Day Hike Notes – Steep Rock Preserve

The Shepaug River in Steep Rock Preserve

The Shepaug River in Steep Rock Preserve

Friday was a three-hike day, the walks united by the Shepaug River. These notes are for the first, longest outing. I’ve added a few lines about the other two walks at the end of the post.

The Shepaug River flows – dammed twice in its upper reaches – through a beautiful part of Connecticut, its course largely untouched by major routes. In the towns of Washington and Roxbury where I hiked, the river occupies a steep, wooded valley, often accessible only by dirt road. This is a pleasant contrast with the valleys of the Housatonic and the Naugatuck to the west and east, utilized by routes 7 and 8 respectively.

The hikes were all in small preserves (Steep Rock, the largest, is just under 1,000 acres). The trails were always excellent, and once even a flat dirt road. Nevertheless, the hikes combined to make about 11 miles of hill and stream, enough to clear my conscience for 4th of July barbecue.

DATE: Friday, July 3rd.
START & FINISH: Parking area at north end of Tunnel Road, Washington, CT.
ROUTE: Steep Rock Loop anticlockwise as far as footbridge / Pinney Loop; then “Orange Square” trail anticlockwise back to Steep Rock Loop; Steep Rock Loop on Tunnel Road back to start.
DISTANCE: 6.5 miles approx.
TIME: 2.75 hours (7:45 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.)
TERRAIN: Excellent trails, only occasionally steep (e.g. climb to Steep Rock Summit, 776 feet). Long, flat riverside stretches.
MAP: Available from Steep Rock Association website. Print in color for easier navigation!

WEATHER: Perfect.
WILDLIFE: Nothing charismatic.


BREAKFAST: McDonald’s in New Milford (once again).
LUNCH: Not until after hike number two – a tailgate sandwich on a dirt road near Judds Bridge.
UPS: Cool morning air; carpets of pine needles; the sound of the river …
DOWNS: Vehicle use on dirt Tunnel Road (although, honestly, there were only a few, and they were respectfully driven – get over it, Rob!)
KIT: Best part was how little was involved – no raingear, no layers.
COMPANY: Almost none until the last half-mile, then plenty.

Clearing in Hidden Valley Preserve

Clearing in Hidden Valley Preserve

HIKE TWO: Hidden Valley Preserve, Van Sinderen Loop, 3.5 miles. Highlight – a riverside walk through magnificent tall, straight pines.

HIKE THREE: Battle Swamp Brook Preserve; only trail covers 1.35 miles out and back. Highlight – the little waterfalls of the brook as it flows to the Shepaug.

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