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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

White Memorial Conservation Center - Litchfield, Connecticut

White Memorial Conservation Center Boardwalk

We planned a fall weekend in the Catskills of New York to catch the foliage before the fall fades away. Saturday morning, we packed up the car and looked at the weather forecast. 90% rain in the Catskills while 50% in Northwest Connecticut, settling into the state later in the day. It was also forecasted to be in the 70's and I fully intended to enjoy the warmth and the hues of October, rain be damned. 

Instead of heading straight to the Catskills we decided to pivot, spending the first part of the day in the Litchfield Hills - the perfect halfway point in our drive. I did a quick google search for fall hikes in this corner of the state and came up with a list of potential hikes and walks in the area. White Memorial Conservation Area came up a few times and once I saw the boardwalk and the foliage, I was sold.

White Memorial Conservation Center

First Impressions

White Memorial Conservation Center is a lot of things. It's an Environmental Education Center, a Nature Museum, and 4,000-acres (40 miles of trails) of woods, fields, marsh, and pond to explore in the hills of northwestern Connecticut. 

Their website tells of "after school adventures Tuesday and Wednesday in October" and you can quickly see what an asset this place is to the community. We had a great visit to the park, stunned by just how pretty this area is and how much there is to do. Their website is fantastic and the wealth of information on there is some of the best I've seen for a conservation area. 

There are a ton of detailed maps, guides to popular trails, information on camping and museums, and so much more. The place is family-friendly (fido included) and I was blown away by the beauty here. We set out on the 1.2 mile little pond loop trail, walking along the well known boardwalks that circle the pond. The area is also open to bikes and horseback riders. A very beautiful area that was picture perfect in the fall. The flat 1.3-mile loop around the pond makes this the perfect hike for just about anyone in your group.

White Memorial Conservation Center entrance

White Memorial Conservation Center

White Memorial Conservation Center

White Memorial Conservation Center Boardwalk

Main Area and Little Pond Boardwalk Loop

We parked in the main area and explored the grounds a bit. We then headed out over to the Little Pond Boardwalk to enjoy the famous walk around the pond. The boardwalk loop itself is around 1.3 miles and you can park pretty close to the start of the trail. We wanted to check out the main area and museum which turned our hike into a 3.75-mile adventure. 

If you time your adventure with the foliage, you are in for quite the treat here at White Memorial. It was a 70 something day, unseasonable warm for late October and as we walked through the forest, pine needles rained down around us. We passed open fields and dense woods, passing horseback riders and trail runners, bikers, and hikers before getting to the boardwalks around the pond. The elevated boardwalk is narrow, just wide enough for two groups carefully to pass. The trail crosses the Bantam River in two locations and beautiful bridges make this crossing an easy one. 

White Memorial Little Pond Boardwalk

Bantam River

Need To Know

Bathrooms: Indoor restrooms are for museum visitors only. There are outhouses at the property for use of hikers/bikers/etc. 

Hiking - There are over 40 miles of trails in White Memorial. Here is a detailed Guide to the Little Pond Boardwalk and information on Other popular trails. Some trails are open to hikers only and  “No Horses/No Bikes” signs on posted on these hiking trails.

Dogs: Dogs are allowed (on-leash). 

Horses at White Memorial

Horses: Horses are allowed in certain parts of White Memorial. Riding is allowed on designated WMF roads and other roads throughout the property (labeled on the White Memorial property map).

**Do not ride on foot trails, on lawns, in fields, or on White Memorial property other than the roads shown on the WMF property map. For the courtesy of others, as well as to lessen damage to the property, travel speed must be kept to a walking pace. 

White Memorial Conservation Center

Museum: There is a museum and gift shop ont he property. The museum does charge admission (with a lot of free days offered for kids on their site). 
Adults $6.00, Children 6-12 Years $3.00, Under 6 Years Free
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm

Camping:  There are two dog-friendly family camping areas  - all about Camping Here. 

White Memorial Conservation Center

We had a fantastic hike which totaled just under 4-miles. We loved this area and recommend it to just about anyone heading to NW Connecticut or just passing through. It's one of those places where you wished you could have planned better and spent the entire day. I would have packed a picnic and spent time in the museum, maybe brought a bike, and did a bit more exploring. If nothing else, plan to get out to the boardwalk trail which is very flat, relatively short, and good for just about anyone in your group. I made a mental note to come back the horses in the winter, with the dogs to camp in the summer, and with friends in the fall to see the foliage. 

Trail Maps

White Memorial Conservation Center Boardwalk

White Memorial Conservation Center

White Memorial Conservation Center

White Memorial Conservation Center

White Memorial Conservation Center Boardwalk

In The Area 

After your visit to White Memorial, 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. 
  • Litchfield Distillery: (5 minutes) Distillery with a tour and a free tasting after - featuring bourbon, gin, vodka, and maple syrup. Great little gift shop as well. 
  • Topsmead State Forest: (10 minutes) former summer estate of Miss Edith Morton Chase - hiking, skiing, birding, picnicking and cottage tours. 
  • Mount Tom State Park: (15 minutes) One of the oldest parks in the state park system; it is named for the mountain within its boundaries. Boating, picnicking, fishing, scuba diving, hiking, lookout tower
  • Haight-Brown Vineyard: (10 minutes) Connecticut's first farm winery
  • Thorncrest Farms and Milk House Chocolates: (13 minutes) Quaint dairy farm known for their chocolate - great spot for the kids to see the dairy cows 
  • Arethusa Farm Dairy: (6 minutes) full fledge dairy farm known for their icecream

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