Chatfield Trail In Killingworth: Where Your Hike Becomes An Adventure

View from rock outcrop

A view of Deer Lake from the top of a rocky outcropping along the Chatfield Trail in Killingworth. (Peter Marteka / January 27, 2012)

The thought first crossed my mind as I contorted my body under ledges and sucked in my stomach to fit through narrow gaps between boulders as I followed the blue blazes along Burlington's "Mile of Ledges."

That same thought ran through my head Wednesday as I followed the Connecticut Forest & Park Association's 4-mile blue-blazed Chatfield Trail in Killingworth. Again I contorted my body under ledges, sucked in my stomach to fit through narrow gaps between boulders and scrambled up piles of boulders.

The thought? The trail blazers at Connecticut Forest & Park Association must have had a smile on their faces as they were laying out these paths. And you will find yourself saying, "Are you kidding me?" throughout the journey, but in a good way as your hike in the woods becomes an adventure.

And I'm not sure why the retreating glacier picked on the wilds of Killingworth, but the area has some of the most interesting rock formations I've seen in my travels around the state. And it is a place where you can put your hand along the surface of a rock and easily imagine a Native American Indian brave or a boy in Colonial times doing the same.

The trail starts off in an abandoned homestead and farm before crossing a wooden bridge over the picturesque Chatfield Hollow Brook. A side trail will take visitors past an old mill pond, dam and the well-preserved mill itself. A huge iron pipe snakes along the brook and still takes water from the spillway into the mill where a water wheel sits frozen in time. The mill, with its weathered and moss-covered shingles, is slowly losing its battle with the New England elements, but still stands proudly on the banks of the brook and is worth the side trip.

Returning to the trail, visitors travel across the top of a huge rock formation with views out to Foster Pond before turning down into the valley of the 40-foot-high formation. And then the fun begins in the form of a path along a narrow gorge through a cold-shaded hemlock and white pine forest. The sounds of dripping water echo through the gorge.

The trail leaves the gorge and serenely snakes through a white pine glade and a deciduous forest to the top of a ledge with a beautiful view where visitors can see deep into Killingworth south to Deer Lake. Enjoy the peace and serenity because the fun starts again as visitors will be tested as they squeeze through a variety of rock formations – one of them aptly called "fat man squeeze" – at the trail's 3-mile mark.

The beauty of Chatfield Trail is its solitude, peacefulness and absolute quiet. I sat in the middle of an overhang and the only sounds I heard were the dripping water echoing off the sides of the chamber. Close your eyes for a few moments and let the stress of navigating the trail melt away.

Of course, there are alternate trails around all the boulders, crevasses, overhangs, ledges and gorges. But where is the fun in that? There really was a method to the madness of those trail blazers of long ago.

Route 80 just west of the Route 81/Route 80 rotary. Park at the Chatfield Hollow State Park and cross Route 80 to the Chatfield Trail entrance. Peter Marteka can be reached at 860-647-5365, at pmarteka@courant.com or at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040.

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