Monday, May 23, 2011

The Paugussett Trail

Every trail guide I’ve read calls out the length of the trail.  Did you ever wonder how those measurements are taken?  GPS – right?  But trail guides have been in publication far longer than hand held GPS units.  OK, so we just pace it off and do the math?

For this Paugussett Trail trip, I was lucky to meet up with a group on a joint AMC / CT Forest and Park Association hike.  And along the way, the CFPA was rechecking the trail for the next edition of their guide.  So out comes the wheelie road measurer, and the GPS.  Somebody wheels the trail, and then at the end they’ll check the GPS and see how close the two measurements are.  For today, the Paugussett Trail is 9.1 miles.  Tomorrow – who knows?

We dropped cars at Indian Well State Park in Shelton and then drove to the other end of the trail on East Village Road in Monroe.  The CFPA guide (from the Walk Book West) has the trail starting across from this parking lot on Indian Well Road, but there are blue blazes heading south of the park through the fields.  I guess I’ll have to check that out when we get back…

Update 3/19/2016 - Now a few years later, the Paugussett Trail has been extended about 10 miles south of Indian Well leading to Shelton Lakes.  There's been a lot of great work by the Shelton Trails Committee to maintain and extend the trail.  Check on the CFPA website or Shelton Conservation website for information.

Our route took us from East Village Road, northwest to Lake Zoar near the Stevenson Dam, and then southeast parallel to the Housatonic River back to Indian Well State Park.  And there are a few side trails along the way for kicks.  The Paugussett starts through open, flat forest land, white pines and hardwood, and passes an old stone foundation – the remnants of the 1800’s Cargill Hoopskirt Factory.  It crosses Boys Halfway River (there’s got to be story behind that name) and then follows the river for about 1 ½ miles, through an hemlock forest, and then gradually descends to Cottage Street.  There’s an old silver mine through here somewhere, but we didn’t stop to look around.

Tricky crossing on Boys Halfway River

The rest of the group was using this hike to begin training for a Vermont backpacking trip later in the summer.  So we moved along at a pretty good pace.  Across Cottage Street, and up along the railroad tracks, there’s a blue/yellow contactor trail that leads down to Route 34 and Lake Zoar.  It’s a really nice spot for a break – maybe an ice cream cone at the Lake Zoar Drive In.  In summer, this area will be hopping with beach and boat traffic.  Today, it’s pretty quiet and we crossed back to the Paugussett for the first hill run (remember that training part?)  Up the hill, across the power lines and into the forest again, there’s a little clearing at the top of the hill with a view through the trees down to Lake Zoar

Scenic Lake Zoar - a few more weeks it will be full of boat traffic

After heading through a Mountain Laurel grove, the trail leads over 100-foot Ledge, a pass down though a rock cliff.  Next, it heads into Monroe’s Webb Mountain Park – the main park has 170 acres of hiking and camping, the adjoining 171 acre Webb Mountain Discovery Zone has hiking, scavenger hunts and outdoor education for kids.  You’ll cross a woods road and several of the Webb Mountain trails.  After crossing the Orange, the Paugussett leads down along Round Hill Brook, an absolutely beautiful section of the forest.  The brook cascades down through pools and waterfalls as it runs into the Housatonic.  It’s a very peaceful spot for a little break, and is about the halfway point on the trail.

Down the 100 Foot Ledge

and across Round Hill Brook

Connecticut’s blue blazed trails run through state land, power and water utility-owned land, and privately owned land.  Sometimes with easements, other times with just a handshake between CFPA and the land or homeowner.  The next section of the Paugussett leads through roads and neighborhoods, through backyards and side yards – so keep to the trail, stay quiet, and keep your eyes ahead – let’s play nice with the neighbors.  The trail comes out of the woods and up the steps to Thoreau Drive.  Watch for blazes painted on the telephone poles, curbs and trees for the next mile to wind along the roads, yards and woods here.

up the stairs, and into the neighborhood

At last you’re back in the woods.  The trail leads along and crosses Upper White Hill Brook just above a small waterfall.  Careful on the crossing – you have to do a little hopping from boulder to boulder.  Next stop is the Blue/Yellow blazed Vista Trail – a side trail from the Paugussett that leads steeply up to a hilltop with views down to the river (or a view if you stand in just the right spot and the trees haven’t filled in completely). 
Housatonic River vista peaking through the trees.

Back down the hill, the trail runs along a steep rockfall section, around through and over boulders, and then takes you through a hemlock and hardwood forest just before you enter Indian Well State Park again.  Just about two miles from the Vista Trail, there is another set of side trails – the blue/yellow blazed Shelton Open Space Loop.  Keep an eye out for the Shelton Trails marker on the tree; we walked right by the trail the first time past.  The open space trail is just under a mile, looping around through the woods to rejoin the Paugussett at the same spot it left.  A red blazed trail cuts through the center of the loop for a shorter track.  One neighbor wants to make sure you note that you should stay on the trail side of the fence, and not hop over to his side…

 Stay on your own side                                     Don't even think it!  

The last section of the Paugussett leads steeply down to Indian Well Road and the park entrance.  Head down to the road, and then cut back into the woods for a quick stop at the Indian Well waterfall and splash pool.  While there’s no history that says this was actually used as a well by the local Indians, there is a Romeo and Juliet type legend about a couple from enemy tribes.  Google it here.

Indian Well waterfall

Back at the start, I said the trailhead is here at Indian Well.  But the blue blazes do continue south.  I took the trail down to the state park entrance road and across the street.  The trail has been extended by the Shelton Trails Committee, linking up with the Shelton Lakes Greenway.  I guess I'll have to find a map and hike these new miles before calling the Paugussett complete!

Next time, south out of Indian Well to
wherever the trail takes us...


  1. A hoop skirt factory - imagine hiking in *that*! The Boys Halfway River *must* have a story :-)

    ...and the Native American legend - well - Running Bear loved little White Dove ... :-)

  2. Another dad doesn't like the boyfriend and bad things happen story. You'd think we would learn by now - but no!

  3. That's a nice write up Jim. I wonder what the variance is from the GPS to the wheelie thing? I've been on some walks that are way out in regards to the distance and I'm wondering how they were measured...

  4. Hey Greg - I didn't get the final tally, but the wheelie is so dependent on the operator and a little tricky over the rocks, boulders and river crossings. Halfway through the 9 miles (or so), the difference was almost a quarter mile. My guess is maps and guides will change quite a bit as GPS measurements replace what was done up until now.

  5. Enjoyed this~ Always loved the Paugussett Trail!!

  6. This is a notice about the 6 mile extension to the Paugussett Trail.

    This is a Google map link:,-73.146286&t=m&source=embed&ie=UTF8&msa=0&spn=0.154658,0.205994&z=11&mid=zjXfbXb5_zTQ.kWyvUWukjozs

  7. The trail now continues for about another five miles south to Buddington Road in Shelton. Our goal is to extend it to the Stratford town line along the Far Mill River, and Stratford then has the option to extend the trail through their park all the way to Rt 110.

  8. The trail now continues for about another five miles south to Buddington Road in Shelton. Our goal is to extend it to the Stratford town line along the Far Mill River, and Stratford then has the option to extend the trail through their park all the way to Rt 110.

    1. Thanks for the update Teresa. I'll have to check it out from Indian Well south next time I'm in town.



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