Reservoir Trail one of many highlights in Vast Forest - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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Reservoir Trail one of many highlights in Vast Forest

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Rim Trail leads hikers around Portland reservoir. Rim Trail leads hikers around Portland reservoir.
Pine grove in Meshomasic Forest reaching for the sky. Pine grove in Meshomasic Forest reaching for the sky.

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.  



A wooded canopy covering 9,000 acres sits in the heart of Connecticut. Dubbed the first state forest in New England, Meshomasic Forest is spread out among three towns - Portland, East Hampton, and Glastonbury - and offers the intrepid hiker so much to see.  There are 100-year old pines to mineral quarries to take in. And the vast forest even houses a defunct-Nike site where anti-aircraft missiles were on-the-ready during the Cold War - an especially cool spot to check out!

My own expedition centered on a visual gem within the grove – the Portland Reservoir. The red trail covers close to two miles that loop around the reservoir’s rim.

There are different entry points to the trail. I settled on the dead end closest to the reservoir’s dam along Old Marlborough Turnpike.

Skirting around the trail’s gate, I forged ahead down Reservoir Road – a wide path that runs at its closest point along the water.

Not long into the hike, there are gorgeous views of Raccoon Hill and Meshomasic Mountain looming large in the distance. On the other lies a swamp inundated with the ghostly stumps of trees poking through the watery bog. The spot is a bit buggy especially in the summer months. But, I find it is most beautiful in the fall when the brilliant colors of autumn reflect off the water.

Along the trail there is a secondary path that takes you into the woods. Just be aware, the forest is home to timber rattlesnakes. In fact, Meshomasic is a Native American term for ‘place of many snakes’. The snakes are a protected, endangered species – so take care to stay on the trail as opposed to going ‘rogue’.

Following the main trail again, you’ll find yourself passing yet another gate and angling deeper into the woods. This old pathway was used by early settlers in the area and now takes hikers to Buck Brook. Miniature waterfalls pepper the small stream on its travels to the reservoir and tends to overflow during rainier times.

Rather quickly, the trail continues up and over a larger stream – Reservoir Brook. The sturdy bridge - compliments of an Eagle Scout project a few years back –  takes the hiker through another large stretch of timber. A batch of tall white pines will appear to your left. If you can, take the time to check them out, they’re quite impressive. On the other side, closer to the reservoir’s edge - you’ll spot some stone walls – a reflection of our colonial days.

Toward the end of the hike, you’ll see two large water tanks for a reservoir that still serves as a water source for people in the area. Looping around these tanks, brings you to the last bridge you’ll see on this trek as it crosses Reservoir Brook yet again.

Here, the sound of the rushing water will welcome you as you walk back to your car – a pleasant way to end your trip, the way it began.

Directions: Take CT-9 S toward Middletown/Old Saybrook. Turn right onto Hwy 17 N/St. Johns Square (signs for Rt. 66 E/Portland/Willimantic). Turn right onto Main St. Continue straight onto Sage Hollow Rd. Turn left onto Cornwall St. Turn left onto Old Marlborough Turnpike. Park at the end of the dead-end street at the base of the reservoir.

Trail Distance: < 2 miles

Trail Difficulty: Easy