Friday, October 8, 2010

Mattabesett Trail – Beseck Ridge

Route 68 to Route 66 section, Middlefield / Durham - 5.7 miles

But since I hiked it out and back and around a little, make it about 12 miles.

Where to hike next?  A friend from work remembered a photo she had, a view off a cliff with water in the background, somewhere around Middletown – maybe Mattabesett Mountain?  A confirming email from her friend came back – the Mattabesett trail south of 691.  Check the Connecticut Walk Book – that sounds like the Beseck Ridge section of the trail.

I parked at the Route 66 parking lot on the north side of 66, just west of the Baileyville Rd (Rt 147) intersection.  A trail leads north and then east from the lot, passing the Mattabesett sign, and the ubiquitous CFPA warning: “STOP – PROCEED WITH CAUTION.  This section of the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail traverses a portion of the Metacomet Range, a series of high traprock ridges that drop precipitously at the cliff edge.  A fall from the ridge will result in serious injury or death….”   oooo this will be fun! 

Somewhere in my blog description, I said you can find a trail near pretty much anywhere in Connecticut.  That means you can go from life’s hustle and bustle to the peace and quiet of the forest and trail in no time.  The Mattabesett Trail here is a perfect example. 

With just a short hike, you can go from this…                 To this.

But let’s start at the beginning.  After hiking toward 147 and across Route 66, and then a little walk through the woods, you start to see a clearing through the trees.  Maybe the first views of the pond and mountains?

Well, maybe. But it does get better once you pass the power lines.  There are water views through the trees as you descend the trail – steep and a little tricky with loose stone in spots.  Pass a stone chimney and then what was an old stage road.  Lake, mountain, old road – would have made a good spot for the cottage, or whatever was attached to that chimney.

Start the ascent again, and you break out of the woods onto the first set of cliffs, with great views.  The trail continues along the edge of the cliff, and the views get better the higher you go.  Nearly two miles of traprock ridges that drop precipitously at the cliff edge (now I remember that warning).

... and here.

Precipitous drop here...

Soon the trail moves inland a bit, along old woods roads.  And into what’s left of Powder Ridge Ski Area.  The lifts, operator shacks and snow guns still line the ski trails, just waiting for the town to negotiate a new owner and open up again.  Good Luck Middlefield, I hope it works out this time!

Back into the woods, and then out on the cliff again, this time looking out on the neighboring homes.  You cross another set of power lines, the wander down toward Reed’s Gap with one more cliff view south toward Trimountain.  The trail leads down the hill, over the railroad tracks and out onto Route 68 near its intersection with Route 157.  And that would be the end of this section’s 5.7 mile hike, except that now I have to go back and get the car.  So I took a break near the tracks for a quick snack, and then got on my way again.

When you come to the fork in the trail, take it.

The walk book describes this trip south to north.  So having been through the hike once, I can look through and note anything that’s, well, not quite right.

Let me read how it goes after crossing the railroad tracks… “Start gradual ascent first north then northwest to Beseck Ridge.  Turn north again and follow ridge, passing many cliffs with vistas and views of Talcott Mount and Meriden to the northwest and Long Island Sound to south.” (Connecticut Walk Book, 19th edition, pg 99).  And the topography shown on the trail map bears that out. 

It sounds good, a gradual ascent.  Here’s what it’s really like.

Reed's Gap is the hollow between Beseck Ridge and Trimountain where Route 68 and the railroad tracks run through.  From there it is a easy ascent, and then a drop, and then a steeper ascent and then a drop, and then an even steeper ascent to the first cliff lookout.  I guess that does average out to gradual.  At least this topo map shows some elevation change (follow the blue line down between Mount Higby and Trimountain, find Conrail cutting across, now go up a bit, zoom in and find those small peaks)   Footing on the north side of the second hill is tricky – rocks and pebbles, so take it slow there.  From then on, it’s a nice hike up along the ridge, never straying far from the cliff edge, to the lookouts along the way.

Black Pond and Mount Higby to the north

West Peak, Hanging Hills to the northwest

Sleeping Giant (Mt Carmel) and Prospect Ridge to the southwest

Trimountain and Ulbrich Reservoir to the south

And when you finally come down out of the woods onto 147 and cross Route 66 you find gold - Guida's Restaurant.  Hot Dog and shake to go, please.  I have another half mile to hike back to the parking lot and my car.


  1. Re: your gradual descent/ascent - looks more like a 'relentless climb' to me - wonder if the folks who write those books have been out hiking in awhile ;-)
    Re: Guida's - hungry just thinkin' about it!

  2. Hi Jim, great post on your hike and I had a few questions on it because I'm thinking of doing it next week. My biggest question is once you got to rt 68 and stopped for your snack and made your way back to your car, did you backtrack the same trail that you just walked or was there another trail that loops back in because it sounds like you took a different route that popped you out at Guida's Restaurant. I checked out the Topo Map that was linked in your post and i only see really one trail heading from rt 66 to rt 68 which is why I was a little confused. Also the picture you have of the fork in the trail saying "take it" which way do you mean? I was thinking that maybe on the way back you take the other trail which loops you back another way but I'm not sure. But anyways if you could help me out that would be much appreciated :)

  3. Hi Mike - it's a great hike with some nice views off the cliffs, I think you'll like it. I did just backtrack on the same trail. The fork is actually just a split in the trail around a clump of trees, the two paths come back together after about fifteen feet. The blue blazed trail crosses Rt 66 near Guida's - that's the sideways U-shaped section shown on that topo map.

  4. Excellent description of what hikers can expect. Much more detailed than most accounts posted on line.

    I hike often in southern California, and there they pay much more attention to directions to the trailhead than those in these parts who point in the right direction but give few details.

    In any case, I'm doing this hike tomorrow, or at least part of it. Not in for the 11.4 miles, but will do 3-3.5 hours total. Should be fun and a fair amount of work.




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