Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chatfield Trail, Killingworth

4.7 mile trail, with a ¾ mile alternate trail to make loop hikes possible.

The Chatfield Trail runs between Route 80 and River Road in Killingworth, just south of Chatfield Hollow State Park.  The north section of the trail travels through Foster Pond State Park, an undeveloped section of the Cockaponset State Forest.  The southern section skirts state land and wanders through some privately owned property. I couldn't find good maps on line, so here's one more good reason to go out and buy the Connecticut Walk Books.  Chatfield Trail is in the East book.

The north trailhead, with parking for about eight cars, is ¼ mile west of the state park on Route 80.  And old forest road starts you off from the parking area.  There’s also a new trailhead right across the street from the Chatfield Hollow entrance – it joins up with the main trail about a ¼ mile in.

I was hiking with my son today.  Once we got off the old road, the trail runs up into the hills, along a ledge and through a pine and hemlock forest overlooking Foster Pond.  There are a couple of open views, but you’ll have to hike off trail toward the Pond if you want a better look.

The trail generally runs like this – wind your way up along the rocks to an outcropping or cliff, enjoy the overlook into the forest, then zigzag your way down the face of the cliff through a narrow slot and curl back around the base.  And repeat.

It’s quite easy to find and stay on the trail here. 

“But Dad,” the boy says, “we lost the blazes and trail a bunch of times.”
Sure, but all you have to do is stop, look around and find the nearest cliff or rock outcropping.  Once you do, head for it.  And then, as Gus Portokalos said, “There you go”.

Many of the cliffs offer some kind of bouldering or rock climbing.  The rock has split leaving chimney runs and crevasses.  At the base of one outcropping, squeeze through a narrow pass that opens to Indian Caves.  I can picture Pixie and her crazy rock-climbing friends in here, crawling all over the walls and ceiling.  But bring some crash pads – the rocky cave base is not as cushy as the soft floor in the climbing gym.  If you want to avoid the rocks here, just continue past the boulders into the ravine.  You can hike along parallel to the rocks in a much smoother section.

C'mon - slide on through!

"Indian Caves" with bouldering options all around 

Down one more rock pass, and the trail comes out onto Champlin Road.  Turn west to follow the Blue/Orange blazed alternate trail.  This takes you past a huge rock slab and then along another cliff edge, through wetlands and then back to the main trail.  It offers a way to turn this into a loop trail back toward Route 80, following the old road north back to the trailhead.  We took the road south until it met the trail again just north of Champlin. 

After crossing Champlin, the trail runs (mostly) wide and (mostly) level through the woods.  It passes stone walls, crosses a stream or two, and in the spring may be marshy past the frog ponds.  There’s one more cliff and cave section where the yellow trail and blue trail split.  The yellow forces a little rock climbing through this slot in the rock.  The blue meanders around.

Yellow Trail through the rocks,
Blue Trail goes around.
"Fat Man Squeeze"
vertical slot through the cliff

Just north of the Deer Lake Scout Reservation, the trail turns west into the woods – watch for the turn through the stone wall.  The trail winds along the brook, crossing at Paper Mill  Road.  Immediately after the bridge, you head back to the woods and brook, under a canopy of Mountain Laurel, and out next to the neighbor’s property to the trail head back at River Road.

The neighbor's shed - complete with rocker hiding from the main house.
Trout brook at the end of the day - nice way to end the hike

Though a short hike, this trail can be a workout – up down and around the rocks, the footing can be tricky down through the slots with leaves and wet rocks making things slippery.  But if you’re up for a little bouldering, it can be a great place to spend an afternoon.


  1. Have been hiking at Chatfield Hollow - the Chatfield Trail sounds a bit more challenging. Looks like a great hike - it was a beautiful day for it! Are you joining us on our Winter Hikes? Let me know and I'll add you to our group.

  2. Oh and the red house-lette makes me think of Old Mother Hubbard or Baba Yaga's hut (that runs around on chicken legs)

  3. Jim,

    This looks like an awesome hike! The terrain reminds me of quite a few trails we have up here, in New Hampshire. I think ledgey trails are a blast (with good footing, of course)!

    I love the "fat man squeeze" photo. I got stuck in one of these once, because I was stupid and didn't take my pack off!

    Glad to see you're still hiking in the brisk weather.


  4. Man, I love the pics on this blog! Most excellent.

    The Average Joe Fisherman

  5. Very nice- those definitely look like fun places to go bouldering!
    And I love that you used a quote from Gus... Mom and I were quoting him last night for almost 10 minutes!

  6. I lead an adventure group and I love to lead hikes. Sometimes, it's nice to find a great, rock scrambling hike that allows for a back-up plan (shortening loop). I've hiked this years ago in the spring, but it was a very wet trail then. I am eager to get out on this trail in dry conditions (like now!). Your post confirmed what I remembered and made me re-open my Walk Book to those pages. Thank you.



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