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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Trolley Trail - Branford, Connecticut

The Branford Trolley Trail is one of those scenic quick little hikes that you probably found on the internet.  The short distance and photo-worthy bridge make this a popular trail for family and photo lovers alike.  It's this pretty little walk through the marsh that takes you to through an iconic Coastal Connecticut landscape, up and over a trolley bridge and to a picturesque little cove on the other side.  It's pretty, its kid-friendly, dog friendly, and it's a great way to stretch your legs while taking in the views.  

Pair it with a trip to the quaint little area known as Stony Creek, add in a mandatory lobster roll by the water, spend some time in the gazebo on the dock and you have yourself the best little excursion on a Summer afternoon.  

Not every hike needs to be a grand adventure up to the top of a summit.  Sometimes, a short stretch of trail in a scenic place is all you need for a little local adventure.  With COVID-19, we have been working to set an example of responsible recreation.  We spend our weekends at the local preserve instead of the bigger hikes we would normally be doing this time of the year.  So when the weather was warm and we had a free afternoon, we headed to Branford to hike the short and famous Trolley Trail.  

Not only do you get to see the famous old trolley bridge, but the hike out takes you through iconic New England wetlands - osprey nests and the smell of low tide included.  

Trail Stats

Parking/Trailhead: There are two ways in. 
Trailhead 1:  At the end of Tilcon Road off Totoket Road (it's the parking area for the Goss Preserve.) 
Trailhead 2:  Follow Thimble Island Road into Stony Creek and make a right onto West Point Road, just past the railroad underpass.  Both areas have small parking lots. 

Trail: If you park off Tilcon Road, you will have to cross the train tracks to access the trail. The trail is easy to follow and straight, just keep following the trail through the marsh, across the trolly bridge and by the water until the trail ends at the other trailhead (off Thimble Island Road) 0.6 miles later.  The trail is popular and will likely be crowded - try to visit early mornings or weekdays.  For a complete map - Branford Trails Map

Distance: 1.2 miles round trip (out and back trail)

Elevation: 55 feet (so flat)

Dogs: Yes! On-leash 

Kids:  Yes! Short and easy - beware when crossing the train tracks at the beginning of the trail

The trail you follow is actually an old trolley route from the Connecticut Company which provided service from downtown New Haven, through East Haven and into Branford. The trolly line was in service from 1907 until 1947. Today, you can still folly the old trolly trail which will take you over the bridge and through the marsh. 

We took one of the side trails right off the boardwalk which let us to this great little overlook of the marsh.  You can keep following the trail if you want to add some mileage but we turned around at this perfect little picnic spot - with plans to return with cheese and wine. 

After your hike, stop by the quaint little village of Stony Creek in Branford.  It almost has a Block Island type of feel to it, in a miniature village version of course.  It's a small seaside village with all that New England charm.  We walked around the main road, stopping to enjoy the views in the gazebo before trying to snag a lobster roll at Thimbleberry.  You can also take a little boat tour of the Thimble Islands, a collection of small privately-owned islands dotting the shoreline.  

For me, half the fun of hiking is exploring the area around the trailhead.  Hiking has brought me to so many quaint towns and awesome breweries and Stony Creek was no exception.  You don't need more than an hour or two, just enough time to see the Village and grab a bite.  

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