Get Out & Go - Outdoor Adventure in Connecticut Last Updated: April 2021
By Kim Knox Beckius
Get to the heart of the action in a few of Connecticut's nature wonderlands. Outdoor activities are the rewarding and safe escape we all need more than ever these days! Before venturing out, be sure to check with each location as procedures may have changed due to COVID-19.
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. Also, located in Westbrook.
Don’t leave perfect autumn outings to chance — walk or bike through foliage through The Last Green Valley’s close-to-home trails. The Last Green Valley is half the size of Grand Canyon National Park and more than ten times that of Acadia, the largest national park in the northeast. Forest and farmland make up 77% of its 695,000-acres, yet it lies only an hour from three of New England’s four largest urban areas. Its 300,000 inhabitants reside only 2 1/2 hours from 25 million people. This relatively undeveloped rural island in the midst of the most urbanized region in the nation makes it a resource of local, regional, and national importance.
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.
While you're out leaf-peeping in Litchfield hills, take a quick detour to Campbell Falls State Park for some spectacular scenery worth snapping a photo or two. Home to a 50 foot waterfall, this state park is a natural reserve area offering hiking trails and stream fishing.
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. Covered Bridge Electric Bike Rental located in West Cornwall offers electric bikes that allow you to travel the Litchfield Hills with ease.
If you wouldn’t dream of pedaling anything but your own trusty two-wheeler, map out a route and a stylish stay at those that have reopened along Connecticut’s B&B Bike Trail. Or challenge yourself to ride mountain bike-friendly stretches on the New England National Scenic Trail. Find more biking ideas here.