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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Bluff Point State Park- Groton, Connecticut

If you have been reading along for some time, you probably know by now that A:  I love to travel and B:  I have had the chance to live in some pretty cool places (oh I am talking about you New England and Utah).  While I love to blog about popular spots like the vineyards of Napa Valley or visiting some of our most famous National Parks, I really love to post about the local treasures in my back yard.  This time last year my back yard looked a little different (truth:  I did not even have a back yard, I lived in an apartment downtown in a city nestled in the mountains and technically what you could call the back yard was the park where the homeless camped).  Living on the East Coast, I subbed the mountain and city views for quiet, humidity, and ocean views here on the Connecticut shoreline.  My back yard now has ocean views.

Today's gem is one I have been visiting for a long time.  A geology field trip (yep, that happened), mountain biking after work, horseback riding, and taking my dog to the beach to sweim on a warm late summer day.... these are just a few of the reasons my wandering has brought me to Bluff. 

 Bluff Point State Park and Preserve is one of the most user-friendly state parks on the Connecticut Shoreline.  Hike, bike, run, fish, ride, kayak, picnic whatever... you can do it here.   Earlier in the week, we talked about Bluff's down-the-road-undeveloped-less-popular-neighbor Barn Island.  While both are dog-friendly large coastal preserves, Bluff Point offers a lot more for amenities and activities, including the rare dog-friendly beach (September to March).

On any coast, waterfront real estate is a hot commodity. Bluff Point is one of the last remaining significant pieces of undeveloped land along the Connecticut coastline. Thanks to preservation and state acquisition, Bluff Point has remained an undeveloped coastal property instead of a community of mega mansions or trendy new resort that tends to pop up on the New England coasts (we have anough overpriced hotels and mansions thank you kindly). It is here that you can find a mix of "what is Connecticut" in one park, a mix of woods, wetlands and water of course. The park is a wooded peninsula (1.5 half miles long and 1 mile wide) stretching into Long Island Sound covering 800 acres.

So how did we get here? How did Bluff develop into a piece of land protected and preserved for those of us who love to recreate? Bluff Point was designated a "Coastal Reserve" by a special act of the Connecticut legislature in 1975 to establish the area "for the purpose of preserving its native ecological associations, unique fauna and floral characteristics, geological features and scenic qualities in a condition of undisturbed integrity". What this means in access terms is that access to the bluff is by foot or non-motorized vehicle only. If you want to sit on this beach, you are going to have to walk (or pedal) a mile to it. Keep your coolers light my friends. 

Views from the park include Long Island Sound, Mumford Cove and the Pequonnock River. This park is a popular one, especially in the summer months. On a nice summer weekend you can find the park full of hikers, bikers, dog walkers and horseback riders all sharing the park.

Basics: No motorized vehicles; dogs on leashes permitted, and there are no fees to access the park. The park is open to Mountain biking, hiking, swimming (no lifeguard), horseback riding, fishing, crabbing, shellfishing (with permit), boating via kayak/roof top boat launch, and the main areas include restrooms, a trail map and a picnic area.

Directions: Take Interstate 95 to Exit 88. From northbound I-95, turn right onto Route 117 South; from southbound I-95, turn left onto Route 117 South. Turn right at the end onto Route 1 South. Take a left at the first light onto Depot Road. Park entrance is at the end of the road.

Parking: There is ample parking in dirt lot at trailhead.

Amenities: Restrooms near trailheads and at the point. Picnic tables located near the entrance. Bushy Point Beach is accessible on foot, about one mile from the beginning of the trail. Swimming is at own risk, since it is not manned by a lifeguard. There is also a boat launch. A historic site, the foundation of the Winthrop House, is located at a marked site off the main trail.

Bluff Point is home to the site off-site of Connecticut's first Governor, John Winthrop's house, which dates back to the early 1700s. Some of the old foundation can still be seen amongst the overgrown meadow. A side trail leads to Mumford Cove.

Extras: next door to Haley Farm State Park. Very busy in the summer months. Lots of ticks in the warmer months

Hiking: The main loop around the park is a 4-mile wide old dirt road. There are various smaller trails branching off from the main dirt road.

Beach: Blushy Point Beach is a long tombolo (or sandspit) about one mile in length. The beach ends and forms a small, rocky island called Bushy Point. Bushy Point Beach is a one-mile walk/bike ride from the parking lot. This isn't your pristine white sugar sand beach, but is more of a stretch of shells and rocks. The beach is Dog-friendly in the off-season, (dogs are not allowed from April to August) due to those darn piping plovers.

Horseback Riding: Large parking area with plenty of room for trailers. You can ride the four-mile loop/old jeep road and you can ride on the beach (bushy point beach) avoid riding on any other beach/shore areas as these are shellfish beds. There are signs warning of riding in areas of the shellfish beds.

Mountain Biking: Generally flat. Main double track trail on a four-mile loop (old dirt jeep road) around the park with various single track trails distributed throughout. The single track throughout the park is poorly marked and most is technical (rocks, roots). Trails are heavily used by joggers/walkers and dogs. There are sometimes horses on the trails as well. More mountain biking details

Bluff Point State Park Trail Map

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