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.
BLUFF POINT STATE PARK
The door to spring has cracked open and I’m taking full advantage of it. First up, Bluff Point State Park in Groton. It always seems to be on one list or another as a top spot for those looking to get outdoors. So, why wait?
I wasn’t the only one thinking the same thing. The place was packed as I pulled into the parking lot. At more than 800 acres in size, Bluff Point is one of the last large pieces of undeveloped land along the Connecticut coastline and folks here take full advantage of it.
The main trail to follow is carved out of the old horse and cart paths used on Gov. John Winthrop’s farm in the 1700’s. Most of its interior is swathed in trees before pockets of open space and salt marshes near the water begin to pop up.
The park’s perimeter offers views of Mumford Cove and Poquonnock River as visitors enter and leave the preserve. And the main trail offers hikers the ability to get up to the water’s edge in many spots.
As I followed the path paralleling the Poquonnock River, I took the time to scour its shell-strewn beaches. Across the water, the Groton-New London Airport seemed relatively busy as small-engine planes landed and took off during this bright morning.
I spent much of the first part of my hike toggling between the main trail and its smaller counterparts until I reached the true highlight of my hike – Bluff Point.
It offers views along Long Island Sound, and a sandy beach that is nearly one mile long. Again, I took the time to walk part of the beach and enjoyed great views of the water and beyond – spotting both the Ledge and Avery Point Lighthouses in the distance.
Hiking up to the point itself offers an even better vantage point. It’s a bit cooler on top of the bluff, but on this gorgeous day the setting was perfect.
Right below the bluff, the rocky coastline is a picturesque footprint of glacier deposits from more than 20,000 years ago. The face itself is a great place to relax after a nice hike into the preserve.
Keep your eyes open for Split Rock – the large boulder that cut in half and sits atop a flat surface. Legend has it that the rock split on a very cold night during the winter of 1779 and made a loud crack like a cannon shot that could be heard all around. Whether or not true, it appears the rock moved to its final resting place thanks to the glaciers themselves.
Reinvigorated after this short respite, I returned to the trail and looped through a natural preserve within the park. This nearly untouched area faces the mouth of Mumford Cove. While walking its banks, I noticed several sea birds diving for fish or resting on boulders scattered on the water’s edge. It’s yet another quiet sanctuary for the wildlife that lives here and the human visitors that care to explore.
Back on the trail, just a short distance away, hikers will also come upon Sunset Rock. It’s a huge boulder that at one time acted as a great spot for sunset views. But, instead of cottages gracing this area, only trees now stand – blocking the view that once was so coveted here.
Continuing down the path – there are even more choices to be made. Hikers can take a longer route along the edge of the cove or loop back to the original trail that parallels the river. I split the difference heading straight down the middle of the peninsula. This route took me passed the old foundation of the Winthrop homestead and the overgrown walls of stone all along the property.
It’s a finishing touch that offers visitors yet another window into the past in a place that’s so in tune with the natural beauty of today.
Directions: Take Exit 88 off I-95. Turn left onto Route 117 S. Turn right at the end onto Route 1 South. Take a left at the first light onto Depot Road. The park entrance is at the end of the road.
Trail Distance: 4 miles
Trail Difficulty: Easy