BACKPACKING IN CONNECTICUT



Welcome to the Newenglandwaterfalls.com guide to backpacking in Connecticut!

Connecticut has more backpacking opportunities than most New Englanders would probably expect. Most of the finer trails are found on or near the Appalachian Trail in the northwestern corner of the state.

If you are going to go backpacking in Connecticut, I highly recommend picking up a copy of the latest edition of this thorough and extremely accurate guidebook: AMC's Best Backpacking in New England (2nd edition).

Here is a list of the fantastic backpacking opportunities in Connecticut. If you think I've missed any backpacking opportunities in Connecticut, please email me @ gparsons66@hotmail.com.





MOUNTAIN / DESTINATION AREA / REGION SCENIC / VIEW RATING # OF NIGHTS LODGING TYPE CROWD LEVEL NOTES & DESCRIPTION (is there a fee charged?) MORE INFO
Appalachian Trail Northwestern Connecticut 9 / 10 4-6 shelters, tent sites moderate to high Approximately 51.6 miles of the Appalachian Trail ("AT") are located in Connecticut; views are mostly pastoral; the AT passes over the summit of Bear Mountain, which has excellent views and is also the tallest peak in Connecticut n/a
Bigelow Hollow State Forest  Northeastern Connecticut / near I-84 unknown 1 shelters, tent site low to moderate two shelters accessible via the Nipmuck Trail (East Shelter and South Shelter) and one tent site accessible via Pond View Trail (Breakneck Pond Campsite); all shelters and tent sites are along Breakneck Pond; lots of trails and gravel roads in this area can be explored; reservations for the shelters and tent site currently require a letter in writing at least 2 weeks in advance  n/a
Cattail Shelter Durham / Meriden / Middletown unknown 1 shelter low to moderate a small shelter for 2 or 3 hikers along the New England Trail; located south of CT 68 in Durham; first come-first served n/a
Housatonic State Forest Northwestern Connecticut unknown 1 shelter, tent site low to moderate shelter and tent site are located on the Mohawk Trail about 1.5 miles apart from each other; reservations for the shelter or tent site currently require a letter in writing at least 2 weeks in advance  n/a
Mohawk State Forest Northwestern Connecticut unknown 1 shelters low to moderate three shelters are available along the Mohawk Trail; trailhead is off CT-4 (Bunker Hill Road); reservations for the shelters currently require a letter in writing at least 2 weeks in advance  n/a
Natchaug State Forest Trail / Niptuck Camping Area Northeastern Connecticut unknown 1 tent site low to moderate tent site that is accessible via the Nipmuck Trail from either Eastford Road or Iron Mine Rd in Ashford (both of these roads are found off CT-89); in addition to the tent site you will find at the Niptuck Camping area, there are two other areas within Natchaug State Forest that offer backcountry opportunities, although they are very close to trailheads (the General Lyons Camping area offers a shelter along the Natchaug Trail and the Knowlton Brook Camping Area has a tent site); reservations for the tent site currently require a letter in writing at least 2 weeks in advance  n/a
Nepaug State Forest Central Connecticut / Torrington / Hartford unknown 1 tent site low to moderate tent site along the Tipping Rock Loop Trail, which connects to the Tunxis Trail; trailhead off US-202; reservations for the tent site currently require a letter in writing at least 2 weeks in advance  n/a
Northwest Camp / Bear Mountain Northwestern Connecticut / near MA border 8 / 10 1-2 cabin, tent site moderate to high small cabin owned by the Appalachian Mountain Club (managed by the CT chapter of the club); maximum 10 people (6 in cabin, and 4 on tent pads); access is easiest from Mt. Washington Road, but road conditions are unknown (road may actually be closed); alternative access is via Undermountain Trailhead on MA 41; reservations are required and will give you exclusive use of the cabin and tent sites; see brochure here: http://ct-amc.org/nwcamp/stuff/NWCampBrochure.pdf ($ fee is charged) n/a
Pauchaug State Forest Northwich / near border of Rhode Island unknown 1 shelters low to moderate The Dry Reservoir Shelter is located in the 'Chapman Area' at the junction of the Pauchaug Trail and the Nehantic Trail; Peg Mill Shelter is located in the 'Green Falls Area' along the Narragansett Trail near Green Fall Pond; Dawley Pond Shelter is located along the Pauchaug Trail adjacent to Great Meadow Brook Pond; Legend Wood Shelter is located off a spur trail that connects with the Narragansett Trail a short distance from Wyassup Lake; reservations for the shelter currently require a letter in writing at least 2 weeks in advance  more info
Tunxis State Forest / Hurricane Brook Shelter North-Central Connecticut / near MA border unknown 1 shelter low to moderate shelter is located along the Tunxis Trail; trailhead off CT 20; reservations for the shelter currently require a letter in writing at least 2 weeks in advance  n/a
Tunxis State Forest / Roaring Brook Camping Area North-Central Connecticut / near MA border unknown 1 tent site low to moderate tent site along the Tunxis Trail; reservations for the tent site currently require a letter in writing at least 2 weeks in advance  more info

TIPS FOR BACKPACKING IN CONNECTICUT



1. Don't forget your camera, and remember to label the pictures after you are done with each hike (you'll want to capture these moments).
2. Use Trailsnh.com, Newenglandtrailconditions.com, Vftt.org or other internet sites to obtain the latest in trail conditions (especially in winter, when conditions can be highly variable).
3. Buy the a guidebooks and actually read each relevant chapter before you take a backpacking trip.
4. Bring friends with you on your backpacking adventures (so long as you sincerely believe they will be capable of hiking these mountains and will actually enjoy the terrain and trails that you are selecting for them).
5. Invest in high-quality hiking shoes or boots.
6. Save your knees so that you can still hike when you are in your 70's (use trekking poles!).
7. Always leave a note or tell someone which mountain and trails you will be hiking (too many people get lost and/or injured in these mountains).
8. Don't leave anything valuable in your car (too many break-ins have been occurring, unfortunately).
9. Learn the value of hitch-hiking, using a car-spot, and/or mountain biking between trailheads (a traverse is always more interesting than an out-and-back hike!).
10. Most people avoid backpacking in Connecticut from November through April (the conditions are usually not favorable).
11. Start your hikes early (i.e. before 6:30-7:00am) to beat most of the crowds and have a better shot of grabbing a space within a shelter or at an established tent site.
12. Study hiking maps and be creative in the routes you take (you don't always have to take the easiest or most-straightforward trails).
13. Mid-week September hiking is amazing. Hike at least once during this time-frame (call out sick from work if you have to).
14. Carry the appropriate food based on the season you are hiking in (some foods will melt in summer, and some foods become rock-solid in winter).
15. Attack some burgers and beers after at least some of the hikes (or all of them). You've earned it.
16. Get that $20 REI membership to save 8-10% on all full-price REI purchases for the rest of your life (you have no idea how much time you'll probably spend at their stores and on rei.com). Also, strongly consider getting the REI credit card (you can earn hundreds of dollars in dividends each year if you use this credit card as your primary card for your non-REI purchases!).
17. Do the great mountains on the bluebird days, and the less interesting mountains on the overcast or lousy-weather days.
18. Don't miss backpacking in the Berkshires during peak fall foliage.
19. Enjoy that Gatorade (or some other drink that has electrolytes).
20. Ibuprofen can be extremely helpful in controlling pain and/or reducing swelling.
21. Be safe out there - these mountains can be nasty (even deadly) in adverse weather conditions. Snow and ice can also be very problematic.
22. If you are short on hiking friends, consider joining a Meetup hiking group (there are several groups and they always have good hikes planned).
23. Spend time perusing at least a few gear stores that focus on hiking & backpacking equipment.
24. Take a wilderness first aid course.
25. Try to read the weather frequently while hiking, and react quickly to changes in clouds.
26. Don't be afraid to turn back if your energy levels are low or the weather is deteriorating (most hikers will be turned back at some point).
27. Catch a sunset or sunrise from a mountain top (bring at least one headlamp).
28. Always treat water before drinking it (use iodine, boil, or use a filter)
29. Try to limit your first backpacking trip to no more than 6-8 miles a day (some will want to do even less miles than this)

BACKPACKING IN THE OTHER NEW ENGLAND STATES



Newenglandwaterfalls.com has also created backpacking guides to some of the other New England states. Those pages can be found here:

BACKPACKING CHECKLIST



Here is a quick packing list for your next backpacking trip. You probably won't want or need to bring all these items, but I have listed them here anyway for your consideration.
  • FOOD & WATER
    • Food and snacks
    • Water
    • Electrolytes drink (i.e. Gatorade, Powerade, etc.)
    • Coffee
  • BACKPACKING GEAR
    • Hiking shoes or hiking boots
    • Backpack
    • Backpack cover or bag liner
    • Tent, tarp-tent, bivy, or hammock
    • Sleeping bag or quilt
    • Sleeping pad
    • Headlamp and batteries
    • Guidebook or route description
    • Permits (if applicable)
    • Trail Map
    • Water bottles and/or water bladder/hydration reservoir
    • Water filter
    • Trash bag
    • Stuff sack
    • Pillow
    • Trekking poles
    • Sunglasses / contacts
    • Camp shoes, down booties, sandals or crocs
    • Gaiters
    • Tent footprint, tarp or ground cloth
    • Fishing gear
    • Sanitation shovel
    • Camp chair
  • CLOTHING
    • Shirts-quick drying
    • Socks
    • Hiking pants, hiking shorts or kilts
    • Waterproof jacket
    • Camp clothing
    • Underwear-quick drying
    • Waterproof hiking pants
    • Fleece jacket, softshell jacket and/or down jacket
    • Bandana and/or face towel
    • Towel
    • Hat
    • Winter hat
    • Winter gloves or mittens
    • Winter facemask or balaclava
  • COOKING & EATING
    • Stove and fuel
    • Cooking utensils
    • Cooking pot and/or cooking bowl
    • Bowls and/or plates
    • Cups
  • COMFORT & TIOLETRIES
    • Tiolet paper
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Baby wipes
    • Toothbrush/toothpaste
    • Earplugs
    • Bug spray
    • Bug net
    • Deodorant
    • Sun-screen lotion
    • Lip balm
    • Aloe Vera
    • Bio-degradeable soap
  • SAFETY & SECURITY
    • Matches or lighter
    • Safety whistle
    • Medical kit
    • Knife, Razor-blade or multi-tool
    • Identification
    • Money/Cash
    • Compass
    • Duct tape or superglue
    • Rope or nylon cord
    • First-aid Handbook
    • GPS
    • Altimeter
    • Signaling mirror
    • Phone
    • Bear bag or canister
    • Watch
    • Personal location beacon ('PLB')
    • Foot traction
    • Ice axe
    • Bear spray
  • FUN STUFF
    • Camera
    • Alcohol/booze
    • Plastic wine glasses
    • Tripod or mini-tripod
    • Playing cards
    • Book/magazine/e-reader
    • Pet supplies
    • Pencil/pen/paper
    • Mini-speakers
    • Miniature lantern
    • Binoculars / monoculars
Click here for a more comprehensive backpacking checklist, including some recommended brands for gear.

GUIDEBOOKS TO GET YOU THERE



The following guidebooks are trusted resources to help on backpacking trips in Connecticut. Click on any book to read reviews and/or purchase on Amazon.com. I personally own (and love) each of these guidebooks.






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