Local Trails: West Rock Ridge State Park
When people talk about hiking near New Haven most of the chatter is about East Rock or Sleeping Giant State Park. If you head over to the north western corner of New Haven, right by Southern Connecticut State University, you will find West Rock Ridge State Park. West Rock offers 21 miles of blazed hiking trails including the 7 mile long Regicides Trail.
For our hike we decided to park by Lake Wintergreen. From the parking area we decided to head north along the red trail. The red trail is a nice flat, fairly wide trail. It is also the main multi-use trail so you may find horses or mountain bike riders along the way. After 0.6 miles we met up with the purple trail and headed west up the ridge. There are a few switch backs along the way to make the uphill not as strenuous.
Once at the top of the purple trail you meet up with Baldwin Dr. I’m not sure when, if ever this road is open. There are some cell towers and a water tower along the ridge so it is most likely just used for utility workers. We decided to pass over the road to continue our hike going south along the blue Regicides Trail. This doesn’t seem to be as popular of a trail being that there was some overgrowing going on where we were.
It took a while before we had an open view of Lake Dawson to our west. For the views we had to walk out on to some spur paths where the trees just opened up. There are extremely steep drop offs at this point so you need to proceed with caution. As we continued on hopping between the trail and the road we caught some views out toward Konolds Pond also. When the leaves are off the trees in the late fall and winter months there will be many more great views.
We continued south and might never have realized that we walked right over the Wilbur Cross Parkway had we not read that the tunnel goes right through the park. We stuck with the blue trail as we made our way to Judges Cave. After spending some time playing in the cave and marveling at the history behind it we took to the road to get to the South Lookout. This road is used by cars heading to the Lookout.
The South Lookout has a parking lot, pavilion, and beautiful stone wall that looks out on 200 square acres for land. From the look out you can see Sleeping Giant, East Rock, downtown New Haven, and Long Island Sound. The air was heavy with haze and humidity when we went, but we still lingered around laying on the wall, relaxing, and enjoying the view.
Heading back we decided to go right down from the lookout to meet up with the red trail at its southern most point. Along the way back we stumbled across the farm animals at Common Ground High School. We couldn’t resist a visit with them before continuing on.
The final highlight came in the last mile as we hiked along Lake Wintergreen. We saw a canoe out enjoying a paddle along with fisherman trying to find themselves a trout dinner. In all our afternoon lasted 4 hours and we were able to get 8 miles of hiking in. We encountered people of all ages along the trail but never felt crowded. I’ll certainly be back to hike some more.