Walking the Pike Preserve Trails

A preview of the April Pancake Breakfast Walk.

Don’t let the moving time dismay you. When I’m on the Pike Preserve trails I constantly stop look, listen… It’s a nature walk and the nature, regardless of the season grabs me.

While there are few hikers or walkers on these trails there are several stables that take advantage of the contingent trails. It does help to keep the inner trails well trodden and identifiable year round. The entry and exit trails for walkers and hikers are well blazed but you need to keep a check on them since these trails meander frequently.

Two unique features that keep children of all ages interested are the ‘Castle Rocks’ at the Northwest turn around and the spring pool at the Northeast side trail.

Castle Rocks…

An Easy Farm Trail

The background is not the type of terrain you’ll be walking at Haley Farm State Park in Groton Connecticut. Although there are a variety of trails the main ones are wide and easy walking. There are some amazing stone walls and foundations from the old farm buildings.

AllTrails has over 200 photos, 50 comments, and 55 recorded walks of the trails to help you decide which of several options you have for walking here. These trails also link to trails in Bluff Point State Park.

Enjoy your walk, see you on the trail.

Spring is here, so…

Spring is here, so we’re probably all busy getting yards and gardens cleaned up and ready for the year. Here I’m busy making over my gardening and yardening after taking the UConn Cooperative Extension Service Master Gardener course last year. Layered on top of that is all that I’m learning from volunteering at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center’s Giving Garden at Coogan Farm in Mystic about no-till-no-dig and bionutrient intensive farming.

So instead of cutting back on other activities, like this blog, I’m going to be ramping up my use of social media. Specifically, LedyardWalks will become more outdoors, nature oriented. As that happens there may some format changes as this evolves.

The walks will not change, my Pancake Breakfast Walk on the 1st Saturday of every month will continue. I’ll also be doing additional walks in Southeastern Connecticut, and nearby Rhode Island.

If you have a particular walk, or topic, you’d like to see covered in LedyardWalks let me know through the comments.

And, thanks for wayfaring

Early spring, Common Merganser male.

with me.



This is one of a series of walks that were originally written for, or published by, the Norwich Bulletin. Quotes from hikers, birders, others were from the time frame when the article was originally written. The trail details, status, and conditions have been verified prior to posting them here.

Walking in Pachaug State Forest in June means you’ve missed the major Rhododendron bloom but that you’re just in time for the hundreds of Black Swallowtail butterflies that mark the forest roads.

An easy three-mile loop trail using the forest roads loops past swamps, hardwood forest, Hemlock groves and Mount Misery brook. If you do include the Rhododendron Sanctuary you’ll enjoy the walk even if the small late blooming plants have shed their dark pink flowers.


“It’s beautiful,” Melissa Collelo emphasized several times while talking about the trail through the Sanctuary.

“Very peaceful,” added Will Ridgway her hiking partner. “The path goes all the way out now.”

“It’s great to look at the water at the end, and the boardwalk goes all the way out,” explained Cellelo about the fact that the Sanctuary trail has been extended to overlook Mount Misery brook and made wheelchair accessible.

A walk here is a good place to use the Audubon “Field Guide to New England” because it’ll allow you to identify plants, insects, birds, clouds and anything else that you’re curious about during your visit.

You’ll probably encounter Ebony Jewelwings and Northern Bluets along the path out to the brook overlook. You won’t be able to see them but you can hear the frogs calling from the observation platform.


The three-mile loop along the forest roads give you best overview of what is contained in the state’s largest forest. From the first purchase in 1928 Pachaug has grown to encompass over 30,000 acres.

From the Mount Misery campground field start your walk be continuing along Cutoff Road.

Most of the forest here is oak-hickory mix (described on p35 of the Audubon field guide), which is the predominate type in this area. Few of these trees are more than 100 years old and most are much younger.

This forest grew out of abandoned and inactive farms. The land here had once been clear-cut by hardworking Yankees who made use of the wood they harvested while expanding farm and pasture.

Continue past Firetower Road on your left. This road leads to Mount Misery and excellent views of the surrounding countryside.


“We use to go the Mount Misery and sit on top all alone,” stated Ridgway. “Now it seems when we go we always meet someone else.”

“People are more into health,” Cellelo contributed. “They like getting out to an area like this.”

At approximately the one-mile point in the walk you’ll come to the intersection with Trail II. Turn right and follow this road east.

The black butterflies that you see rising up off the dusty road as you approach are the swallowtails. Quietly and slowly move up on one and you’ll be able to see the beautiful light blue shading surrounded by white dots that mark the upper wing. The females have larger blue markings than the males.

Shortly after passing Lawrence Road on the left you’ll come to Edwards Pond and Mount Misery brook.

Just past the pond is Frog Hollow Horse Camp. The 18 sites at this campground are reserved for horses and their riders. Exploring the more than 35 miles of trail in the forest is quicker and easier mounted than on foot.

Take the next right onto Trail II. Each section of this hike is approximately a mile long so we’ve completed two-thirds of our walk.


Along this stretch you’ll encounter a large tract of Eastern Hemlock. One of the most obvious differences between this and the oak-hickory forest is the clear under story. Hemlock seedlings are one of the few potentially large plants that can tolerate the dense shade that is often present in a major hemlock stand.

This shade is so dense that coupled with the hemlock’s preference for humid locations there can often be a noticeably cooler microclimate present. Golden Crowned Kinglets are frequent nesters in large groves of hemlock.

After leaving the hemlocks you’re nearly back at the Rhododendron Sanctuary. Simply take the next turn to the right, cross the brook and your walk is at an end.


“We come here every couple of weeks,” said Cellelo. “Even in winter.”

Once you’ve hiked here you’ll see why Cellelo and Ridgway are drawn back again and again. As the months and seasons change an entirely new tapestry unfolds before the visitor to Pachaug State Forest.

Cellelo said it all, “It’s beautiful.”


From Norwich take Route 165 to Voluntown. From the junction of routes 165, 138 and 49 follow Route 49 North. Turn left onto Headquarters Road just past the handicapped fishing area on Pachaug Great Meadow Brook.

Stop at the headquarters building for a map of the Chapman Area of Pachaug State Forest and then continue along Headquarters Road.

Avery Preserve, East & West

The Avery Preserve is located on Avery Hill Road to the North of its intersection with Route 214. There is a small, rocky, parking area on the East side of Avery Hill Road, opposite the entrance to the West side of Avery Preserve. The trail for the East side of the preserve begins in the rear left corner of the parking area. You can download and print a guide to hiking trails, including a map of the West Avery Preserve from Ledyard Parks & Rec., located at the bottom of their activities page.

East Avery Preserve
This portion has one loop trail and off of that a short side trail from which you can access Avery Hill Road and connect to West Avery Preserve or return to the parking lot. This portion of the preserve is primarily wetland and today was definitely wet and soggy. The trails here are not blazed and the loop trail fades out after you pass over a small unnamed brook that feeds into Billings-Avery brook.

While difficult and wet in the spring this is still worth exploring. There are lots of signs of deer throughout the wetlands and there is also a significant stand of giant rhododendron (mountain laurel) here. Restoring the former loop trail and blazing both it and the spur trail would make this a pleasant short hike when the rhododendron are in bloom. There is a usable bench far enough along the trail that it should serve as a good spot to watch wildlife and spend time birding here. The spur trail leads to a stream side glen ideal for a cool summer picnic and break from hiking.

West Avery Preserve
West Avery Preserve is the more developed, better maintained, and used portion of this preserve. An Eagle Scout project just upgraded two bog bridges on the orange trail. Trails here are numerous, open, and well blazed. Many of the intersections have map boards like the one at the entrance that clearly indicate your location and trail options.

The orange blazed trail, just to your right after entering the West preserve, has the most elevation change although none of the trails here climb any great distance. This is primarily a perimeter trail that circles out to the farthest reaches of this section and returns to the entrance.

White and yellow blazed trails provide shorter loops within and in conjunction with the orange trail.

The central hub of all the trails is an old, now mostly silted in, mill pond, dam, and sluice race. This is another spot to take a break in the hike and enjoy lunch, birding or the cooling chatter of Billings-Avery brook’s run downhill.

Both tracts encompass just under 100 acres and provide, depending on how many of the trails you use, or loops you make, approximately 5 kilometers of hiking with some nice changes between wetland and upland vegetation and wildlife.