Since childhood, my love of the outdoors has always been a part of me. And as an adult, I hope to share that passion with my own children.
So, I offered this challenge to my family, to join me in exploring the hidden treasures and more popular gems Connecticut and the surrounding region have to offer. From hiking to biking to kayaking, I hope my window into the outside world inspires you to explore as well.
RIVER HIGHLANDS STATE PARK
It's not the first place you think of when you're looking for a cliff walk along the river's edge.
But, at River Highlands State Park in Cromwell, you'll find it.
With the taste of winter in the air, I figured this would be a good time to check it out myself. And, I'm glad I did. Located off Field Road, a parking lot greets visitors along with a kiosk stationed at its entrance. Mapped out before me, a number of trails to choose from. I picked one that would take me along the river for its scenic views.
The trek started simply enough on the white trail, sending me deeper into the woods towards my destination. The path is wide and the trees along the way are clearly marked with paint to guide you. As I headed towards the river, the sounds of traffic slowly melted away as the path began to climb. And, it didn't take long to feel totally enveloped in the natural surroundings.
About a half-mile in, I came upon the bluffs that overlook the Connecticut River. The land rises about 150 feet above the river's banks. The view is exhilarating, but is not fenced off in anyway. This, in addition to the falling leaves, can make this trail especially precarious, so watch your step.
The path continues to follow the river's length for another half mile, giving hikers several vantage points along the way. The views are a bit easier to find now that the trees are shedding their leaves.
The second leg of this trip sends you back into the woods. It's hard to imagine this 177-acre preserve once showcased farm fields and pastures. Now, it offers a reprieve from the development held at bay just a few feet from the park's borders.
As I headed back toward my starting point, I quickly discovered hiking at the end of autumn isn't always easy. I took a tumble on slippery leaves while descending some hilly terrain. Only a lone squirrel witnessed my embarrassing fall. But it was enough to remind me why it's so important to pay attention.
And, that goes for tree markers as well. You can easily get turned around if you don't notice your surroundings. In my case, the white trail led to a green one that branched off in two directions. As a light rain began to fall, I chose to go right, crossing my fingers it would bring me to my destination.
It did and I am grateful for that. But, I'm more grateful that I took the time to explore this oasis found in the heart of suburbia.
Directions: From Route 3 and I-91, go east on West Street for 1.7 miles. Turn right (south) on Route 99. Follow Route 99 who 1.9 miles before turning left on Golf Club Road. Follow Golf Club Road for .3 miles to Field Road. Turn right on Field Road. Go about one mile and turn right at the stop sign to continue on Field Road. At about .3 miles, the parking lot will be on the left.
Length: 2 miles