The Constitution State, or Connecticut as its more widely known, is the southernmost state in New England, on the northeast coast of the United States. It may be one of the smaller states in New England, but there are plenty of national parks in Connecticut to explore. With national scenic trails, historic trails and national historical parks, many outdoor activities keep you entertained.
Connecticut has many state parks, but this list of the five best national parks covers the national park service affiliated sites. While Connecticut doesn’t have an official capital letter ‘National Park’ like Yosemite or Zion, there are two excellent national historical parks. Connecticut manages to pack in many recreational areas, outdoor landscapes, and things to see and do in such a small space. Check out these Connecticut national park service sites to be in nature or learn more about the state’s history.
- 5 Connecticut National Parks
5 Connecticut National Parks
National Scenic Trail
1- Appalachian National Scenic Trail
The famous Appalachian trial (or AT) is a whopping 2,189.1 miles (3522 km) and is the longest hiking footpath in the world.
The trail starts from Springer Mountain in Georgia and meanders up to Baxter State Park’s Katahdin, the highest point in Maine.
Starting in Georgia, the trail runs through the southern states of North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland, then through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, and finishes in Maine.
2,189.1 miles (3522 km) of hiking is no walk in the park but the great thing about this trail is you can choose how much of it to see.
Around 3 million people visit various parts of the trail annually, but only around 3,000 attempt to thru-hike the entire trail.
An average thru-hiker can take five to seven months to walk from end to end.
If you want to walk the entire trail, you better apply for some time off work.
If not, why not explore some of Connecticut’s amazingly scenic trails that venture along sections of the Appalachian Trail?
There’s something for everyone in Connecticut, from easy trails to difficult ones.
One of the easy Connecticut Appalachian trail hikes is River Road in Kent.
This is a 2.7-mile (4.3 km) point-to-point trail that takes around an hour to complete.
Visit between April and October for some of the best conditions, and in autumn if you want to see the spectacular foliage.
If you are searching for something a little more challenging, try the moderate Mount Algo to Bull’s Bridge trail.
Also located near Kent, this 11.1km point-to-point trail takes around four hours to complete.
You will hike up to an incredible vista that offers fantastic views of the vast green forest.
Try the Cobble Mountain hike in Macedonia Brook State Park to get the heart pumping.
Still, along the AT, this route is only 3.5km, but its uphill nature makes it challenging for most.
What’s better is you may not encounter any people along your climb.
Connecticut has no better place to connect with nature than Cobble Mountain.
Whether you hike some of Connecticut’s less time-consuming trails or all 50.1 miles (80.6 km) of Connecticut’s AT, you will find that beautiful natural landscapes await you.
2- New England National Scenic Trail
The New England National Scenic Trail runs 215 miles (346 km) from Long Island Sound (predominately in Connecticut) to the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border.
Around 115 miles (145 km) of this trail are in Connecticut, waiting to be explored.
The National Park Service administers the New England National Scenic Trail and the Connecticut Forest and Park Associated and the Appalachian Mountain Club manage Connecticut’s section.
You will find that the New England National Scenic Trail comprises the historic Mattabessett, Metacomet, and Monadnock (M-M-M) Trail system.
Whether you want to thru-hike the entire trail or dip into sections of the trail, you’ll find places to explore.
The Bluffhead walk in Guilford is a beautiful 7.3-mile (12 km) hiking route with an elevation change of 1,842 feet (561 m) that will reward you with views from the Bluff Head vista.
Take either the blue or orange trail for a more rugged and rocky ascent or the New England Trail route for a leisurely climb to the top.
Another excellent trail in Middletown, in central Connecticut, is the CT Net: Section 1 trail commencing in the New England Trails’ eastern terminus along the Mattabesett Trail.
This beautiful 5.1-mile (8.2 km) trail passes over streams and offers fine views, and you can also visit the Rock Pile Cave.
You will reach a lookout along the trail with excellent views of Twin Reservoirs.
Try camping to make your trip along the New England National Scenic Trail even more special.
You can find places to pitch your tent, or if you visit Massachusetts, several cabins are dotted along the trail.
The Godman Group Campsite in the Rockland Preserve is an excellent camping location.
This a glorified camping spot at Royalston Falls that is perfect for a quick overnight visit in a wooden shack with four bunk beds, walls, and water access but no door.
Talk about sleeping in the wild!
National Historic Trail
3- Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail
Connecticut has a couple of trails, but this is the state’s only historic trail.
The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route is 680 miles (1094 km) long.
This trail follows the route of George Washington’s Continental Army and Jean-Baptiste de Rochambeau’s troops from Newport, Rhode Island, to Yorktown, Virginia.
This trail passes through Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
Yorktown marked a poignant place in US history because it was the site of the final battle of the American Revolutionary War.
Connecticut’s section of the trail covers 120 miles (193 km) and Rochambeau’s French troops walked this part of the trail from 1781 to 1782.
Along Connecticut’s section, there are 12 interpretive markers with information, photographs and artwork documenting the trail’s history.
This is an excellent way to explore the state’s beautiful nature and learn about how America gained independence.
There are intriguing historical and cultural attractions along this section of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route.
The trail passes through the town of Lebanon, where 300 horsemen slept during the winter of 1780 to 1781 in Lebanon Green.
The town was nicknamed the “Heartbeat of the Revolution” as it was home to Revolutionary War-era Governor Trumbull, who was one of the only governors to support the revolution against the British.
They used to meet at Lebanon Green and during the war, Lebanon became an important supply centre for the Continental Army, giving Connecticut the nickname the “Provision State”.
National Historic Park
4- Coltsville National Historical Park
The Coltsville National Historical Park is one of the best national parks in Connecticut, especially if you love history.
Located in the state capital, Hartford, the Coltsville National Historical Park looks at the life of Samuel Colt and his wife, Elizabeth.
A visit to this historical park will allow you to see one of the most important factories in American history.
The historical park encompasses the factory, workhouse, Colts private residence and a brewery.
So, who exactly was Samuel Colt? He was one of the nation’s first innovators in precision manufacturing and firearms production.
Colt was born and bred in Hartford, Connecticut, so his legacy is important to the city and state.
This Hartford factory on the banks of the Connecticut River first opened in 1847.
After many years of hardship in the manufacturing industry, soon Colt’s fortunes changed when demand for his revolvers exploded (excuse the pun).
From these revolvers, the Colt manufacturing empire was born.
Colt used to travel the world giving demonstrations of his products and could often be seen presenting influential individuals with personalised Colt firearms.
Born in 1814, Colt died in 1862 of a suspected case of pneumonia.
Then, his wife, Elizabeth, took over the company and it flourished for another 40 years.
When visiting the Coltsville National Historical Park, take the guided walking tour by downloading the Coltsville NHP App, and you can listen to commentary about the factory.
Along the self-guided tour, there are 11 sites to visit to learn some fascinating facts about Samuel and Elizabeth Colt and their revolver manufacturing business.
Among the brown shades of the old factory walls, you may notice a rather impressive blue dome giving the area some cheer.
The Blue Onion Dome is bright blue and decorated with stars and a colt (a type of horse).
This beautiful tower structure looks quite juxtaposed with its surroundings and has been a welcome Hartford landmark since 1855.
The dome sits on Colts Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company as a constant reminder of his legacy, family, and contributions to the precision manufacturing industry.
5- Weir Farm National Historical Park
This park welcomes you into the home and studio of American impressionist artist J. Alden Weir in Ridgefield and Wilton in southern Connecticut.
Weir was the original owner of this farm and became a well-known painter during the 1800s.
This beautiful farm was a rural retreat for Weir and his family.
One of the fascinating things about Weir Farm is the way that Weir came about purchasing it. He paid the bargain price of $10 and a painting.
The Weir Farm National Historical Park covers 60 acres (24 ha) of land, including the home, studio, farm barns, rolling hills and fields in the surrounding area.
Much of the farm’s surrounding landscape inspired Weir’s work and the beautiful scenery inspires artistic visitors that make their way to Weir Farm National Historic Park.
Today the farm has been added to, with the addition of a working artist studio.
After Weir’s death, his daughter and sculptor husband, Mahonri Young, added the art studio you can see today.
The Weir Farm National Historical Park has several artist programs to inspire and encourage up-and-coming talents.
One of their most eagerly anticipated programs is the artist-in-residence program, where professional artists are invited to stay at the farm and create art just like Weir did. Each summer Weir Farm also hosts a “Take Part in the Arts” program.
This program is where day visitors are encouraged to bring their art supplies and create work while visiting the farm.
You can also borrow supplies from the visitor centre between Wednesday and Sunday, with watercolour paints offered on Saturdays and Sundays between May and October.
While at the park, head to the Burlingham House Visitor Center where you can talk to rangers, explore the museum exhibits, watch a film about the park and purchase a souvenir.
Let them join in with the Weir Farm Junior Ranger program if you are visiting with kids and those who complete an activity at the farm will receive a junior ranger badge at the visitor centre.
The kids will love this added incentive of visiting Weir Farm.
As well as the farmhouse and studio, there are numerous hiking trails to enjoy around the park.
Head through the woods and beautiful fields and check out Weir Pond.
Weir Pond was constructed in 1896 using prize money that Weir won from the Boston Art Club for his painting “The Truants”.
Sensational pond reflections and fields of flowers make it easy to understand why so many artists have been attracted to Weir Farm.
Once you’ve explored the pond, take a hike to the Weir Nature Preserve.
A 2.6-mile (4.3 km) out-and-back trail takes around an hour to complete.
Whether you choose to walk, hike, run or walk, this is a lovely trail, you will meander through the woods among the densely forested trees.
If you love exploring national parks, you might like to read:
- Wyoming National Parks Guide
- Nevada National Parks Guide
- Michigan National Parks Guide
- 5 Maine National Parks
- New Hampshire National Parks Guide
- 25 National Parks In Canada
- 17 National Parks In Argentina
- Tasmania National Parks
- 20 National Parks In Mexico
- 18 New Mexico National Parks
- 18 National Parks In Massachusetts
- 17 Colorado National Parks
- 4 Indiana National Parks
- 5 Nebraska National Parks
- 30 Virginia National Parks
- 9 New Jersey National Parks
- 8 National Parks In Arkansas
- 8 Alaska National Parks
- 11 National Parks In Florida
- 8 Hawaii National Parks
- 6 National Parks In Idaho
- Texas National Parks Guide
- 9 California National Parks
- 11 National Parks In Georgia
- 7 National Parks In Missouri
- 5 National Parks in Minnesota
- 7 National Parks In Kentucky
- 8 National Parks In Montana
- 15 National Parks In Washington State
- 8 South Carolina National Parks
- 12 North Carolina National Parks
- 4 Wisconsin National Parks
- 20 National Parks In India
- 11 Oregon National Parks
- 5 Connecticut National Parks
- 27 National Parks In New York State