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.
WEST ROCK RIDGE STATE PARK
It began as a city park with 189 years of history behind it. Now West Rock Ridge State Park stands as the state's second largest park with more than 1,700 acres spanning four towns – Hamden, Bethany, Woodbridge, and New Haven.
Rising to an impressive 627 feet above sea level, the ridge is one of the most prominent features located in the park's New Haven section and attracts plenty of visitors. But, the lure of Hamden's Lake Wintergreen and its well-maintained trail system was my focus on this particular hike.
A spattering of vehicles were already in the lot as I hopped out of the car with my dog Murphy. We headed straight for the trail - passing joggers along the way.
I could spot pieces of litter here and there – a sad reality at some of the more popular parks. But I was heartened to see a park employee already working to clear trash and debris at the top of the trail head.
In just a few yards, we came across the 44 ½-acre lake. And, within moments, we were on its banks and looking out over the glassy water. I could hear frogs bellow to each other near its edge. And occasionally, a fish would poke through the surface - good news for any fisherman trying their luck here.
Eager to continue on, we stuck to the white trail that hugs the lake's shores. There are several other paths that also calls to the casual hiker, but, this one served our purposes.
Wide swaths provided plenty of room as we ambled on – allowing us to easily avoid the brush that borders the trail. The path is especially roomy for horseback riders and mountain bikers – both whom are welcome here. There are also natural stopping points for trekkers to get near the water – a bonus for Murphy who dipped his paws in to cool off.
Another plus I found – the lack of mosquitoes. Maybe it was this particular day, but the insects were low-key and hardly a bother. That was quite all right with me – allowing me the leisure to enjoy the trail and its surroundings in peace.
Halfway through the mile-and-a-half trek, the white trail connects to the red-and-white and eventually red – keeping close to the lake's shore. Here, the terrain turns to a more rugged up-and-down climb over rock ledge. The variety underfoot was a welcome change and definitely put our leg muscles to work.
Once out of the woods, the path levels off again leading up to a bridge where a small dam sends access water downstream. Yes, another change of scenery, but nothing overly dramatic. And by the end of the loop, we were back in the lot - content with our trip and eager to further explore the park's ridge and its secrets.
Directions: Take CT-15 S to Exit 60. Take a right onto Dixwell Avenue/CT-10. Take a right onto Benham St. and follow to the end. Take a left on Main St. Parking for Lake Wintergreen is on the right.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Trail Distance: 1.5 miles