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Colchester - As the Salmon River and its tributaries follow their southwesterly destiny toward the Connecticut River, they flow through a 6,000-acre state forest that helps keep them the clean, picturesque waters fishermen love.
Hikers, too, have good reason to treasure the Salmon River State Forest, with its blue-blazed loop trail and the Comstock Bridge Connector marked and maintained by volunteers from the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. Both the north and south ends of the loop begin at Day Pond State Park, located adjacent to the forest, and lead hikers along a moderate, satisfying three-mile amble through mixed hardwood and evergreen forest, past rocky streams with rustic bridges, old roads traversed by power lines, and the stone remains of a house beside Day Pond Brook that conjures up questions about its former inhabitants.
Thanks to a Boy Scout service project, there is a short spur off the south loop to an enchanting waterfall at Day Pond Brook. It's a perfect spot for lunch or just a long pause to soak in the soothing sights and sounds of water succumbing to gravity and colliding with rocks.
Also off the south loop is the Comstock Bridge Connector, a two-mile trail that follows the Salmon River much of the way and ends at the postcard-worthy covered bridge just over the town line in East Hampton. In another part of the forest, the Airline Trail, with several entrances, invites bicyclists and walkers looking for a wider, smoother way than the forest paths offer.
Name: Day Pond State Park, Salmon River State Forest and Salmon River Trail.
Town: Colchester and East Hampton.
Directions: 395 north to Route 2 west to Route 149 south at exit 16; stay on Route 149 for three miles and make a hard right onto Peck Lane, then a left onto Day Pond Road. There is also a trailhead at the end of the Comstock Bridge Connector on Bridge Street off Route 16 in East Hampton.
Where to Park: Parking is available around the pond and outside the main gates.
Description: The blue-blazed Salmon River Trail, maintained by Connecticut Forest and Park Association volunteers, starts in the park then enters the 6,000-acre Salmon River State Forest. Hiking is mostly easy to moderate, and passes by an interesting old stone foundation. Entire loop trail, including the connector spur to the waterfalls on Day Pond Brook, is about three miles. The two-mile Comstock Bridge Connector off the south loop goes along the Salmon River and ends at the covered bridge.
Regulations: Open 8 a.m. to sunset; dogs must be on a leash.
Amenities: Bathrooms and outhouses; picnic tables and picnic shelter; pond stocked with trout.
Natural Features: Waterfall along Day Pond Brook; scenic vistas along Comstock Bridge Connector trail.
Fees: Entrance fees charged on weekends and holidays from the third Saturday in April through Columbus Day weekend; after Columbus Day, main gate closed but hikers can park along Day Pond Road near the front gate and walk around the pond to the trail entrances.
Things to Note: Some large trees that fell during fall 2011 storms lay across the trail in several spots. Trail is mostly well marked, although there are some spots where the blue markers are faded or hard to locate.
Owned by: Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
More information: http://www.ct.gov/dep