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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Hiking Devil's Hopyard State Park - East Haddam, CT

Remember what it all looked like before the Arctic Blast and 1+ foot of snow? Me either.  Today's post is a reminder that winter won't last forever and New England winters are worth muscling through for those perfect spring, summers, and autumns.  Don't get me wrong.... winter has its moments (raise your hands fellow skiers) but so far 2018 has been brutally cold.  A week where we only saw single digits and teens, and then there were the weekends of feels like in the negatives.  But things are looking up just like the temperature this week.  So in salute of warmer weather, I am sharing a local hiking gem right here in Connecticut, Devils Hopyard Start Park. 

Walkway in the park, early November

In 1919, the former State Park and Forest Commission (the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection now runs our state parks) obtained an 860-acre parcel located in the "Millington" section of Haddam.  The famous waterfall in the park, Chapman Falls, drops more than sixty feet over a series of stone steps.   The falls while beautiful and a popular attraction in the park, were essential in powering the former "Beebe's Mills" - named after the original owner. The mills operated until the mid 1890's. 

I bet you are wondering how this beautiful park received such a strange name?  One theory is Dibble, an East Haddam resident, used the area as a farm for hops and Dibble's Hopyard somehow turned into Devils Hopyard.  The other story centers around the perfectly cylindrical potholes by the fall.  We understand how these geologic features were formed but early settlers thought that the Devil has passed by the falls, accidentally getting his tail wet. This made him so mad he burned holes in the stones with his hooves as he bounded away.  A farmer or a devil, either way, don't let the name keep you from one of Connecticut's best state parks.  

Chapman Falls
The Hopyard has something for everyone from mountain biking, hiking, history, geology buffs, and fishing to bird watching, picnicking, and camping.  A few years back I stayed at the campground here in the park which was quietly charmingly rustic.  If you are one of those "need running water campers", Devils Hopyard isn't the place for you.  

Why do I come to visit this park?  To hike with my dog far away from the crowds.  The Vista Point cliff, located at the end of the Blue Trail, stands 150 to 175 feet (53 m) above the Eightmile River. Other attractions include "mini falls" and three historic highway bridges listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The park is small but believe it or not you can still get in a great 4.5 mile loop hike with over 800 feet of elevation. Connecticut isn't as famous as states like Utah and California for its hiking but we have plenty of trails with their own sense of charm.  And unlike Utah, after your hike you can head to the local brewery for amazing beer on tap greater than 4%.  Oh, and this insane grinder at the deli down the road.  But this is a hiking post, beer and grub down the road is all here. 

View from the overlook of the U shaped valley below created by the retreating glaciers.

Link to Hiking Map

Six separate blazed trails 
* The Orange route is the largest individual trail and the more challenging hike throughout the main section of the forest leading up to the vista.  For a shorter hike just to see the vista, Foxtown Road leads to a small (unofficial) parking area that cuts to a back entrance to the vista. * The Blue loop also offers a shorter and easier alternative to the Orange trail. Of the trails on the opposite side of the park (across the entrance road). The Green trail is extremely rocky, steep, and not well blazed; while the Yellow is somewhat confusing at times and not as well marked as the other trails. More Info/Source

The valley below (and the view from the overlook) shows you a prime example of a "north-south valley", one of many formed all over Connecticut at the time Europe and Africa ran into North America, folding the rocks into north-south ridges perpendicular to the collision direction. This valley has been steepened and widened by the southward movement of glacial ice, giving the valley the characteristic U-shape of a glacially modified valley.  Read more about the geology here

Covered Bridge

The charming covered bridge is another famous feature of the park and the grills and tables nearby make this a primo picnic spot for daytrippers to the area.   Unfortunately, it's been marked up with graffiti (please, please respect our State Parks) but it is still a highlight of the park and a popular spot for a photo.

Covered Bridge

Covered Bridge

Hiking in the park 

Following the blazed trail

Address:   Devil's Hopyard State Park   366 Hopyard Road  East Haddam, CT 06423
Parking: Large paved lot
Entrance fee: None 
Hours:   8am to sunset. 
Camping: Yes, Quiet wooded Sites with composting toilet. Potable water available.  
         Fee:  $14/night CT residents $24/night non-CT residents Plus Processing Fee
         Campground Map.  There are 21 sites- fishing allowed but, no swimming and no pets.   
         Make a reservation
Pets:  Pets on a leash are permitted in picnic areas and on hiking trails.  Pets are not allowed in the campground.
Come to see:  The waterfall, the three historic bridges, the river, and the overlook. 
Bathrooms & Amenities:  Grills, Picnic Shelters, Picnic Tables, Composting Toilets
Private Parties:  Rent the "open air shelter"/pavilion.  
       Rental Fee: $150.00   Capacity: 60 people   Area: 40 x 60
       10 picnic tables available. 2 grills available just outside pavilion. 
       Restrooms (pit toilets) - 100 feet from the pavilion, Water - 150 feet from pavilion.

Post Hike:  Head to Fox Farm Brewery and Salem Prime Cuts for some of the best beer in the state and one of the best grinders in the area. 

Fall in the park

Eightmile River 

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