The Shenipsit Trail is well-suited for all skill levels as it covers over 40 miles oftrails and picnic spots from East Hampton to Somers, Connecticut. It’s home to the only lookout tower in northeastern Connecticut with stunning views of the rolling hills of Sommers and Ellington, Connecticut all the way out to the Springfield, Massachusetts skyline. The summit of Bald Mountain in Somers, which reaches 1,121 feet in elevation, is also visible from the tower.
What Makes It Great
The Shenipsit Trail is a part of the Connecticut Blue-Blazed trail system and crosses over the summit of Soapstone Mountain where travelers can take in the views of Sommers and Ellington, Connecticut from the lookout tower. There are several ways to get to the top of Soapstone Mountain, but whether you hike the 12-mile loop up from the southern lot in Ellington, walk up to it from the northern parking lot in Stafford, or drive right up to the summit on the paved road off of Gulf Road, the views are stunning.
As you take the Blue Trail up to the tower, notice the stands of red oak and mossy rocks. During the summer months, the boulders and vegetation can feel as though you’ve traveled back in time to the Jurassic era, but be careful of ticks. The paths can be a bit overgrown especially if rain levels have been high—the perfect breeding ground for the little critters.
An excellent way to get the satisfaction of hiking up the tower without committing to the 12-mile loop is to take the blue back down from the tower to the southeast until it connects with the Blue/Green Trail. Follow this for a half mile until you’ve reached the north-facing Green Trail which offers a pleasant walk through the woods with various nature stops with information about the local flora and fauna—an excellent way to catch your breath while learning a bit about the area. After a half-mile on Green, connect back with Blue and head back to the car at the northern parking area. This short loop is only a glimpse of what Shenipsit has to offer, but it’s perfect for a morning jaunt or post-work workout.
The view from atop Soapstone Mountain lookout tower is a spectacular one, certainly. On a clear, sunny day, it feels as though you’re on top of the world as your view stretches as far as the Springfield skyline.
Who is Going to Love It
Because the park offers a variety of shorter loops within the larger Blue-blazed trail loop, hikers of many skill levels can enjoy the forest. One thing to note for less-experienced hikers: the walk up and back down from the lookout tower is rocky and moss-covered—after long periods of rainfall or during the winter months, it may be safer to use a walking stick or to take the gravel Soapstone Road which runs parallel to the blue trail.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Entering the park from downtown Stafford Springs, Connecticut, off of Chestnut Hill Road (CT-190 E), turn left into the park and follow the gravel Soapstone Road until you find a well-marked parking area just after you pass Shenipsit Lake on your left. This road is technically on the Blue-blazed trail, but it is best to begin closer to the summit.
Note: many of the parking lots do not offer trail maps—print out a map from home or you might only remember how you got lost in Shenipsit Forest.