Public places offer lots of walking and hiking in Hartford and central CT

Gillette Castle in East Haddam-shutterstock
Gillette Castle State Park and Mansion

67 River Road, off Route 82 East Haddam, CT, 06423 Phone: 860-526-2336

Short, steep, and sweet hikes abound on this property, the former home of a famous stage actor of the early 20th century. Many picnic spots overlook the beautiful Connecticut River far below the top the hill, where a fanciful castle was the home of William Gillette. See full description of Gilltte Castle State Park and Mansion
Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area

Route 69 Burlington, CT Phone: 860-675-8130

Visitors to this natural preserve are treated to a beaver marsh, an observation tower, and a waterfall. Walking and hiking trails feature information signs and demonstrations of wildlife management practices.
Hours: Year-round, dawn to dusk.
Information: http://1.usa.gov/Yy9JxS
Lock 12 Historical Park

487 North Brooksvale Road (Route 42) Cheshire, CT, 06410 Phone: 203-272-2743

Walk along this historical park’s 2.9-mile hiking and biking trail, then enjoy a picnic in the great outdoors. Grounds are open year-round. Be sure to explore the restored Canal.
Devil's Hopyard State Park

366 Hopyard Road East Haddam, CT Phone: 860-873-8566

Popular hiking and camping area with scenic picnic spots and fresh-water fishing.

The red and white nature trail is about a quarter-mile long and offers wildlife viewing opportunities. Including this one, there are some shorter trails surrounding a small pond in the park’s southern region. Explore scenic views along the Yellow Witch Hazel and Orange Vista Trails. See full description of Devil's Hopyard State Park.
Gay City State Park

Route 85 Hebron, CT Phone: 860-295-9523

This rustic, rural park is the perfect place for fishing, along with biking, hiking, walking, and cross-country skiing on numerous trails. Hiking map.
Hours: The park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset. Season is the Saturday in April through Columbus Day weekend. Winter parking is available.
Hubbard Park Hiking Trails

999 W Main Street Meriden, CT Phone: 203-630-4259

Hubbard Park has 1,800 acres of parkland that includes woodland, lake and stream, flower gardens, and picnic areas, and Mirror Lake.
Activities: Hiking and biking. Fishing 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.
Trails. Many trails are available. Total length is 15 miles. Blue Trail (Metacomet Trail) is 7.27 miles, easy to difficult. Red Trail is 1 mile. Yellow Trail is one-third of a mile White Trail is 2 miles. Orange Trail is one-half mile. All trails are rated easy to difficult. Trail map of Hubbard Park
Talcott Mountain State Park

Route 185 Simsbury, CT Phone: 860-242-1158

Heulbein Tower is popular for hiking, picnicking

The Tower Trail is one-and-a-quarter miles long, and will lead you on a 30-40 minute walk to Heublein Towerand breathtaking views of the landscape, including Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire and the mountains of the Berkshires in Massachusetts. A section of the Metacomet Trail also intersects the park. See Talcott Mountain State Park for full description of this park.
Farmington Canal Heritage Trail and Farmington River Trail

The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail stretches from New Haven to the Massachusetts border before continuing into Massachusetts for a total length of 80.5 miles, passing through and 13 towns. The trail, for walkers and bicyclists, runs along abandoned rail corridors and canal tow paths. The Farming River Trail is an 18.2-mile loop trail that connects to the Heritage Trail at location in Farmington and Simsbury. It touches on the towns of Unionville, Collinsville, Burlington, and Canton. Much of the trail hugs the banks of the Farmington River.
Online trail maps provided by the Farmington Valley Trails Council show the full trail and its various segments, with helpful information on parking and other needs.
Information: http://bit.ly/SupDYs
Oak Grove Nature Center

Oak Grove Street Manchester, CT Phone: 860-643-0949

This 52-acre nature preserve and nature center is operated by the nearby Lutz Children's Museum. The property has a pond, a covered bridge, and two easy walking trails totaling about 3 miles of walking distance on dirt paths.
Hours: Trails are open dawn to dusk. Center open for museum activities and by arrangement.
Information: www.lutzmuseum.org/naturecenter.cfm
Cockaponset State Forest and Pattaconk Lake Recreation Area

18 Ranger Road Haddam, CT Phone: 860-566-2304

Large state forest; good for fishing, hiking & walking, horseback riding, snowmobiling

Follow color-coded marked trails past Stevenson Pond, Tower Hill Lake, Deep River, Horse Pond, and serene brooks and streams.
Northern section map.
Southern section map.
Weber Woods map.
See Cockaponset State Forest and Pattaconk Lake Recreation Area for full description of this park.
Penwood State Park

Route 185, Simsbury Road Bloomfield, CT Phone: 860-566-2304

Most of this 800-acre park’s hiking trails begin and end at the main picnic site. Trails are color-coded loops, with the exception of the Nature Trail, which encircles Lake Louise and passes by the scenic pinnacle overlook. Year-round chances to see wildlife such as birds and wildflowers.
Tunxis Trail

The Tunxis Trail, in north-central Connecticut, is part of the blue-blaze trail system, composed of 22 trails in four sections. The Northern Trail is 22 miles long, from the Massachusetts border through Tunxis State Forest. Nepaug region trail is 7.2 miles long, through New Hartford, over Garret Mountain and through Nepaug and Burlington. The Burlington region trail is a network west of Burlington. The Southington region 14 miles of trails crossing Southington, Compounce, and South Mountains. These trails are maintained by volunteers and are among the most popular Connecticut trails for walkers of all abilities.
Best resource for trail maps and trail access is the Connecticut Walk Book (West). You can purchase the book from Connecticut Forest and Park Association's online bookstore, some local bookstores or some local libraries. Information: www.ctwoodlands.org/
Roaring Brook Nature Center

70 Gracey Road Canton, CT Phone: 860-693-0263

This nature center features walking trails, live animals and an Indian longhouse. The Nature Center uses the 100-acre Werner farm property and woods, and maintains its hiking trails, bluebird boxes, and wildlife habitats. The trails are used hiking, cross-country skiing, and passive enjoyment of the outdoors. A self-guiding trail guide, and trail maps may be purchased at the nature store.
Hours: Walking trails are open dawn until dusk.
Information: www.roaringbrook.org/events/trails.html#Trails