road, but becomes a narrow trail near the lake’s edge. At mile 4.9 at the end of the Red Trail, turn right on the Yellow Trail, continuing to head north. At mile 5.40 at the end of the Yellow Trail, turn right on the White Trail (White also goes left here). At 5.6 continue straight on White (the Blue Trail is on the left). At mile 5.8, bear right on the White Trail where an unblazed woods road continues straight. At mile 6.1, cross a footbridge at the top of the lake. At mile 6.2, turn right to follow the White Trail where briefly leaves the woods road, but then soon rejoins the road. At mile 6.6, turn right on White where wide woods road goes left to North Chestnut Hill Road. At mile 6.9, turn left on White where it briefly follows awide woods road called Abner Lane that leads to North Chestnut Hill. At mile 7, turn right where the White Trail leaves Abner Lane and becomes narrow trail along stone wall. At mile 7.7, turn right on White, hiking toward the lake and away from North Chestnut Hill Road. At mile 8.6, arrive back at the parking lot.

·  GPS track: This 8.6 mile hike has 800 ft. of elevation gain, and no climb exceeds 100 ft. of elevation gain. Note that this hike uses the Orange Trail, which I recommend skipping because it offers little advantage as to simply staying on the White Trail: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/150580341

·  Safety concerns: The Green, Red and Yellow Trails along the lake are narrow with potentially slippery footing in icy conditions. In such conditions, just stay on the White Trail

·  Special considerations: The lake is long and narrow, so just staying on the White Trail is the shortest loop at about 6 miles. Those desiring a shorter hike will have to do an out and back. The Summer Hill Trail is a Blue Trail on an adjacent property in Madison.

 

Lake Saltonstall, Branford

·  Area Overview: The trail layout at Lake Saltonstall makes it a frustrating place to hike. The Red Triangle Trail ascends a steep hill north of the parking area, then extends most of the way down the west side of the lake before a sign indicates you must turn around, since hikers are not permitted near the southern end of the lake. There are no good reservoir views along the entire trail, just screened views through the trees. On the west side of the trail is a neighborhood in East Haven, which can be clearly seen at times.

The Green Circle Trail is a loop along the east side of the lake. The part of the loop closer to Hosley Avenue is mostly under the powerlines, an area with numerous muddy spots. The only really scenic trail is the roughly one mile of the Green Trail along the lake. This is an area that is better enjoyed on a mountain bike where a rider can enjoy the non-technical terrain (excepting the one climb). Mountain biking is permitted from April 15 to December 31.

·  Starting Location/Parking: There are two parking areas at Lake Saltonstall, the hiker parking lot at 400 Hosley Ave., Branford, one-third of a mile west of Brushy Plain Road. The fisherman parking lot is located at 100 Hosley Ave., Branford, 1.2 miles west of Brushy Plain Road.

·  Directions to the hiker parking lot: I-95, Exit 54. From I-95 North, turn left on Cedar St. From I-95 South, turn right on Cedar Street. (becomes Brushy Plain Rd.) for 1.4 miles. Left on Hosley Ave. for 0.3 miles. The parking lot is on the right just before the sharp turn in the road.
I-91, Exit 8, to Route 80 East for 3.8 miles. Right on Totoket Rd. (becomes Brushy Plain Rd.) for 1.6 miles. Right on Hosley Ave. for 0.3 miles. The parking lot is on the right just before the sharp turn in the road.
For the fisherman parking lot, continue past the hiker parking lot for another mile, then turn right into that parking lot.

·  Map link: http://scrcog.org/wp-content/uploads/trails/RWA/alt/RecTrails_RWA6_Alt_6-2-16.pdf 

·  Trail Descriptions: The trails are all wide woods roads with good footing. Other than a short, steep climb on the Red Trail to the west side of the lake, terrain is moderate. The Green Circle Trail under the powerlines may not be well marked.

·  Suggested Hike: From the hiker parking area, walk straight on the White Triangle Trail and at mile 0.2, continue straight on the White Rectangle Trail. At mile 0.3, go right on the Red Triangle Trail, which briefly goes under the powerlines, then ascends a steep hill. At mile 1.3, just past the Orange Trail, look for an unblazed footpath to the right, which leads to a rock outcropping with a good view of East Rock. Backtrack on the footpath, then turn left to descend the ridge on the Red Trail.

When you reach the White Rectangle Trail at 2.3 miles, turn left, and at mile 2.4, where the White Triangle Trail goes back to the parking lot, turn right. When you reach the powerlines at mile 2.5, turn left to follow the Green Trail south. At the main entry road, turn right to stay on the Green Trail at mile 3.5, and head toward the lake. The Green Trail soon leaves the road at mile 3.8, enters the woods, and then goes under the powerlines again. At mile 4.6, turn sharp right on the Green Trail to head toward the lake. The road under the powerlines continues past this point, so it is easy to miss the turnoff. The hum from I-95 is a signal that you are getting close enough you need to turn. At mile 5, turn right on Green and head north along the lake. Finally, you are hiking along a scenic woods road with lake views.

At mile 5.8, take a break at the boat launch area. The continue north until mile 6.8 where you bear left on the Yellow Circle Trail for a final stretch of trail along the lake. At the end of Yellow at mile 6.9, turn left to follow White Rectangle clockwise. At mile 7.5, the White Triangle Trail, continue straight back to the parking lot.

For a shorter loop of 5.5 miles, at mile 3.5, stay on the paved road to the fisherman parking lot, and turn right by the boat launch to head north.

Another way to shorten the hike is to skip the Red Trail on the west side of the lake. 

·  GPS track: To be added at a later date 

·  Safety concerns: Trail junctions can be confusing, so pay attention to the blazes (where they exist) to stay on track. 

·  Special considerations: The Red Trail at Lake Saltsonstall connects to Branford’s Pisgah Brook Preserve, offering the option for different trails. Pisgah Brook map:

 

Maltby Lakes, West Haven

· Area Overview: Maltby Lakes is a backup reservoir system not currently used as a water supply. The three lakes are scenic with pine tree lined banks. The Blue Triangle Trails are four short spur trails that provide a close up view of the lakes. Mountain biking is permitted from April 15 to December 31 and this is a good place to bike.

·  Starting Location/Parking: The parking area is located at585 Derby Ave (Rt. 34), West Haven.
·  Directions: Rt. 15, Exit 57 to Rt. 34 East for 3.1 miles. At Plainfield Ave., make a U-turn onto Rt. 34 West. The entrance is 0.2 miles on the right by a brown sign. If you miss the U-turn location, which is easy to do, make the turn at Krauzer’s.
I-95 North, Exit 43, then left on Campbell Ave. for 1 miles. Continue straight on Forest Rt. (Rt. 122 North) at Rt. 1 for 1 mile. Left on Derby Ave. for 0.8 miles. The entrance is 0.2 miles on the right by a brown sign.
I-95 South, Exit 47, then follow MLK Blvd./Frontage Rd. to Rt. 10 North (Ella T. Grasso Blvd.) Right on Rt. 10 North, then next left on Rt. 34 West for 1.6 miles. The entrance is on the right by a brown sign.

·  Trail Descriptions: The White Rectangle, Yellow Circle, Purple Circle, and Green Circle Trails are gravel woods roads. The Red Circle Trail is a grassy path through a cleared forest. The Blue Triangle Trails are footpaths through the woods. The western part of the Orange Circle Trail is a footpath, while the eastern part is a straight woods road. There is road noise along Red Circle and White Rectangle near Maltby Lake #1. All trails have mild changes in elevation. The only real hill is the White Trail from Maltby Lake #3 up through the powerlines. The eastern portion of the White Trail passes close to houses in West Haven.

The Red Trail description on the map makes reference to a grove of pine and spruce trees. The trees were removed in 2016-17 because a pine beetle was attacking them, and they were old and sickly.https://www.nhregister.com/connecticut/article/Hundreds-of-possibly-bug-infested-trees-cut-from-11311271.php

·  Suggested Hike: From the parking area, go past the gate, turn right on the White Rectangle Trail, walking past the mapboard, and head up the short hill. At the next junction, turn left on the White Trail near the near east side of Maltby Lake #3 and follow across the side and top of the lake. At mile 0.6, turn left on the Blue Triangle Trail for a good view of the lake and return to the White Trail, continuing west. At mile 1.1, turn left on the White Trail (at the Purple Circle Trail) and continuing straight on White when the Purple Trail again intersects. At 1.6 mile, continue straight on White past the Green Circle Trail, and at 2.4 past the Yellow Circle Trail. At mile 2.5, turn left on the Orange Circle Trail, which is a winding footpath for most of its length, and then becomes a wide woods road on the return back to the White Trail.
At mile 2.8, turn right on the White Trail heading southwest. Make the next left onto the Yellow Trail along the west side of Maltby Lake #2. At the end of the Yellow Trail at mile 3.4, turn left on the White Triangle Trail by the east side of Maltby Lake #3. At mile 3.7, turn right on theRed Circle Trail through grassy field along west side of Maltby Lake #1. At mile 3.8, turn left on the Blue Triangle Trail along west side of Maltby Lake #3 and return. Turn left on the White Trail and walk up the entry road to the parking lot, ending at mile 3.9.
For a shorter hike, you can skip the Orange Trail, and/or use the Purple Trail or the Green Trail to shorten some of the loop along the White Trail.
For a longer hike, you would have to do portions of the loop a second time.
Another option for a longer hike would be to drive a short distance to the 421-acre Racebrook Tract, 835 Racebrook Rd. (Rt. 114), Orange, which is a former water company property, but one without a reservoir. Like water company properties, the trails are wide woods roads, plus there is a quarter mile long nature trail through a swamp that is mostly a boardwalk. Mountain bikers created a series of single-track trails through the property after the 2016 map was published. Footing is good through the Racebrook property. There are some impressively large trees. Overall, the hiking experience is a pleasant woods stroll.
Directions from Maltby Lakes:Right on Route 34 West for 1.9 miles. Right on Route 114 (Racebrook Road) for 0.2 miles. The parking area is on the right.


Pine Hill Trails, Seymour, Woodbridge

· Area Overview: Pine Hill is different than most other RWA properties because it has the feel of an actual hiking area with trails that wind around a property with gentle rolling hills, past some interesting rocks, and through a forest with decent sized trees and an understory with a variety of plants. Some portions of the White Trail are woods roads. This is a rare property that does not have a gate with a lock at either the parking lot or the entrance to the woods.

·  Starting Location/Parking: The official parking area is located at 59 Rimmon Rd. (Rt. 313), Seymour, which is a dirt parking lot for about 8 cars near a private home. This is about 1.6 miles from Rte 114 (Racebrook Road) in Woodbridge or 3.7 miles from Fountain Street (Rte 243) in New Haven. The entrance is VERY easy to miss, so look carefully as you get closer.
I always park at the end of the cul-de-sac near 45 Hemlock Hollow Rd., Woodbridge, where there is more parking than most groups would ever need, and is plowed and sanded in the winter. One minor disadvantage to this location is that it is at a higher elevation than the rest of the preserve, so it is a gradual uphill back to the parking area.
·  Directions to 45 Hemlock Hollow Road, Woodbridge:
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 0.9 miles. Right on Rimmon Hill Rd., then the second right onto Hemlock Hollow Rd. and drive to the end.
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 0.9 miles. Right on Rimmon Hill Rd., then the second right onto Hemlock Hollow Rd. and drive to the end.

·  Map link: http://www.scrcog.org/documents/trails/TrailMap-RWA_PineHill.pdf 

·  Trail Descriptions: The 2-mile long White Rectangle Trail is the major trail in the preserve and it forms a loop with itself. The 1-mile long Red Circle Trail also forms a loop with itself and connects to the White Rectangle Trail in the property’s western end. The White Triangle Trail is a short connector trail to the Rimmon Road parking, while the Green Triangle Trail is an extremely brief trail that links the Red Trail to Hemlock Hollow Road. All trails have mild grades. The White Trails are mostly woods roads, while the Red Trail is a narrow footpath. The White Trail has a distant view of Peat Swamp Reservoir. There are various other unblazed woods road that cross the White Trail, which are not shown on the map. There are also numbers at trail junctions, but since they are not shown on the map, this limits their usefulness.

·  Suggested Hike: From Hemlock Hollow Road, enter the woods on the Green Triangle Trail. Right on the Red Trail and follow the loop counterclockwise. At 0.5 miles from the road, bear right on the White Rectangle Trail and follow that loop clockwise. Pay attention to the blazes at junctions with the unblazed woods roads to make sure you are following the correct road. At 2.5 miles into the loop, turn right on the lower part of the Red Triangle Trail and at mile 3, turn right on the Green Triangle Trail to return to Hemlock Hollow Road.

·  GPS track: None available. 

·  Safety concerns: None 

·  Special considerations: Since this is such a short loop, hikers may wish for a longer option, and one is available. At mile 2.25, turn right on the White Triangle Trail and hike out to Rimmon Road. Cross Rimmon Road, turn right and walk along the shoulder of the road for 0.4 miles. Arrive at one of the entrances for the Naugatuck State Forest: Quillinan Reservoir. This area is described on the page Hikes Beyond West Rock: New Haven County.

 

Big Gulph, North Branford

· Area Overview: Overall, this is not a particularly appealing hiking area. The Red Triangle Trail, the lower portion of the White Rectangle Trail, and the White Triangle Trail are boring, flat woods roads. The upper White Rectangle Trail has a steep section at both ends, meaning a steep climb and a steep descent over rocky footing. Red Circle and Green Circle are actual trails that wind through the woods, so they are the best part of the area. There is a screened view from the Green Circle Trail to the west. A small pond is visible from the Red Triangle and White Rectangle Trails. Due to the way the trails are laid out, any hike will involve an out and back on the Red Triangle Trail, which is 1.4 miles total.

·  Starting Location/Parking: This area does not have its own parking lot. Instead, meet at Northford Park, 1827 Middletown Ave. (Rt. 17), Northford (North Branford), 

·  Directions: I-91 North, Exit 11 to Rt. 22 East for 4 miles. Left on Rt. 17 North for 2.1 miles, and the park is on the right. I-91 South, Exit 14, then left on East Center St. for 0.7 miles. Right on Northford Rd. for 2.3 miles. Left on Rt. 17 North for 0.7 miles and the park is on the right. Rt. 15 to Exit 63 to Rt. 22 East for 4.6 miles. Left on Rt. 17 North for 2.1 miles and the park is on the right. 

·  Map link: http://scrcog.org/wp-content/uploads/trails/RWA/alt/RecTrails_RWA1_Alt_6-2-16.pdf

·  Trail Descriptions: The Red Triangle Trail (Big Gulph Trail), the White Rectangle Trail (Francis Merola Trail), and the White Triangle Trail (Farm River Trail) are wide woods roads. The Red Circle Trail (Totoket Trail) and Green Circle Trail (Vista Trail) are grassy footpaths with some rocky footing on steep, eroded sections. The Totoket Trail (Red Circle) climbs from 245 ft. of elev. to 555 ft. of elev. in 0.6 miles. The Vista Trail (Green Circle) climbs from 240 ft. of elev. to 440 ft. of elev. in 0.55 miles.
·  Suggested Hike: This 7.2-mile loop is probably the best sampler hike for the property. The Red Circle Trail has a steady climb from 1.6 miles (220 ft. of elev.) to 2.2 miles (540 ft. of elev.). This is probably the best approach to Big Gulph because it avoids the nasty hill on the White Rectangle Trail by the Red Triangle Trail, and uses one of the two cross trails, and the Red Circle is preferred to the Green Circle Trail as it has better footing, fewer rocky sections, and is less steep. Total elevation gain is an estimated 500 ft. of climbing.
Follow the path left of the basketball court and right of the playground; take a left behind the playground, then right by the pavilion and walk back to the fence where you have to unlock the gate to enter. The map implies this is blazed Red, but the first blaze does not appear until the gate.
Turn right on the Red Triangle Trail and head west. At 0.3 miles, you can follow the unblazed path for a view of the pond, the same pond that is also visible from the White Triangle Trail. At 0.7 miles after crossing the bridge, turn right to follow the lower section of the White Rectangle Trail. (The upper section is straight ahead and the White Triangle Trail is to the left). At 1.6 miles turn left on the Red Circle Trail, crossing on a wooden plank. Red Circle is a footpath that twists and turns its way up the ridge. At mile 2.2, turn right on the upper White Rectangle Trail at the top of the climb. At mile 3.2, continue straight on White Rectangle where the Green Circle Trail is on the right. (To shorten your hike by 1 mile, turn right on Green and descend to the bottom and then turn right on the lower White Rectangle Trail).
At the base of the descent on White Rectangle at mile 3.8, turn right to stay on the White Rectangle Trail by the culvert: an unblazed woods road goes straight to restricted area. Continue straight on the White Rectangle Trail heading north as you pass the Green Circle Trail at mile 4.7, an unblazed gravel road at mile 4.8, and the Red Circle Trail that you ascended at mile 5.2. At mile 6, continue straight on the White Triangle Trail; the upper White Rectangle Trail is on the right, while the Red Triangle Trail is on left. (Skipping this out and back saves 0.6 miles.) After returning to this junction at mile 6.6, turn right on the Red Triangle Trail to return to the gate. At mile 7.1, walk through the gate and head back to the parking area.

·  GPS track: This GPS track is from the first time when I hiked the preserve, which featured for a loop on the White Rectangle Trail, and then an out and back on the White Triangle Trail at the end of the hike to view the pond. This 6.8-mile loop has 560 feet of elevation gain. I recommend the above hike as the preferred alternative to this loop. I have yet to hike the above loop in that configuration, which is why there is no GPS track for that version. Track: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1580109471

·  Safety concerns: Footing can be slippery with loose rocks on the steep part of the upper White Rectangle Trail, the Red Circle Trail and the Green Circle Trail.

·  Special considerations: Finding the gate from the parking area can be a challenge.  Follow path left of the basketball court and right of the playground. Take a left behind the playground, then right by the pavilion back to the fence. The fence has a lock with a combination,

 

 

Genesee, Madison

· Area Overview: Genesee has a variety of rolling woods roads with some trails on the property of the former “Little Genesee Settlement.”These woods roads pass through a pleasant forest with a healthy understory. On the Orange Trail, just south of the White Trail there is almost a vista by a logged area, but the road is too low in relation to the open area to see very far. The foundations of the former settlers are along the Orange and White Trails. For someone looking to hike easy terrain with good footing, this property is a good choice. With several long trails, a hiker can cover many miles in one day. The hiking only Blue-Blazed Menunketuck Trail cuts across the western boundary of the preserve. The Menunketuck is the southern-most portion of the New England Trail. A mountain bike rider can enjoy pedaling many miles across the non-technical terrain. Mountain biking is permitted from April 15 to December 31. 

Genesee is one property in a vast undeveloped area that includes open space owned by the towns of Madison and Guilford, the Madison Land Trust, and a portion of Cockaponset State Forest.

·  Starting Location/Parking: The main parking area is located at1825 Durham Rd. (Rt. 79), Madison. The gravel lot can hold about 8 to 10 cars.

·  Directions: I-95 Exit 61 to Rt. 79 North for 8.2 miles. The preserve is on the left, 2.6 miles north of Route 80 and is VERY easy to miss, in part because the brown sign is not especially obvious and there are no nearby cross streets. If you get to County Road, you went about a mile too far. Some maps show Goat Hill Road, a dirt road that is actually the entrance to the preserve, and also the White Trail.
I-91 South to Exit 18 to I-691/Rt. 66 East for 3.3 miles. Right on Rt. 147 South for 6.4 miles. Right on Rt. 17 South for 1.4 miles. Left on Rt. 79 South for 5.4 miles. The preserve is on the right. If you reach Rt. 80, you went 2.6 miles too far. Some maps show Goat Hill Road, a dirt road that is actually the entrance to the preserve.

·  Map link: http://scrcog.org/wp-content/uploads/trails/RWA/alt/RecTrails_RWA2_Alt_6-2-16.pdf 

·  Trail Descriptions:TheWhite-Orange Arrow Trail and the Yellow Circle Trail are footpaths. All other trails are woods roads with a surface that is generally a mixture of gravel and sand with some dirt sections that have good footing, except for loose stones on the steeper sections. Part of the White Trail has short paved sections. Portions of the Green Trail have been destroyed by ATVs and are a muddy mess. When I biked the Yellow Trail in June 2020, the trail was knee-high grass. On the White-Orange Arrow Trail, the arrows are White heading toward the White Trail and Orange heading toward the Orange Triangle Trail.
The Blue-Blazed Menunketuck Trail follows the woods roads, sometimes overlapping with Green. In the ATV damaged area, the Blue Trail is a footpath along the higher and drier side of the muddy area. The Menunketuck Trail connects to the Mattabessett Trail on the Northwoods Property, leading to Bluff Head in Guilford. The hike to Bluff Head is described under Hikes Beyond West Rock: New Haven County. An RWA permit is not required to hike the Menunketuck Trail on the Genesse property.
Terrain is mostly gently rolling along the trails with some short, steep sections. The Orange Trail has an extended climb of 160 feet of elevation gain over a mile of woods road approaching the White Trail. The Red Trail heading north from White to Green climbs about 120 feet in a mile, which includes a portion on Green. 

·  Suggested Hike: This 7.6 mile hike has anestimated elevation gain is 400 ft. of climbing. From the parking lot, turn right on the White Rectangle Trail, heading away from Route 79. At mile 1, turn left on the Orange Triangle Trail heading south. At mile 2.2, turn right on the unblazed trail, which follows Race Hill Road Extension. At mile 3.2, turn right and follow the Blue-Blazed Menunketuck Trail heading north. At mile 5.1, turn right on the Red Circle Trail heading east along Rockland Road. At mile 5.9, turn right on the Red Trail where an unblazed trail connects out to County Road. At the end of the Red Trail at mile 6.5, turn left on the White Trail. At mile 6.6, turn left again to stay on the White Trail back to the parking lot.

A shorter hike of 4.9 miles would involve hiking west on the White Trail, turning right on the Red Circle Trail, then left to return on the White Trail.

Longer options are available by completing the Green Circle Trail off the Red Circle Trail (adding 1.5 miles) and the Yellow Circle Trail off the White Trail. (adding 0.7 miles).

·  GPS track: To be added at a later date. 

·  Safety concerns: The property is criss-crossed with woods roads, some of which are blazed and indicated on the map. It is very easy to follow an unblazed woods road and end up a far distance from where you intended to be in the sprawling area. Pay careful attention to blazes as you hike. 

·  Special considerations: You may hear gunshots while hiking in Genesse, especially on the Blue Trail. No worries. The sound is coming from the nearby Guilford Sportmen’s Association.

The property can also be accessed from the end of Race Hill Road, in Madison, 1.5 miles north of Route 80. There is room for 2 to 3 cars near the gate just beyond the house at 420 Race Hill Road.

 

Sugarloaf, Guilford

·  Area Overview: This property has two hills slightly taller than 500 feet each, which gives the area its name. This means that hiking through the center of the property involves some modest climbing. There is no reservoir at Sugarloaf to add visual interest. When I hiked the area with a group in late June 2020, the area was completely overgrown. We had to push through overgrowth that was mostly invasive plants, some of which have sharp thorns. Much of the woods is blanketed by barberry, which is a concern because barberry is associated with high deer tick populations. Based on these conditions, I do not recommend hiking Sugarloaf, unless conditions dramatically improve, which I would not expect them to because the overgrowth is so widespread. If the trails were clear of invasive plants, then at best this would be a pleasant woodlands stroll.

·  Starting Location/Parking: Meet at the parking lot at 1155 West St., Guilford, off County Road, which runs between Rts. 80 and 77, north of Rt. 80. The dirt parking lot has room for about 12 cars.

·  Directions: I-95 North, Exit 55, then right on Rt. 1 North. Left on Rt. 139 North. Right on Rt. 80 East for 1.7 miles. Bear left on County Rd. for 0.6 miles. Bear left on West St. for about 1.5 miles. The parking area is on the right somewhat past Wilburs Lane.
I-95 South, Exit 58, then right on Rt. 77 North for 4.4 miles. Left on Rt. 80 East for 0.5 miles. Right on Long Hill Rd. for 1.3 miles. Left on Wilburs Lane for 0.6 miles. Right on West St. for about 0.5 miles to the parking area on the right.

·  Map link: http://scrcog.org/wp-content/uploads/trails/RWA/alt/RecTrails_RWA10_Alt_6-2-16.pdf 

·  Trail Descriptions: The White Rectangle Trail is 2.8 miles long and circles the property. Where it parallels West Street, the White Trail is a relatively flat woods road. From the sharp turn near West Street to the junction with the Red Trail, the White Trail is a two-step climb, followed by a descent. The woods road that White follows continues beyond some of the turns, so pay careful attention to the blazes when hiking White to stay on the marked trail. The Red Circle Trail is 0.8 miles long and connects two parts of the White Trail loop. Red Circle has a short climb when heading south, followed by a longer descent. The Orange Triangle Trail is 0.7 miles long and has a steep climb heading south from the Red Trail, then a long descent down to the White Trail. The Yellow Circle Trail is a short, steep trail that cuts across the top of East Sugarloaf, connecting two parts of the White Trail. Orange-Red is a 0.1-mile long trail that connects these two longer trails. The map shows Sugar Loaf Road as cutting across the White Trail loop. The reality is that the “road” is a heavily eroded gully that would be quite challenging to hike.  Footing is generally secure on all trails.

·  Suggested Hike: If someone REALLY wants to hike the area, this 5.2-mile loop highlights the major trails in the area. From the parking area, head south along the White Trail, then turn left at the first junction, heading north on White. At mile 0.8, turn right on Red Circle heading south. At mile 1.7, turn left on White near West St. At mile 2, turn left to stay on White where the woods road continues unblazed out to Wilburs Lane. (There are two climbs and two descents until the return to the northern junction with the Red Trail.) At mile 2.2, stay on the White Trail: Orange Triangle is on the left. At mile 2.7 (and again at 3.2), stay on the White Trail: Yellow Circle is twice on the left. At mile 3, turn left to stay on the White Trail where the woods road continues without blazes out to Great Hill Road. At mile 3.5, turn left on Red Circle (a second time) and again head southwest. At mile 3.7, turn left on Orange Triangle and begin a short ascent and then a much longer descent back to the White Trail. At mile 4.4, turn right on the White Trail heading southwest. At the base of the descent at mile 4.7, turn right to stay on the White Trail and return to the parking lot, ending at mile 5.2.

For a shorter, less challenging hike of 2.8 miles, simply walk the White Trail around the perimeter.

·  GPS track: This 5.2 mile hike with a mild 700 feet of elevation gain matches the notes from the suggested hike: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/5163947086

·  Safety concerns: The widespread presence of barberry means a greater density of ticks and a greater likelihood of getting bitten.

·  Special considerations: If you are looking for a better hike in the area, Timberland Preserve is a short drive away. This property is described on the page Hikes Beyond West Rock: New Haven County.

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