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.
Rock Spring Preserve
Tucked away in the quiet town of Scotland lies a ‘little river’ that plays a big role in a woodland reserve that exists there. Literally named the Little River, this free-flowing waterway carves its way through the heart of the 450-acre Rock Spring Preserve.
It’s a spot that held some promise for a cool, morning hike. So, I set out with my friend Reagan, and arrived at the small, dirt pull-off in front of the trailhead.
Starting at the kiosk, the trail – marked in white – is one of the easiest I’ve ever followed. The path is relatively smooth and guided by well-placed markers that show prominently on the trees.
At first, we found ourselves traipsing through lighter woodlands dappled in sunlight. Other times, the dense foliage of pine and other species made for a more secluded trek.
The three-mile loop is also marked by directional arrows that allow hikers to choose from a number of highlights and shortcuts the preserve has in store. We wanted to see it all, so we stayed on our original path and worked our way down an offshoot of the trail towards the spring which this preserve is named after.
But, it wasn’t bubbling water we saw when we got to the spot, but rather a small stone structure we found. However, the spring isn’t gone, it’s just buried – encased in the protective embrace of the stones so as not to be disturbed.
The water from the spring serves as an integral part of this fragile environment and still connects to the Little River which we could hear flowing in the near-distance. But, in order to following its winding course, we had to backtrack to the main trail to continue on our loop.
And so we did, finding our way to that ‘little river’, which was much more impressive than we first imagined. Plump with rains from the night before, the river’s swift currents proved listless, swirling in several pools - and at times - forming mini waterfalls as it tumbled over small rocks and debris.
Our path took us along for the ride – paralleling the river for a good chunk of our hike. Here, the trek is riddled with some of the usual obstacles, such as roots and fallen trees. But, we also had to take care as some of the path was undermined by weakened soil by the river’s edge.
At one point, we stumbled upon an elaborate stone bench that also makes for a great viewing spot and a quick respite for the weary. We didn’t linger long and continued to weave among the banks of the river until we began our short climb to the overlook.
It serves as another point of interest and deserves a moment of time to consider. It’s a lovely view from here, and one I can imagine would be even better at the peak of winter when this land is covered in snow.
With the river at our backs, we began to wrap up our hike and headed back to the car. This last leg was a bit rougher as we made our way uphill, but still enjoyable. And, under the supervision of The Nature Conservancy, the trails here and throughout the whole preserve are well-kept and litter-free.
Those details may seem small, but they go a long way in making for a good trip. Now, combine that with impressive views and a little river that packs a punch…. well, that’s a hike worth talking about.
Directions: Take Route 66 E to Route 6 E. Follow for about 5.5 miles before turning left onto Boston Post Rd. (signs for CT-66/Willimantic). Turn left onto Tuckie Rd. Go about two miles and turn left onto CT-14 E. Turn left onto Rt. 97. The preserve is on the right.
Trail Distance: 3 miles
Trail Difficulty: Easy