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A Taste of the Appalachian Trail: Hiking the CT AT (CT Blog)

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A Taste of the Appalachian Trail: Hiking the Connecticut Appalachian Trail

A Look at the 52 Miles of Appalachian Trail that goes through Connecticut

The Appalachian Trail. Photo by Sarah AlenderThe Appalachian Trail spans over 2,150 miles from Georgia to Maine; unbeknownst to many people, approximately 52 of those miles go through Connecticut. The trail crosses the NY/CT border near New Milford and meanders northward through the towns of Kent, Cornwall, Falls Village, and Salisbury before hitting the Massachusetts state line and continuing onward to Mt. Greylock.

The Connecticut section of the AT was one of the first to be completed— the New York state portion was finished in 1923, but nothing much else was done until 1929, when Ned Anderson, a farmer from Sherman, began mapping and blazing the trail from Kent to Bear Mountain. It took four years. Since then, the trail has been rerouted various times for various reasons, but still follows the same basic route: it takes hikers past Bulls Bridge (one of Litchfield County’s two historic covered bridges), the Schaghticoke Reservation, Housatonic State Forest, and Bear Mountain (the highest peak in the state).

I meant to hike the Appalachian Trail in honor of Connecticut Trails Day, which was June 4. Clearly I missed that deadline, but seeing as how the weather was warm and the two feet of blizzard snow we recently received had mostly melted, I was finally able to hit the trail this week. Since it is now November (all in all a bad choice of month for outdoor camping) and I am lazy, I did not hike the entire 50+ mile span of the trail, but instead, opted for an easier day hike of about five miles or so.

There are many different trailheads in the area; the one I decided on begins on River Road, right near the Housatonic River and the Kent School. This section of trail is called the River Walk, for obvious reasons. According to Berkshire Hiking, a local guided hike provider, it is also one of the flattest and prettiest sections of the AT, as well as the only northern part of the trail to consistently follow a river. The trail, coming from the south, roughly parallels the Housatonic before hitting Fuller Mountain and then descending the steep area of cliff/rock called St. John’s Ledges before it runs into River Road in a perpendicular fashion, continuing along the road for a level four to five miles all the way into Sharon.

The Appalachian Trail. Photo by Sarah AlenderThe beauty of the Connecticut part of the AT is that since this is such a small state, the trail is crammed alongside state park trails, blue-blazed trails maintained by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, and lots of back roads, so there are plenty of other paths to explore if you get off-track. Due to my failure to look closely enough at the map, we parked at the beginning of River Road and thus ended up walking on more road than trail, but it was still a nice way to spend the afternoon.

River Road is a small dirt road that is indistinguishable from the River Walk section of the Appalachian Trail; you can either park at the end where the trail comes out of the woods and hike the official Appalachian Trail, or you can park at the beginning and walk for about an hour until you reach the white blazes of the AT descending from St. John’s Ledges to meet the road and then continue on. If you’re really up for a challenge, you can hang a left and head into the woods to climb up the Ledges; they’re known for being incredibly steep, and you can see as you walk along the road that the forest on the left leads almost vertically upwards to a cliff.

The sites along the trail are varied. On the right is the Housatonic River, and occasionally you’ll catch a glimpse of train tracks through the trees. Black bears are known for inhabiting the trail, but it’s unlikely they’re lurking anywhere around this portion, being as it’s so close to inhabited areas. We actually didn’t see much wildlife, but there were a lot of interesting joggers and a guy in a car rolling a measuring wheel down the entire length of the road.

The Appalachian Trail. Photo by Sarah AlenderAnother thing we didn’t see were thru-hikers — the Appalachian term for those brave souls undertaking the task of hiking the entire length of the trail in one season. Thru-hiking is usually done from March through October, south to north; by beginning in the south in early spring, hikers hope to miss out on the last of the New England snowstorms and keep one step ahead of the heat. Thru-hiking season appears to be over, though, making any section of the AT an excellently uncrowded day hike.

Although this was a wide, well-blazed, and easy part of the trail, it’s still not recommended that you go without a map, boots, water, food, and at least one partner (also bug spray, if it’s summer). Each state has a different organization attending to its Appalachian Trail needs— in this case it’s the Connecticut chapter of the AMC, but I found an even more valuable resource in the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, which publishes a trail book containing descriptions and maps of all the state’s blue-blazed trails as well as the AT.

To reach this section of the trail, head south down Route 7 until you reach the town of Kent. Take a right in the center of town and cross the bridge over the Housatonic, taking an immediate right onto Skiff Mountain Rd. A few miles down the road will fork; veer right onto River Road. There’s a sign indicating that this is an Appalachian Trail access point. Small parking areas exist all along the road, but you can drive all the way to the end if you’d like. Stop when you see white blazes.

Sarah Alender is a Contributor to The Free George. Photos by Sarah Alender.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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