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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Best Connecticut Hikes: Lantern Hill Hike

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When the weather drops to the 50's and the last few leaves are clinging to the trees I try to soak up every bit of sunshine I can.  The hiking here is so different and sometimes I get a little discouraged to get out there as our hikes don't get above the tree line and we don't have amazing peaks or high altitude lakes.  Instead, our hikes are more of a nice stroll through the woods. 

Wide start of the trail to Lantern Hill Overlook
I did some research on some of the best hikes in the state and this hike came up a few times.  Okay Connecticut, I have been spoiled rotten by Utah hikes but let's see what you've got.

I know that Connecticut hikes rarely reach any sort of view point (we're always below the tree line) so I was excited to find a hike with a vista.  It is a popular classic because of its rock faces, little climbs, and vistas.  Oh and in the fall, this is an amazing spot to take in the fall foliage.  You can also spot Foxwoods Casino, the biggest casino in the country. It's mostly of an eyesore, but kind of a cool view at the same time.  If you want a classic easy fall hike with some of the best vistas above the treeline, here is your hike.  

According to a local newspaper, the Courant, local historians in the state claim there is a special spot on this hike known as "the Sachem's seat" on the steepest side of the hill.  History has it that this is the spot where "Pequot chiefs would scan their territory in search of enemy tribes and, later, English ships at sea. According to local legend, during the War of 1812 the hill became known as Tar Barrel Hill, when residents gathered at the hilltop and burned barrels full of tar as a warning that British warships were entering Stonington harbor".

If you like long distance trails, this is also the last leg of the Blue "Narraganset Trail". The Narraganset Trail is a 21-mile route that extends from Ashville Pond in Hopkinton, Rhode Island to Lantern Hill in North Stonington, Connecticut (this hike!).

Distance:  2.5 miles out and back 
Elevation:  approx. 400' 
Skill:  Easy to moderate.  Generally family friendly, nice and short.  Little steep sections up rocky areas may be difficult for small children, which can also be very slippery after a rainstorm.
Trailhead:  Wintechog Hill Road -- Take I-95 to Exit 92. Follow Route 2 west. Turn left on Wintechog Hill Road just before reaching Foxwoods Resort Casino. The parking area and trail entrance is on the right.
Parking:  Roadside (Wintechog Hill Road) at the trailhead.  
Dogs:  Yes!  Didn't read anything about requiring them on-leash. 

The Hike:
The trail is easy to follow.  Leaving Wintechog Hill, follow the developed trail from the road (there is a large boulder in front of the trail).  The trail is wide to start and soon you will see some signage.  Follow the signs for the Lantern Hill Trail.  Eventually, you will follow the trail (blue blazes) up a steep pitch and some rocky areas. Or you can follow the red trail as the loop. 

The Lantern Hill trail loop is established by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.  The loop is marked by red signs bearing a spear-and-feather emblem. This hike is less strenuous and more gradual than the steeper blue trail.  
Lantern Hill Trail 
Blue Trail to Lantern Hill 
Overlook along the trail
There are some cliffy sections and some great overlooks as you follow the trail to the main overlook.  A lot of the trail is over rock which can get very slippery between rain storms and leaves on the ground.  Be careful crossing over the wet and leaf colored rock and soon you will come out to a flat rock vista, overlooking the area below. 

Views of the lake
Steep rock sections of the trail 
Trail along the slippery rock inclines
Fall foliage below!

At the top- vista below.
After you spend some time taking in the view, follow the trail a little farther where you will see a view of Foxwoods casino, and then a view of the lake down below.  Some people make a loop out of the trail (see the map in the beginning) but we decided to follow the blue trail out and back.

Foxwoods in the distance
Olive and the lake below
This was a great quick hike close to home with pretty views.  A few steep little pitches got your heart pumping, but it was not a challenging hike.  The views are especially great in the fall when the leaves are changing at the view at the top overlooks the crimson colored tree tops.  

Water break along the trail 
Water Thief 
Posing along the trail 
On your way home, we stopped at Stonington Vineyards at the border of Stonington and North Stonington.  A glass of local wine after a pretty fall hike is just about a perfect way to spend a Stonington Sunday.  Check back in Friday for my post on Stonington Vineyards and Happy Hiking. 


  1. Gorgeous! I know exactly where Foxwoods is - next time I visit CT I will tell my family we HAVE to hike here! Sounds like even they could hike this. -Alicia @

    1. Too funny! You definitely should, especially if you do the loop the steep sections are more gradual. Its nice to actually hike to a viewpoint and have a vista here in CT :) Pretty rare here!


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