Stoddard Hill State Park
Directions: From New London, take Route 12 to Gales Ferry. The unmarked driveway down to the boat launch and the trailhead is on your left, just past Stonybrook Road. If you hit Cardinal Lane, you've gone too far.
Where to Park: Ample parking at the boat launch and trailhead.
Description: Stoddard Hill may be called a state park, but it's clear the trail system has seen better days. A wooden board near the trailhead that should display a trail map is blank and surrounded by overgrown vegetation. And while the trail has been cleared and is easy to follow, it's not blazed. Still, the 55-acre park is beautiful, with little surprises along the way, including an old family cemetery enclosed with a rock wall. Much of the park consists of the 2,000 feet of frontage on the Thames River. There's a car-top boat ramp on the tidal estuary, and you can get to the river under the railroad bridge (at low tide). Follow the trail past the cemetery, which you'll hit 500 feet into the hike, and up the hill. You'll pass a cluster of large, jagged boulders cascading down from the park's high point, which sits 183 feet above sea level and which according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection served as a lookout for Native Americans "during times of conflict." Keep right at any fork in the trail and you'll reach the high point. You should be able to see the river from this point in the winter, but the cluster of leaves in the summer will obstruct your water views. The trail will then lead you back down to the cemetery. The loop trail should take about 30 minutes at a leisurely pace.
Regulations: None posted.
Amenities: Access to the Thames River for canoes and kayaks.
Natural Features: Large rock formations.
Things to Note: If you're a history buff, you'll want to check out the Stoddard family cemetery. Some of the headstones are in poor condition, so tread carefully.
Owned by: State of Connecticut
More information: http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2716&q=445284
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