Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mattabesett Trail – Mount Higby.

Route 66 to Country Club Road:  4 ½ miles                 Trail Map

How do you turn a 4 mile hike with friends into an 11 mile solitary excursion?  Some would answer “by being stupid!”.  But that might be a little harsh, it seemed like a good idea at the time...

This hike started at Route 66 in Middlefield, then north to Country Club Road in Middletown. The Mount Higby section of the Mattabesett runs along another of the string of trap rock cliffs of the Metacomet Ridge.  Like the Beseck Ridge section to the south, Mount Higby has a long line of scenic outlooks to the north, west and south.

Starting from the parking lot, follow the blazed and rocky connector trail a short distance north to meet the blue trail.  Head west, parallel to Route 66, and pass junctions for two local trails.  And then it’s time to climb the mountain.  The trail heads up the hill, switchbacks in the steeper sections, and opens to a view south toward Black Pond and Beseck Ridge.  A little farther, the trail leads along the edge of the cliffs, giving you fantastic 180o view.  On a clear day, you can see from Long Island Sound to Mount Tom.  Today, it’s a little hazy.  We didn’t get the snow predicted, but it’s cold and cloudy – perfect day for a hike!

Black Pond and Beseck Ridge to the south

With apologies to my friends from New Hampshire - tinker
with the nose and eyes a little, we could have our own
"Little Man of the Mountain"

Mount Higby is a two-humper.  Follow the trail downhill into Preston Notch (which marks the border here between Middlefield and Middletown), then continue back uphill to the peak of Mount Higby (892’). 

There are warning signs along the Mattabesett here – the trail leads right along the cliff edge.  While that gives you great views, it can be a little unnerving if you’re not fond of heights.   Along the ridge, there is an alternate trail that stays a little farther away from the cliff edge – leads around the steep rocks and pops out at spots with the best views.  It’s not marked, but it well worn and easy to follow.

The view north, from foreground to back:
The Pinnacle, Preston Notch and Mount Higby Peak

A land bridge - walk over, under, across the rocks

The view west - the Hanging Hills to the left, Chauncey Peak
Lamentation Mountain to the right

At about mile three, I met the crew from Sleeping Giant coming the other way.  What does a trail crew do in the off season?  Hike other trails, of course.  When you’re hiking with a group, it’s good to know the ground rules – are they a “unless you’re five minutes early, you’re late” crowd, or is the 15 minute rule in place?  I was supposed to meet them at the Route 66 parking lot for a car drop and then hike the trail back one way.  But I just missed them, so decided to hike out and back instead.  That would only make it about 9 miles, and the weather was OK.  So why not?  Anyway, we stopped for a snack, and they continued south while I headed north.

The trail winds its way northeast down the mountain along a woods road in the Middletown Water Company property.  It levels off, leading through a Hemlock grove – another victim of Woolly Adelgid.  You pass a junction for the Blue/Red trail marked for Tynan Park, and then work your way to out to the trailhead on Country Club Road.  Try to ignore the piled truck tires and keep out signs.  These are remnants of a closed ATV park.  The Country Club Road trailhead is set back from the road, tough to spot unless you know what you’re looking for. 

Country Club Road trailhead - the only trail sign is set way back

Once at the trailhead, I took a quick break and headed back south again.  Blue/Red blaze trails are often alternate routes giving you the opportunity to see different scenery in a Blue Trail loop hike.  Since I wasn’t planning on making this trip, I really didn’t check the maps before coming out.  If this was an alternate trail around Mount Higby, that would be good to check out, right?  As it turns out, it is just a connector to Tynan Park on Higby Road – a flat walk through forest, across stream and fields, to the park.  It gives you another parking / starting spot instead of trying to get one of the two spaces on Country Club Road.  But for me today, it was just a two mile detour right back to the same spot! (Note – the connector trail is shown on the Meriden Land Trust map at the beginning of this post)

Back on the Mattabesett, the trail climbs more gradually up to the ridge again.  From the top, it was about an hour’s hike back along the ridge and down to the parking lot.  I passed a couple more groups of hikers along the way, out enjoying the brisk day and views (yep, it was getting colder!)  One guy was trying to balance his water bottle, climb a rock section and still watch his phone – Manning was just intercepted.  Never let anything get in the way of a Giants game, I guess.


  1. Re: shot of you - if you were hiking alone, who took the shot ;-)

    Re: the land bridge - awwww - and I thought they were canoodling! :-)

    Re: the parking lot - is that Marie's bug?

    Maybe a hike next Sunday - I guess they decided it was too misty, moisty -

    Happy New Year!

  2. Hi Jim,

    Catching up on your posts today! Nice report. I think cliff walking is one of my favorite things...but I certainly stay as far away from the edges as possible, because as you said, it can be unnerving.

    Hmmmm...Little Man of the Mountain...huh??? Man, I wish the Old Man was still peering over the Franconia Notch. NH has no problem spending 18 million on two speed pass lanes on RT. 95, but they can't spend the funds to rebuild it...unbelievable!!! Hopefully your Little Man will be peering for quite some time.


  3. HG2 - it's all special effects. Lodge the camera in between rocks or branches, point in the desired general direction, click the 10 second timer and run like hell over to the spot and look relaxed. Click.

    Karl - we used to vacation in NH (Squam Lake I think), ride along the Kancamagus Highway and always stop to see the Old Man. This little rock formation doesn't come close, but if you squint and look at it in the right light...

  4. Guys! How do I get there and where do I park? I just started to explore hiking trips and I came across Mattabesett-Trail and I don't where to park or where I can get a map. If anyone has advice for me I will appreciated it

    Many Thanks

    1. you can get hiking trail maps of higby and all the trails in that area at the meriden library, they are free. try hiking East and West Peaks in Meriden , great trails happy hiking

  5. Hi Trish - for this hike, there is a parking area on the north side of Route 66 in Meriden/Middlefield. From 91 north, take exit 18 onto 66 east. The parking lot is on the other side of the road, so make a U-Turn at Guida's parking lot (corner of 66 and 147) and head back west a half mile to pull into the parking area. There's plenty of room - 10 or 15 cars. Follow the trail blazes from there.

    Your best bet is to buy a copy of Connecticut Forest and Park Association's Walk Book. It's got trail maps, descriptions, highlights, directions to parking spots - everything you need. You can order it off their website ( or pick up a copy at a bookstore - I know Barnes & Noble carries it. Happy hiking!



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