The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) doesn’t have a hike scheduled in Litchfield this year as part of First Day Hikes, a nationwide initiative to get outdoors via guided hikes in state parks and forests – so we thought we would highlight four of our favorite hikes in Litchfield that represent a perfect way to welcome 2024.
Point Folly on Bantam Lake (short, easy walking)
White Memorial’s Point Folly Family Campground, with 47 sites, is open from May through Columbus Day, and during that stretch it’s the domain of registered campers – but in off-season, the lasso-shaped dirt access road takes on a new role as one of the best short hikes in Litchfield.
It’s flat, easy walking (suitable for families with children and even all-terrain strollers), and Point Folly juts out into Bantam Lake, so you’re surrounded by water, views, beauty, and wildlife the entire time.
There’s a viewing platform near the beginning of the walk looking east and north into the protected cove where the lake drains into the Bantam River outlet. It’s a prime spot for migrating ducks, and if you’re lucky you might also see the lake’s resident bald eagles.
There’s a dirt parking area at the entrance to the campground, a smaller adjacent parking area along North Shore Road, and another place to park next to the campground store a short distance away.
For GPS, use the address 123 N Shore Rd, Bantam, CT 06750.
(Fortunately, with 4,000 acres and roughly 40 miles of trails, White Memorial offers lots of other great options. See the Trail Maps page to explore.)
Topsmead State Forest (varying distances, easy)
Topsmead State Forest was once the summer home of Miss Edith Morton Chase, and the old dirt access roads and lanes are now enchanting four-season walking trails that complement the Red Trail through Topsmead’s meadows.
There’s also the Edith Chase Ecology Trail through the woods and the Yellow Trail that edges a pretty pond and takes visitors through a cathedral of pines. Check out the trail map to plan a route.
Miss Edith came from a prominent and wealthy Waterbury family. Her father, Henry Sabin Chase, ran Chase Brass and Copper Company. He gave her 16 acres on Jefferson Hill in Litchfield in 1917 and the 1925 cottage was designed by noted architect Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
When Miss Edith died in 1972, she left the estate, which had grown to 511 acres, to the state “for the pleasure and enjoyment of the people of Connecticut.” Her landmark Tudor-style cottage is open for free guided tours on the second and fourth weekends of each month from June through Columbus Day weekend in October.
See the map for directions.
Mt. Tom State Park (moderately rugged hike)
Mt. Tom State Park actually spans three towns, Litchfield, Morris, and Washington. In warm weather, it’s a great spot for swimming, boating, fishing, and picnicking – and all year-round the draw for hikers is a fairly rugged half-mile climb up to a stone observation tower that offers panoramic views to the west and southwest.
Prospect Mountain, Litchfield Land Trust
(difficulty & distance vary)
The Litchfield Land Trust’s 340-acre Prospect Mountain Preserve and its roughly 4.3 miles of trails are located less than 10 minutes from Bantam center off Cathole or Prospect Mountain roads – so it’s hidden in one sense but also close by and easy to access.
For one great hike, follow Blue Trail from Cathole Road to pass remnants of nickel mining operations and reach the summit, which at an elevation of 1,350 offers a long vista to the west/southwest.
For a shorter, less challenging walk, head to Prospect Mountain Road and the loop around Granniss Pond, a little less than a mile long and easy walking.
Check out the trail maps for access points.