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Friday, June 28, 2019

Lake Zoar Loop Hike to Prydden Falls - Connecticut's Best Hikes

Dogs Paugussett State Forest Lake Zoar Zoar Trail

I used to write blog posts as a sort of strict “informational guide" - maybe an intro sentence or two but after that, it was right to business. Park here, hike there, eat that. If you are here for just that - not a problem, just keep scrolling to the bottom until you see the "Trail Information" header. But if you want to hear a bit about my personal life, and a whirlwhind summer of dating (and how this all relates to hiking) grab a coffee or a beer and keep reading. 

I really enjoy sharing my stories. You know, the stories of what brings me to a certain person, place, or thing. It’s amazing how a story can unfold in just about every post I write, even in something as simple as a trail guide. And this trail guide? It has a story. You see, there are a lot of hikes that hold a sweet spot in my memories.

Dogs Paugussett State Forest Lake Zoar Zoar Trail
Lake Zoar, a section of the Housatonic River, in June

Hiking has kind of played an interesting role in dating for me. Some people feel nostalgic about the spot you met, or your favorite restaurant you frequented together. But for me? It’s hiking. 

To date me, you have to hike with me. It's plain and simple and it serves an important purpose. Early on, we are going on a walk in the woods, getting to know each other while catching our breath on uphill climbs with my dog in tow. There's just something so sweet about being on a new trail with a new person, getting to know someone outside of a noisy bar or stuffy restaurant. 

My trail guides are slowly starting to read like a glimpse inside my personal life, something I often kept sheltered from this spot of the internet. But to be honest, I am in the chapter of my life where I am all about transparency and want to document all these sweet stages of life. 

Paugussett State Forest Blue Blazed Zoar Trail
Following the Blue Trail in June 

A whirlwind year of online dating at 31 led me to walk some beautiful trails with some awesome humans. Dating is such a strange process in your 30's and for whatever reason sometimes it just doesn't work - and that's okay. But those places still hold a sweet bit of nostalgia for this strange period of my life where I walked in the woods, getting to know someone with high hopes they just might be "The One". 

Frozen Prydden Falls in Winter
Prydden Falls in December 

So while a restaurant may remind you of a lover or that funny second date, for me 2018 offers a lot of sweet memories that started at a trailhead. I have silly photos snapped on trails around the state on a second date, third, fourth or fifth, preserving a new hike with someone new.

Whenever I head to the quiet corner of Connecticut, to a town called Kent, I will think of "The Dentist". I will be transported back to that crisp fall November evening when we walked through Macedonia Brook State Park, hand in hand getting to know each other a little better. When I head to Berlin to hike Ragged Mountain, I will remember "Tesla’s" sense of humor almost as much as his panicked look as Olive took off after a few deer for a little too long. Whenever I head to Overlook Mountain in the Catskills, I'll think of that awesome day getting to know "R", and that stolen kiss at the top of a fire tower with the Hudson Valley all around me. I’ll remember those conversations on our way to the trailhead and the friendship that stemmed from all of it. Kaaterskill falls will always remind me of the sweet first weekend away I spent with Adam, following a perfect snow-covered trail to a famous icy waterfall. 

And when I headed back to Lake Zoar on a sunny June morning to hike this loop and capture these photos for a blog post, I think of the CrossFit Coaching Firefighter who lives in a bus. 

Paugussett State Forest Blue Blazed Zoar Trail
Following "The Firefighter" along the Blue Trail in December 

The first time I hiked this trail it was with "The Firefighter", a man I had known less than 24-hours. I first met the firefighter who lives in a pretty cool converted Greyhound bus the day before, on a cold December Friday night at a brewery in Milford. After one of those unplanned 8-hour first dates at a local brewery continued at the local dive bar, drunk on double IPAs and potential, we met again less than 8 hours later for you guessed it, this hike.

It was with a pounding headache and nauseous stomach that we pulled up to the trailhead along Lake Zoar. I followed the man I had just met along the snowy wooded trail to an icy waterfall. We sat at the bottom of the fall with two cans of Singlecut discussing life, hiking, and a bit about the other.  As it turned out, I spent another 2 months following him on snowy wooded paths through New York and Vermont on snowmobiles, snowshoes or skis before we went our separate ways. 

Paugussett State Forest Blue Blazed Zoar Trail Pryden Falls in June
Prydden Falls in June 

And then here I was again, 6 months later in June, parked at the same trailhead in a new season, making new memories with a new person. Someone I had known for a few months now, no longer too shy to take 455 photos and keep Strava running so I could share this trail guide with you.

**Side Note:   I may make you go on a hike on a second date, but I won’t make you endure behind the scenes blogging until 1 month.  I promise. 

Paugussett State Forest Blue Blazed Zoar Trail log crossing
Blue Trail in June 

As I blissfully walked this trail on a perfect June morning with Adam, following Olive and his dog Marshall, I thought of that hazy December morning. And as I walked along the same trail 6 months later, I realized that relationships and feelings, and life as you know it, can change as quickly as the seasons. 

And this season? This season felt good in a different way.... the way it feels to be walking alongside someone who watched the end of winter turn into spring and plans to still be walking those dirt trails with you through the summer and straight into fall. Plans to keep walking those trails with the dogs leading the way. 

Paugussett State Forest Blue Blazed Zoar Trail dog Lake Zoar
Posing by Lake Zoar/Housatonic River in June 

It felt a little sacrilegious, like bringing your boyfriend to that old beloved favorite restaurant. But there was something about this hike that was too good to keep to myself. It is a beautiful hike along the Housatonic River to this picturesque water in central Connecticut that I wanted to share with him, that I want to share with you. The Firefighter picked a great hike that will always remind me of a sweet hungover Saturday morning. And in turn, I get to share this beautiful hike and a silly little story with you. 

This is a great hike that made my Connecticut "Must Hike" List.  It's a dog-friendly, a loop, has a challenging distance and elevation, passes a waterfall, follows the west bank of the Housatonic with beautiful views of the river, and can be hiked all year round. I was just as impressed in June when I made the 6-mile loop with the change of seasons and company. I think you will be too. 

Paugussett State Forest Lower Parking Area
Parking area/start of the trail 

Trailhead: We parked at the Lower Paugusset Trailhead at the end of Great Quarter Road in Newtown, CT. There is a small dirt parking lot that probably fits about 12 cars. We started early and by the time we left around noon, the parking lot was full and cars were lining up along the road. There is no bathroom or map at the trailhead. 

Note: There is an upper block and a lower block, this hike is in the lower block. 

Paugussett State Forest Lower Trail Map
Map of the full loop

Paugussett State Forest Blue blazed loop trail strava
My map of the loop (cutting off the farthest end)

Trail: Blue Blazed "Zoar Trail". This is a loop hike that is best done in a clockwise direction so you start with the wooded section and end on the flat path following the west bank of the Housatonic River. The trail can be hard to follow at times. You really need to pay attention to the map and the blue blazes on the tree. You can find a CTDEEP copy of the Map Here. The blue trail is foot traffic only. The other trails are open to all non-motorized users. We intersected a few mountain bikers passing on a different trail. 

Paugussett State Forest Blue yellow trail
Blue/yellow cut through trail that shaves off 1.5 miles. 

Date: June 15, 2019 

Distance: 6-7 miles (closer to 7) for the full loop *we cut off the end of the loop taking the blue/white trail that cuts off the last bit, shaving off approximately 1.5 miles hiking about 5.5 miles. 

Level: Moderate to challenging in spots - it is longer with some steep and rocky sections. The trail also narrows out along the Housatonic. 

Elevation (Ascent): 1,227' 
High: 636' 
Low: 108'

Dogs: Yes, leashed

Dogs at Paugussett State Forest
Marshall on the Blue Trail 

Waterfall: "Prydsen Falls" in the Paugussett State Forest, in Newtown, Connecticut offers a 25-foot plunge and 40-feet of cascades that empty into the Housatonic River. You can walk up to the banks of the river. There is no swimming allowed in this area. 

Prydden Falls signage blue trail Paugussett State Forest
Prydden Falls signage

Lake Zoar: Lake Zoar isn’t a lake, but a wide section of the Housatonic River upstream of the Stevenson Dam

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