Despite Connecticut being the third smallest state in the U.S., there are a whopping 142 state parks and forests waiting to be explored. Besides its prestigious Yale University and being the home of ESPN, Connecticut is a wonderful place to embrace nature and the outdoors.
These 20 best Connecticut state parks are brimming with natural attractions, lakes, castles, waterfalls and more. No matter whether you are visiting cities like Hartford, New Haven or Stamford or passing through the state as part of a road trip. Add some of these Connecticut state parks to your to-do list.
- Connecticut State Parks
- 20 State Parks in Connecticut
- 1- Bennett’s Pond State Park
- 2- Air Line State Park Trail
- 3- Bluff Point State Park
- 4- Housatonic Meadows State Park
- 5- Quinnipiac River State Park
- 6- Campbell Falls State Park
- 7- Macedonia Brook State Park
- 8- Eagle Landing State Park
- 9- Chatfield Hollow State Park
- 10- Lovers Leap State Park
- 11- Gillette Castle State Park
- 12- Dinosaur State Park
- 13- Indian Well State Park
- 14- Dart Island State Park
- 15- Hammonasset Beach State Park
- 16- Bolton Notch State Park
- 17- Southford Falls State Park
- 18- Wadsworth Falls State Park
- 19- Camp Columbia State Park/State Forest
- 20- Humaston Brook State Park Reserve
- 20 State Parks in Connecticut
Connecticut State Parks
20 State Parks in Connecticut
1- Bennett’s Pond State Park
This state park is in southwestern Connecticut, just under 30 miles from Bridgeport and 26 miles from Stamford.
This park is 460 acres (186 ha) and was once home to Louis D. Conley, a renowned manufacturer.
When he owned the estate, it was more than 1,500 acres (607 ha).
The park today lies within Ridgefield and Danbury.
Of course, you must head to Bennett’s Pond, an excellent fishing spot.
Within the park, there are also a variety of biking and hiking trails that are perfect for those wanting to escape the city and immerse themselves in nature.
Bennett’s Pond State Park is at 550-698 Bennett’s Farm Rd, Ridgefield, CT 06877.
2- Air Line State Park Trail
Air Line State Park is just over a 20-minute drive south of Hartford in central Connecticut.
The Air Line State Park Trail is an excellent place to visit in Connecticut if you are searching for outdoor adventures and endless views.
The trail actually dates back to the 1870s and walkers, hikers, backpackers, bikers and horse riders have been strolling along its linear path ever since.
As the trail heads through the eastern highlands of Connecticut, you will be treated to views of valleys, ridges, forests and bridges.
This is a beautiful state park to visit with family or for dog walking.
Air Line State Park Trail is at 69 Smith St, East Hampton, CT 06424.
3- Bluff Point State Park
Bluff Point State Park is on the banks of the Poquonnock River in southeastern Connecticut.
The park is over 800 acres and the wooded peninsular stretches towards Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.
This is a great place to visit as it’s one of the last undeveloped parts of land along the Connecticut coast.
Bluff Point offers plenty of hiking trails and as you head to the water’s edge, you can enjoy fishing and shellfishing, all with lovely ocean views.
Bluff Point State Park is at 55 Depot Rd, Groton, CT 06340.
4- Housatonic Meadows State Park
This state park is in northwestern Connecticut around an hour’s drive west of Hartford.
The park is a 452-acre public recreation area along the Housatonic River in both Sharon and Cornwall.
This state park is worth visiting in autumn when the trees turn beautiful shades of oranges and reds.
Bring your hiking boots to explore many of the park’s trails.
Part of the Appalachian Trail passes through Housatonic Meadows, especially the Pine Knob Loop Trail.
It’s a beautiful trail as it overlooks the Housatonic River Valley.
As well as hiking, there are also canoeing and fly fishing opportunities.
Housatonic Meadows State Park is at 90 US-7, Sharon, CT 06069.
5- Quinnipiac River State Park
Quinnipiac River State Park is a 15-minute drive north of New Haven, so it’s ideal if you are visiting the Ivy League city.
The park is 323 acres and sits on the banks of the Quinnipiac River.
The park covers around six miles of river shoreline.
If you are a wildlife enthusiast, keep your eyes peeled for deer, otters, kingfishers, great blue herons, and wild turkeys.
If you are lucky, you might also see the bald eagles that have been reported in the park.
Head out along the Banton Quinnipiac Trail, which takes you through the forest floodplains, it’s a great place to feel connected with nature.
Quinnipiac River State Park is at 10 Banton St, North Haven, CT 06473.
6- Campbell Falls State Park
In northern Connecticut, close to the border with Massachusetts and an hour’s drive northwest of Hartford is Campbell Falls State Park.
This state park was a gift to the state by the White Memorial Foundation of Litchfield, Connecticut.
The park was placed under special protection by Connecticut and Massachusetts in 1923.
The picturesque Campbell Falls is, of course, the park’s main feature.
The falls cascade for nearly 98 ft (30 meters) on the Whiting River.
This is a great state park to connect with nature and enjoy the outdoors.
Campbell Falls State Park is at Old Spaulding Rd, Norfolk Historic District, CT 06058.
7- Macedonia Brook State Park
In western Connecticut close to the border with New York State, Macedonia Brook State Park is a stunning 2,300-acre park.
Connecticut is so small that there is always a great state park just a short drive away.
Macedonia Brook State Park is an hour and 20 minutes drive from Hartford along the CT-4W and CT-341W.
This state park provides incredible views of the Catskill and Taconic Mountains in New York.
One of the best hikes in the park is the Blue Trail which crosses Cobble Mountain.
Around the park, there are springs and streams for a refreshing paddle and relief from your hot hiking boots.
If you fancy camping, there are 51 sites in the woodland, meadow or by the brook.
Macedonia Brook State Park is at 159 Macedonia Brook Rd, Kent, CT 06757.
8- Eagle Landing State Park
Eagle Landing State Park is along the Connecticut River around 45 minutes’ drive northeast of New Haven.
The park covers 16 acres along the Connecticut River where there is a dock where you can hop aboard a bird-watching tour boat.
The river is an excellent place for fishing, and there are also chances to head out on canoes and kayaks.
There’s also a riverside bench that is great for enjoying your picnic.
Eagle Landing State Park is at 14 Little Meadow Rd, Haddam, CT 06438.
9- Chatfield Hollow State Park
Chatfield Hollow State Park is in southern Connecticut, just 30 minutes east of New Haven.
This state park offers some much-needed serenity and is the perfect peaceful outdoor space.
Forest, cool ponds and rocky ledges characterise Chatfield Hollow.
As you stroll along the park’s trails, you will be able to discover some Native American artifacts.
There are fishing opportunities in the park’s streams or ponds or you can also take off your shoes and go for a dip.
Chatfield Hollow State Park is at 381 CT-80, Killingworth, CT 06419.
10- Lovers Leap State Park
Lovers Leap State Park is just a 5 minutes’ drive south of New Milford.
This park has a bit of everything and is a great place to visit for beautiful views.
One of the best things to do at this state park is take the Lovers Leap Trail that leads across the Housatonic River.
The river crossing is in the form of an 1895 Berlin Iron Bridge, one of five remaining bridges of its kind in Connecticut.
You will then reach the Lovers Leap rock formation, named after a story about Pootatuck Indian Chief Waramaug’s daughter.
Princess Lillinonah and her lovers died after falling to their deaths in 1735.
Lovers Leap State Park is at 178 ShortWoods Rd, New Milford, CT 06776.
11- Gillette Castle State Park
Gillette Castle State Park is on the Connecticut River, which deposits in Long Island South at Old Saybrook.
This state park’s crowning jewel is the medieval fortress Gillette Castle.
Despite its ruined exterior, the inside of Gillette Castle is a complete surprise.
Formerly the house of William Gillette, an American actor, the inside is filled with luxury that seems unusual upon first sighting of the castle.
Tour the castle with its 24 rooms and then explore the grounds.
Gillette Castle State Park is at 67 River Rd, East Haddam, CT 06423.
12- Dinosaur State Park
Dinosaur State Park is just 10 miles south of downtown Hartford, and it’s one of the most unique parks in the state.
Everybody knows a person who is a fan of dinosaurs.
Well, this is a must-visit spot for any dinosaur enthusiasts.
The park’s geology is more than 200 million years old and has an amazing 750 dinosaur tracks to discover.
It is one of the biggest dinosaur sites in North America, with dinosaur tracks housed within an exhibit centre.
The central dome exhibit centre was built around the footprints in 1980.
Visit this state park to learn all about the area’s history and the incredible dinosaur species.
Dinosaur State Park is at 400 West St, Rocky Hill, CT 06067.
13- Indian Well State Park
Indian Well State Park is the ultimate place for outdoor fun.
You will find this state park along the banks of the Housatonic River just outside New Haven.
The park is named after a plunging horsetail waterfall with a splash pool at the bottom.
There’s a beautiful picnic area near the falls, which makes it a popular spot in summer.
From waterfalls to the river, you can go boating or fishing on the river and there’s also a swimming area ideal for cooling off.
Indian Well State Park is at 1 Indian Well Rd, Shelton, CT 06484.
14- Dart Island State Park
Connecticut has a fair few islands and Dart Island is one that’s been designated state park status.
Located along the Connecticut River, this island is more of a sand bar than a fully-fledged island.
This state park is between Hartford and New Haven.
You must access the island by boat and it’s a popular spot for bird watching, boating and fishing.
There are two hikes on Dart Island, there’s the Seven Falls Loop and the Seven Falls, Bear Hill and Mattabesett Trail.
The latter is the longer trail of the two at 14.5km and its varied terrain makes for a truly interesting hike.
Dart Island is at Middletown, CT 06457.
15- Hammonasset Beach State Park
Hammonasset Beach State Park is in Madison in southern Connecticut, next to the Hammonasset Natural Area Preserve.
If you are searching for a day trip spot in Connecticut, this is the place to go.
The park is home to boardwalks, more than two miles of beach, and ideal waters for paddling and swimming.
People enjoy biking, camping, fishing, picnicking and boating.
There’s even a nature centre program with exhibits to learn more about the area.
Hammonasset Beach State Park is at 1288 Boston Post Rd, Madison, CT 06443.
16- Bolton Notch State Park
This 95-acre park is just 10 minutes’ drive outside of Manchester.
The park is known for its hiking trails and climbing spots.
The park is located between the Thames River and Connecticut River watersheds.
The formation of Bolton Notch began 25,000 years ago when New England was covered in a vast ice sheet.
During the glacial period, sand dunes were forced and as the climate began to warm, steam and rivers were established, which carved Bolton Notch.
The notch is made of a number of minerals like quartz and biotite.
Today people use the park for hiking, climbing and exploring the caves.
Bolton Notch State Park is at Bolton Notch State Park Acc Rd, Jct. Rtres. 6 & 44, Bolton, CT 06043.
17- Southford Falls State Park
Southford Falls State Park is in Southbury and is an excellent state park for the whole family to visit.
It’s a relatively small park at only 169 acres, but there are plenty of things to see and do.
You can enjoy trout fishing at Papermill Pond and along the Eight Mile River.
There are also sports fields to enjoy a runaround and some competitive fun with the family.
There are hiking trails in summer and cross-country skiing in winter.
The scenic Southford Falls and other smaller waterfalls are along the Eight Mile River’s northwest end of the park.
Southford Falls State Park is at 175 Quaker Farms Rd, Southbury, CT 06488.
18- Wadsworth Falls State Park
This scenic state park is in Middletown between Hartford and New Haven.
This is the perfect place to escape the city and enjoy nature as you wander along hiking trails, searching for waterfalls.
As well as hiking, there is a designated swimming area, ideal for cooling off after a warm summer’s day.
Pack some lunch and take advantage of the picnic areas dotted around the park.
Wadsworth Falls State Park is at 721 Wadsworth St, Middletown, CT 06457.
19- Camp Columbia State Park/State Forest
From Hartford, head along the I-84 for 50 minutes to reach Camp Columbia State Park in western Connecticut.
The land the park now sits on has had a lot of uses over the last 100 years.
This place has quite the history, from farmland to a university campus to fields and now woodlands.
It’s one of the state’s newest parks, so there is still a lot more to see from this park in the future.
The Camp Columbia stone tower is the park’s most unique feature.
This 60-foot cylindrical water tower is made of stone and feels as though Rapunzel might appear at one of the windows.
Camp Columbia State Park is at West St, Morris, CT 06763.
20- Humaston Brook State Park Reserve
Humaston Brook State Park is a 141-acre park in Northfield, around 45 miles west of Hartford.
This state park and reserve preserves part of the Humaston Brook, a tributary of the Naugatuck River.
Northfield Pond is one of the park’s most prominent features, created by damming the river during the 19th century.
Small and charming cascades form along rocky outcrops along Humaston Brook, adding a lot of character to your hike.
Humaston Brook State Park Reserve is at Knife Shop Rd, Thomaston, CT 06778.
For more amazing US state parks to visit, read:
- 13 North Dakota State Parks
- 7 South Dakota State Parks
- 20 Illinois State Parks
- 20 Texas State Parks
- 20 Colorado State Parks
- 20 Florida State Parks
- 20 Florida Keys State Parks
- 20 Arizona State Parks
- 20 Indiana State Parks
- 20 Minnesota State Parks
- 20 Connecticut State Parks
- 20 Washington State Parks
- 20 West Virginia State Parks
- 20 Michigan State Parks
- 20 Ohio State Parks
- 20 Oregon State Parks
- 20 New Mexico State Parks
- 20 Kentucky State Parks
- 17 Nebraska State Parks
- 20 Montana State Parks
- 20 Mississippi State Parks
- 21 Massachusetts State Parks
- 20 New Hampshire State Parks
- 20 New Jersey State Parks
- 20 Iowa State Parks
- 20 NC State Parks
- 20 Maryland State Parks
- 20 Nevada State Parks
- 20 Kansas State Parks
- 20 Arkansas State Parks
- 20 Wisconsin State Parks
- 20 South Carolina State Parks
- 20 Tennessee State Parks
- 20 Georgia State Parks
- 20 Hawaii State Parks
- 20 Virginia State Parks
- 20 Missouri State Parks
- 20 Oklahoma State Parks
- 20 Utah State Parks
- 20 Idaho State Parks
- 20 Louisiana State Parks
- 20 Vermont State Parks
- 20 Wyoming State Parks