Thursday, November 4, 2010

American Legion Trails, Barkhamsted

American Legion State Forest – the trails that CCC built

Park Web Site                                  Trail Map

The American Legion State Forest is on the west bank of the west branch of the Farmington River in Barkhamsted, CT.  It’s a beautiful area, great for camping, fishing, canoeing along the river, with two short blue-blazed trails: the Henry Buck Trail, and the Turkey Vulture Ledge Trail.  I was at Bradley Airport early Thursday morning, about 20 minutes away, so picked these for a quick hike.

It was early morning after a day of rain, and the nearby Barkhamsted Reservoir was socked in with thick fog – visibility less than 50 feet. That wasn’t a good start for trails that boast rocky cliffs and spectacular views.  But I was there, so no point turning back.

The 2.3 mile Henry Buck Trail begins across the road from the Farmington River, near the remains of a footbridge that connected American Legion with Peoples State Forest across the river.  All that’s left are two stone columns that supported the bridge. The bridge and trails were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's.  The phrase 'good enough for government work' just doesn't fit here.  From the work I've seen here and at Macedonia State Park, these guys were good.  

The first half mile of the trail is an easy, level walk.  Brooks crisscross the area, which is covered with ferns along the bank and moss on the rocks and fallen trees.  The trail turns up hill along and over a stream, leading past waterfalls and stone steps.

Pass the remains of a stone foundation and cellar hole.  This was the site of an old cheese box factory, making wood boxes to package and ship cheeses produced nearby.  The cellar hole was really a water wheel pit.  River water was directed into the pit, turning the water wheel to provide power to run the mill.

The trail crosses a wooden bridge over the river and then leads up to the cliff ledges.  The trail here is built on a stone retaining wall that was part of the CCC work in the area.  Pass a stone bench and look up under the ledge for a plaque dedicating the trail to Henry Buck.  Mr. Buck was vice president of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association in the later 20’s, and located and designed this trail.  The ledge looks like an inviting climb, but it’s pitched toward the trail and slippery today – I stuck to the trail instead of attempting any rock-climbing maneuvers.

Past the bench, the trail leads to overlooks at Tremendous Cliffs.  The name might be presumptuous, but the views are pretty good – even today when the fog is still hiding the river.

Up another steep section, you see more of the CCC work put into the trail.  The switchbacks are built from huge boulders placed to get you up and over the ledge. The trail leads back down through the forest, steep at times, then back down to the road for a short walk south along the river to the starting point.  The fog has cleared so I can see across the Farmington to People’s State Forest.  There are another 14 miles of trails over there, but that’s a hike for another day.

My next stop is a quick drive south on Legion Road – a woods road that leads past youth camping areas and to a small parking area for the next trail, Turkey Vulture Ledge Trail.  This is a short, almost half mile, trail that leads through the forest and out onto lookouts with views to the Farmington River and to the slopes east of the river.  The big birds that name the trail can usually be seen soaring up the thermals from the river and cliffs, but the skis were empty this morning.  It’s still a nice place to take a break and relax looking out over the area.  A quick walk back, past the landmark boulder split in two, a smaller version of the one I saw at Westwoods in Guilford – smaller rock, smaller tree – and back to the car for the ride home.

and the rest of the photos....


  1. You DO find the most interesting places! Really striking in the mist!

  2. Every time I turn around, there's another state park or forest to check out. Can't throw a stick without hitting one ;-)



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