West Rock Ridge State Park, Hamden
West Rock Ridge State Park is Connecticut’s second largest state park with 1,722 acres of land. There are 11 miles of dirt trails for riding, offering varied opportunities, ranging from flat, wide double-track to narrow twisting rooty and rocky single track. The trail riding is mostly off the ridge, so elevation changes are small to moderate, excepting the climbs on the Green Trail and Yellow Trail. There are also two paved roads with 7 miles of steep riding, most of that closed to motor vehicles.
Directions to the Lake Wintergreen parking lot: Rt. 15, Exit 60, and turn right to head south on Rt. 10 (Dixwell Avenue) for 0.3 miles. At the next traffic light past the parkway, turn right on Benham Street and take this to the end (2 miles). Then turn left on Main Street and head south for 0.9 miles. At the bend in the road, turn right into the parking area.
Rules: Due to the fragile nature of the ridge, some trails are limited to hiking, and mountain bikers should respect those restrictions. There are plenty of trails open to mountain biking, including Red, White, Green, Yellow, and Red-White. The park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset. A map and contact information are available on the state website at http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2716&q=325276&deepNav_GID=1650
West Rock Ridge State Park has something to offer to all types of cyclists. There are paved roads with long descents (and the climbing necessary to reach them), flat, easy trails, and narrow single track with plenty of roots and rocks.
The two paved roads are the 1.55 mile long Regicide Drive, which connects the main entrance off Wintergreen Avenue to Judges Cave and the South Overlook, and the 5.6 mile long Baldwin Drive, which runs from the main entrance to West Shepard Ave.
Most rides start from the Lake Wintergreen parking lot, 40 Main St., Hamden, Conn. This provides direct access to the 2.3 mile long White Trail, and the 6.7 mile long Red Trail. The White Trail is mostly a wide woods road with moderate changes in elevation. The Red Trail is a mixture of flat, non-technical easy sections, and narrow singletrack with plenty of roots and rocks. The Red-White Trails, which are spur trails off the Red Trail, are also narrow single track with plenty of technical challenges.
Two semi-steep trails may be used to link the lower trails to the paved roads on the ridge: the Green Trail, which is an eroded carriage road that links the Red Trail to Regicide Drive, and the Yellow Trail, a winding trail the connects Mountain Road (a paved town road) to Baldwin Drive.
Please respect the trails that are not open to bicycling, since they have thin, fragile soils. These include Blue, Blue-Yellow, Orange, Purple, and Gold.
Road and Trail Descriptions
Regicide Drive (the paved road that extends from the main entrance to the South Overlook) has pavement that is smooth enough for a road bike.
However, the worn surface of Baldwin Drive (which runs the length of the park) is too coarse for comfortable riding on a road bike, and is rough on a hybrid bicycle. A mountain bike is well suited to handle the aging pavement. Excepting rail trails, there are few places that a cyclist can enjoy 5.6 miles of car-free pavement, as they can on Baldwin Drive.
The Red Trail has a moderately wide, flat to rolling mostly non-technical surface south of the main entrance to four sets of crumbling stairs. Riders are advised to turn around when they reach the first set of stairs, as the stairs are too steep for safe riding, and beyond that is the steep climb to the South Overlook.
From a curve on Baldwin Drive to southern end of Lake Wintergreen, the Red Trail has a has a narrow section, technical section that includes a set of stairs with a path along the stairs that ends at a guard rail.
From the southern end of Lake Wintergreen to the southerly crossing of Mountain Road, the Red Trail has a wide, flat non-technical surface, which provides about 2 miles of easy riding. The slight exception is a short, steep climb from Wintergreen Avenue to the lake level.
The Red Trail between Mountain Road is rugged single track with many roots and rocks for cyclists to negotiate, and is a favorite of those who enjoy technical riding. An advantage of this trail, as compared to other single-track trails in Connecticut is that a rider can focus on negotiating the obstacles without also dealing with riding up or down a steep hill.
North of Mountain Road to Farm Brook Reservoir, the Red Trail is a wide, gravel road, which is suitable for non-technical riders. The gravel surface is ideally traversed by a mountain bike, as a hybrid bicycles thinner tires may get bogged down in the gravel.
At Farm Brook Reservoir, the Red Trail passes near Farm Brook Reservoir, and is bumpy single-track. Near the dam to Farm Brook Reservoir, be cautious when you enter the woods from the gravel road because the Red Trail descends over a stone wall when heading north. This would not be suitable for horses or cross-country skiers. Mountain bikers are reminded that bicycles are not permitted on the blue blazed Regicides Trail.
If you are headed north along the Red Trail, and you cross Mountain Road for the second time, and turn onto the gravel road that is blazed Red, you soon come to the Red-White Trail. This is an excellent single-track trail that parallels the gravel road, and crosses the Red Trail three times near the open field, and extends down to the parking lot for the Farm Brook Reservoir on Hill Street. The Red-White Trail has been mostly armored approaching Farm Brook, but there still is a short muddy section.
The White Trail is a wide woods road with a flat to rolling, non-technical surface along Lake Wintergreen. Between the northern end of Lake Wintergreen to its terminus at the Red Trail, the White Trail is moderately technical with roots and rocks and eroded sections of trail to negotiate. Horses could traverse this area, but cross-country skiers might find it difficult in sections.
The Green Trail is a steady climb from the Red Trail almost to Baldwin Drive, climbing about 200 feet in its 0.65 mile length with a slight descent to Baldwin Drive near the end. Most of the Green Trail is heavily eroded with loose rock with some slick rock sections. There is a small portion of the trail where it levels off that is a an easy woods road.
The Yellow Trail is a steady climb from Mountain Road to Baldwin Drive with generally good traction. The trail rises about 200 ft. in 0.35 miles. When entering from Mountain Road, be sure to turn right to stay on the Yellow Trail. There is no point in riding the Yellow Trail west of Baldwin Drive because it connects to the Regicides Trail where riding is prohibited, and difficult to do even if someone tried.
Lake Wintergreen to Farm Brook Reservoir Cruise
This mountain bike cruise is an excellent loop that offers a variety of riding, yet minimal climbing. The ride starts with an easy cruise along the Red Trail, gets technical between Mountain Road, switches gears to a wide gravel trail, and changes back to single track along the base of the ridge. Complete the loop by enjoying quiet, paved Mountain Road, and the varying single and double track White Trail. There is an optional finish with a loop around Lake Wintergreen. When riding by Lake Wintergreen, be particularly aware of dog walkers and hikers. Bicycles always yield to pedestrians and equestrians.
Here's this ride:
0.00 Turn Right on Red Trail heading northfrom the Lake Wintergreen parking lot
0.65 Left/Right Red Trail at the Purple Trail
1.55 Straight Red Trail at south end of Mountain Road
2.65 Right on Mountain Road
2.70 Left Red Trail at green gate by gravel road
3.65 Straight on Red Trail along Farm Brook Reservoir: turn left at the end of the gravel road, then right into the woods: do not cross the dam, as that leads to private property with no access to the street.
3.75 Left on Red-White Trail
4.15 Righton Red Trail at gravel road
4.60 Right on Mountain Road: follow around base of ridge
Option: return on the single-track section of the Red Trail by turning left
6.00 Right on Red Trail by black gate: wide woods road
6.20 Right on White Trail: just past the powerlines
7.15 Left/Right on White Trail by the Purple Trail
7.75 Straight on White Trail at north end of Lake Wintergreen **
8.50 Straight on Red Trail at south end of Lake Wintergreen
Caution: VERY steep descent
8.90 Straight on Red Trail by Lake Wintergreen dam: Red-White Trail on left
9.25 Right at Lake Wintergreen parking lot
You can ** Shorten ride to 7.85 miles by turning left and riding up the hill into the parking lot.
Lake Wintergreen to Baldwin Drive, via Farm Brook Reservoir
This circuit is an excellent loop for a mountain bike that offers a variety of riding on both trails and roads, rewarded by outstanding views at the South Overlook. The ride starts with an easy cruise along the Red Trail, gets technical between Mountain Road, switches gears to a wide gravel trail, and finishes with a brief ride on the Red-White Trail out to Hill Street. After a steep climb, enjoy an extended cruise along Baldwin Drive, and a short, steady climb on Regicide Drive. There are no signs for Baldwin Drive or Regicide Drive.
This route uses some public roads near the park to complete the circuit, so be aware of vehicles on those roads. Riding Baldwin Drive north to south involves long climb from 290 ft. of elevation on Hill Street to a peak of 680 ft. of elevation a mile later on Baldwin Drive, for an 8.2 percent grade. After climbing this steep hill, the rest of Baldwin Drive is a delight with far more descents than climbs.
Be aware of the pavement conditions on Baldwin Drive, which may be broken in spots, particularly near the main entrance. The final descent to the main entrance on Baldwin Drive involves a series of switchbacks, followed by a fast, downhill ride that ends in a brown gate.
If you are riding between Memorial Day weekend and the end of October, Regicide Drive (the road to Judges Cave and the South Overlook is open to motor vehicles). When the road is closed, you will need to lift your bike over the main gate.
Here's this ride
0.00 Go right on the Red Trail heading north from the Lake Wintergreen parking lot
0.65 Left/Right on the Red Trail at the Purple Trail
1.55 Straight on Red Trail at south end of Mountain Road
2.65 Right on Mountain Road
2.70 Left on the Red Trail at green gate by the gravel road
3.65 Bear left/right - Turn left onto Red Trail at the field by the dam at the end of the gravel road at Farm Brook Reservoir; then turn right into the woods at the start of the field
3.85 Right on Red-White Trail
4.00 Left on Hill St. ( a paved public street)
4.15 Left on West Shepard Ave. at stop sign
4.35 Go straight on West Shepard Ave. at gate - Lift bike over gate: pavement in poor condition
4.65 Left on Baldwin Drive (paved): Walk bike on the left side of the dirt barrier.
9.20 Regroup: If you wish to enjoy the view of Konolds Pond, dismount and walk your bikes up the Orange and Blue Trails before resuming the ride.
10.25 Straight on Regicide Drive (paved) and climb hill: Walk bikes past brown gate near main entrance. ##
11.00 Bear right on Regicide Drive at split to Judges Cave.
11.20 U-Turn on Regicide Drive at Judges Cave
11.40 Right on Regicide Drive to the South Overlook
11.90 U-Turn on Regicide Drive at the South Overlook
12.40 Right on Regicide Drive at stop sign
13.15 Left on Wintergreen Avenue from the main entrance.
13.50 Straight - Enter park by gate at sharp curve near Lake Wintergreen.
13.60 Right on Red Trail by brick building
13.85 Straight on Red Trail: Red-White Trail on left
14.35 Right at Lake Wintergreen parking lot
## You can shorten the ride to 12.2 miles (and miss the expansive view at the South Overlook) by turning left from Baldwin Drive to the main entrance. From the main entrance turn left on Wintergreen Avenue, following these notes from mile 13.15, although your computer will show 10.40 miles.
West Rock Ridge State Park is open 8am til sunset, and parking is available at Lake Wintergreen.
By Tom Ebersold