Gay City State Park - Hiking

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About

Summary

Gay City State Park, located on the Hebron-Bolton town line in eastern-central Connecticut, offers 1,569 acres and several trails around a historic Mill Site with a freshwater lake at its center—the perfect way to cool off after a moderate day hike.

Written by

Kelly Smith

Distance

0.1 miles

Varies, depending on the trail.

Destination Distance From Downtown

34.8 miles

Difficulty

3 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

1 hours

1-2 hours, depending on the route.

Seasonality

Spring, Summer, and Fall

Gates open for the season on the third Saturday in April. Gates to the parking lot near the lake are closed after Columbus Day Weekend, but free winter parking is available off-season.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits

Yes

There is a weekend/holiday parking fee at Gay City State Park - $9 for residents, $15 for non-residents.

Topographical Map

Gay City State Park Map

Land Website

Gay City State Park

Review

Intro

Gay City State Park, located on the Hebron-Bolton town line in eastern-central Connecticut, offers 1,569 acres and several trails around a historic Mill Site with a freshwater lake at its centerthe perfect way to cool off after a moderate day hike.

What Makes It Great

From the moment you set foot on the Blue Trail (head east and follow signs for the “youth group” campsite from the first parking lot closest to the park’s entrance) you’ll feel like you’ve traveled in time. Within five minutes, you’ll encounter mysterious chimney ruins just off the patha hint at the park’s history.

Once you’ve explored the rubble, head back on Blue and veer to the left to begin the Red Trail Loop, the park’s longest and most scenic route. Along this well-marked, mostly-level path you’ll feel shade from the oak trees as you move at a steady pace. Wind along the park’s west side and enjoy the many crossings of the Blackledge River, but be sure to pack bug spray during the spring and summer months—the muddy areas attract mosquitoes. Each trail junction is well-marked with a convenient map, so hikers can easily switch up the route to cut the 5-mile loop short.

At the junction of Red and Yellow, for example, follow Yellow until it connects back with Blue for a shorter trek to the lake and views of the Mill ruins. If you’re in it for the mileage, however, stick to the Red Loop until you cross yet another bridge over the Blackledge River. From this point, you’ll experience a few welcome upward climbs along a ridge that offers a view of the river from above.

At the Red Trail’s halfway point (the trail briefly becomes Red/Blue) hikers have another “out” to reach the lake more quickly when it connects back with the White Trail, the park’s easiest route. But whether you stick it out for the wider loop or you hop on one of the shortcuts, a refreshing lake and peaceful waterfall await you.

Along the Blue Trail, be sure to take a peek at the old Mill. Except for a few vine-trapped stones, rubble foundations, and tombstones at the park’s entrance, the unsuspecting visitor might never know how far back the park’s history goes. When the area was settled in 1796 by a religious sect, the Gay family made up the majority of the town’s population and constructed a sawmill. This would be the first of several mills on the site (two of them burned to the ground). A century later, the ghost town was designated a state park with only the rust-colored water of it’s river and lake as a reminder of what it once was.


Who is Going to Love It

The park offers several trailsmost of which loop around the lake at its centermaking this the perfect family day trip. The 5-mile Red Trail Loop is best for hikers looking for a longer, more challenging route while the White Trail is ideal for families who’d prefer moving at a leisurely pace. There is also a parking lot located adjacent to the lake for those who’d prefer just stopping by for a swim.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From the South/New London area: Follow Route 85 north. Park entrance is 6.7 miles past the intersection with Route 66.

From Glastonbury area: Take Route 85. Park entrance is 2.0 miles past the intersection with Route 94.

From the North/Hartford & Massachusetts area: I-384 east to Exit 5. Take Route 85 south for 4.7 miles.

The park is open seasonally from 8 am to sunset with a parking fee on weekends and holidays.

 There are excellent bathroom and picnic facilities located at each parking lot. Please note that the White, Blue and Red Trails are easily accessible from the lot closest to the park’s entrance.

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Location

Gay City State Park - Hiking

209 Hebron Road
Marlborough, CT, 06447
41.65169, -72.430298

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