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.
GREAT CEDARS (WEST) CONSERVATION AREA
With snow still clinging to the ground and temperatures bouncing back, I wanted to pick a hike with a purpose - re-energized by the dramatic changes we’ve seen these last few weeks.
Great Cedars (West) was high on my list for the very fact that it holds the largest stand of great Atlantic white cedars in the state. That alone sparked my curiosity. But, with more than 300 acres of property to explore, I knew there was plenty more to see.
About a mile and half of trails snake through this preserve allowing passage past a small pond before entering into the woods. I found a thin layer of snow and ice stubbornly sticking the ground in parts, while in others puddles of icy water blanket the pathway.
Yellow-blazed trees lead the way on a path that is wide and easy to follow, before it splits off into a blue trail that draws hikers deeper into the forest. This is the one to follow if you want to get near the impressive grove of cedars that appear here.
The path skims the outer edges of the swamp. And with the foliage off the trees, it’s a bit easier to peak at the standing timbers. The task is much more difficult during the height of the summer season.
It isn’t long before hikers are offered yet another choice. A red-blazed trail will lead you to neighboring Clark Community Park, while continuing on the blue circles you back through the preserve.
But before heading back to the parking lot, I wanted to check out a different point of interest. Taking the yellow-blazed offshoot led me to the shores of Lake Rockview. It’s a large body of water that sits beyond the tree line about a half-mile down the trail.
Again, the trees – free of their leaves – offer a view of the water from a rocky promontory. The constant humming of cars from nearby I-95 can be distracting, but once spring arrives the foliage will likely muffle the noise.
Regardless, it was a satisfying finish to a day filled with tidbits of natural wonder. And, for those wanting a little more to do, your hike doesn’t have to end here. The preserve’s counterpart – Great Cedars (East) -- is a short distance away providing additional nuances to the delight of the avid explorer.
But, for this hiker – that adventure would just have to wait for another day.
Directions: Take I-95 to Exit 67. Turn right off the exit to take Elm St./Ingham Hill Road for 1.3 miles. Turn left at sign for preserve to park.
Trail Distance: 1.5 miles
Trail Difficulty: Easy
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