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.
Trails at Barnes Memorial Nature Center
Cliff walks and panoramic views are always a big draw for hikers looking for a challenge. But, sometimes it’s the simplest and quietest of walks that are the best remedy to carry folks through the day.
In Bristol, lies a network of trails that does just that. Located off Shrub Road, the Barnes Memorial Nature Center is a great way to introduce kids to nature. But, the trails just behind the center are just as valuable.
A kiosk stands at the trailhead detailing the handful of paths available to hikers. They include the linear, blue-blazed path - part of the larger Tunxis Trail - as well as shorter, loop trails. I tried my hand at all of them this particular morning.
Setting off on the blue, I crunched my way along the well-defined path and into the woods. A leg of the red, loop trail also runs along this trek. I followed this trail once it split off, heading towards the small brook that runs through the property.
A couple of footbridges brought me over the gentle stream and onto the yellow trail – yet another small loop that leads hikers deeper into the woods. This particular path provides a bit of a workout climbing uphill fairly quickly. The top of the ridge here is said to be created by a glacier from eons ago; the sides sloping gradually downward to the forest floor below.
The trail follows the ridge for a short distance before bringing you back down the slope, and closing the loop. Nearing the brook once again, I backtracked to the blue, curious to see what else the land had to offer.
Here, the trail, leading north, begins to close in. The trek, especially near the water’s edge, is truly striking. It feels jungle-like in both its look and feel. This, despite being so close to homes just yards away from the property’s western perimeter.
That feeling only intensified about a half-mile in. Here, the trail splits off again this time leading to a white-blazed path. The trail is lined with logs in an attempt to keep feet dry. But, it’s still tough going. I found myself in some mud holes and swampy underbrush at almost every corner. And, at times, the path itself disappeared into the foliage – forcing me to carefully consider my next steps.
Once clear, I found myself going uphill again and back towards the ridge. Here, the path is much drier and begins to open up a bit. Before reconnecting to the yellow trail, I crossed an area known as Pigeon Hill. It’s a serene space surrounded by trees and the occasional chatter of nearby birds. Its name reflects a place a flock of now-extinct passenger pigeons once called home.
And home is where I was headed.
I retraced my steps off the ridge and back down to the trailhead – grateful for the opportunity to explore a quieter side of Connecticut many have yet to see.
Directions: Take CT-9N to exit 28 for CT-72 toward Bristol. Continue onto CT-72W and CT-72W/I-84. Take exit 33 for CT 72W toward Bristol. Keep left to continue on CT-72W. Take the CT-177/North Washington St. ramp. Turn right onto CT-177N. After about three miles, turn left onto Morea Road. Continue onto Stevens St. Turn right onto Jerome Ave. Turn left onto Shrub Rd. Parking at the nature center is on the right.
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Trail Distance: 2 miles