The Top five Hikes in Fairfield County Connecticut

There is some good hiking to be had in Fairfield County. It is not necessary to drive all the way up to Kent or to catch the Appalachian Trail or to try Bear Mountain in the northwest corner of the State.

The top five hikes in Fairfield County are hard to chose. It really comes down to time, accessibility, level of difficulty and, one might add, level of interest. The five top hikes on the list are: [1] for accessibility and hiking ease, Lake Mohegan, Fairfield; [2] for accessibility, moderate hiking ease, and boardwalk traipsing, Audubon’s Roy and Margot Larsen Wildlife Sanctuary, Fairfield; [3] for a longer hike with moderate hills, ponds and interesting rock formations, the Collis P. Huntington State Park in Redding; [4] for size and varying vistas, Nature Conservancy’s Devil’s Den in Weston; [5] for proximity to a United States natural resource, Weir Farm National Historic Park and the adjoining Nature Conservancy property in Wilton-Ridgefield..

Many satisfying trails are available to the novice hiker not so far away as to discourage a bunch of kids tagging along for the all the anticipated fun they will have finding and looking at natural stuff like unusual rock formations, trees, and green hoping things.

Bring a back-pack, a bottle of water, a good snack or two, include some great apples, don’t forget your walking stick, wear comfortable clothes for the weather and season, and, most importantly, wear sturdy, comfortable walking shoes. Always be sure to bring a camera for that great shot and also a small first aid kit.

Don’t be sorry; bring a pair of binoculars and a birding book. If you don’t, you could encounter someone on the trail who will ask if you have the book with you. Serious birders will do that. They have spotted an unusual bird for the particular habitat and wonder if it is the great, generational unspotted one. Once upon a time in Yellowstone, I met such a couple. She said, hello and wandered off, he said to me, “Got your book?” I said, “No.” He said, “Get along now, you’re no good to me.”

So be prepared. You might be the one who will want to check on that bird. Even occasional hikers uninterested in what’s about them, will be arrested in their hike by an unlikely site of a bird or animal, a skunk heading towards you, for example.

While walking a trail, it is a good reminder that one always walks with head held up high with an eye on the trail ahead so as to anticipate the terrain as well as to see the vista unfolding to each side.

Be sure of your footing at all times. It is easy to develop a rhythm while hiking unfamiliar trails, but even the familiar ones can surprise the hiker with some unexpected obstacle, a root, a rock, a hole, wet moss or clay, newly exposed root stub or deteriorating descent along a water undermined narrow trail.

There are several quick references to hiking in Fairfield County. “Fairfield County on Line” offers a piece this month by Carmella Fortier entitled, “The Long and Short of Hiking Trails in Fairfield County.” And there is “Fairfield County Connecticut Hiking Trails” that features other known and little known trails. One thing to remember about hiking is [a] know the terrain in advance, and [b] know how to enter and exit in order to avoid a panic on a trail in case the kids suddenly decide they want to go home, or if you need a quick exit because of exhaustion. As a senior with grandkids, I know the need for a quick exit strategy short of following the sun out going cross-country. The latter is a no-no. The State is sponsoring a get out and hike program called, the “No Child Left Inside Initiative.” NCLII does not mean that a Scout Master leading a bunch of kids on a hike has to get lost in the woods while trying to hike out earlier than planned. Don’t start carrying anyone piggyback either if you are not a Paul Bunyan type.

Experience hikers already know their trails and can share favorites when they wish because they know these trails well. The rest of us occasional hikers have favorites too. While seniors who are not so sure of foot, but who nevertheless have the stamina and possess the spirit for a good hike know a favorite trail and call it their exercise whenever they head out, the rest of us might share an enthusiasm for trails that both kids and parents recognize from frequent association as a thing to do, even on a light rain day. Fairfield’s Lake Mohegan and the Audubon Center’s Roy and Margot Larsen Wildlife Sanctuary offer good trails for beginners and short hikes that are interesting for the quality of small scenic views and atmosphere.

As far as getting to the hike’s starting point, the level of difficulty getting to a hiking destination varies from Fairfield Center. The degree of difficulty finding the trailhead and the distance getting there go from near to relatively far as kids calculate distances to get there in a car. Known as the “Are we there yet” barometer. It often turns a highly anticipated walk in the wood into a turn-around for home.

Lake Mohegan: A short drive from anywhere in Fairfield- the usual route is Fairfield Woods Road to Morehouse Highway; the walking trail starts on the right, facing the lake. The last time we walked, we encountered two skunks heading towards us on the trail. We stepped aside and hoped not to encounter another skunk, but we did. Follow the trail to the bridge crossing Mill River. Circle around lake to eat your snack or lunch; a picnic area is across the lake.

Larsen Sanctuary: From Fairfield’s Mill Plain Road, continue to Brookside and cross over to Burr Rd beyond the intersection, continue on Burr, which crosses over the Parkway. Keep going, the Sanctuary in on your left. The entrance to the trails is on your right opposite he welcome center.

Huntington State Park: Drive North out of Fairfield on Route 58 headed for Bethel. At Five Points, turn right on Sunset Hill Road. Careful for the big, left curve. The park is at the statues of Bears and Wolves. Eye catching- way out here. Trails can be muddy and rutty due to Mountain Bike cuts.

Devil’s Den: The Nature Conservancy hiking trail is more difficult to get to. Take exit 42 north off the Parkway. You’re on Rout 57 for 3.8 miles to blinking light. Then be sure to be on 53 toward Redding to the next traffic light. Turn left on Godfrey, after half a mile, turn right on Pent to dead end parking area.

Weir Farm National Park: From Merritt Parkway, exit for Route 7 North, drive 10 miles to Branchville, turn left onto 102 West at traffic light. Take 2nd left, Old Branchville Road then at first stop sign, turn left onto Nod Hill Road, drive 1 mile to top of hill to find parking lot on left and center on right at 735 Nod Hill Road. The park honors the famous American Impressionist. This is where he lived and worked. The reader should note that depending on visitor interests there is a fee for the Weir Farm National Park.

Nature Conservancy Weir Preserve: Adjacent to the Weir National Park: from Wilton Center, North 33 for 2 miles, right on Nod Hill Road, 3.3 miles to Preserve on left.