ROCKY NECK STATE PARK
Growing up, I spent many a summer day on the shoreline. And I keep that tradition alive with my own children with routine visits to Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme. But, for the countless hours we’ve spent on the beach, we never really explored the many nuances of this 710-acre park – until now.
So, while on a recent camping trip, my two kids and I took the time to check it out.
In between beach visits, I took my youngest for quick little jaunts by the nearby marsh. There is a small network of trails around Bride Brook that takes you deeper into this herring breeding ground. And although we found it a bit buggy here, it is quite pretty.
My oldest daughter and I broke out the bikes for longer treks through the park. Some of the paths near the campground took us into lightly-wooded areas that passed a small pond and field, while other dirt trails lead toward the public beach.
There are paved roads that also brought us closer to nature. They are blocked off to thru traffic for the most part. But, be aware, you may need to bike on main, park roads to get there.
Our own journey took us from the campground into the depths of the salt marsh and allowed us an expansive view of the cranes fishing. We also spotted a couple of empty platforms awaiting the next generation of ospreys that feed here. It’s an eerily quiet place – away from the bustle of the beach. But, that’s the point and it’s a welcome reprieve from the crowds.
From there, we zipped to the east side of the park by the back lot. Again, paved roads make it easy for bikers to follow. Through the tree line, we could see the widening expanse of Bride Brook in the distance and opportunities a few feet away for hikers to dive deeper into the wooded forest lining the road.
A gradual climb makes this bike ride a bit tiring, but there are points of interest along the way to study. One such spot is Baker’s Cave where stacks of boulders sit atop each other just a short distance off the road. Another stop near the top of the hill had us exploring a section of the ledge that oversees the Four Mile River.
The area is known as Tony’s Nose Overlook. We had difficulty seeing through the foliage. But, what we could see were sailboats cruising the river and the distant movement of the trains that periodically run parallel to the beach far below.
More rugged trails shoot off from this point and send hikers north toward Shipyard Field. But, our adventure was just wrapping up as we took our bikes and followed the loop back down the hill.
With such a hot day ahead of us, it was time to rejoin those crowds on the beach and enjoy our time in the water as much as we did when we chose to pass it by.
Directions: I-95 N to Exit 72 toward Rocky Neck State Park. Continue onto Rocky Neck Connector. Use the right lane to turn left onto CT-156 E. Turn right into park.
Trail Distance: 3 miles
Trail Difficulty: Easy