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Views and Brews

South facing view from the New England Trail, Mattabesett Section, Mt. Higby

Editor's Note: Many of our readers have requested an update to this article, published in the Fall of 2017, but our favorite Fall views are the same. What has changed is the number of breweries and the brews they offer! So choose your hike and check out these links to find out which breweries are nearby - http://www.ctvisit.com/trail/beer and https://ctbeer.com/breweries

When it comes to autumn in Connecticut, I can think of nothing better to do than take a hike to one of many vistas on our Blue-Blaze Hiking trails. With over 825 miles of trail you can pretty much find one that requires only a short drive to the trailhead, or if you’re as lucky as I am, just a short walk up the street. Use the interactive map or the Connecticut Walk Book to plan your hike.

We all know that a fall hike in Connecticut has its own rewards – crisp cool air, beautiful color, and best of all, in my opinion, no bugs! But after the hike, just going home seems like a letdown. So why not enjoy some local Connecticut brews? Many of Connecticut’s best breweries are located within minutes of a Blue-Blazed Hiking trail. Here are some suggestions for both the view and the brew from the CFPA staff. Although the trails are always open, the breweries may not be, so check their hours of operation before your hike and, please, drink responsibly!

New England Trail, Mattabesett Section, Mt. Higby – Located on the Middletown/Meriden town line (Rt. 66) the hike up to Mt Higby is short but steep. Views to the south include Black Pond and the Beseck Mountain ridgeline; views to the northwest include Chauncey Peak/Mt. Lamentation, while views to the west include Castle Craig and East Peak. Round trip from the Rt. 66 parking is about 4.4 miles. After the hike, it’s a quick drive to both Forest City Brewing and Stubborn Beauty Brewing Company in Middletown.Here is a view of contrasting fall foliage taken 11/18/2007 taken along the Blue Trail at the top of Great Hill, Portland, Ct. looking toward Middle Haddam and Moodus.  Photo by Frank Winiski

New England Trail, Metacomet Section, Ragged Mountain - Located in the northwest corner of Berlin on the Southington and New Britain town lines, Ragged Mountain Preserve is known for its hiking and rock climbing. With the best views – east over Upper and Lower Hart Ponds, south to South Mountain and West Peak, and west over the town of Southington to Southington and Compounce Mountains - on the southern end of the preserve and the best parking on West Lane, take the Blue/Red blazed trail to the Blue Blazed (Metacomet) to the Blue/Yellow trail back to the Blue/Red trail (about 4 miles). There are options for longer loop hikes. Visit CFPA’s interactive trails map or the Connecticut Walk Book for more information. After the hike, it’s a short ride to either Alvarium Beer Company in New Britain  or Relic Brewing.

Narragansett Trail – Located in North Stonington, in the southeast corner of Connecticut, the Narragansett Trail is 15 miles in length. For the hardy hiker with a friend (or friends) and two cars, a day hike from the parking area at Wintechog Hill Road to Legend Wood Road (10 miles) is a good hike. Views of Long Island Sound to the south from Lantern Hill are impressive. Further up the trail just past Ryder Road, there is another view to the south, and even further up the trail, after Wyassup Lake, is another fine view. Of course, you don’t have to hike the entire distance. The views from Lantern Hill are a mere ½ mile from the parking area, and the same is true from the parking area on Ryder Road and just a little longer to the view from the parking area at Wyassup Lake. After the hike, check out Beer’d Brewery in Stonington.

Salmon River Trail - Located in Colchester, the trail starts at a quintessential New England covered bridge, the Comstock Bridge, which by itself is a wonderful fall destination and a photographer’s dream. The trail crosses the bridge, enters Salmon River State Forest and continues north along the river’s eastern bank. At about the ½ mile mark, you’ll come to the first of two views, continue for about another ½ mile to the second view. Both views look out over the state forest and beyond. The fall colors combined with the Salmon River, not to mention absence of manmade structures, give this hike a true sense of wilderness without having to travel for hours. After the hike visit the Fat Orange Cat Brew Company.

Tom Brooks_Trail to the Summit_story.jpgStony Creek Trails - Located in Branford between I95 and Long Island Sound, this trail network offers a different kind of foliage view. Instead of looking down into or over the forest canopy, it’s all around you and in some places, at eye level. Add in the field edge effects of the wetlands and you can completely immerse yourself in the colors of fall. Visit Stony Creek Brewery!

Old Furnace Trail, Old Furnace State Park - Located in Killingly, the view on this 2.2 mile trail is at about 1 mile and can be approached form either the East Franklin Street or Squaw Rock Road parking. At peak color, the view east over Old Furnace Pond and the surrounding state park is incredible. The hike is moderate in difficulty. After your hike, stop at the Black Pond Brews in Danielson for a cold one. 

Regicides Trail, West Rock Ridge State Park - Located on the Hamden/New Haven line, this hike has many options for some really spectacular views. At an elevation of about 375 feet above sea level at the South Overlook to more than 600 ft above sea level at the junction with the Quinnipiac Trail, the ridge line trail offers many views to the south and west over its 7.5 miles.  For foliage viewing on the weekends, the park opens the road to summit, but for weekday hiking, park at the nature center or Lake Wintergreen. After the hike, quench your thirst at the New England Brewing Co..

Tunxis Trail – Located in northwestern Connecticut, this 39.7 mile trail offers lots of views over its length, and with many side trails with views, choosing just one is really hard! For a short hike with a spectacular view of Lake McDonough, park just north of Ski Sundown and follow the trail north for about ½ mile. After the hike, stop by Brewery Legitimus in New Hartford.

Shenipsit Trail - Located in Tolland, just over the town lines with Vernon and Ellington, is a gem called Shenipsit Lake and the trail traverses the eastern shore. This easy hike, just under 2 miles, has great views of the lake and the hills on the western shore. With parking at both CT Rt 74 and Grahaber Rd., the hike can been done as an "out and back", or use two cars for a one way trip. After the hike, visit Connecticut Valley Brewing in South Windsor! 

** Please note that the breweries named in this article are not featured because of any financial support they have provided to CFPA (although, of course, we wouldn't discourage any of these great businesses from becoming CFPA supporters). These are just CFPA staff's personal favorites. If there are other breweries that we should be visiting or if you want to share your story of a "View and Brew," please contact us anytime via info@ctwoodlands.org