Much of Cheshire is shut down at the moment, in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. However, what remains open for use are the numerous hiking trails around town.
As the weather warms, residents stuck inside at the moment may want to take advantage of these natural resources, which provide not only much-needed exercise but a chance to escape into nature for a while.
In the summer of 2018, The Cheshire Herald ran a series of articles detailing the different trails around town. We thought now would be a good time to revisit those experiences, sharing with you what we saw on some of the trails open to the public.
It’s important to remember that all social distancing protocols should be adhered to while hiking, and that reports of mass gatherings at these or any other open space areas of town could force their closure.
If you’ve spent any time strolling the many trails and open-space areas of Cheshire these last few weeks, you’ll know that some of the best do a good job of hiding the natural gems that await a hiker inside.
During our special look at the hiking areas in and around town, we’ve already explored a few trails that do a good job of camouflaging, at least initially, what is in store for the average hiker — the narrow pathway that leads into the open fields at Fresh Meadow Sanctuary and the relatively flat start of an eventually steep ascent to the top of Roaring Brook Falls.
But when it comes to the Quinnipiac Blue Trail, accessed through the Cornwall Avenue entrance, hikers are quickly informed of the experience that lies before them. Almost immediately, the trail veers upwards, over some loose gravel-like stones and large rocks jutting out from the ground below.
When the incline begins to finally level off, what emerges are some of the most beautiful visions available to any local nature enthusiast, and a trail that offers more miles of challenging terrain to navigate than virtually any other in the state.
When The Herald traveled up to the Quinnipiac Blue Trail two years ago, we described it as the yin to the Farmington Canal Linear Trail’s yang. While the Linear Trail is flat, paved, and open to joggers, bicyclists, or dog-walkers alike, the Quinnipiac Blue Trail is for hikers who are interested in testing their stamina, their fear of heights at times, and an ability to navigate up and down rocky landscape that never stays flat for very long.
“And at the end of the journey, hikers are bound to have felt challenged, inspired, tired and invigorated all at once,” The Herald explained in our 2018 article on the trail.
The Quinnipiac Trail that crosses through Cheshire is a part of the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail System in Connecticut and, according to the Connecticut Forest & Park Association, it is the oldest part of that system. The Blue-Blazed Trails consist of 800 miles of walkable area throughout Connecticut, cutting up and down the state in an intricate network of trails.
The immense project of carving out these paths began approximately 100 years ago, in the 1920s, as a response to booming metropolitan and urban areas. With more development and more natural landscape being used for cityscapes, a national movement began to help preserve local nature and encourage people to once again reconnect with the outdoors.
The Quinnipiac Trail portion stretches for 18 miles, running through Cheshire, Bethany, Prospect, and into Hamden, where it eventually runs into Sleeping Giant State Park. For walkers interested in keeping their jaunts confined to Cheshire, the Quinnipiac Trail intersects with the top of Roaring Brook Falls, meaning that hikers can not only experience the majesty of that waterfall from above, but also they can choose to descend along the Roaring Brook Falls hiking trail to complete their journey.
In 2018, The Herald described the hike as thus:
This terrain provides both hurdles and support, as the embedded rocks serve as natural “steps” up the side of the ridge, while the gravel-like stones make it hard to find sure footing and increase the chances of a slip …
Yet, despite reaching more than 670 feet in elevation, the initial section of the trail isn’t likely to frighten those who have a dislike for heights. Though one is keenly aware of the slopes on either side, the trail runs down the spine of the ridge and away from the steep cliffs … At a certain point — little more than a mile in — the trail begins to more closely hug one side of the ridge and snakes its away along the side of the cliff, providing some awe-inspiring views of the valley below. Eventually, the trail leads down into those valleys — a journey that requires slow movements and deliberate steps so as to stay as safe as possible.
These inclines and declines make up the more treacherous parts of the journey, but none are so intimidating or dangerous as to require advanced-level skill. The Cheshire Land Trust, which routinely offers guided hiking tours of the area, classifies the hike as “moderate to difficult,” and it seems to be the perfect description.
During spring and summer months, it can be difficult to enjoy the views offered by the slope’s height and vantage points, with so many trees full of leaves obstructing sightlines. However, before the trees are in full bloom, or when the autumn frosts have cleared away most of the obstacles, the views can be quite stunning.
But if even all one has to enjoy were the trail itself, the hike is worth every ounce of energy expended. For local hikers, the Quinnipiac Trail is simply a can’t-miss experience.