Soapstone Mountain Has A Perfect View, No Matter The Season

Peter Marteka
Contact ReporterNature's Path & Way To Go
Soapstone Mountain in Somers with its views to Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

For some, the best time to climb to the top of a mountain is in the spring, when the trees are first budding and the warm winds begin to make a dent in the snowpack. For others, the best time is a hot summer day or crisp autumn morning in the middle of peak foliage season.

Me? I like it when all the leaves are down and your ascent to the top is rewarded with an unblocked view for miles in every direction. That's what you get at the top of Soapstone Mountain in Somers at the end of November. The top of the 1,075-foot-high mountain is the highlight of the 7,000-acre Shenipsit State Forest, which covers portions of Ellington, Somers and Stafford. A nice thing about the top is that visitors can climb up along a number of trails, or drive there and reach the peak with a short walk.

The mountaintop was purchased by the state in 1927 so a fire tower could be erected to watch over the state's northern forests.

When visitors reach the top, they are greeted by an old National Weather Service radar dome that was built in the mid-1970s where the fire tower once stood and served the agency until the mid-1990s. At the time, the old dilapidated fire tower was torn down. Erected in 1927, the town was used by the U.S. Army during World War II as a lookout station.

One of the draws is a wooden observation deck with stunning views of northern Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Unfortunately, the observation tower is closed for repairs although hikers will still get to see a panoramic view that includes the skyline of Springfield, military planes taking off and landing at Westover Air Force base and views out to Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts at 3,491 feet and Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire as well as other mountains.

Soapstone Mountain is like a giant spider with the body being the peak and numerous side trails being the legs. I would highly recommend printing the color map of the forest if you plan to explore off the main access road. The network is a mix of snowmobile courses, horse paths and hiking trails including the Connecticut Forest & Park's Blue-Blazed Shenipsit Trail, which runs from the Cobalt section of East Hampton through eastern Connecticut and across the top of the mountain into Massachusetts.

I climbed to the top along the Shenipsit Trail, which is accessible from the main parking area along Gulf Road. I also found myself drawn to the old soapstone quarry trail which is just to the south of the precipice. There is not much to see except a small quarry hole and a number of rocks with large round drill holes in them.

The use of soapstone dates back to pre-colonial times when Native Americans used the soft rock for bowls. A Hartford Courant article from 1892 described the process of creating bowls from soapstone.

"The construction is very curious," the article states. The Indians "started with level rock and cut or chiseled crevices some eight or ten inches deep making an oblong circular projection, which was then carefully rounded ... These were then split off at the base from the quarry and hollowed out and formed perfect vessels."

From the junction of Routes 83 and 190, take Route 190 east and turn on Gulf Road. The parking for the overlook and Shenipsit Trail connector is located about 2 miles on the right. The gates are closed in the winter, but visitors can still hike to the top. Visit for a map.

Copyright © 2018, CT Now