Thursday, September 9, 2010

Zoar Trail - Newtown

Zoar Trail – 6 ½ mile Loop Trail on the west shore of Lake Zoar in the lower block of the Paugussett State Forest in Newtown, CT

Note - normally I can find a trail map online to share.  This time you'll just have to pick up a copy of the Connecticut Walk Book.

Scenic, /’sinɪk, ‘sɛnɪk/ (adj)
1.      of or relating to natural scenery <a scenic view>
2.      having pleasing or beautiful scenery

Would you describe this as scenic?

How about this – is this scenic?

If you weren’t sure, let me fill you in.  These were taken along the 2.4 mile section of the Zoar Trail designated as a “Scenic Trail”.  Now what do you think?  Quite scenic, eh??  Good thing they told you, wasn't it?

A really empty beach
From the parking lot on Great Quarter Road in Newtown, the trail runs along the shore of Lake Zoar (the Housatonic River north of the Stevenson Dam), and then loops back through the forest.  It starts out with an easy walk just off the shore, until you reach a small sandy beach area.  Across the river is Jackson Cove Recreation Area, and I saw maybe four people out on the beach.  I thought it would be more crowded for Labor Day Weekend, but even the lake is quiet.  There were more people on the trail than on the beach - families and dogs out for a walk, a few hikers - it was a nice cool day, just beginning to feel like fall.

A little farther, the trail gets rocky and hilly - much more like your typical Connecticut trail - and then turns away from the shore into the forest; a mixed woodlands of hemlock, pine and hardwood trees.  You're coming up on what sounds like the focal point of this hike - Prydden Falls.  A small side trail, blazed blue/yellow, takes a right off the main trail and brings you back down along the brook towards shore. The Falls make a great picnic spot, there's a large flat rock in the middle that's great for sittin' and chillin'.  And I found a nice couple doing just that.  Do you know what was missing?  The falls!  I guess it's just not waterfall season, the brook was bone dry.  The other hikers seemed quite disappointed; I just invited them back in the spring.

Rocky spot -
watch your step!
Prydden Falls? or Prydden Rocks

Just after the falls, you reach a cutoff trail and sign noting this section of the trail is closed between April 1 and August 15.  It’s closed off to protect nesting hawks.  The Blue/Yellow cutoff trail heads west up the hill along the Prydden Brook.  Since it’s September, I can walk on through.  It must have been safe; I didn’t see or hear anything hawk-like the entire afternoon!

The blue trail continues another half mile or so, and then makes a sharp turn west to begin the loop back.  This section has a new set of stairs thanks to the Trail Crew.  Without the steps, it’s a steep climb on an eroding trail.  But the steps were really well done – they got me up the trail, they protect the trail from further damage, and they didn’t look out of place.

At the top of the steep climb, the trail levels out and heads southeast through the forest and mountain laurel.  It climbs up and down traprock ridges.  The Connecticut Walk Book map shows two lookout points, though you might have to wait until winter to see anything east through the trees.  As the trail descends, you’ll cross two more blue/yellow side trails.  (Don’t worry, you’re not heading backwards – every side trail here is blue/yellow).  These lead to the parking areas on Leopard Drive and Paugussett Road to the west of the state forest.  Another mile or so and you come out a park road, along a neighbor’s back yard, and then out of the forest onto Great Quarter Road.  A half mile walk along the road brings you back to the parking area.  There’s not a single blue blaze at the forest exit point or along the road – it’s kind of a stealth trail here.  UPDATE - the trail was relocated to stay in the woods and not bail out onto the road here.  See Hiker Tom's comment below for link to the trail map.

There’s a lot to see, and maybe it’s best to think of seasonal highlights –
  • Early spring – the Falls!
  • Spring after the April trail closure – Prydden Brook along the west trail and blooming Mountain Laurel. (and leave the Hawks alone!)
  • Winter – Views toward the water off the west trail overlooks, and maybe an eagle or two over the river.
  • And there’s always the Scenic Trail...


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This is a link to the state map for the lower Paugussett State Forest, including the Zoar Trail. The map in the 2006 edition of the Connecticut Walk Book is outdated because the trail no longer follows Great Quarter Road, thanks to a relocation around 2012 or so. Be sure to take the time to explore the other trails in the forest, as they are quite scenic.
    Map at



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