(Use this page to print out the hike. Click the back button to go back to the webpage - www.berkshirehiking.com)
Kettletown State Park in Southbury, CT is great spot where you can play all day - you take an easy hike and then relax with a picnic or swim, or head out for a major workout and then finish the day off with a dip in some cool water. Miles of trails are intertwined throughout the park and they pass through varying terrains. The picnic area, campground, Lake Zoar beach, cascading stream, and other amenities make it an easy choice to visit. It's mostly known to locals as a town beach or picnic area and a lot of folks don't realize an extensive trail system meanders throughout the state park's forest - I in fact had no idea until I hiked the entire trail system one hot August day.
I had been to Kettletown before with family to walk around and picnic in the main area, and years ago a girl friend and I used to stop by and hang out by the stream once in a while instead of going to a summer class at Southern CT U. But I just never made my way down past the ranger's station because Kettletown is located in a fairly built up neighborhood region and I didn't think the park extended that far - or if it did, wouldn't have much to offer other than hiking through someone else's backyard. I was wrong. One of the best trails in the Southbury region was sittin' there all along. The day I hiked into it, I a nearly step on a huge black snake, watched a large box turtle defy gravity by basically rockclimbing up a mountain away from Lake Zoar, and sat back and took in one of best Huck Finn riverviews in this part of the state while a red tailed hawk circled above calling out to his mate. The place threw me back 25 years before massive Fairfield/New Haven County suburban sprawl invaded and replaced cool snakes, turtles, birds, owls, newts, frogs, toads, red squirrels, orioles, hummingbirds, hawks, and Huck Finn spots with...what else...suburbia! These things were common when I was a little boy and now they are rare "wow" treats. I was thrown back to my youth in a place I avoided because it didn't seem have any reminders of my youth (that region of Southbury, with the Housatonic flowing through the rolling hills, seemed to have given itself away to endless new homes, stores, and Interstate 84 congestion). Fortunately, there were/are some very smart people with the energy and ability to preserve key places...Kettletown State Park is one of those places. It may not be Yellowstone or the Green Mountains, but it's a nice little spot that can do you some good. And as the ranger at Kettletown told me as he suggested hiking the Crest Trail, "there's a spot where time stands still". He was right.
There are several options as far as hiking. If you're looking for an easy hike with some nice views you can head over to the picnic table area and hop on the blue trail called the William Miller Trail. If you're new to hiking, have little kids, or just want to stretch the legs during a nice drive, this is a great option since you can picnic/cookout before or after seeing the nice overviews of the Housatonic River (also known as Lake Zoar in Southbury). Note: watch your step, especially if you have children, as you approach the overviews. The tall trees snug up against the rock outcropping makes it seem like there isn't a big drop-off into the forest below. But there is so don't let the kids, or you, get to close to the edge. This pop up window has a panoramic collage of photos that gives an idea of the type of view. The hike up to the views is short but with plenty of beautiful tall trees and birds of all sorts to capture your imagination.
If you need a workout and a long hike you should drive down towards the rangers station and hop on the blue and white blazed path called Crest Trail - this is the trail where I came across the black snake and box turtle. Crest Trail takes you into the quiet hardwood forest and eventually to some nice overviews where Lake Zoar sits between hills covered with trees...not a single sign of civilization other than the occasional passing motorboat...a really neat spot where the ranger rightfully stated that time stands still. A longer trail option is to park your car in the main area when you first come in. Then walk down the road towards ranger station. On your right you'll notice a trail that goes along the stream. Take this nice hike to get your legs warmed up for the big hike. But just note that combining this option with the Crest Trail would be a major workout so if you're not it decent shape don't attempt the whole thing.
Whatever you decide to do, please go to http://dep.state.ct.us/stateparks/parks/kettletown.htm - their official website - and click on "Hiking map" and print it out. Although the trails are clearly marked and well maintained there are some spots that could be confusing. Having the map will allow you to keep on the trail you planned to be on instead of wandering off in another direction. They also have maps at the ranger's station. The map will also help you decide which trail option is best for you.
This is how I would go but underneath these directions are the directions from Kettletown's official website. You can decide wish is best for you.
Take exit 14 off Interstate 84 in Southbury. If you're coming from Danbury direction, at the end of the ramp look over to the right and across the road...there's a road going up a hill...it's called Gorges Hill Road...go across the road and up this hill...do not take an immediate right at the ramp...that would be the wrong road. Then go 2.7 miles on Gorges Hill Road and on your right side will be Kettletown. For those looking for an easy hike go straight as you drive into Kettletown and on up to the picnic table area. The end of this road has a tiny loop-around and just before it starts to loop to the left, look to the right and you'll see the trailhead for William Miller Trail. Just park your car anywhere and hike on in. Follow the blue hash marks up to the trailhead sign. Or another easy hike option is to go down left towards the ranger's station and hike along the cascading stream trail.
The Crest Trail would be for those wanting a more rugged hike and/or workout. (Combining this hike along with the other shorter ones would provide the hiker and all day adventure.) For Crest Trail you need to go down to the ranger's station and park there. Maps will shop you how to access hiking trail.
Kettletown's official directions:
Off Interstate 84: take Exit 15. Go south onto CT Route 67. Take a right at the first traffic light onto Kettletown Road. Continue for approximately 3 miles on Kettletown Road. Take a right onto Georges Hill Road. Park is located on the left approximately 0.6 miles.
Weekends and summer holidays there is an entrance fee.
© Berkshire Hiking 2004