Get Out & Go - Outdoor Adventure in Connecticut Last Updated 7/18
By Kim Knox Beckius
Get to the heart of the action in a few of Connecticut's nature wonderlands.
In a few dips of a paddle, you can be out among the egrets, osprey and bald eagles and breeze-tickled, brackish plants. Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard from Old Lyme’s Black Hall Outfitters on the 500-acre Great Island salt marsh—a protected wildlife refuge where the Connecticut, Black Hall and Lieutenant rivers meet Long Island Sound—and explore a coastal realm few human eyes have seen. Calm, shallow, motorboat-free waterways are a paddler’s nirvana. Guided ecotours are enlightening with sunset excursions that offer a luminous color show.
One of Connecticut’s coolest rides is never the same twice. Strap on a life jacket, choose your colorful tube and blast off into the cold rush of the Farmington—a National Wild and Scenic River in Satan’s Kingdom located in New Hartford. Natural forces decide whether your trip will be mostly tame or bumpy and fast-paced. You will hit three sets of rapids that will elevate your heart rate, but there’ll be plenty of time to soak in lush scenery. You may even spot a bear on the river’s edge.
Don’t leave perfect autumn outings to chance. Rural towns in Connecticut’s northeast corner join in the Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor’s celebration of Walktober. But it’s not just for walkers. Guided walking, biking, paddling and horseback riding trips are planned for practically every day from late September through early November. Tour guides can’t wait to show you this pristine region’s gorgeous landscapes as leaves dazzle overhead and crunch beneath your feet.
Fall is the optimal time to tackle the moderate hike up Talcott Mountain in Simsbury. The trail is a perfect first hike for kids. When you reach the summit, you’ll have 165 feet more to climb to the top of Heublein Tower, built in 1914 as a summer residence. From this storied structure, visitors enjoy panoramic views as far away as Long Island Sound.
You can’t escape historic lore in Connecticut, even in the midst of 860 acres of serene woods and water in East Haddam. So, before you embark on a birdwatching hike or try your luck fishing for brook trout, walk the short distance from the parking lot to photogenic Chapman Falls. See those circular potholes at the waterfall’s base? Stories—likely invented by Connecticut’s earliest settlers—attribute them to a hopping-mad Satan, who accidentally dipped his tail in the cold water.
Route 7 in western Connecticut follows the Housatonic River, rewarding fall color seekers with superb photo ops. The best shots await in Kent Falls State Park located in Kent, where Falls Brook tumbles toward the river in a dramatic cascade. The dancing waters provide soothing background music for picnicking and strolling across a tiny covered bridge. If you’re up for a climb, a steep quarter-mile trail leads to up-close views of the shimmering spray and its gold-leaf frame.
Named for the shape of its two-mile ridge line that resembles a mighty giant stretched out for a snooze, this 1,500-acre park in Hamden is a destination for hikers of all abilities. Thirty miles of trails include original portions of the famed Blue Blazed network. Some summit routes are steep and require skill. But the 1.5-mile Tower Trail is a relaxed ascent. Views from the four-story, fieldstone tower stretch all the way to Long Island Sound.
On Two Wheels
Connecticut is an ideal cycling destination—even for casual riders who don’t own bikes. CTBikeTours.com provides everything but the leg power when you book their guided Connecticut Shoreline Bike & Boat Tour, which combines a coastal ride with an enchanting voyage among the Thimble Islands. The Simsbury Free Bike program makes loaners available throughout the Farmington Valley, which is veined with paved trails.
If you wouldn’t dream of pedaling anything but your own trusty two-wheeler, map out a route and a stylish stay along Connecticut’s B&B Bike Trail. Or challenge yourself to ride mountain bike-friendly stretches on the New England National Scenic Trail.