Peter’s Rock is a short, heavily-wooded hike, located just four miles from Downtown New Haven, without the crowds. Depending on which loop you take, your journey to the 373-foot summit can take anywhere from 30 minutes round trip to a few hours if you take your time under the canopy of trees. The narrow dirt paths feel intimate in the late spring to summer, shaded in a verdant canopy of oak and maple trees. Make the trip in May if you enjoy flowers—the perfume of the blooming honeysuckle is intoxicating. Come fall, the reds, oranges and yellows are dizzying in the best way possible.
What Makes It Great
From Highway 91, the distinct, columnar basalt formations of Peter’s Rock can be seen from its western side. Like many of the notable hikes in the New Haven area, Peter’s Rock Park is a part of the traprock Metacomet Ridge that travels from Long Island Sound through the Connecticut River Valley. It’s a short hike, no matter which loop you take (you’ve got a choice of 10), but it’s less popular than some of the better-known hikes in the area like East or West Rock. Whether you’re out for a quick morning jaunt or an after work sunset viewing, you’ll have few encounters along the way.
Red Trail (1 mile loop): This intimate, thin path, winds you through a heavily wooded loop to the park’s 373-foot summit. It crosses many of the other easy to more difficult trails, many of which loop back to Red. For the best workout and for an extended outdoor experience, start with Red and head East on the Orange trail, less than a quarter-mile from the trailhead for a 1.7-mile loop. This path winds along a lovely stream and a bridge crossing with a soundtrack of babbling water and chirping birds. You’ll experience a few moderate slopes, but nothing too difficult until Orange meets with Green and Red at a junction in a clearing. To reach the summit, take Red up a steep, rocky climb for the final ascent. Walking poles are recommended at this point in the journey—it’s easy to lose your footing on the way up, and even easier on the way back down. The smooth rock peak offers 360-degree views: To the North West, the slumbering form of Sleeping Giant State Park is visible through the trees. To the east, the hills of Meriden and to the south, a foggy New Haven harbor.
Though the United States Geological Survey calls the peak “Rabbit Rock” for its—you guessed it—rabbit population, according to local folklore and the Peter’s Rock Association which manages the land, Peter’s Rock is named for Peter Brockett, an American Revolutionary War Veteran. As the story goes, Brockett became a hermit after a war injury and built a shelter at the summit.
Who is Going to Love It
The trails range in difficulty from an easy walk through the woods to intermediate to difficult footwork up to the summit. Depending on your fitness level, most of the trails, which are pretty even and mostly soft dirt, are great for running.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
There is a small picnic area by the parking lot off of Middletown Avenue with a clearly marked trailhead. It’s easy to miss the lot at first—look for the gas station adjacent to the park’s entrance.