Well-maintained Connecticut state & local parks offer outdoor fun
State and local parks in Connecticut cover many different types of topography and plant life, and many have lakes or ponds with opportunities for boating and
Some are located in cities, deep in the woods, or on the shore, complete with saltwater beaches. The range of opportunities for outdoor sports or just enjoying a pleasant
, is wide open, in every season of the year.
Off I-95 at Exit 18
Swimming and fishing beach a short drive from New York; rocky beach has sharp stones; footwear needed
State park features a sandy beach, fishing areas, food concession, bathhouse, and swimming areas. Have a leisurely lunch in the picnic grove, swim in Long Island sound, or view marsh life from the observation platform. Because of the sharp rocks and shells at West Beach, visitors are urged to wear beach shoes. East Beach, which has lifeguards on duty from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Surf and shore fishing are allowed outside of swimming areas.
Park fees: Weekends, $20 for residents and $30 for non-residents. Weekday fees are $14 and $20. Fee is $10 after 4 p.m.
New Haven, CT
Lovely urban park; good for strolling, tennis, skateboarding, bird watching, relaxation
Edgewood Park is an important and well-loved outdoor resource for the people and visitors of New Haven. The park offers places to walk and jog, watch birds, do some cross-country skiing, play tennis, skateboard at Coogan Pavilion, or just relax by a lovely pond. The park has the Coogan Pavilion & Gazebo, a playground, several ponds and the city's West River, many walking trails and a sensory trail, a skate park, a dog run, and wetlands viewing station, and more.
Hours: Open year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset
off of Route 6 at 23 Potter Road
Great for hiking on short or long trails; enjoying nature; a boat ramp is available
This state forest has an extensive trail system and lots of opportunity for enjoying nature and animal life. Open for walking and hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. Also, boating on Pine Acres Lake. Trails begin at the Goodwin Conservation Center, located off of Route 6 at 23 Potter Road in Hampton. The property includes a boat ramp on Pine Acres Lake. Property is open year-round, daily, dawn until dusk. Hiking trails include:
Richard D. Haley Native Plant Wildlife Gardens is good for people with limited mobility. A printed brochure guides walkers with information about plant life.
A mile-long stewardship trail follows a loop through managed woodlands. A brochure describes plant life.
For long walks, pick up a trails map at the Center to find the Natchaug Trail across Potter Road. Ten miles of white, red and yellow marked trails surround the 135-acre Pine Acres Lake, Black Spruce Pond, Brown Hill Pond, and Orchard Hill. Letterboxing is done here.
Air Line State Park Trail, a former railroad bed, is a level bed, good for hiking, cross-country skiing and horseback riding.
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
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.
4 Straits Tpk.
Middlebury, CT, 06762
Day park offers water sports on the lake, picnicking, fishing, and trails for walking
This nice day park is centered upon Hop Brook Lake. The lake has a sandy beach and is open for swimming, paddling, rowing, and fishing. Fishing may be done on the lake and its streams, which are stocked with brown, brook, and rainbow trout. Bass and panfish are also found in the lake. Hikers will find over seven miles of trails winding through the woods and meadows at Hop Brook Lake. An 11-hole disc golf course is also located within the park. Facilities include flush toilets, drinking water, ball fields, volleyball courts, and horseshoe pit.
275 Great Neck Road / State Route 213
Waterford, CT, 06385
Beautiful seaside gardens; Roman Classical Revival Mansion open for tours in summer
This park is on the edge of Long Island Sound, occupying the property of the former Harkness family estate. The 230 acres include vast lawns, trees and wonderful gardens. Also, the family’s summer mansion known as Eolia. It is a Roman Renaissance Classical Revival-style mansion with 40 rooms, a pergola, and a carriage house (support complex). Lush gardens, including an Alpine rock garden, surround the mansion, which is open for tours from Memorial to Labor Day.
Property is open year-round, daily, from 8 a.m. to sunset. Parking fees are charged. The Verkades gate is for pedestrian access only.
384 Burr Mountain Road
Pond has beach for swimming, canoe & kayak rentals, trails around the shoreline
Visitors can enjoy swimming from the beach, picnicking, hiking the perimeter of the pond, and boating at this pretty park. Visitors may rent
canoes and kayaks.
Lighthouse Point Park
New Haven, CT
Lighthouse tours, water sports, marine biology programs, paddling tours
Lighthouse Point in New Haven is at the eastern point of New Haven Harbor. Now inactive, the lighthouse protected ships in New Haven harbor for 73 years. Today, the park attracts visitors to the beach for swimming, fishing, boating (there is a public boat launch), and picnicking. Lifeguards are on duty during summer.
of Lighthouse Point Park.
Located on the Atlantic flyway, the park is one of the most popular spots for bird watching along the East Coast. The East Shore Ranger program offers programs about marine ecology, sailing history, and the history of the forts. The East Shore Rangers lead group tours to the top of the Lighthouse by advance reservations only. To plan a tour, call 203-946-0790.
Several water-based adventure programs, including canoeing, kayaking are conducted at Lighthouse. For information on either of these or the Canoe New Haven schedule, call the Outdoor Adventure Coordinator at 203-944-6768.
The Lighthouse Park Carousel is one of less than 100 in use today. It includes 72 figures on a 60 foot platform. The Lighthouse Park Splashpad is a series of fresh water fountains.
Hours: Gates open year-round, 7 a.m. to sunset; season is from April 1 to November 1.
Parking fees: New Haven registered vehicles, free; non-resident vehicles, $20/day, $100/season
929 Hopeville Road
Freshwater swimming, fishing in Hopeville Pond. Campground in woods.
Hopeville Pond is open to fishing and swimming. The pond has a boat launch
. Picnic tables and bathrooms are available.
Hopeville Pond Campground has 80 camping sites in the woods. The season is late April to the end of September 30. The recreational field area is open all year round. Pets are allowed on leash in picnic areas and on hiking trails; not in campground or on the beach.
There is a weekend/holiday parking fee and a campsite fee at Hopeville Pond State Park.
Hiking, fishing, paddling
West Rock Ridge is a major feature of the New Haven region skyline, offering vast views of New Haven harbor and Long Island Sound. This small state park has areas for paddling, fishing, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, and picnicking.
Hours: The park is open for walk-in access from 8 a.m. to sunset. The south overlook drive to the summit is open for vehicles from Memorial Day through October.
1400 George's Hill Road (Off I-84 at Exit 15)
Lots of water sports are done at this park on the Housatonic River; also near Lake Zoar
Visitors can enjoy nature programs, fishing, hiking trails (including one for the handicapped), swimming and picnic areas. The adjacent Housatonic River and nearby Lake Zoar make this park popular for water sports and fishing. Also, Kettletown Campground offers 63 sites in both open and wooded settings.
Admission: Parking fee is $9 for state-registered vehicles and $15 for out-of-state vehicles
New Preston, CT
Beautiful lake for swimming, paddling (car-top boating), and picnicking
This beautiful blue lake welcomes visitors for water sports, including swimming and car-top boating. Dozens of campsites are situated in wooded and open settings at Lake Waramaug Campground. The campground has concessions, dumping station, bathrooms, showers. Pets not allowed. The camping season is from mid-May to September 30.
There is a weekend/holiday parking fee and a campsite fee at this park.
Small park near UConn; nice for quiet walks and picnicking near brook and waterfall
This tract of parkland is very close to the University of Connecticut at Storrs, offering an easy getaway for workers, students, and visitors to the university. It contains hardwood forest, wetlands, stone walls, and a nice hike along Cedar Swamp Brook to the waterfall at Shelter Falls. Nice place to stop for lunch and enjoy the peaceful woods.
178 Shortwoods Road
New Fairfield, CT, 06810
Pond is centerpiece of wooded park with beach, swimming, boating, hiking trails, ice skating, cross country skiing
This year-round recreation area is centered upon a cool, blue pond where visitors enjoy boating, fishing, swimming from a sand beach, picnicking, and, in winter, ice skating and cross country skiing. Canoes and kayaks are available to rent
Hiking trails travel through the adjacent woods.
Between Center Hill Road (Route 181) and East River Road [see map]
Large forests offer all outdoor recreation: camping, water sports, extensive hiking trails
These two adjacent state forests are located along the west branch of the Farmington River, named a wild and scenic river by the National Park Service. The two parks offer year-round outdoor activities, including trout fishing, canoeing, kayaking and tubing on the river; several extensive hiking trails around rocky formations and old mills; 30 campsites (at the American Legion Forest); and the Barkhamsted Lighthouse (in Peoples State Forest). There are lots of places for picnicking and field sports. Winter activities include cross country skiing and snowmobiling.
for American Legion State Forest
for American Legion and Peoples State Forests.
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.
bounded by Livingston Street, Davis Street, State Street and the Mill River
New Haven, CT
Walking, fishing, paddling, picnicking, and more are done at this riverside park
This 425-acre park offers nature and walking and bicycling trails, playgrounds, recreational areas, a bird sanctuary, and a spectacular view of Long Island Sound. Recreational opportunities include baseball fields and basketball courts; bicycling on paved roads; paddling on the Mill River; fishing and crabbing; football and soccer fields; ice skating; picnicking and playgrounds; an 800-foot self-guided nature trail; sledding.
Highlights of the park are climbing to the Summit of East Rock, which is accessible by foot, bicycle or car; the Trowbridge Environmental Center; the Pardee Rose Garden and Greenhouse (203-946-8142); and the Soldiers & Sailors Monument. Park map.
Hours: Open sunrise to sunset.
Historic mansion offers summer tours; grounds for walking, picnicking, sledding
Topsmead has a mansion, the summer estate of Edith Morton Chase, set on 511 acres. During the summer the house is open for tours. The grounds are open year-round and feature hiking, sledding, cross country skiing, as well as picnic areas. Numerous trails and unpaved lanes are available for walking. In addition, the Edith M. Chase Ecology Trail offers a one-mile walk with interpretive signs.
Hours: The grounds are open from 8 a.m. to sunset.
Large forested park with lots of hiking trails; water sports at one lake and 3 ponds
Bigelow Hollow State Park and the adjoining Nipmuck State Forest offer beautiful areas for hiking, picnicking, and enjoying nature in a forested area of 9,000 acres. The property encompasses Mashapaug Lake and Bigelow, Breakneck, and Griggs ponds. Boating and pond fishing are done on the lake and ponds. There are boat launches at Bigelow Pond and Mashapaug Lake. The Beaver Pond Campground is located near Griggs Pond, off Eastford Road (Route 198).
Marked trails from Bigelow Hollow to the Breakneck area do not include a loop, so hikers should prepare to walk the full six miles. However, trails west of the park road both form loops and are shorter than trails to Breakneck. The trail system is maintained with help from the
Connecticut Forest and Park Association.
In winter, the trails are usable for cross country skiing and snowmobiling. There is a seasonal weekend/holiday parking fee at Bigelow Hollow State Park. Parking on weekends and holidays is $14 for Connecticut vehicles and $20 for out of state vehicles.
Campsite and shelter.
200 Mount Carmel Avenue
Hamden, CT, 06518
Hiking and trout fishing are best activities at this ridge top park overlooking New Haven
This park gets its name for a two-mile-long ridge of mountaintop that looks like a giant at rest. A two- mile walking trail leads to the observation tower on the peak of Mount Carmel, where hikers can experience an excellent view of Long Island Sound and New Haven.
Trout fishing is allowed; Sleeping Giant State Park is a designated Trout Management Area.
1288 Boston Post Road
Very large park on Long Island Sound offers swimming, salt water fishing, boardwalk, lots of camping sites
Connecticut's largest shoreline park offers over two miles of beach to enjoy swimming, strolling along the boardwalk, or just relaxing in the sun and surf. Activities include saltwater swimming, fishing, picnicking, hiking, fishing, paddling, bicycling, and camping. The Meigs Point Nature Center offers programs and activities for park visitors on a limited year round basis. Facilities include bathrooms, boardwalk, car top boat launch, concessions, nature center, picnic shelters, picnic tables, showers.
Hammonasset offers over 550 grassy campsites. Open for the season from May 21 through October 30 (call 203-245-1817). Camping fees:
Camping fees: $35 a night for CT residents and $45 for non-Ct residents; rustic cabin is $70 a night for Ct residents and $85a night for non-CT residents.
Off Old Willimantic Road
Boating and fishing are allowed here; boat ramp provided. Swimming is prohibited
Mansfield Hollow Lake is a 500-acre lake for boating and fishing. People also enjoy the water views from trails in the park. Swimming is not allowed because this lake is a source of drinking water. There is a boat launch ramp, picnic tables, and pit toilets. No parking fees.
Sweet riverside park for water sports and picnicking. Easy walking trails along the river.
Located on the Housatonic River, this park has a nice waterfall and swimming area, as well as a picnic grove in the shade. Visitors enjoy swimming, boating, fishing, picnicking, and hiking some nearby trails along the river. A boat launch is open April through September. A parking fee of $10 to $20 is charged.
244 West Main Street (Route 156)
East Lyme, CT
Sandy beach; picnicking; walking trails; fishing; camping
Bounded by a tidal river and a salt marsh, this popular summer park has a sandy beach for salt water swimming; walking trails to the marsh and to Baker's Cave, Tony's Nose and Shipyard; an elegant stone pavilion right on the water; and 160 wooded or open-air campsites. People can enjoy watching for wildlife and sea birds from platforms in the salt marsh. There is salt water fishing and crabbing. Visitors also enjoy plenty of places to have a picnic, and the park runs nature interpretive programs.
Open year-round, daily from 8 am to sunset. Weekend/holiday and weekday parking fees apply from April to late September. There is also a camping fee at Rocky Neck State Park.
Large state forest covers all basics, camping, hiking, water sports, horseback riding, snowmobiling
Pachaug State Forest, covering 24,000 acres, is composed of two sections, the Chapman Area and the Green Falls Area. Activities in the Chapman area include boating, hunting, camping, camping, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, picnicking, freshwater fishing, hiking, snowmobiling, horseback riding, horse camping, and letterboxing.
Mount Misery Campground offers 22 campsites available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Water, fireplaces and pit toilets are provided. Frog Hollow Horse Camp Area offers 18 campsites on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The Green Falls area offers boating, camping, freshwater fishing, hunting, mountain biking, and hiking. The Green Falls Campground has 18 wooded campsites that are available from late April to the end of September. The campsites are first-come, first serve; no reservations. Green Falls, Narragansett, Nehantic, and Pachaug trail sections pass through this area.
Roseland Park Road, off Route 169
Gentle park alongside a lake with historic house
This park includes 60 acres of wooded land and waterfront along Roseland Lake and Roseland Cottage, a historic home operated by Historic New England. Open daily, early morning to sunset.
is open for tours Wednesday to Sunday, June 1 to October 15.
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
20 Park Center Road
Nice urban park for walking, swimming, field sports. Park is famous for its grand rose garden.
Norwich is known as the Rose City and the formal rose garden in this park commemorates this. The park has walking trails, pavilions and a swimming beach. Tennis players will enjoy free time on available on clay courts, which are lighted in the evenings. Open air ball field adjacent and horseshoe pit. Park is open daily, 9 a.m.-sunset.
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.
Wooded campgrounds; fly fishing for trout and bass in the Housatonic River
Housatonic Meadows offers many outdoor activities, with an emphasis on fly fishing for trout and bass in the Housatonic River. A two-mile stretch of river (including the park shore) is limited to fly fishing. Camp sites are located in groves of tall pine trees. Housatonic Meadow Campground has 95 sites; the camping season begins in mid-May and ends September 30. Campground has bathrooms and showers.
Depot Road, off US Route 1
Walking in wooded peninsula and along rocky coast; seabird watching; shell fishing allowed
Bluff Point Coastal Reserve is a wooded peninsula extending into Long Island Sound. The property offers both hiking in the woods and along a spectacular rocky coastline. Good for seaside views and watching seabirds. Plants at the headland are native beach plum, beach pea, and shore roses. This is protected property; access is only on foot. A permit is required for shell fishing. Permits are issued by the Town of Groton, at Route 1 and Depot Road. Phone: 860-441-6600.
147 Wolf Den Drive
Pomfret Center, CT
Good park for camping, swimming, boating, hiking; cool rock formations to explore
Popular state park with facilities for camping, swimming, and boating.
Two campgrounds are open, offering a total of 73 campsites. Camping season is April to mid-October.
Hiking trails and fishing areas are also available.
Famous features of this park are the Wolf Den, and two natural rock formations: Table Rock and Indian Chair. An old grist mill remains of a little patch of mill buildings and shops that were mostly washed away in the 1938 flood.
Parking fee is $9 weekdays and $15 weekends.
Watertown Road (Route 6)
Camping, trout fishing, water sports, picnicking
Black Rock offers excellent swimming, hiking, scenic views, and Indian legend all tucked into the scenic rolling hills of the western highlands of Connecticut. Black Rock Campground has 96 sites in a wooded setting. The camping season is mid-April through September 30. This is a designated trout park. Activities include picnicking, field sports, swimming, and pond fishing. Facilities: bathrooms, food concessions, picnic tables.
Hours: Gates are open on weekends only from the third Saturday in April until Memorial Day, 8 a.m. to sunset. From Memorial Day to October 31, they are open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset.
Admission: There is a daily parking fee in season. Campsite fees are charged separately.
462 Kent Cornwall Road (Route 7)
Cascading waterfall, covered bridge, hiking trails. Great for picnics, walking
Kent Falls is a series of waterfalls that descends in stages from a height of 200 feet to drain into the Housatonic River. Lots of interesting rocky stream beds to explore. The flow is heaviest in spring, but the falls are dramatic year-round. Great places for picnics. There is an authentic covered bridge to explore. Mapped hiking trails surround the area. Swimming prohibited. Alcoholic beverages prohibited. Park has bathrooms and grills and picnic tables. Park is open 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Parking fee weekends and holidays is $9 to $15. No charge to park on weekdays.
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.
Water sports in the lake; hiking to tower at mountain top
This park is for two main purposes: fresh-water swimming, fishing, scuba diving, or non-motorized boating in the lake; and hiking to a lookout tower atop Mount Tom, 1,325 feet above sea level. Admission: Parking fee is $6 to $15.
Facilities: bathrooms, concession, change houses. Park map.
Lake McDonough Park
Barkhamsted, CT, 06063
Water sports and a boat launch; Braille-marked walking trail
Swimming, boating, fishing, picnicking, hiking on a Braille-marked trail (by reservation only); boat launch. Fishing allowed through November. Boat rentals are $5 per hour. The park is open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday and holidays, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Boating and shore fishing: late April- Labor Day.