Sign up for a free Courant newsletter for a chance to win $100 P.C. Richard gift card

Kids-Friendly Hikes: Inviting, Easy-Going Destinations For The Family

Peter Marteka
Contact ReporterNature's Path & Way To Go

Ah, hiking with the kids in tow. "I'm bored." "I have to go to the bathroom." "Are we there yet?" "Can we catch a frog?"

Here are some hikes that are sure to keep their interest, make them realize it is the journey and not the destination, and maybe offer them the chance to catch a critter or two.

Jones Mountain Preserve, New Hartford — This 158-acre preserve has a beautiful view, carriage roads, stone bridges and a foam house. That's right, a structure known as the "foam dome" is reminiscent of the Planet of the Apes set or Hobbit home. There are several miles of trails that pass through the old homestead once known as "The Woodlands."

Route 44 to Route 219 or Town Hill Road. Take a left on Steele Road and look for a parking area on the left after passing Burdick Road.

Gillette Castle Railroad Trail, East Haddam — What is more kid-friendly than a castle? The fairy tale grounds of Gillette Castle include beautiful stone bridges and an old railroad bed. Now a series of trails, children can follow the path where visitors like President Calvin Coolidge and Albert Einstein once rode on the "Seventh Sister Short-line" — William Gillette's miniature railroad.

There are tremendous views, a rock turnaround and even a train tunnel along the 3 miles of trails. Children can see the train engine that once ran over the grounds in the visitors center. The castle is on Geer Hill Road off Route 148.

Hubbard Brook, Middletown — The whole family is sure to enjoy a walk along a sandy beach on the banks of the Connecticut River and trails to a spectacular view high in the hills over the waterway, all within a half-mile of the parking area.

The 75-acre Hubbard Brook Preserve is along the abandoned Valley Railroad tracks, and visitors pass under a railroad trestle bridge to a sandy beach. The area was once quarried and there are huge slabs of granite along the riverbanks. Across River Road from the parking area is a trail that passes through mountain laurel groves to an overlook with panoramic views of the river valley.

Aircraft Road to River Road. The trailhead is on the left about a half-mile down along the gravel road.

Orenaug Park, Woodbury — Nothing like a geology lesson to start off a hike. At the entrance to the park are a pair of stone pillars. Each is made of stones from each of the 50 states. It only gets better with a climb up one of the state's only fire towers accessible to the public. The views across the Pomperaug River Valley are tremendous. A loop

trail takes visitors to an impressive rock formation known as Bethel Rock, which served as an outdoor chapel for religious services.

Route 6 north into Woodbury center. Take a right on Park Road and look for the park entrance on the left.

Gold's Pines, Cornwall — Nothing will bring out "oohs" and "ahhs" from kids more than some of the largest and oldest trees in the state. Gold's Pines is Connecticut's version of the West's giant redwood forests, on a smaller and younger scale.

Since a tornado decimated the Nature Conservancy's Cathedral Pines in 1989, Gold's Pines is one of the oldest pine groves in the state. A short trail winds through the pines and connects with the Day Preserve and trails to a "purple mountain majesties" view of the hills of Massachusetts in the distance.

Route 128 several miles west of the intersection of routes 4 and 43. A small parking lot is located on the left near the Cornwall Volunteer Fire Department.

Mamacoke Island, Waterford — There aren't too many public islands to explore in Connecticut, but this one on the Thames River is part of the Connecticut College Arboretum. Surrounded by a briny marsh, the island is in the shadow of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge and across from the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in Groton.

Visitors travel a loop trail where windswept scrub oaks mingle among wild blueberry bushes on top of huge rock formations and ledges. The island is so full of bird life, it is a National Audubon Society Important Bird Area.

I-95 north to Exit 82A. Turn left on Briggs Street and follow to Route 32. Take a right on Benham Avenue and look for a parking area in front of a field.

Copyright © 2017, CT Now
33°