Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mattabesett Trail - Bluff Head

½ mile loop hike - Mattabesett Trail and Lone Pine Trail - Guilford and Madison, CT

Trail Map - Guilford's Northwoods Trail System

What better place to start hiking the Mattabeset than right in the middle? I was on my own Sunday, so I picked a loop route - 5 ½ miles of the Mattabesett, then back around on the 4 mile Lone Pine Trail. Starting and ending at the trail parking lot on Route 77 in northern Guilford.

Heading west from the parking lot, the trail starts off with a bang – a very steep climb up Bluff Head. The main trail climbs almost straight up to the 720’ crest, but there’s a side trail (blue blaze with orange dots) that takes an easier route up the hill. Your choice – 300 yards straight up, or 1 mile zigzagging up the side. I had almost 10 miles to go, so straight up it is!  Complete with warning signs from CFPA noting it's a bad idea to fall from the ridge!

There are a series of rock outcroppings along the edge that allow great views east and south to the Sound, west along the ridges with Hartford way in the distance to the northwest, or straight down to Myerhuber Pond in the neighboring farmland.

The trail continues around the edge of Totoket Mountain, a reasonably level hike (somewhere along here you hit the highest point in Guilford). Another trail intersects the blue trail, this one blazed in fluorescent lime green. I don’t know where it goes, but it will be tough to miss the glow-in-the-dark markings. Hunting is allowed in some of the forest here; a single sign posted the warning. And I could hear someone prepping for hunting season not too far away – is there a rifle range nearby?

After about 3 miles, near the border of Guilford and North Branford, the Lone Pine Trail cuts away to the north. A trail kiosk marks the spot; just follow the blue/red blazes – though the red dot has worn off many of the trees. The trail turns east at the Durham border, following a long rock wall that marks the town line - trap rock quarried and stacked like cordwood. Some of the stones are scribed with initials and dates – 1894, 1927… so either the wall has been here for quite some time, or the someone's been creating a little history.

The trail winds back down the mountain, crosses a river (at least it will be next spring) and exits the woods into a neighbor’s back yard. Near the Private Property signs, a shagbark hickory stands out – the Buffalo Tree noted in the Connecticut Walk Book. Two burls (insert Milton joke here) are said to resemble buffalo heads. Here’s the tree, you decide.

See the Buffalo Head?
How 'bout now?
(the lighting was better this time)
Back into the woods, the trail runs along the edge of the James Valley Preserve – over some solidly built bridges over Hemlock Brook - and out again along the neighbor’s back yards and fields on an unimproved road until the trail comes out onto Route 77.  Continue north and across the street, the trail heads toward the woods again at a parking lot for the Braemore Preserve (across from a red barn and farm stand – Bluff Head Farm).

The trail starts through a wildflower field and a stone bench halfway into the property makes a good spot for lunch, looking back though the field and up to the Bluff Head cliffs. 

And then into the woods again and up the hill.  The trial climbs through a rock formation, and then wanders through the forest.  Along the way, I found a Lone Pine tree on the Trail.  I wonder if anyone’s noticed that before.  There are about a dozen other trails through here in the Braemore and Rockland Preserves – hiking and biking, bridle path, nature trails – check for more info on the Guilford and Madison land conservation sites, it looks like a great place to wander around.

Just over a mile in from Route 77, the Lone Pine meets the Mattabesett Trail again.  Signposts point out the different trails all around, I jump back on the Blue and head south again.

Through the forest, over the rocks, two deer get spooked and run away… yada, yada, yada.  About two miles later you hit the southern-most point on the Mattabesett in the Broomstick Ledges area.  Watch the trail carefully here - there may still be logging and building going on as many of the blazed trees have been cut and there are blue ribbons and blue blazed sticks in the ground guiding your way. 

Menunkatuck thataway
The trail cuts north and then south again – up, over and around the ledges – and meets up with the new Menunkatuck Trail.  The new blue blazed trail forms part of the New England Trail, along with the Mattabesett, Metacomet and Monadnock trails from near Long Island Sound up to the Massachusetts / New Hampshire border. This hike is just a little piece of that.

Down the hill into a valley, the trail follows and then crosses a small stream.  It's beautiful down here, with a nice cool breeze.  Ferns grow along the stream, and the rocks are covered with moss.  The Guilford Land Trust site talks about Route 77 as the transition point between two types of geology – basalt trap rock ridges to the west and gray schist, which was originally sea bottom, to the east. My only Geology courses were a long time ago, but here at the river I did note the rocks and ledges were much coarser grained than the trap rock at Bluff Head, or at Sleeping Giant.  And there are veins of a creamy white rock, quartz I guess.  So for any rock hounds out there, this is an interesting area to explore.

A quick climb up and over the ridge, and I’m back down to Route 77, just north of the parking lot to end the hike.  Good hike, and a nice area to come back and explore.


  1. You DO write a nice blog!

  2. Thanks, I appreciate that! Now be sure to tell all your friends ;-)

  3. Hello, After some searching I found that they moved the map on the website...
    Thanks for the great post.

  4. CR - thanks for leaving the comment, I'd hate to have a bad link hanging out there. I updated the post with the new link. Hope you enjoy the walk out there, I have to get back and check out the Braemore and Rockland Preserve Trails.

  5. You read my mind. I was thinking I'll have to check out the other side of Durham road as well.



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