Sunday, August 22, 2010

Quinnipiac River State Park

This section of the Quinnipiac Trail is a thru-hike from the trail head (and start of the Quinnipiac Trail) on Banton Street in North Haven, through the end of the park at Toelles Road, back into the woods ending at the entrance to Sleeping Giant State Park on Chestnut Lane in Hamden (total distance approx 6 miles).

Update - as noted in one of the comments below, this part of the Blue Trail was closed and is no longer maintained by CFPA.  See their notice here.  The new southern end of the Quinnipiac Trail is Hartford Turnpike - so start here.

State Park website        Get a copy of the Connecticut Walk Book West for a good trail map.

Starting from the south, the trail begins along an old road - Banton Street - and then turns right into the woods toward the Quinnipiac river. It follows the river the rest of the way north.

Imagine a trail meandering through forest and brush, maple stands and pine knolls, following the winding river.  As it crosses muddy creek beds, deer, racoon and otter tracks show you what else shares the woods.  The trail breaks out onto the river bank - a heron flies just above the treetops, and a hawk takes flight as you pass.  Ducks and frogs dart off the shore along the way.  Now imagine the jungle has completely taken over the trail again - Trail Guys 0, Nature 1.  Welcome to Quinnipiac River State Park.

There were so many places where I lost the trail, or it became so overgrown as to be impenetrable, a lot of time was spent backtracking to find a way through the brush and then find the trail again. At a couple of points it was easier - when I hit the river I was too far east, when I hit the old power line clearing I was too far west. Somewhere in between - hey, there's a faded blue blaze...

Poison ivy, vines, shrubs, grasses have all grown up along the trail, blocking it and hiding blazes. There’s some tree or shrub with a faintly orange scent – I don’t know what it is, but I bashed my way through a few times.

The CFPA Walk Book notes this section of the Q Trail is impassable after heavy rains or periods of high water on the river. There's no question this is a flood plain - the sandy soil, piles of twigs and branches that flood waters have moved around all point to that. The trail crosses dry (or mostly dry) streams that might be knee deep after spring rains.

The Walk Book “recommends planning this hike for the cooler seasons, after the shrubs and trees have dropped their leaves.” I’d have to agree – a machete and chain saw would have been handy today to clear the trail again. Though cooler seasons are also hunting seasons; this area is open to turkey hunting spring and fall, deer hunting in the fall and winter (but never on Sundays).

There's the blaze, but where's the trail??
Series of wooden bridges over a creek

Once you reach the end of the park at Toelles Road, be very careful! You have to hop over a wall and walk up the road a quarter mile to reach the woods again. There is no sidewalk or clearing, so you’re on the road with drivers who may still think it’s ten extra points to hit the hiker so he does a full somersault before landing again. Of course, other drivers do slow down and wave, so maybe there’s still hope for mankind.

Anyway, back across Hartford Turnpike and into the woods, the trail is well marked and cleared all the way into Sleeping Giant State Park. I hooked a right at the yellow trail to find my car just where I left it – at the Chestnut Lane parking area.

I'll be back in winter, I just hope the trail is too.


  1. The Sleeping Giant Trails Crew goes in a couple of times a year - mainly in spring - to repaint blazes, try to clear the brush, build/repair bridges,and pick up trash. (How does one remove the carcase of a pickup truck?) We usually come out with bags full - it's a task designed for Sisyphus, as much of the trash comes from far upstream. The area was once a neighborhood, sometimes, amidst the jungle, you can find driveways, and, in the spring, daffodils, forsythia, and other 'landscaping' plants. That neighborhood flooded so often once I-91 went through (or so I'm told that the neighborhood was "condemned". If you go on a sunny, warmish day in late March, there are carpets of lovely yellow dandelion-type plants and some pink flower. I can imagine picnicing along the river there, very tranquil. A week later when I went back, I was attacked by poison ivy. Ticks and mosquitos abound - truly a place best left for the non-growing season.

  2. I know what you mean - I picked up water bottles, assorted trash and an old sweatshirt from right along the trail. I did leave the pickup truck where I found it, though. Might have to float it out some spring.

  3. I'd agree that it's wisest to try this somewhat complicated trail before full spring or after autumn, maybe after Gil Simmons on WTNH weather has complained about a lack of rainfall for the past week or two, so things have dried out. I saw brambles already coming up; not a welcome sight. Wished I had high waterproof boots and a machete, and at times, a chainsaw,since as the poster notes, 'The Jungle' can work every day and the trail crews can't fight back daily.

    I was lucky enough to hike this on 3/11/2012 before the brambles had gotten overgrown and before the poison ivy started, and when the saplings were brittle and easy to break if needed to clear the trail.

    At the north and sound ends of the trail the hard work of the trail markers and clearers was very evident. The middle clearly has more 'issues'. But it's an uphill battle, since, unlike The Giant which is mainly high and dry, Quinnipiac River is in a floodplain, and the trail can get covered with flood flotsam...much (most?) of the litter's coming from the river, not from hikers or hunters (i.e. rubber balls and soccer balls).

    About 4-6 times during the hike, the trail was blocked by deadfall and flotsam from the river's flooding. Twice, the blazes directed hikers across an 'oxbow' of river water, one of these about calf deep (I waded this one) and the other one about waist deep (I did not try this one) in early spring waters. My guess is that these are 'new islands' formed when former gullies or creeks got more water.

    So where the blue blazes worked on by the diligent Trails Crew have been lost or destroyed or obscured or the directions were no longer valid, you just have to improvise and follow the watercourse upstream or downstream (or follow the gas line clearing posts back). It's not easy to do when the river weaves in various compass directions, and there are various 'impostor' meanders from the river. You've got to not mind getting muddy. And remember that that sound you hear 90% of the time is traffic on the Wilbur Cross (the park's western boundary), so you're always close to 'civilization'.

  4. For all of the above reasons, the Connecticut Forest and Park Association abandoned this portion of the Quinnipiac Trail in June 2013.



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