Six Connecticut Hikes To Add To Your Fall Fitness Goals

Although it wasn't a summer filled with hazy, hot and humid days, autumn is a welcome change toward cool, crisp days for those who like to step outside and explore the outdoors while working toward their fitness goals.  With forecasts of spectacular foliage this fall, here are a few overlooks and peaks hikers can visit from late September to mid-October, with the steps and mileage added for good measure.

Penwood State Park, Talcott Mountain

Otherwise known as a hike to Heublein Tower, Talcott Mountain State Park and Penwood State Park are inseparable.

The pair of parks are connected and separated only by a busy Route 185, but both offer a good workout and spectacular views of autumn foliage. At Talcott, most take the mile-long Tower Trail from the parking lot to the top of the 1,040-foot basalt peak and the 165-foot Heublein Tower. There are plenty of side trails to explore adding on to the mileage. It is said that on a clear day, those with sharp vision can see an area of 1,200 square miles, which means they may see Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire to the north, or the Berkshires ablaze to the west.

If you like hills, Penwood State Park offers several overlooks including Cedar Ridge. Penwood Park is vast — 800 acres on the Bloomfield/Simsbury line. But visitors can make their own hikes of 3 to 4 miles from the parking area along the western ridges of the park and its tremendous views. Those who want to explore the interior foliage can hike the Metacomet Trail. Both parks are located along Route 185 on the Bloomfield/Simsbury line.

Distance: 1 to 4 miles, 2,000 to 8,000 steps. Talcott Mountain is easy to moderate. Penwood is moderate to difficult.

Macricostas Preserve, Washington

The 368-acre Macricostas Preserve offers visitors a mix of fall foliage from the swath of open fields to ridges and overlooks high above Lake Waramaug. The 4-mile-long Meeker Trail is marked with yellow blazes and winds through the fields and then to the top of the ridgeline with several overlooks along the way.

Visitors reach the overlook at 1,150 feet. It has a 180-degree view across the preserve's fields and out to neighboring farm fields and surrounding hills. Father along the trail is one of the finest overlooks in the state, the Pinnacle — also known as Waramaug's Rock — which stands at an elevation of 1,250 feet. The nearly 360-degree view showcases undulating hills and mountains.

The preserve is located along Route 202 near the intersection with Route 47. Turn on Christian Street and look for the red house at 124 Christian St. The parking area and trailhead are behind the house. Visit steeprockassoc.org for a map of the preserve.

Distance: 4 miles, 8,000 steps. Easy to moderate.

Hubbard Park, Meriden

Although it is tempting to drive up the auto road to Castle Craig for its spectacular autumn views, you will want to get out of the car and hike, run or walk to the top.

A 3-mile-long paved road runs from the parking lot near the swimming pool of the park to the top. Visitors walk underneath Route 691 and pass by the stunningly beautiful Merimere Reservoir and Mine Island. The sheer traprock ridges of East Peak provide a beautiful backdrop, especially in autumn.

The road skirts the edges of the 976-foot East Peak and a series of canals that move water between reservoirs before reaching the top of the 1,024-foot West Peak and Castle Craig. At the top of the hill, visitors can follow the road to the castle or take the blue-blazed Metacomet Trail — an adventurous one, with plenty of overlooks, gorges and huge rock walls.

Save a little bit of energy for the 48 steps to the top of Castle Craig — a 32-foot-high stone observation tower with its views to Long Island Sound.

Take the exit for Route 322/Southington off I-691 and follow signs to Hubbard Park. Visit meridenlandtrust.com for a map of the park.

Distance: 3 miles, 6,000 steps. Easy to moderate, especially the second half. Coming back down is easy.

Dennis Hill, Norfolk

If you are going to take a rest from a hike, there are no better places to do so than in the grand halls of a stone bungalow or a stone gazebo overlooking the colorful hillsides.

Dennis Hill is one of the best overlooks in Connecticut. A three-state view will greet visitors at the top including Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts and Vermont's Green Mountains. It's about a half-mile hike up to the top of the hill and the remains of the bungalow.

Another milelong loop trail will bring visitors to a second overlook, a more intimate look at the surroundings from a wood and stone gazebo. The overlook is at 1,522 feet, and while no huge mountain tops will be visible, the undulating hills with silos and a few homes sticking out of the yellows, greens, oranges and browns of a New England autumn is beautiful.

Route 272 several miles south of the intersection with Route 44.

Distance: 1/2 to 1 mile, 1,000 to 2,000 steps. Easy to moderate.

Bartholomew's Cobble, North Canaan

Even though most of the cobble is over the border of North Canaan in Ashley Falls, Mass., it is one of the finest views Connecticut has to offer. That's because visitors take the "tractor path" south to the top of Hurlburt's Hill, which is located in the Constitution state.

After a trip through deep forest along the Tulip Tree Trail, visitors reach the path to the view. It's an easy hike along a closely mowed grass trail across a field filled with wooden bird boxes. You will want to walk backward because the views of the Berkshires and Taconic Mountains as you hike to the summit are breathtaking.

At the top of the 1,000-foot-high hill is a kiosk that marks the border of Connecticut and Massachusetts. The real show is the mountains, from Mount Everett and Black Rock in the northwest to the distant East Mountain and Mount Wilcox to the far-away hills of Vermont.

Follow Route 7 north from the intersection with Route 44 in North Canaan. Take a left on Ashley Falls Road just before the Massachusetts line. Take a left on Rannapo Road and a left on Weatogue Road.

Distance: 1.5 miles. 2,500 steps. Easy.

Bull's Bridge River Walk, Kent

Don't go chasing waterfalls? Good luck with that if you find yourself hiking this stunning path, which overlaps part of the Appalachian Trail in the Litchfield Hills overlooking the Housatonic River. It's replete with views of cascading falls and gorges, and the covered bridge built in 1842 provides an iconic backdrop for foliage photography. You'll find the entrance to the scenic loop off Route 7 between the bridge and the first parking area. Fun fact: George Washington is said to have had a riding accident nearby in 1781.

Distance, 4 miles, 8,448 steps. Easy/moderate.

An Associated Press report was added to this story. Find a list of New England fitness hikes here.

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