Local Trail Spotlight: Cockaponset Forest – Millers Pond State Park
Just a mere 5 miles from downtown Middletown is a wonderful State Park and State Forest that boasts an extensive amount of trails and a beautiful fresh water lake that was looking very inviting this afternoon. This is the Millers Pond State Park and the adjoining Cockaponset State Forest. These parcels are located in the towns of Haddam & Durham. The parking area, which can host a few dozen cars, is located on Foot Hills Rd. in Haddam. An obvious State Park sign welcomes you to the park. A park description and trail map can be found on the state DEEP website.
You might be wondering how this can be Cockaponset Forest, when you might be familiar with Cockaponset located further south in Chester, Higganum and Deep River. Well it is. It is just one more piece of the rather large and extensive state forest pie known as Cockaponset. (We will be hiking and reporting on another piece of the pie which includes Pattaconk Reservoir in Chester at a future date.)
After parking, my trusty dog, Cinnamon, and I decided to take the Red trail south and follow it through the south end of the State Park into Cockaponset Forest . We would follow this trail for about a mile and a half before taking a spur trail toward the pond. Should you decide to hike the entire Red trail loop back to the parking lot, be prepared for a long trek. It meanders for over 8 – ¼ miles. What will strike you as you hike along the Red trail is that it is very well maintained and well traveled by the mountain biking community. Any large blow-down on the trail has been cut and shaped and serve as a biking challenge or a stream crossing.
These trails wind through the forest on a very irregular pattern, over and around rocks, slabs, dips and valleys. While we did not encounter any steep up or down sections, I would not recommend these trails for the novice bike rider. The trail exits and re-enters the State Park without any notice. After following the Red trail and taking the spur we joined the Blue/White trail as it followed the contour of the lake. This too is a rocky and irregular trail, especially where it traverses near a steep rock face on the south side of the lake. We exited the Blue/White trail where it joins the Blue Trail. The Blue trail is part of the 50 mile Mattabasset Trail. If one were to follow the Blue trail for about 1 ½ miles to the west it would lead to a scenic vista called Bear Rock.
We did not have the time to visit Bear Rock, so we hiked the White trail along the lake shore and then took the gravel road for a while. While walking on the lake west side you notice that there are areas that have been built up to hold back water. There is also a concrete spillway. Apparently, this lake was once a smaller version, or a river that was dammed to create Millers Pond. The White trail leads back to the parking area. We started to hike the Red trail on the north side of the parking area but only hiked about a ¼ mile before we turned around. Time had expired for this hike and we needed to head back home. In all, we hiked about 4 of the parks 13 plus miles of trails.
I highly recommend this State Park and the companion State Forest as an enjoyable hiking or mountain biking destination because of the extensive, challenging and well maintained trails.