For you dedicated year-round hikers, GO Local has come up with some hiking trails for you to explore. After all, there’s nothing like getting out in the crisp, cool or even frosty air to enjoy some exercise, the scenery and wildlife, some family or alone time, and even learn some local history along the way. Have fun exploring!
145 Lang Road, Windsor, CT
Northwest Park, in addition to 12 miles of hiking trails, offers an abundance of other activities on their 473 acres. Much of this former tobacco farmland situated on the Farmington River has reverted to biologically diverse forests, fields, and streams. Educational and recreational activities are offered all year long for people of all ages and abilities. While on the hiking trails, be on the lookout for beavers, herons, and other aquatic wildlife at Beaver Pond; check Rainbow Reservoir for wintering waterfowl; spot a red fox hunting mice in the fields; see a fossilized dinosaur footprint on the Triassic Trail; and compare the varieties of trees in the forest…oak, pine, hemlock, and mixed hardwood. After a snowfall, you can rent snowshoes or cross country skis and explore the trails in a different way. Also, “sugar season” at the park runs approximately from February through March, depending on weather conditions, when the 200 sugar maples are tapped and the sap is boiled down to syrup. The Nature Center offers wildlife exhibits, live animals, and activities for all ages. You can also visit the Heritage Breed farm animals in the barn. Of course, the park offers a different type of experience when spring and summer roll around, with 60 nest boxes for Eastern Bluebirds, organic and butterfly gardens, and accessible paths through the Sensory Saunter and Braille Trail, along with other warm weather activities. More information is available at northwestpark@ townofwindsorct.com or by calling 860-285-1886.
SCANTIC RIVER STATE PARK: POWDER HOLLOW ENTRANCE
640 Hazard Avenue, Enfield, CT
The Scantic River Linear Park encompasses 773 total acres surrounding the 41 mile long river. There are several entrances to the system of trails. The 1.9 mile out and back trail at the Powder Hollow entrance follows the scenic river, and offers a glimpse of the history of this area of Enfield. This walk is appropriate for all skill levels, and dogs are allowed on a leash. During the warmer months, you will see people fishing and cooling off in the shallow water, although the water quality is not always suitable for swimming. A water quality monitoring program is conducted during the summer months by the Scantic River Watershed Association, with test results posted on-line. Unique to this area, you will see remnants of the Hazard Powder Company, organized in 1845 by Colonel Augustus Hazard.The company manufactured gunpowder, and grew to become a million dollar business, with over 200 employees. It was a major supplier of gunpowder to both sides of the Civil War, and to others, as well. The 120 structures of the company, consisting of buildings such as mills, cooper shops, horse barns, offices, and storage sheds were spread out along the river valley in case of accidental explosions. Unfortunately, these explosions were frequent, ultimately resulting in 67 deaths, considered unusually safe for the 8 decades the company was in business. Today, remnants of water canals, metal control structures, chiseled brownstone blocks, and stonework for dams and foundations can be seen along the trail. You can also observe a wide variety of birds, with a greater diversity in the fall and spring. The Scantic is a very fishable stream, where you may catch sunfish, white perch, suckers, and an array of trout which are stocked in the spring, so bring your fishing gear along on your hike! The other entrances to the Park are the west entrance at 464 Hazard Avenue and the south entrance at 13-101 Bailey Road, all in Enfield.
Other local hiking trails in Connecticut you may wish to explore further include Soapstone Mountain in Somers, Old New-Gate Wildlife Trail (which could include a visit to the prison during the summer months) in East Granby, and the Winsor Locks Canal Trail which runs through Suffield and Windsor Locks (check before going because it is closed off for the winter.)
GOAT ROCK RIDGE TRAIL
Country Club Drive, Hampden, MA
This popular 2.6 mile, moderately difficult trail is located within the 35-acre parcel of land known as Goat Rock Conservation Land. It connects two town parks, and runs along the Wilbraham Mountain
Ridge for just over a mile. There are two scenic vistas…Lookout Point at the east end, and the historic Goat Rock at the west end.
MT. TOM STATE PARK
125 Reservation Road, Holyoke, MA
Mt. Tom is a 2000 acre park that is part of the Massachusetts State Park System. It offers one of the premier hawk-watching locations in New England. It hosts over a dozen marked trails of varying degrees of difficulty. Historically, Mt. Tom was the home of a mountaintop hotel that burned down in 1929. Remains are still visible today. However, the Mt. Tom Summit house, at 1202 feet elevation,
is still open to visitors to the summit. At various times in the 20th century, Mt. Tom was accessed by streetcar and by funicular railway to the summit house and an amusement “trolley” park. Today, access is restricted to autos and the abundant trail system.
MT. HOLYOKE RANGE STATE PARK
Mt. Holyoke is crowned by the 1851 Summit House, which, at elevation 935 feet, offers some of the best scenic vistas available anywhere in Massachusetts. Although the original tramway has since been demolished, the 3000 acre park features over three dozen blazed trails, stretching for more than 30 miles for hiking and mountain biking in summer, and for cross country skiing and snowmobiling in winter. The park offers trails for hikers of all abilities.
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