For its close proximity to New Haven, West Rock Ridge State Park offers an impressive number of hiking options from short 1 to 2 mile loops up to 16 mile treks (8 to 10 hours, round trip) along the western-facing ridge.
West Rock is only four miles outside of New Haven’s center and offers views out to the New Haven Harbor. Though it’s located in a more residential area in Hamden, the trailheads are easy to get to from route 15. It’s more of an urban hike with water tanks and cell phone towers along the way, but it offers a variety of trails among mixed woods and Mountain Laurel stands, ranging from a few miles up to sixteen.
What Makes It Great
There are more than 23 miles of marked trails in and around West Rock, but the Blue Trail is easily the best 7-mile stretch along the western-facing ridge. From the Wintergreen Parking lot, head west on the Gold Trail to connect with the Blue Trail, also known as the Regicide Trail for its colonial history. Gold will take you up to the ridge with intermediate slopes and a few rock and root obstacles for about a half mile until you see light from the ridge poking through the trees. If you’d like to loop back to the car for a short hike (Just under 3 miles, roughly an hour roundtrip), take Blue south along the ridge, stopping for a snack at the scenic vista about a half mile in. To your left, take a peek at the New Haven Harbor and note the volcanic basalt, traprock columns of the ridge. The reflection of the rock and the clouds in Kobold’s Pond below is a nice departure from the surrounding urban landscape.
To complete the three-mile loop, follow the ridge south until you encounter the Orange Trail which heads east and connects with the White, Red, and Red/White trails that lead back to the parking lot. Shoes with good tread will be helpful for this downhill portion of the hike.
If you’re looking to make a day trip out of your hike, at the vista, stay on Blue and head North. After about 5 miles it will connect with the Red Trail on the east side of the park where you’ll head south back to the trailhead at Wintergreen Lake.
Who is Going to Love It
This park is great for anyone looking for a quick nature getaway. Families can enjoy fishing at Wintergreen Lake with easy access to picnic spots around the water from the Red, White and Red/White gravel trails, but more experienced hikers can enjoy more challenging routes along the ridge including the Blue, Red, Orange and Purple trails farther north.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Parking is available at the main entrance on main street, but the most user friendly is the gravel parking lot near Lake Wintergreen at 29 Main Street, Hamden at the West/North junction of the Red Trail. Open sunrise to sunset. Dogs must be leashed.