A day down by the river at Hurd State Park

Smooth stones create the rocky shore of the Connecticut River at Hurd State Park.
Smooth stones create the rocky shore of the Connecticut River at Hurd State Park.

They say it's the journey and not the destination that counts, but when the destination is the banks of the Connecticut River, the old adage becomes a win-win for hikers.

Make the trek out to Hurd State Park in East Hampton and wend your way through pleasant, moderately challenging forested trails as they give way to the grassy banks of the river. Rock collectors will be distracted for some time at river's edge, thanks to great pickings of smooth river rocks. Come break time, picnic tables offer the ultimate spot for al fresco riverside dining. (Larger parties might consider the sheltered picnic pavilion closer to the park's entrance.) Those who arrive to Hurd by boat are welcome to stay the night at one of the park's rustic riverside campsites.

As for the journey aspect, shady forest offers hikers glades of ferns, small brooks, granite ledge and loads of flora and fauna. On a recent trip, we saw the work of beavers on several trees by the river; headed back on a trail along the water's edge, we carefully sidestepped a basking Northern water snake as several butterflies fluttered along the path with us. The state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection also lists Hurd as a prime spot for birders.

But the big payoff remains the river. A stone bulkhead offers great seating right at the river's edge, or dip in a toe or two right from shore at other access points.

There are many ways to pass the time on a weekend, but one could do much worse than an afternoon spent watching boats go by, as gentle waves lap to shore and butterflies celebrate the summer season all around.

Name of Property: Hurd State Park

Town: East Hampton

Directions from I-95: From the South: I-95 north. Take Exit 69 onto Route 9 north. Take Exit 7 and proceed on Route 82 across the East Haddam Bridge. Continue on Route 82 and take a left onto Route 151. Follow Route 151. Hurd State Park is on the left.

From the East: I-395 South to Route 2. Follow Route 2 west to Route 16. Follow Route 16 west to Cobalt. Take a left onto Route 151. Follow Route 151. Hurd State Park is on the right.

Where to Park: Parking is available at the main gate and near the gate at the intersection of Route 151 and Hurd Park Road.

Description: Nearly 1,000 acres of forest on the east bank of the Connecticut River

Regulations: Park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset. Gates are closed after the first snowfall and open after snow melts in the spring. Leashed pets welcome outside of camping areas.

Amenities: Picnic shelters, picnic tables, pit toilets, camping areas, winter parking available for hikers and cross-country skiers

Natural Features: Granite ledges, once mined for feldspar, support acres of forest, which gives way to grassy riverside fields and finally the Connecticut River.

Things to note: Hurd, named after the Hurd family, which settled in the Haddam area of Connecticut in 1710, was one of the state's first acquisitions for use as public space; it bought 150 acres in 1914.

Hurd is one of three boat camping areas along the Connecticut River along with Gillette Castle and Selden Neck State Park. The campsites are available from May 1 through September 30 exclusively for overnight stops by those traveling on the river.

Fees: None

Owner: State of Connecticut

Links/More Information/Map: www.ct.gov/deep or Eastern District HQ, 209 Hebron Road, Marlborough; (860) 295-9523

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