CT Day Trips

CT Hiking, Daytrips and the Great Outdors

If you are looking for exiting Connecticut day trips--some on the beaten path and some on roads less travelled--If you want to climb Connecticut's highest mountain, walk inches from 100 foot high traprock basalt cliffs, see its biggest waterfall or find a remote swimming hole, you have come to the right place. This is a first-hand guide to day-tripping in Connecticut and closely surrounding regions by a life long native with some emphasis on the geologic features of the Constitution State. From swimming holes and waterfalls to trails, conservation lands, billion year old rocks and coastal delights, you'll find some very inexpensive family outings.


bluff point beach

bluff point rocks

Bluff Point Coastal Reserve

This is one of my absolute favorite places in CT. It is the last Section of Undeveloped Land along the CT Coast! Great Coastal scenery with a nice ~4mi loop trail. Features scenic coastline walks, swimmable islands, marshes, small dunes, tidal wetlands, glacial till and erratics, an area where a river meets the ocean, a mile long barrier beach, the remnants of old Winthop plantation (1700s) and so on. Cottages once lined the shoreline here until the hurricane of 1938 destroyed them. A detailed park info kiosk awaits your arrival.

A 1.6 mi walk to the beach is overpowered by the beauty of the area and the views along the way. The privacy and seclusion of the beach, which is rockier than sandy, is to die for and the trail does permit rolling coolers and strollers. If you walk the 1mi long barrier beach you can walk out to the Island during low tide at the end of it. The trail connecting too it is visible in the water. Just follow it, I explored the entire island. On the way back along the 1 mile beach I swam in the water behind it rather than the open ocean. It was very cool and refreshing.

The parking area is open and by the Poquonock River (a drowned valley) which connects to Long Island Sond) and is across from Groton Airport and you can watch planes take off at fairly regular intervals. They are close and loud so kids (and adults!) will love it. As you walk the trail beautiful views are visible to your right and you will spy an island that you can swim to. You can parallel the actual trail by walking along the water's edge until you end up in a marshy wet land. At this point you can backtrack a bit to the main trail or walk through the mushy and muddy marshes.

The path to bluff point becomes a bit rocky but this is short lived and a nice bench awaits you at the top where you can look at the rock below (hope valley alaskite), the scenic coastline or people fishing off of a set of rocks. The view of Bushy point beach is great from up here. Berries are all around this area, there are dunes and tidal wetlands behind the mile long barrier beach. At the end of the beach you can see an island to you left that you can walk to in low tide and explore. If you are lucky you might see bands of red and black sand on the beach (magnetite and garnet). We were hit by a thunderstrom on our trip but made it to the car just in time thanks to radar from my iphone.

Black Pond

Talus Slope

Black Pond in Meriden
  • Google Map Link | PDF vegetation map CT.Gov
  • Trail: Follows along eastern side of Pond below the talus slope.
  • Caution: Snakes | Jagged Rocks | Steep Talus Slope | Garbage |
  • Fishing, boat launch, non-motized boating boating, etc. are all lovely here.
  • Videos: | None Yet |

This is an interesting place to go for a quiet day of fishing, or just to explore for a brief period. The pond is small, quiet and lacks any real current. This makes it ideal for kayaks canoes and rowboats. The pond is stocked with trout and channel catfish and contains good numbers of bass, pickeral, and unfortunately, sunfish. The native's bait of choice to catch stockies is mealworms and marshmallows (m&m). Powerbait should work as well. The fishing quality here is due to abundance of fish rather than their size. From the parking lot the pond looks serene (left top picture). Here are two more images of the park | One | Two |

It is regrettable that the trail is heavily littered. Too many people here are not carrying out what they are carrying in. It brings down the quality of the visit. Evidence of numerous fire pits is copious despite fires being against regulation here. There is a porter-potty here as well.

The geology of the place is quite interesting. You may fish from the parking area or walk along a flat trail hugging the eastern side of the lake. A lot of fish seem to be caught in the parking area from the handicap access point. If you choose to walk the trail, which I recommend, you are walking on the bottom of a steep talus slope (bottom picture on the left) made of jagged pieces of chipped off basalt. This alone is worth the trip here. It is a pretty fascinating site. If you walk down the trail a bit there are some very large boulders at the edge of the lake and base of the slope. In addition, if you look up the talus slope in this area you can see some really large boulders on it that appear to be a source of all the jagged rocks making up the steep talus slope.

It is recommended that you do not attempt to walk up the talus slope. Mass wasting could be an issue here (small land/rock slides) and it will be a case of two steps forward, one step back. Going up may also be easier and safer than coming down. As the Google contour map shows the talus slop goes up about 400 feet and the angle of the slope is intimidatingly steep. You can see it on the google satelite imagery. I would not want to be here during heavy rains.

As you walk along the trail nearing the talus slope, the water level gets really deep close to the shore. It appears deep enough at the shore to dive into it but swimming is not sanctioned there. Considering all the garbage and firepits, I do not think the authorities monitor this place closely, however. If you are looking to fish deep this is important. The PDF vegetation map above has depth contours of the lake.

There is another trail off the parking area that I will soon explore. It was in the 90's when I went there and we went mainly to fish so I was not eager to hike up a mountain that day. Check back for videos and further information. I will take better pics as well net time, only had the iphone on this trip.

One interesting thing we saw on this trip were hawks being attacked and chased by much smaller birds. They must have been defending their nests.

Giuffrida Park Giuffrida Park and Chauncey Peak
  • Google Map Link | PDF MAP of Park | CT DEP |
  • Trail: Loop of 2mi.
  • Caution: Small bit of climbing, especially difficult for pets
  • Hiking, Extremely Scenic Views atop the Peak.
  • Videos: |See the Link Below |

Giuffrida Park features a beautiful picturesque hike up Chauncey Peak and around a beautiful crescent shaped lake/damn. The ascent is short but memorably steep! The elevation gain is a little short of 400 feet and it should take no longer than 2.5 hours to traverse the loop trail around the lake. It is 2 miles and I recommend walking through the large rock cleft type feature once you descend down the mountain on the opposite side of the lake to see the cave (pictures inside). You may also see hawks on the hunt or simply riding the thermal winds. You can see a rock quarry and walk along side it, Mount Higby, Sleeping Giant, Castle Craig, Hartford (from the quarry side) and even Long Island or New Haven from Chauncey Peak if visibility is good enough.

Whole Page of Pictures and Video of Giuffrida Park and Chauncey Peak

Devil's Hopyard Falls

Good Pothole formation

Devil's Hopyard State Park
  • Google Map Link | PDF MAP of Park and trails|
  • Trail: | 3mi | 2 hrs | Elevation gain 300ft | Falls and potholes are by the road
  • Hiking, Trout Fishing in a stream, picnic tables, grills, camping, waterfall, bicycling, pothole formations
  • Videos: | None Yet |

This state park in East Haddam is of geological interest because of its superb pothole formations (once thought to be the devil's work and some of the nicest in CT).

POTHOLE FORMATION: When you have rapidly moving water small trapped rocks and pebbles in eddy currents can whirl around because of the water pressure. As the rocks and particles spin they "burrow" or drill a hole into the rock below them (like a screw twisting into a hard surface). Once those particles wear down as they grind into the rocks others in the moving current replace them. The result is deep circular depressions, often very symetrical and sometimes a meter deep.

Pothole Images: | One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six |

It also has a very nice three tiered waterfall. Chapman Falls extend over three tiers of erosion resistant Scotland schist stone. The picturesque falls of the eight mile river drop about 60 feet total. The area lies 15 miles North of Long Island in a long-dormant fault zone It separates the region of Windham hill from southern coastal slope. The water flow once powered a gritsmill (until 1854) and a sawmill (until 1895) (google Beebe's Mills). Here is a picture of the falls from up top. Here are some pictures of the individual and mini falls: | One | Two | Three |

The waterfall and potholes are by the road but those who take the walk will be rewarded with a nice scenic vista, a u-shaped valley and also will bear witness to a covered bridge. This is also a fast moving trout stocked river so you can bring a fishing pole with you. The walk is easy with a few moderately challenging sections and a small elevation gain (300 feet). Time estimate including viewing time 2.5 hours. I spent an hour just around the falls and potholes but I walked over the wooden fence and carefully took pictures all throughout the falls up top and below.