From the Berkshire Hills in the northwest to the coastal marshes of the southeast, the Constitution State has a varying topography to tickle any hiker’s fancy. Whether you’re into strolls along the Long Island Sound coastline, a quick, scenic hike near the state’s capital, or a moderately challenging hike up one of the state’s high points, we’re exploring 10 of the best hikes in Connecticut in today’s post!
Being the third smallest state in the country at 5,543sq. miles, finding access to hiking in CT is pretty easy. Despite its small size, Connecticut offers a whopping 139 state parks and forests! And if that’s not enough, the list of city parks is nearly endless.
Though the highest point in the state is debatable between Bear Mountain (2,316ft) and Mount Frissel (2,380ft, but it straddles Massachusetts, where the actual peak is), it goes without saying that you won’t find any overly strenuous hikes here. However, there are still a surprising number of hills with breathtaking views of the surrounding CT countryside, rivers, and towns.
Connecticut also boasts 96 miles of coastline filled with boardwalks and public beaches. There are quaint coastal towns aplenty too which provide ample opportunities for a romantic sunset stroll along the shoreline.
No matter which part of the state you live in or are visiting, chances to go hiking in Connecticut are numerous. Let’s jump in and take a look at some of the best places!
Litchfield Hills Hiking
This rolling hill area of the state is a popular one for nature lovers looking to get some fresh air in the great outdoors. There are plenty of places with wonderful views of the Housatonic River and the vibrant fall colors can’t be beat! Needless to say, hiking trails near Litchfield are plentiful. Here are some of our favorites!
Mt.Tom Tower Loop
One of the oldest parks in the CT park system, Mt.Tom State Park is located a mere 10 minutes southwest of Litchfield. One of, if not the, most popular trails in the park is a 1.5-mile moderately rated loop to the tower at the top of Mt.Tom. With almost 400ft of elevation gain, the trail starts off a bit on the steep side. It’s not long before you reach a level section near a swamp, past which you can take a short spur trail to a lookout. The tower itself is 34ft tall, where you will be able to see the Catskills, Mount Everett, and Long Island Sound.
Little Laurel Lime Park
Part of the Seymour Land Trust, this small park is about a 40-minute drive south of Litchfield. There are a few different routes you can take to explore this area, none of which are long (all 3 are under 2-miles in length, so take them all!). One of the highlights of Laurel Lime is its marble “caves”. Now, if you’re expecting some awesome caverns capable of walking through, you will be sorely disappointed. These numerous (125!) “holes in the rock” are still a very interesting geological feature to check out. After that, take the “boundary loop trail” to some rocky outcroppings where you will be afforded great views of the Housatonic River Valley.
Kent Falls State Park
Perhaps one of the most popular state parks in Connecticut, once you even see pictures of Kent Falls, you’ll understand why! If you’re looking for a super easy, scenic “hike” to do with the kids or you’re short on time, you won’t regret the short 0.7-mile walk to the falls. This impressive cascade tumbles down 250ft into various tiers along the way. As if walking right alongside the falls isn’t enough, there is also a short side trail for another viewpoint.
Best Hikes with a View
As mentioned in the intro, there are a surprising amount of Connecticut hikes with views. If you’re into trails with rewarding 360° views at the top, here are some of the best hikes in Connecticut!
The Salisbury area is a popular one if you are looking for hikes on the more challenging side. Bear Mountain, widely recognized as the highest point in Connecticut, is one such place if you’re looking for a moderately difficult, but rewarding hike. The trail, part of which runs along the Appalachian Trail, is about 6-miles, out-and-back, and gains about 1,550ft of elevation to reach the peak. Not only will you see the lovely surrounding Berkshires/Appalachians, but you’ll also be afforded views of southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Literally located just minutes away from Bear Mountain is Mount Frissell, another one of the state’s highest points. (And you may as well kill two birds with one stone, right?) This trail is 5-miles round-trip with a moderate elevation gain of 854 feet. That being said, enjoy the gradual ascent for the first 1.25 miles because things get steep after that! Enjoy the viewpoints along the way, where you might see (depending on the time of year and how recently the trail has been cleared) the surrounding Taconic Plateau and dense woods. Speaking of which, that is another great thing about this trail: It’s a great place to find a secluded, quiet nature hike.
Cobble Mountain Loop
This 3.7-mile loop near Kent will also give you a run for your money with around 850ft of elevation gain in its short span. You shouldn’t run into too many other hikers, though, making this a nice, but challenging, getaway. You’ll cross several streams and encounter some rocky areas, but find some nice lookout points along the route as well, including the summit, which offers views of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River Valley. If you’re up to it, you can continue on past Cobble Mountain’s summit and lengthen your loop by double.
Again, with 96 miles of coastline, you can rest assured there is no shortage of Connecticut beach hikes. Although, “hikes” may be a strong word. There are plenty of beaches to plan a family outing to or take a moonlit walk with your significant other, but many of the actual trails near Long Island Sound travel within nature preserves or state parks along coastal marshes. With that being said, here are a couple of nice trails that do include some hiking along the shoreline!
Bluff Point Coastal Reserve Trail
If you’re looking for some leisurely hiking near Mystic CT, look no further than Bluff Point Coastal Reserve. (A 12-minute drive.) The 3.6-mile loop hike gains an easy 164ft of elevation gain, making it enjoyable for the whole family. The area offers a nice mixture of multiple terrains with part of your journey through the woods and a nice little section in the middle to stop and take a break at the edge of the waves along the rocky coastline. The only drawback is that this area is pretty popular with both locals and tourists, so be sure to head out early if you can!
Harkness Memorial State Park Loop
For something a little shorter, but just as enjoyable, check out the 1.3-mile loop at Harkness Memorial SP while you’re in the area as well. This trail runs along marshes, coastal marshes, and along the shoreline. Another great hike for the whole family or if you’re looking for some great nature shots of the area! Be sure to explore Eolia too, the 42-room mansion with beautiful gardens during the warmer months.
Best Hikes Near Hartford
Although located in the central valley in the middle of the state, you can still find great hiking near Hartford CT. Here are a couple of our favorite spots that are within a short drive from the city.
West Hartford Reservoir #6
For an easy, relaxing walk to de-stress from city life, head to the West Hartford Reservoir. Although on the edges of town, it’s still far enough to be able to easily access it and immerse yourself in some self-appointed nature therapy! Parts of the loop trail (which is 3.8-miles in length) are paved and many refer to it as more of a walking path than a hike. With only 95ft of elevation gain, walking around the water under the canopy of trees provides a nice place to hike with the family on the weekend or a quick break on lunch during the week.
Talcott Mountain Trail to Hueblein Tower
Located right next door to West Hartford Reservoir is Talcott Mountain State Park. For some of the best views in the area for relatively little work, head up the 2.5-mile Hueblein Tower Trail. It is a bit steep, but there are benches along the way if you need a rest. There are several steep lookout areas too, so take caution! If you’re not a fan of heights, you can still get some pretty great views from the bottom of the tower, but the 360° ones from the top are really spectacular! If you feel like extending your hike, you can also take part of the long-distance Metacomet Trail to lengthen your trip to over 4-miles.
With such easy access to and varied Connecticut hikes, there’s no reason to not get out there and try one today! Have you tried any of the hikes on our list? Which trail would you most like to visit?
Read these next:
- 11 of the Best Hikes in Massachusetts
- 10 of the Best Hikes in Rhode Island
- 14 Fabulous and Fun Things to Do in Mystic CT
- 101 Things to Do in New England: The Ultimate New England Bucket List