Connecticut's Hartford region has fine state and local parks
18 Ranger Road
Large state forest; good for fishing, hiking & walking, horseback riding, snowmobiling
Cockaponset's name derives from a deceased Indian chief. The second largest state forest in Connecticut has it all: Areas for fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, hiking and cross-country ski trails, fresh water swimming and picnic areas. Seasonal weekend/holiday parking fee at Pattaconk Recreation Area, $20 (non-residents). Free parking on weekdays. Amenities include pit toilets.
67 River Road, off Route 82
East Haddam, CT, 06423
Park offers riverside walks; fishing; picnicking; tours of unusual 1919 mansion
One of the most remarkable parks in the state, Gillette Castle State Park features a mansion built in 1919 for actor William Gillette, who was famous for his role as Sherlock Holmes. The park is set on the Connecticut River and features fishing areas, short hiking trails and picnic spots.
Season and Hours: Hours: Memorial Day to Labor Day, Thursdays through Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The grounds are open year round. Tours of the castle are offered; call for schedule.
Admission: There are no fees for parking or visiting the park grounds. A per person charge applies for Castle tours.
999 W. Main Street
Hubbard Park has 1,800 acres of parkland ]for year-round use. The park includes the East/West Peak, also known as Hanging Hills of Meriden. It is part of the Metacomet Ridge. The park includes woodland, lake and stream, flower gardens, and picnic areas, and Mirror Lake.
Activities: Hiking and biking are permitted. Fishing is allowed in Mirror Lake for youth age 15 and younger. Picnic tables are available. Swimming, rock climbing, and boating are prohibited.
Directions and Parking: Take I-91 South to I-691 West to the exit for Southington/Route 322. At the exit off ramp, turn left onto West Main Street. Hubbard Park is a mile down the road on the left. Parking is at the park at the start of the trail head adjacent to Mirror Lake.
366 Hopyard Road
East Haddam, CT
Popular hiking and camping area with scenic picnic spots and fresh-water fishing.
The centerpiece of this beautiful park is the 60-foot Chapman Falls. Activities include bicycling, birding, camping, hiking, picnicking, and stream fishing. You can horse around in the horseshoe pit, and picnic at any of five sites along Hopyard Road. Also, Devil's Hopyard Campground offers 21 sites in a wooded setting. Camping is available from mid-April through September 30. Facilities include grills, picnic shelters, picnic tables, composting toilets. Free parking; nightly camping fee.
Season & Hours: 8 a.m. to sunset
149 Farms Village Road (Route 309)
Wheelchair-accessible park has trout fishing, hiking, sports fields, swimming
Stratton Brook State Park is completely handicap-accessible. Enjoy biking, field sports, walking & hiking, picnicking, and swimming. There is a scenic bike trail through a pine forest and past bubbling brooks and streams. Amenities include restrooms, rentable picnic shelters, and picnic sites. Park map.
Admission: CT residents, $9; non-residents, $15.
Season & Hours: Year-round, 8 a.m. - sunset
Heulbein Tower is popular for hiking, picnicking
The main attraction of Talcott Mountain State Park is 165-foot high Heublein Tower, a scenic historical landmark which offers hikers spectacular views of the surrounding landscape, as far as Long Island Sound. Discover the region’s wildlife including deer, fox, rabbits, and birds. Amenities include picnic tables, grills, restrooms, and a picnic shelter. Free parking.
Seasonal Tours: Thursday - Sunday 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Season & Hours: 8 a.m.-sunset; Tower is open late May-Labor Day, Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Labor Day-October 31, open six days a week, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.