Local Trails: Machimoodus State Park
Located about four miles due north of the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam is Machimoodus State Park. It occupies about 300 acres of land bordering the Salmon River. The park entrance is right on route 151 and is well marked with a typical CT state park sign. There is a rather large parking area for a park that does not have any swimming facilities. This is a very well kept and clean park with wonderful picnicking facilities and walking trails. More information on this park, including a trail map can be found on the CT DEEP website.
One thing that struck me about this park was that it differed from most of the other State Parks in eastern Connecticut in that there were many clearings and meadows intermixed with hardwood forest. We are used to hiking parks and forests dense with trees and undergrowth. Typically a path or singletrack is cut through the woods and meanders along the way. Machimoodus has two hiking loops, both are extra wide, gravel/sand park roads, with enough room for groups of people and horses alike.
We first walked the main loop starting on the Upper Vista Trail and proceeded in a clockwise direction down toward the river. It is a steady uphill grade for the first 1/3 mile or so and then levels off until it reaches the first river vista at about ¾ mile. The views of the Salmon River are mostly obscured during the summer at this point. I venture to guess that they greatly improve once all the leaves are off the trees. There was one opening in the trees off a short unmarked path that we took so that we could snap a picture or two. At this point the trail goes down a steep, narrow grade for a bit over a 1/10 that almost seemed out of character for this park with its otherwise wide gravel roads. You will emerge from this section onto a wide open, cut field with benches and picnic tables. This is the second river vista, but like the first, there are no views at this time of year. From this point the trail turns north and becomes the Lower Vista Trail. We followed the trail for ¼ mile then took a side trail that led down to the Salmon River. Here too the views are limited but this path led all the way to the banks of the river.
We doubled back on this side trail and then continued north on the Lower Vista Trail back to where we started. This loop and side trail were about 2 ½ miles. Since we still had some time before I needed to head back, I decided to take the other park loop to add some additional mileage to our hike. This trail is located on the back side of the park pond and heads south-east toward Johnsonville. This loop is a bit more rustic than the main loop, starts off as a forest road but becomes a narrower trail as it progresses. It is mostly flat with no steep grade. After about 4/10 of a mile we found a cut-off trail and headed back to the parking area on the other side of the loop.
Altogether, the distance for the two main loops and the one side path equaled 3.4 mi. We were able to complete this hike in 1 ½ hours. If you prefer a wide, gravel road to a narrow singletrack trail, you will greatly enjoy this park. I only wish the two vistas were cleared enough so they could be enjoyed at all times of the year.