Along for the Glide – Cross-Country Skiing Spots in Connecticut Last Updated 2/17
There’s more to skiing in Connecticut than downhill runs. For fans of cross-country, or Nordic skiing, there are lots of places to ski, whether you’re a beginner, weekender or expert. Burning up to 600 calories an hour, cross-country skiing can be quite a workout, but it’s also a great way to experience the calm and stillness of some of Connecticut’s most breathtaking natural surroundings at your own pace. After a fresh snowstorm, you’ll find dozens of trails come to life in Connecticut, both groomed and natural, where you can indulge your senses in the beauty of a New England winter.
Winding Trails Cross Country Ski Center, Farmington
Whether you’ve been skiing for years or are just starting out, Winding Trails is a peaceful winter wonderland in the heart of the Farmington Valley. Connecticut’s only full service cross-country ski center offers an extensive, well maintained trails system (for a fee), as well as equipment rentals, tours and training.
With 12½ miles of trails, Winding Trails features everything a cross-country skier needs, from lessons for beginners to more challenging trails for experts. According to Scott Brown, Executive Director of Winding Trails, the benefits of coming to Connecticut’s premier cross-country ski center include “expertly groomed trails, maintained by rolling, packing and setting track so they’re ready. You also have rentals, lessons, first aid and a snack bar and fireplace here. And most importantly, the trails are meant for skiers, so you won’t have hikers leaving uneven footprints in the trails.”
Brown says cross country-skiing is one of the best aerobic exercises and a great way to burn calories. “But really, the key is to just get out and enjoy winter.”
Cross-Country Skiing in Connecticut’s State Parks
Of course, cross-country skiing is also allowed on all multi-use trails and roads in all Connecticut state parks and forests. You should plan to go when there is decent snow cover though, as most trails aren’t groomed for skiers and things like rocks and roots can make cross-country skiing difficult, and even dangerous. Get information on parking and amenities for Connecticut parks and forests here.
Popular Parks and Preserves for Cross-Country Skiing
Here are some popular spots for cross-country skiing (and snowshoeing) around Connecticut (bring your own gear!):
Gay City State Park in Hebron has over 11 miles of multi-use trails on 1,569 acres. Although the trails are not groomed for cross-country skiing, the road and open fields are great places for the novice skiers and those interested in snow shoeing. The main gate of the park is closed, with winter parking just off Route 85. (Dogs must be on a leash.)
The largest tract of protected land in Fairfield County, Devil’s Den Preserve in Weston features a patchwork of woodlands, wetlands, rock ledges and north-south ridges and valleys woven with streams and swamps. Cross-country skiing is permitted on red-blazed trails when there are 8” to 10” of snow on the ground to cover rocks and stumps. (Dogs not permitted.)
Hamden’s Sleeping Giant State Park maintains a cross-country ski trail on the north side of the park. The trail is accessible from the north end of the Red Circle Trail on Tuttle Ave., or the north end of the Red Square Trail on Mansion Rd. or the east end of the Violet, Green, White, Orange and Yellow trails on Chestnut Lane.
In Wallingford, and now Meriden, the Quinnipiac River Linear Trail offers a well-maintained trail for cross-country skiing when the snow gets deep enough.
There’s a stretch of the Hop River State Park Trail in Bolton Notch State Park that traces a former railroad line through 20 winding miles of off-the-beaten track beauty. (Photo above)
Although trails are not groomed, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are welcome at Litchfield’s White Memorial Conservation Center, the largest nature preserve in the state. (Dogs are permitted, but must be leashed at all times.)
In eastern Connecticut, check out the trails at the James L. Goodwin State Forest. Located off Route 6 in Hampton, the forest features 14 miles of well-maintained trails with kiosks and signage, and offers recreation for every season of the year.
- Chatfield Hollow State Park in Killingworth is another great spot. In winter the main gate is closed, but there is a parking lot just off Route 80. The blue blazed trail is for foot travel only, but all the other trails are non-motorized multi-use. The longest trail is the 2.5-mile Deep Woods (orange trail). The yellow blazed trail, known as the Old Witches Hollow Trail, is only .5 miles in length. Staying overnight? Don’t miss the Chatfield Hollow Bed & Breakfast for an authentic lodge experience.
Outside Activity Tips
We want you to enjoy the beautiful surroundings safely this winter. Here are a few suggestions from our friends at Connecticut’s state parks and forests:
Cross-country skiing is a workout, so wear layers to make it easy to remove items if you get too warm. Wear a hat that covers your ears and gloves to keep your hands warm (tip: mittens provide more warmth to your hands than gloves!) Wear waterproof, insulated footwear to help avoid hypothermia or frostbite by keeping your feet warm and dry.
Dehydration can be just as common during the colder months and the signs are more often overlooked especially since we do not sweat as profusely. Always carry water with you while enjoying your favorite outdoor winter activity.
Just because it’s not summer doesn't mean that you don’t have to worry about sunburn. Snow reflects the sun's rays, so sunburn is always possible. Wear an SPF of 15 and above as well as lip balm that contains sunscreen.
Watch for Warning Signs
Recognize frostbite warning signs: gray, white or yellow skin discoloration, numbness, waxy feeling skin. Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms. If you get wet, remove wet clothes immediately and warm the core body temperature with a blanket or warm fluids like hot cider or soup. Avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol.
Make it a Winter Getaway!
Looking for other things to do in the area this time of year? Check out our Winter Only getaway!