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Lion's Head in Salisbury, CT might have the distinction of being the shortest hike with the greatest views in western Connecticut. Scramble up the trail on a clear day, and it'll seem like you can see the entire state. This is the perfect spot if you love overviews. Lion's Head seems to hang over the valley you hiked up from and it's a steep drop-off at the summit area so just be a little careful when you're up there. You almost have the sensation of looking straight down into the immediate surroundings. Then of course there's the long distance views. The southern part of Connecticut spreads out in front of you with the rolling Litchfield Hills south-southeast, Twin Lakes due east, Massachusetts north-northeast, and surrounding mountainsides, farmland, woodlands, and small towns filling in the pieces.
Lion's Head (1,738 feet) is a popular spot for locals but never really crowded so there won't be any problems as far as getting a good vantage point or finding a nice spot to take in the views. The hike up to Lion's Head isn't too bad although it's pretty steep at certain points (just over a half mile). The nice thing about Lion's Head is that you drive up a steep road to get to the trailhead so most of the tough stuff is left behind you when you start out. You'll start out by parking in the dirt lot designated "Hiker Parking" on Bunker Hill Road. (Please respect the privacy of the residents by sticking to the designated parking lot even though you might be tempted to drive up a little further and park closer to the trailhead.) It's a little different here in that you have to walk up a short bit along Bunker Hill Road and then onto a dirt utility road for a couple hundred feet before accessing the trail. But after parking, just walk straight up the road past the house on the left and bare to left along the utility road. Soon you'll come upon satellite TV dishes and a small power station/unit. Where the dirt road goes off to the right, you'll want to go left and follow the trail as it dips into the woods and goes a long a stone fence initially (don't go right onto the utility road as this is private property).
The trail quickly takes you into the cover of forest and begins to rise straight off. If you're in decent shape it's not a bad hike at all but it's one that goes straight up and doesn't stop rising until you are near the top. So if you're new to hiking or haven't been out in a while just take your time and rest at certain points...and bring water so you can re-hydrate and keep your muscles from stiffening up. Don't push it. The hike isn't long and the view is the whole point for going. Once you're up there, you can relax and hang out for a good long while and take in the spectacular view.
As you near the top, the Appalachian Trail appears on your right and joins up with Lion's Head trail (which is part of the blue trail system...thus the blue hash marks along the way). The Appalachian Trail is marked with white hash marks (usually on the sides of trees) to guide the hiker along. So from this point til the peak you'll see a lot more white hash marks than blue. (Just remember that on the way back to the car don't take a left onto the Appalachian Trail or you'll go completely out of the way).
Near the peak there will be a small clearing amongst the trees...almost looks like a campsite. Here you can go right up the rocks following the white hash marks of the Appalachian Trail or take a more roundabout but physically easier route by following the blue trail for a few hundred yards and then doubling back to the peak. The scramble up the rocks really isn't too bad at all but if you're worried about slipping or something just take the blue trail. Either way you'll be rewarded with the same spectacular view. And great views they are! This really is a perfect spot. It's almost as if there are two separate scenes. The immediate valley below you that you just hiked from and the long distant views that spread out all over. (There are no western views at Lion's Head so this is all north-east-south scenery.) Sunrises must be unreal.
After taking in the views you have a few choices. You can head back to the car. You can walk up a few hundred yards along the Appalachian Trail to neat little plateau area that gives you a great northerly vista. Or you can just keep going along the Appalachian Trial as it passes through remote (for Connecticut anyway) woodlands, past campsites used by overnight hikers (check out the shelter at Riga campsite for a neat view of the eastern valley. Not a bad place to catch a night's sleep.), over cascading rivers and small water falls, and eventually up Bear Mountain...the highest peak in Connecticut. (You need to be in good shape to venture off from Lion's Head to Bear Mt. It's a long hike and Bear Mt. can get steep.)
Worth noting: from mid/late June to early July, white and pink mountain laurel explode in this part of the forest and is truly unique for this region of the country. The laurel fills in all around the forest and emits a wonderful fragrance.
Directions: Get to the center of Salisbury, CT. Depending upon which direction you're coming from, that would be either Route 41 or 44. Once in Salisbury notice the Town Hall across the street from the library (which is a stone building). At the Town Hall go up Bunker Hill Road. Stay on Bunker Hill Road (at places where you are not sure if you should go to the left or right... just bare right) and in 1 mile Bunker Hill Road will end. As it ends you'll clearly notice the dirt parking lot labeled "Hiker Parking". Park in here and then walk up the road to the trailhead which is on your left after passing the satellite TV dishes.
© Berkshire Hiking 2004