Top Hiking Trails in Fairfield County Last Updated: February 2022
It’s hard to find a silver lining in the COVID-19 cloud; but if there is one, it’s that Connecticut residents, as well as out-of-state visitors young, old and in-between, have ventured into the great outdoors in search of fresh air and exercise as they take in our state’s rejuvenating natural wonders. Walkers, joggers, hikers, bikers – and their furry companions – have discovered the vast number of parks, forests, and trails in Fairfield County (most of which are accessible at no charge and pet-friendly), with each one offering its own unique and memorable features. Whether you are a novice or seasoned hiker or nature lover, Fairfield County has parks, preserves, and open spaces for everyone, with more than 235 miles of hiking trails. Here are some you might want to explore. For a complete list, including pet-friendly and wheelchair-accessible parks and trails, click here.
Named for the Mianus River and its tributaries that run through it, the Mianus River Park (pictured above) is a public, 389-acre deciduous forest that straddles the Stamford-Greenwich border. It's a haven for dog walkers, mountain bikers, fishermen, hikers, and joggers alike. The best entrance to the park is from Merribrook Lane, which is a well-hidden street accessible from Westover Road, about a mile south of the Merritt Parkway. Free parking, handicap accessible, and open from sunrise to sunset.
Since opening to the public in 1966, the mission of the Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens in Stamford has been to cultivate and develop a diverse collection of trees, gardens, and plants for all to explore, enjoy and study; and, through education and stewardship, provide a greener, healthier, more beautiful environment. In addition to invigorating nature walks, they offer many programs for all ages, including summer camps, tours, art and landscaping classes, yoga and free dog training classes.
Recognized as a leader in environmental education, stewardship of natural resources, and community service, the 40-acre, not-for-profit New Canaan Nature Center is a botanical garden, arboretum, and nature preserve dedicated to inspiring people of all ages to respect, protect, and enjoy the world of nature. Highlights include a wildflower garden, greenhouse, two ponds, a historic orchard, wet and dry meadows cattail marsh, and woodlands, and their famous Maple Syrup Sugar Shack.
Cranbury Park (pictured above) is Norwalk’s largest park, consisting of woodlands, six miles of walking trails (some are ADA accessible), open fields, and a Great Lawn fronting its grand masterpiece, the Gallaher Mansion, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 1.5-mile Cranbury Park Trail, a moderately trafficked loop, is good for all skill levels, primarily used for hiking, walking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and nature trips, and is accessible year-round. Dogs are welcome. There’s even a world-class regulation disc golf course that winds in and out of the woods.
Hikers, bikers, strollers, and dog walkers – this one is for you! The Norwalk River Valley Trail is “Thirty miles through the Heart of Fairfield County,” connecting Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk to Rogers Park in Danbury, passing through Wilton, Ridgefield, and Redding along the way. Featuring off-road and on-road sections (handicap-accessible), this multi-use trail is perfect for just about everyone.
There’s more than a day’s worth of discovery at Earthplace – The Nature Discovery Center, a 62-acre wildlife sanctuary in Westport, where visitors can connect with the natural world. After an invigorating hike, you can explore the Natureplace exhibit space, Animal Hall, and the Connecticut Birds of Prey Exhibit featuring Winged Wonders. Open daily from dawn to dusk.
In addition to 20 sanctuaries offering visitors a range of ecosystems and habitats to explore and observe birds and wildlife, hike on trails and enjoy nature, The Connecticut Audubon Society (pictured above) in Fairfield offers new and ongoing live, virtual learning programs as well as animal-focused remote-learning programs for individuals and groups; summer camp, too!
The 186-acre Brett Woods Conservation Area is the largest open space property in the town of Fairfield. Its nearly unbroken forest cover makes it unique among town open spaces in terms of the wildlife habitat it provides for many species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Recreational uses include hiking, horseback riding, camping (in a designated area with a permit), fishing, and wildlife observation. There’s an extensive trail network, including the two-mile yellow perimeter trail, the 1¼-mile red trail which cuts diagonally across the property, and the ½-mile blue trail which passes through the camping area.
The Lake Mohegan Loop in Fairfield is a 170-acre open space that offers walking and hiking trails, picnicking, fishing, and nature observation, even a beach and swimming area. Want to bring Ruff along? The Cascades are one of the Top 10 Dog Friendly Trails in the World, with multiple trails surrounding the lake and a lovely cascading waterfall (hence the name), plus plenty of waste bins for doggie cleanups.
The 300-acre Trout Brook Valley State Park Reserve (pictured above) in Weston is just a portion of the greater valley preservation effort that encompasses 758 acres in the towns of Easton and Weston. This walk-in park is accessible from north of the gate at Bradley Road in Weston and can be explored by following its dirt roads or by going cross country through valleys and over rugged hills, where you’ll see wildlife, wetlands, and watercourses. Pets are no longer permitted; Bradley Road parking is limited during the week and closed on weekends.
If you are looking for a moderately-trafficked walkabout where you can enjoy nature and clear your head, The Saugatuck Trail in Weston/Redding is the perfect spot. This 10.5-mile trail is located within the 15,000-acre Centennial Watershed State Forest and offers a variety of terrain, rock outcroppings, vernal pools, wetlands, streams, and spectacular vistas of the reservoir. The woodlands are superbly maintained, and the trail is easy going underfoot, though rated as moderate.
Devil’s Den Preserve in Weston, The Nature Conservancy’s largest preserve in Connecticut, is a wonderful place to explore. This patchwork of woodlands, wetlands, rock ledges, and a series of north-south ridges and valleys woven with streams and swamps make Devil's Den ideal for low-impact outdoor activities like hiking, jogging, and bird watching. There’s some historical significance as well – archaeological evidence indicates human activity in the area, mostly for hunting, as long as 5,000 years ago!
There’s so much to explore at the Aspetuck Land Trust, you’ll want to pick up a four-town preserve map just to get a lay of the land. And beautiful land it is, with 45 miles of trails for year-round hiking, bird watching, jogging, and dog walking through open spaces with farms, forests, and wondrous natural resources throughout Easton, Weston, Fairfield, and Westport. Venture out and enjoy a few hours of invigorating and rejuvenating recreation on 2,000 protected acres.
An invigorating hike along the historic Babcock Preserve Loop in Greenwich offers panoramic wetland and river views, forests filled with century-old trees, wildlife – something for everyone. This easily manageable 4.1-mile loop trail is ideal for all skill levels for walking, hiking, jogging. And horseback riding. Rex is welcome to tag along!