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.
Pigeon Swamp Preserve
Among the rolling hills and scenic farmland of Lebanon sits a 135-acre preserve tucked away in an idyllic Connecticut landscape.
The Pigeon Swamp Preserve is run by Joshua's Trust and is accessed via two entrances – with the main one located on Pigeon Swamp Road. I pulled into the parking lot, took a quick peak at the kiosk's map, and with my dog, Sampson, set out.
The yellow trail is the main path here. It's a two-mile loop trail that weaves through the entire preserve. I picked up the trail that follows parallel to the road. Here, the path is narrow, even, and well-kept. Trail markers are also easy to spot.
At about 500 feet, the trail, marked in yellow, takes a sharp left and takes you deeper in the woods. Eventually the path skirts Pigeon Swamp – a name that refers to now-extinct passenger pigeons that used to travel above.
The mosquitoes here are brutal and I was grateful to be wearing long pants and sleeves. It's also a good idea to cover up to easily spot any ticks hitching a ride.
Once past the swamp, the path takes you to a shallow marsh. A red spur trail offers up a scenic view of the water and surrounding vegetation. Wildlife also abounds here. Within moments, I came across a garter snake and a great blue heron on the edge of the 40-acre habitat. The sights offered a short, but peaceful reprieve.
Back on the main trail, we made our way through an old pasture and more woods. Marked in blue, a shortcut appears about halfway into the hike leading back to the parking lot. But, the day was too gorgeous to cut this adventure short.
As we carried on, I noticed how well-protected this preserve is. Volunteers have taken great care to keep the path clear of debris. Along the way, I noticed downed trees cut into pieces and set aside so as not to block the trail. Such detail only adds to this preserve's kid-friendly atmosphere.
And there is still so much more to see for children and adults alike. Another spur trail leads hikers to historic remnants from an old mill that was in operation as early as 1777. An old home's cellar is one of the most prominent features at the site.
You can spot Big Pond peeking through the woods here. But, I wanted a closer look. The yellow trail skirts by the pond and offers beautiful views. For those wanting more, head to the clearly-labeled Babcock Hill Connector. From here, the Pond View Trail offers yet another vantage point of the 23-acre pond. The path loops back onto the connector which leads to a second parking area off Babcock Hill Road.
I, however, stayed on the main trek running parallel to the water. I eventually made my way into the woods again where a pair of deer bounded close by. That perked Sampson's interest, but also alerted the deer who mad dash into the dense foliage. We gave them a wide berth and made our way back to the car.
But, it wasn't the only vehicle in the lot anymore. In just an hour's time, the place was packed with hikers and outdoor enthusiasts just like me – a true testament to the preserve's popularity and, hopefully, its longevity.
Directions: Take CT-66 E and turn right onto CT-85 S. In a little less than 2 miles, turn left onto CT-207 E. In a little less than 9 miles, turn left onto Kick Hill Rd. Continue onto Machine Shop Hill Rd. In about ½ mile, turn a hard right onto Pigeon Swamp Rd. Continue down the road until you see the entrance to the Preserve on the right.
Trail Length: 2 miles
Trail Difficulty: Easy