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10 of the best hiking and walking trails in CT

Silver Sands State Park.
Bob Gundersen
Moment RF / Getty Images
Silver Sands State Park.

As summer approaches in Connecticut, local trails and parks reopen for a season of exploring and exercise.

Tess Terrible, senior producer of Connecticut Public’s Where We Live, is also a hiker and inspired a recent conversation on efforts to refurbish Batterson Park and making parks more inclusive. Here are a few of her favorite trails:

Tess’s 10 terrific trails 

I’ve chosen these trails because they are beginner friendly and nearly impossible to get lost on. I live in West Hartford, so many on my list are around that area. Many of the trails I recommend are long, and so I recommend choosing a two or three mile section of the trail to explore.

1. Bluff Point State Park and Coastal Reserve Trail - Groton, Connecticut
Length: 3.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 154 feet
Route Type: Loop

This is a great trail at the height of summer because you get the cool ocean breeze and it’s not too buggy.

2. Hammonasset Beach State Park - Madison, Connecticut
Length 3.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 26 feet
Route Type: Out & Back

At the height of summer, Hammonasett can be really crowded so I recommend getting there early, walking the trail, and then finding a spot on the beach. It’s vitally important to treat yourself to ice cream or popsicle after completing the trail.

3. West Hartford Reservoir #6 Trail - West Hartford/Avon, Connecticut
Length: 3.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 95 feet
Route Type: Loop

This is a gem situated right in the center of West Hartford. Make sure to wear bug spray and enjoy the reservoir views. A great all season trail.

4. Airline State Park Trail - East Hampton, Connecticut
Length: 43.3 miles
Elevation Gain: varies
Route Type: point to point

This one of the longest trails in Connecticut. Unless you want to backpack this trail from start to finish, I recommend starting in East Hampton and exploring 3 miles of this trail before turning back. The trail is gravel and packed dirt and includes some of the best mountain views Connecticut has to offer.

5. Windsor Locks Canal Trail - Windsor Locks/Suffield, Connecticut
Length: 8.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 114 feet
Route Type: Out & back

This is a great trail to complete by bike. If you are a new hiker, try exploring 2 or 3 miles of the trail starting in Windsor Locks. There is an extraordinary eagle preserve you’ll see on the way.

6. Hop River State Park Trail - Manchester/Bolton/Andover/Columbia, Connecticut
Length: 20.7
Elevation Gain: 675 feet
Route Type: point to point

Sure, you could probably complete this over 20-mile trail in a day, but if you are still breaking in your hiking boots, start in Andover and travel 2 to 3 miles north to Bolton and you’ll find yourself in a magical fairy land.

7. Farmington Canal Heritage Trail
Length: 56 miles
Elevation Gain: varies
Route Type: point to point

This trail is almost completely paved and great for people looking for more of a walk than a hike.

8. Auerfarm Trails - Bloomfield, Connecticut
Length: 2 miles
Elevation Gain: unknown
Route Type: loop/multiple trails

Not only is Auer Farm an excellent education center, it also provides some of the coolest nature trails with views of Heublein Tower at the summit of Cider Hill.

9. Hopemead Trail
Length: 1.0 mile
Elevation Gain: 49 feet
Route Type: out and back

This is a short out and back nature trail and it can be a bit secluded. But the end of the trail has lake views that make it all worth it!

10. Westmoor Park Trail - West Hartford, Connecticut
Length: 1.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 36 feet
Route Type: Loop

Don’t let the short length fool you, this trail is rich with beautiful wildlife. I recommend leaving your headphones behind to listen to all the birds around.

Bonus options
Connecticut Forest & Park Association’s Trails Director, Clare Cain, told Connecticut Public about a few of her favorite spots to explore, including: New England Trail, Sleeping Giant State Park, in Hamden, Bigelow Hollow State Park & Nipmuck State Forest, in Union, and Harkness Memorial State Park, Waterford.

She said each park has hiking, walking, biking and trail systems that are great for both beginners and the more advanced.

For even more options check out the complete list of Connecticut’s state parks.

And check out this audio postcard from Connecticut Public Reporter Chris Polansky, who recently met up with a group of hikers at Sleeping Giant State Park.

About CT Trails Day

CT Trails Day took place in early June. The first weekend of June has been coined as “Trails Day” in Connecticut since 1993. It’s free, open to all, and guided by experts at each site. Some of these events include hiking, biking, horseback riding, kayaking, and birdwatching. The events are encouraged for people of all ages, backgrounds, and interests.

Emily Caminiti is working with the Connecticut Public newsroom in fall 2022.
Tess is a senior producer for Connecticut Public news-talk show Where We Live. She enjoys hiking Connecticut's many trails and little peaks, gardening and writing in her seven journals.

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