Saturday, November 5, 2011

Quinnipiac Trail - West Woods detour

Fall in New England, it's a really nice time to hike - cool days, colorful leaves...   and the Quinnipiac Trail through Hamden is a great trail - woods, hills, views, rivers etc etc.  But for the last couple of years, there have been trail interruptions for road and bridge construction and a little logging.  The projects are near done, and pretty soon I think the trail will be remapped and remarked.  Until then, it's a little tricky through this section, and the CFPA recommends an alternate route around the mess.

The original and detour routes make a loop hike I've done a lot - this time I took pictures.

The trail leaves Sleeping Giant State Park along the Mill River, and runs right smack into bridge construction on Mt Carmel Ave, and the road realignment project at the corner of Whitney Ave, Mt Carmel Ave and West Woods Rd.  Once the construction is completed, the blue trail will go over the new bridge and back into the woods along old walls and foundations of an 1800's axel shop.  Until then, just follow Mt Carmel up the road and cross onto West Woods Rd.

Here's where the original trail and the detour come together.  The Quinnipiac follows West Woods Road west (straight ahead in this photo), and then turns onto Kimberly Street.  The detour turns left here and heads south along the Farmington Canal Trail - a barge canal then railroad that's been turned into a hike and bike path.

I still like the hike through the woods, so I'll start there.  Description of the detour path is a little farther down the page...

This section of West Woods Rd was moved recently and the project is just about done.  There are no blazes painted yet on the new poles, but the trail continues along the road, and then turns left, south, onto Kimberly Street.  Halfway up the hill on Kimberly, you'll find the first blazes.  This road continues up to Quinnipiac University's York Hill campus, but the trail turns right into the woods at the gate in the center of this photo.

Hike along an old woods road, and then turn onto the smaller blue blazed path.

The trail continues up and along the ridge behind Quinnipiac's campus, and follows it through what was once a collection of summer cottages.  In fact, the trail goes right through the living room of  one of them - past a stone oven and chimney.  There are a few foundation blocks scattered around the woods.

This walk through the woods continues for about 3/4 mile, and then the trail breaks out into the open.

You can see York Mountain to the west, and nothing but scrub brush in front of you.  This lot was clear cut a few years ago, and the trail through the woods obliterated.  But a path has been cut and blazed, and then left alone - so it's overgrown with shrubs and thorn bushes.  Just pick one of the semi-cleared paths and head south between the tree line to the east, and the ridge to the west.  The path opens up into a grassy lane, then hits the woods again.  Follow the blazes down the hill and turn left at the bottom, out onto Rocky Top Road.

The Quinnipiac Trail continues west on Rocky Top, across Shepard and up onto York Mountain.

If you don't want to be bothered with bushwacking through the shrubbery, that detour along the road is your ticket through.

Once you get out of Sleeping Giant park, and cross Whitney Ave, the paved Farmington Canal trail cuts across West Woods Road heading north and south.  Turn south and walk behind the little plaza of shops.  Stop for pizza or a sandwich if you're looking for a snack break!

Continue along the trail, watching for bikers and roller bladers - be ready to take cover when you hear the screech of brakes behind you with someone yelling "on your left" - the bike path gets pretty busy, especially on weekends.  As it's an old rail line, there are still a few brick station buildings that have been turned into offices or stores.

Keep going on the trail until it comes out along Sherman Avenue across from the entrance to the Quinnipiac campus.  You have to get off the trail here, and walk along Sherman, and then take a right onto Rocky Top Road.  Rocky Top is a narrow, windy road - so watch for cars coming around the bend.  I guarantee - you'll see them before they see you!  Hike along Rocky Top for a half mile until you go over the hill and come around the bend meeting up with the blue blazed Quinnipiac Trail.

Rocky Top trail head

Together, the trail and detour route make a 3 1/4 mile loop hike.  All the construction should be finished in the next couple of months.  But there may be additional rerouting of the blue trail near Rocky Top.  In the meantime, I'll do what I can to keep the brush tamped down.

Approximate Trail Route


  1. Thank you so much for posting the trail. I live in the SW corner of the state and i am looking for some hikes that are only a short drive. Great pictures too.

  2. Thanks Savage. Pick up a copy of Connecticut Forest and Park Association's Walk Book West - trail maps for all the blue-blazed trails. I'd like to get down to the Saugatuck Trail not too far from you. It runs along the west shore of the Saugatuck Reservoir.

  3. Beautiful colours in those trees! They're a photographers delight :)

  4. Check out the Aspetuck Valley trail. It is on the other side of town from the saugatuck trail and goes through some pretty cool woods. I have never hiked it, but i have hunted along it via the state deer lottery several times.

  5. Thanks Greg: all the stormy weather has mellowed the leaf colors, but the streams and waterfalls are running higher than normal. There's always something to photograph!

    @Savage: that's on the list too. And thanks for reminding me - I'll stick to hiking Sundays the next couple of months.

  6. Some gorgeous pictures. I'm jealous!

  7. If you make a short side trip (e.g. if you go up Kimberly Street) to the top of the Quinnipiac University York Hill campus you can experience the most scenic view in Hamden -- a 360 degree awe inspiring panorama along with benches on top of a hill park with trail AND bizarre windmills. Hamden's best secret.

  8. Nice blogger all pics is so nice...



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