10 Best State Parks in Connecticut

Hiking, camping, relaxing on the edge of a lake. State parks have a lot to offer by way of nature, and each one is different. Connecticut itself is full of parks from east to west, and a few of them stand out from the rest. With features like scenic waterfalls and lush gardens, these are the 10 best in the state! 

Lover’s Leap State Park, New Milford, CT

Lover’s Leap is a walk-in park that has hiking trails, scenic areas, and historic ruins. The park is 160 acres and is divided into three sections—each one offering something different about its history. The 1895 Berlin Iron Bridge crosses the Housatonic River and takes you to the rock formation the park’s name is derived from. Legend has it that Pootatuck Indian Chief Waramaug’s daughter jumped to her death alongside her lover from this rock.

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Indian Well State Park, Shelton, CT

Indian Well has a permanent alcohol ban, so plan accordingly. But who needs alcohol, anyway, when this park’s scenic waterfall and brook provide you with all the relaxation you’ll need for the day? Located on the western bank of the Housatonic River, this park also derives its name from a legend—one that talks of a Romeo and Juliet-esque love affair between Native Americans.

Black Rock State Park, Watertown, CT

Black Rock has hiking and swimming options amidst the scenic views of the Western Highlands. This 439-acre park was once home to Native Americans—an observation that was confirmed by the findings of arrowheads and stone implements. Artifacts belonging to the Mohegan, Paugussett, and Tunxis tribes have even been unearthed. The park was given to the people of Connecticut in 1926 by a conservation group focused on woodland preservation.

Sherwood Island State Park, Westport, CT

Sherwood Island was one of Connecticut’s first state parks, and you can do everything from fishing to picnicking to swimming to field sports. There’s an on-site nature center with a wide variety of displays and exhibits that will help you understand the surrounding animal and plant life. The nature center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Penwood State Park, Bloomfield, CT

Penwood is an 800-acre park with fun for every season, including hiking, picnicking, and cross-country skiing. Their extensive trail system offers a fabulous yet intimate experience of nature year-round! The park was gifted to Connecticut in 1944 and lies atop the northern portion of the Talcott Mountain Range.

Harkness Memorial State Park, Waterford, CT

Harkness Memorial offers visitors scenic, panoramic views of the Long Island Sound. The historic, elegant mansion sits atop 230 seaside acres of sweeping lawns, beautiful trees, and luscious gardens. Fishing, picnicking, and mansion tours are available on the premises. The mansion is a Roman Renaissance Classic Revival with 42 rooms and a carriage house.

Bigelow Hollow State Park, Union, CT

Bigelow Hollow is adjacent to Nipmuck State Forest, and together the two have over 9,000 acres of land for you to explore (including miles upon miles of hiking trails). Take a short stroll around the 18-acre Bigelow Pond—or a longer one around the 300-acre Mashapaug Pond—and follow marked trails from Bigelow Hollow to the Breakneck area. The loop to Breakneck and back is at least six miles, so be sure to come prepared.

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Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison, CT

Hammonasset Beach is Connecticut’s longest shoreline park—clocking in at over two miles worth of beach. Visitors can go swimming, adventure along the boardwalk, or sit and relax in the sunshine. Come for a picnic or to go saltwater boating and bring the whole family! There’s even a car top boat launch for you to use. Hammonasset Beach was first opened to the public in 1920, and today over a million visitors stop by each year.

Bolton Notch State Park, Bolton, CT

Bolton Notch’s maintained hiking trail winds its way through the park. The trail was originally part of an old railroad bed, making it a very flat, wide, wonderful place to walk or ride your bike. Located at the very top of the cliff notch is a marble exposure and several caves large enough to fit people inside. You’re able to explore the caves, as well as go hiking, mountain biking, and climbing at this park.

Chatfield Hollow State Park, Killingworth, CT

At Chatfield Hollow, you can hike in search of caves; explore rocky ledges and recesses; relax by the water; or picnic amidst the pine trees. Pond and stream fishing are permitted (as Chatfield Hollow is a designated trout park), as well as swimming. You can see a covered bridge reproduction across the Chatfield Hollow Brook, which was used for waterpower during Colonial times and features a restored waterwheel.

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