St. Johns Cliffs are rock formations near the border of Kent and Cornwall, CT. They're well known to rock climbers throughout the region. Though not massive, the formations here are formidable and offer beginners or seasoned climbers a perfect playground to test their mettle. The Appalachian Trail skirts along the base of the cliffs and then up around the sides, offering some of the toughest trail climbs in the state.
There are numerous options for the day hiker at St. John's. You can climb all the way up to the top and look over the valley (three photo collage) and possibly to Caleb's Peak for more great views. You can also just explore the base region and sit back to watch the rock climbers if they are out scaling the cliffs. There's also the dirt road section that follows the Housatonic River for two miles...with plenty of short side trails and scenic spots to investigate.
The trail that takes you past the cliffs is steep but well maintained, so anyone with the energy can scramble up and take in the views. However, some people are afraid of sheer-dropoff heights, so if you and your partner(s) are that type, you may want to skip the steep climb up. However, nobody should be put off by the word "cliff", since the trail doesn't incorporate the cliffs and actually goes to the side of them. It's more of a visual effect than anything as far as being afraid. At certain points you'll need to watch where you place your hands and feet to ensure a firm grip on the large rocks, but at no point will you be required to shimmy up a cliff face and look straight down at the floor below. Physically, it's a tough hike up for someone who isn't used to hiking, but isn't too bad at all if you take your time.
St. John's Cliffs is extremely popular most summer weekends especially at mid-day. It's a jumping off point for Appalachian Trail hikers; but more than that, it's the spot for rock climbers in the region. Groups and individuals come here to learn or challenge themselves. For Western Connecticut, it would be hard to find formations that are as accessible and challenging as these cliffs. So for a short section of the trail, you'll be sharing; but it's fun to watch from the base of the cliffs as the rock climbers do their thing. Then you can venture off for some rock scrambling of your own that is much more manageable and safer than the sheer drop offs the cliffs offer.
If you do climb to the top of the cliffs just be a little careful near the top. It's tempting to venture in towards the cliff's edge...but don't. If you were to lose your footing or slip, it's a long way down and is a rough landing to say the least. If you you fell from the top, you'd careen down the cliffs and land on rocks. If you didn't die, you would spend the next year of your life recovering from massive injuries. So just sit back well away from the edge and enjoy the views, or just head up the trail another quarter to half mile and take in the views from Caleb's Peak. They're a lot better because there isn't a bunch of trees obstructing your views, and it's a safer viewing vantage point. Needless to say, if you've never rockclimbed before, don't start here! They may not seem too bad from the ground but if you're 40 feet up and can't find a good spot to grab, gravity will make the decision for you eventually.
If you take your time and enjoy the area, St. John's Cliffs is a neat place to check out. The cliffs, Appalachian Trail, woodlands, nearby Caleb's Peak, and Housatonic River section make for a great day!
Directions: Go to the center of Kent, CT. Most of you will likely take Route 7 although some may approach due east or west and in that case will likely arrive via Route 341. From the center of Kent take Route 341 west following the signs for Kent School. About a half mile out of town is Kent School. Just over the bridge that spans the Housatonic River is Skiff Mountain Road. Take a right onto Skiff Mountain Road if you want to try the Skiff Mountain Road access or St. John's Cliffs access to Caleb's Peak. 1 mile up Skiff Mountain is a dirt road on the right side (River Road). This is the road to St. John's Cliffs. Follow the dirt road for one and a half miles and parking for St. John's will be clearly visible on your left.
Printable version of the St. John's Cliffs page
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