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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Millers Pond State Park - Durham

This is a story about another tucked away lesser known Connecticut State Park. It's also a story about how I genuinely think people are good, but there are some less than great ones too, and one of those less than great humans was also at Miller Pond State Park.

Harsh start to today's state park guide, I know, I know, but hear me out. It was a gorgeous fall day here in Connecticut. It was a Sunday, the first day of October, and temperatures were creeping into the upper 70s. My parents know about my State Park scheme and love spending time with their grandkids so they suggested we tackle a park in the afternoon. I love that my little plan is inspiring others and I was excited to set out on another adventure with the kids.

I looked at my map and my google doc of localish parks with varying hiking trails and mileage. Miller Pond State Park (another one I've never heard of) in Durham was about 25-30 minutes away and had a short 1.5-mile loop around the park - toddler and grandparent friendly. I loaded the kids and the dogs in their car seats, loaded up enough snacks and the kids hiking packs, and picked up my parents before heading to the State Park. 

Miller Pond State Park
Miller Pond State Park entry trail
Miller Pond
Miller Pond beach

Driving down back roads of Durham, you definitely have that "middle of nowhere" feeling. We followed our GPS into a large gravel parking lot with portable toilets and your typical state park signage. It's on the bare bones side as far as state parks go, but we were here for the trails and "togetherness". I load Piper in her carrier, pack enough snacks for Whitney, and load up dog bags, water, and bug spray (amazingly never needed). I actually convince Whitney to leave his rather heavy and awkward new overpriced dinosaur toy from Dinosaur State Park in the car and we set off on our hike on a toddler pace. The trail starts out as a nice wide tame trail leading to the lake. The loop around the lake follows the white blazes and is a pretty rocky single track around the lake. There isn't much elevation gained, but you certainly have to watch your footing. We crossed several small streams via small rock bridges, the pond via a dam/bridge, and slooooooowly made our way along the trail with muddy shoes. Whitney's 2.5 year old legs actually carried him around 90 percent of the trail and I was very impressed by his stamina over a more technical trail. 

White Trail around Miller Pond State Park
White Trail around Miller Pond 

Miller Pond State Park
Rock bridge along the trail

Miller Pond State Park
Miller Pond

We got back to the car where he was reunited with his toys and played with his dinosaur in the parking lot dirt while I changed a diaper and loaded Piper and Olive into the car. I got Whitney into his car seat where he asked me to "wash Leo" his dinosaur and I yessed him before finishing up the process of loading up gear and changing shoes. We headed out of the parking lot, bound for Durham Dairy Serv about 5 minutes down the road when I realized Leo was still in the parking lot. We turned around, and in ten minutes were back in the quiet parking lot expecting to see Leo where we left him or placed by the trailhead where someone found him and moved him to a more visible spot. I was so sad to see that Leo was in fact gone. In ten minutes, someone decided to take a kids toy out of the park with them, instead of leaving it for the owner who had in this instance, returned a mere ten minutes later. Whitney was devastated, I felt truly awful, and I was so annoyed that someone would take a kid's toy home. In one of my really bad parenting days, I left my mac laptop at the park in Old Saybrook on the grass and didn't realize it until 8 hours later. I returned at night with a flashlight to see it set on the picnic table waiting for its owner. My laptop lasted 8 hours at a busy park in Old Saybrook but Whitney's toy dinosaur barely lasted ten minutes in a relatively empty state park parking lot. 

Thankfully I was able to Amazon Prime a new Leo to the house the next day, and we all did enjoy our hike at the park. The park is very quiet with a great little hiking loop and while not a big sandy beach, plenty of places to jump in the very clear lake as you make your way along the trail.

Miller Pond
Miller Pond

Millers Pond was acquired in 1955 by the State Park and consisted of 30 acres of pond and 170 acres of wooded land in the towns of Durham and Haddam. The state purchased additional property around the pond in 1972. The pond is shockingly clear thanks to the large springs feeding the pond, creating a body of unpolluted water (excellent for small mouth bass or trout fishing). The original dam at the pond was built by Thomas Miller some time before 1704 to provide a reservoir to serve his gristmill further downstream.


Fishing, hiking, mountain biking and hiking are all welcomed in the park. The pond is not an official swimming area (no water testing or life guard services either obviously) but swimming is a common activity at the park. There aren't any picnic tables or restrooms. There are pit toilets at the entrance. As always, carry out what you carry in. The gates are also open year round. Find a trail map here.


Allowed on leash, but not in the water. 

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