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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Rocky Neck State Park - East Lyme

Rocky Neck State Park

A constant theme you will find as you read my state park guides is "I forgot how beautiful this place is". Rocky Neck was exactly that. I have been to the park many times over the years but after a long hiatus, I was back at the park with my son with a fresh set of eyes and deeper appreciation for this gem of a park so close to home. I forgot just how lovely the trails are, quiet even on a Sunday in September. I forgot about the views of the water as you make your way closer to the pavilion. I forgot about the boardwalk and the picnic area, the sandy beaches and the boardwalk. I forgot about the bridge over the marsh and the birds and just how lovely this park is.

Rocky Neck State Park Trails
Hiking Trails

Rocky Neck was the first "revisit" on my newly installed State Park tour and this was my first time exploring the park with my son. I loved it as we made our way on a 3 mile loop on the hiking trails with our dog Olive with a long stop at the train tracks with the hopes of a sighting. 



Rocky Neck is open to the public and a part of the state park system thanks to conservationists who secured the land in 1931 with their personal funds until the State Legislature authorized its purchase. It's hard to imagine what would have happened if this beautiful spot was just another private mansion along the water. Instead, devout conservationist ensured that this park was available for all to enjoy all year round. 

Rocky Neck State Park Pavilion
The Pavilion Balcony

Rocky Neck State Park entry sign
Rocky Neck State Park Signage


Rocky Neck is a favorite park for many. While I've never used the beach, I have visited the park many times for picnic dinners, hikes through the park, and a wedding in the pavilion. The park is a thriving ecosystem bound on the west by a tidal river and to the east by a broad salt marsh. Birders come to rocky neck to see the osprey in the early summer or the cranes, herons and mute swans in the fall. 

Rocky Neck State Park views along the trail
View of the sound along the trails


Camping, Picnicking, Hiking, Fishing, Swimming

Camping is offered within the park with 160 wooded and open campsites. Note that pets aren't allowed. You can find out more about camping within the park here.

While there aren't a lot of trails in the park, there is a fantastic 3-mile loop with about 200 feet of elevation gain in the park extending from the alternate parking area along 156 to the Pavilion and beach area. Most of the trail covers the red loop and you will go through the woods, take in the views of the sound and make your way to the pavilion before heading back towards the parking lot on a loop trail but this time, with a view of the marsh and Bride Brook. Find a trail map here. 

Dogs are allowed on the hiking trails and north of the railroad. Dogs are not allowed in the campground and south of the train tracks which includes on the beach, boardwalk or pavilion.

The Ellie Mitchell Pavilion at Rocky Neck State Park is a unique and historic cobblestone structure with stone fireplaces and native wood pillars. The second floor of the Pavilion is available for wedding receptions, galas, private parties, seminars and corporate events.  

Rocky Neck State Park Pavilion
Rocky Neck State Park Pavilion

Rocky Neck State Park Pavilion
Picnic Area

Hiking trails at Rocky Neck State Park

Bridge over the marsh 

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