Autumn in Connecticut is nothing less than extraordinary. And in the height of the season, there’s nowhere else I would rather be than in the Litchfield Hills.
The red, yellow and oranges are a masterful blend that only Mother Nature can achieve. And Haystack Mountain in Norfolk looked to be the perfect spot to drink it all in.
The park is open year-round, but the interior road is open to vehicles from the third weekend in April until the first of November. I snuck under that seasonal deadline and headed for the heart of the park where the winding roads are lined with the brilliant colors of fall.
Parking in the empty lot, it was unearthly quiet, but serene. The cool morning definitely lent itself to the day’s brisk hike to the top.
Hikers can connect with the yellow trail from this lot. But, for those who want a longer trek, catch the trail from the bottom of the mountain near the road’s beginning.
I started from the lot, but was drawn to a little unmarked path that cuts through the forest. I took this as my guide through the dense woods and made my way up the rugged hillside. A slight breeze rustled the already falling leaves on the ground, covering the narrow path I was on. But, it wasn’t too difficult to keep on the trail as it continued its climb.
It didn’t take me long to trek through the brush before reconnecting to the main, yellow trail. This wide, and easily accessible path is even easier to follow. And, in just moments, I could make out the outline of a tower through the trees.
Rounding the curve gave me a better perspective. Standing at 34-feet tall, the stone tower stands at the top of the summit marking the spot for more than 85 years. Prior to that, a wooden structure, built in the 1880s, stood here allowing visitors to enjoy the magnificent view. It’s a tradition that now translates to today’s tower and I made sure to take full advantage of it.
I climbed the 45-or-so corkscrew steps to the top and was greeted by a 360-degree view of the rolling hills before me. Be sure to bring a camera with you. With the autumn colors shouting from every corner, there’s a lot to photograph.
On this clear day, I could make out the Berkshires and mountain peaks of Massachusetts and New York. At more than 1,700 feet above sea level, even the Green Mountains of Vermont can be spotted from this vantage point.
Yet closer, I could see the curves of the Blackberry River and select farms sprinkled among the hills – something out of a nostalgic, New England postcard. With such views at hand, only one word comes to mind when recalling this hike.
Directions: Take Exit 39 off I-84 west. Continue west on Rt. 4 onto Rt. 179 north. From Rt. 179 get on Rt. 44. Take a right onto Rt. 272 north. The park is on the left.