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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Henry David Thoreau Footbridge (Hidden Valley Preserve) - Washington, CT

In a world where I wasn't a parent, I would have paired my 4.5-mile hike at Macricostas Preserve for another short 2-mile hike at Hidden Valley Preserve (5 minutes away). After that, I would have wandered through a few of these small Connecticut towns. I would have stopped somewhere for lunch, found a brewery to try something new, wander into a shop or two, and slowly make my way home back to the shoreline. This was my typical hiking day/weekend pre-parenting.

Now? I plan my adventures around nap times and when I've "eaten up" my wake window with him, I have to be strategic. Instead of that second hike, we stopped at Averill Farm for a snack (no apple picking this time) and headed to Hidden Valley Preserve for a short walk out to the famous Thoreau footbridge (15 minutes tops). After that, I knew my best bet was to match his next nap with this 1.5-hour drive home. 

No breweries or lunch spots, no extra wandering. No cute towns explored or new beers imbibed. But what I did get was a beautiful sunny day with my son, carrying his sweet happy little smile up a mountain while his dogs ran beside us. They are both lovely days spent different ways and I'm grateful to have experienced both.

This time, it was another opportunity to teach him to love the outdoors, to take in the sunshine and the trails, another few hours bouncing along through the woods. Lunch and brewery yours can wait. 

This spot is worth it for a quick walk to take in this stretch of scenery. You can hike the trails through the preserve, enjoying the beauty of Hidden Valley Preserve here in Washington Depot. If you are strapped for time or have a handful of little ones and want a short little jaunt, the 1/2 mile hike (round trip) to the footbridge is a perfect option. You can get there and back in 15 minutes flat if nap time is approaching - my new standard of time. 


The Bridge

The Thoreau footbridge is what the park is well known for and it's the reason the park was on my radar. It's iconic and of course, makes for a beautiful picture. The bridge is a cable-stayed, mass timber suspension bridge spanning 134′ across the Shepaug River. A plaque at the bridge reads "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." The bridge was designed by Gray Oranschi Architecture (New Haven) and funded by The Gould Family Foundation, the State of Connecticut, and individual donors. 

The Preserve

Hidden Valley Preserve (a part of the Steep Rock Association) offers 700 acres of mixed forest and meadows. There are nearly 17 miles of trails and of course, the famous footbridge. Other areas of interest in the preserve include the scenic lookout, the pinnacle and a quartz mine. 

The trails are open to hikers, mountain bikers, dogs (on-leash), horseback riding and cross-country skiers. 

There are two parking areas very close to the bridge (off of Bee Brook Road). A trail map can be found HERE. 

198 Bee Brook Road,
Washington Depot, CT 06794

In The Area 

After your hike, take some time to explore this beautiful part of the state. The towns of Kent, Goshen, Woodbury, Cornwall and Washington have a ton to offer from breweries, ice cream, and chocolatiers to hikes along the famous Appalachian Trail. 
  • Macricostas Preserve: (5 minutes) a beautiful preserve with hiking trails a part of the Steep Rock Association.
  • Averill Farm: (< 8 minutes) a tenth-generation farm and is the perfect place to go apple picking in October. You can also find pumpkins, mums, cider and cider donuts on the property. 
  • Kent Falls Brewing Company: (< 10 minutes) fantastic working farm brewery 
  • Arethusa Farm Dairy: (10 minutes) full fledge dairy farm known for their icecream
  • Kent Falls State Park: (20 minutes) gorgeous state park with a waterfall and picnic areas 
  • Thorncrest Farms and Milk House Chocolates: (25 minutes) Quaint dairy farm known for their chocolate - great spot for the kids to see the dairy cows 
  • Macedonia Brook State Park: (30 minutes) scenic state park with a winding brook, camping, and awesome hiking 
  • West Cornwall Covered Bridge: (25 minutes) 1 of 3 covered bridges in Connecticut 
  • Bull Bridge Kent: (25 minutes) 1 of 3 covered bridges in Connecticut 
  • Rand's View: (35 minutes) hike along the AT with a beautiful viewpoint 

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