Urban Hikes: The Great Outdoors Within City Limits

Peter Marteka
Contact ReporterNature's Path & Way To Go

You don't have to go into the wilds of Connecticut to find the wilderness. Sometimes it's a matter of going to the city limits. Here are a few hikes close to urban areas that will help you find your wild side.

Tidal Marsh Trail, North Haven — Exit 9 along Interstate 91 is a conglomerate of shopping centers, big boxes and fast food restaurants. It's also home to one of the best hikes along the Quinnipiac River.

Visitors will find commanding views over the marshes of the river out

to Sleeping Giant along the dune-like riverbanks. The trail begins along the banks of the river near its outlet into New Haven Harbor and Long Island Sound. Along this trail, the river's travels are only in the natural world, passing through meadows filled with reeds and along the banks that sometimes resemble sand dunes. Huge trees line the banks and fishing trails lead down to the river's edge.

The sights along the way are stunning with views north to Sleeping Giant State Park and west to New Haven's East Rock Park and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument that honors those who gave their lives during the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War and Civil War. Off to the east and covered in vines are the light platforms and abandoned towers that once guided trains into New Haven's Cedar Hill Rail Yard.

I-91 to Exit 9. Follow to Universal Drive. Take a left and follow the drive past Target and park behind the store and look for the large trailhead sign. The trail is unmarked, but easy to follow.

Riverside Park, Hartford — Just outside downtown is a place where, except for views of the city while along the Connecticut River, you forget you are in Hartford.

There are two portions of the park. The southern portion is the more developed one, with a boathouse, boat launch, sculptures and a playground. The northern portion is less developed and is wild, with a trail system that passes through deep floodplain forests filled with huge trees. It's a place meant for city dwellers to escape and explore.

Other trails follow a portion of the 7 miles of earthen levees or dikes that protect the city from flooding. The levees are a fun jaunt with

commanding views of the surrounding area and the city's skyline. The trails are divided between traversing the heavily wooded floodplain forest and other paths running along the river with intermittent peeks of the waterway and the city skyline and the beautiful stone arch Bulkeley Bridge, which is nearly as old as the park.

I-91 to the Jennings Road exit (Exit 33). Follow Jennings Road east to Leibert Road to the park entrance.

Peter's Rock, North Haven — Over the centuries, a trap-rock knob in the southern hills of North Haven has been known as Indian Rock, Great Rock, High Rock, Rabbit Hill and Rabbit Rock. Today, it is known as Peter's Rock, named after Peter Brockett, a soldier severely wounded in the American Revolution who lived out his life as a hermit at the base of the rock.

It also could easily be called Island Rock, because this 196-acre park is a natural island in a sea of development, with I-91 and I-95 buzzing

incessantly in the distance. Shopping malls and the New Haven skyline sprawl before your eyes. But on the top of the craggy 373-foot summit, the natural world provides a haven. There are views north to Sleeping Giant and the Hanging Hills of Meriden, or south to New Haven Harbor and Long Island Sound.

The entrance to Peter's Rock is on Route 17, or 133 Middletown Ave., in North Haven, just east of the junction with Quinnipiac Avenue. Visit www.petersrockassociation.org for a color map of the 11 different trails.

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