Sleeping Giant remains closed but other parks await fall hikes

Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden has been a popular destination for people wanting to enjoy a colorful, sweeping view of the region when the fall foliage reaches its peak.

In the aftermath of the May tornado that severely damaged the park, prompting state officials to close it to the public, leaf peepers will have to turn elsewhere. Sleeping Giant Park Supervisor Jill Scheibenpflug said the park will not reopen during the fall season.

However, state officials and hiking enthusiasts have several recommendations for alternative spots which offer great views and aren’t too far away.

Scheibenpflug did not yet have any specific date for when Sleeping Giant will reopen.

“The rest of the trails need to be cleared, and we need to remove logs,” she said. “We want to make sure all of the trails are safe. We are getting closer, but Sleeping Giant is closed, and people should not be hiking here for their own sake.”

Currently, a tall chain link fence blocks entry along a swath near the main entrance to the park. Park officials have also put up “No Trespassing,” “Caution” “ Keep Away,” and “Park is Closed” signage to deter visitors. Less popular side trails are still easily accessible from the road for anyone determined to enter. However, during a recent visit on a sunny weekend, the park appeared to be quiet and empty, with people heeding the closure.

According to Scheibenpflug, occasionally over the past five months, park officials have encountered hikers who know Sleeping Giant is closed but have come into the park anyway.

“If we see them, we tell them to leave,” she said. “The majority of the public is staying out.”

When the park first closed after the storm, State Environmental Conservation Police were ticketing people for trespassing because it was so hazardous due to damaged trees, according to Scheibenpflug.

“It really hasn’t been an issue since,” she said.

When asked how many tickets have been issued, Chris Collibee, spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said he didn’t have an exact number.

“It hasn’t been significant,” he said. “Most people are well aware the park is closed and are heeding the warnings.”

In addition to the May storm, significant rainfall in September further damaged trails, he said.

“We want to get it reopened,” Collibee said. “Sleeping Giant has over 30 miles of trails, and we have a great group of volunteers helping out with clearing them. We don’t want anyone in there with the potential to get hurt.”

Alternative Destinations

So, where should residents go instead to enjoy the fall foliage?

Collibee said visitors have about 110 state parks to choose from for enjoying the fall weather.

“There are a ton of great places to go hiking or for a picnic to see the beautiful fall foliage,” Collibee said. “With Sleeping Giant being closed, maybe this is an opportunity to explore and discover someplace new.”

“West Rock Ridge State Park has beautiful views, and you can look out over Long Island Sound,” Collibee said. “The Metacomet Trail passes through several state parks, and Castle Craig in Meriden has similar topography to Sleeping Giant. Connecticut isn’t a huge state “ there are many beautiful spots, like Talcott Mountain, Bear Mountain, and Kent Falls. Even Hammonasset Beach State Park is beautiful this time of year.”

Jim Little, development director at the Connecticut Forest & Park Association, noted the non-profit organization’s web site, at, has an interactive map which describes places to hike around the state.

Here are a few nearby suggestions which offer hikers a chance to enjoy the fall foliage:

Hubbard Park

This 1,800 acre park on West Main Street in Meriden offers hiking trails and a similar payoff for climbing all the way to the top ““ an observation tower, or Castle Craig, which is about 1,000 feet above sea level. From the tower, enjoy panoramas of the surrounding countryside, including the unmistakable outline of Sleeping Giant to the south. On a clear day, you can make out the Berkshires in Massachusetts. You can also drive to the castle if you prefer. For more information, visit

Giuffrida Park

In addition to Hubbard Park, state officials have also been recommending nearby Lamentation Mountain and Chauncey Peak to hikers, according to Scheibenpflug. To access these trails, go to Giuffrida Park, also in Meriden, on 800 Westfield Road. These walks offer scenic vistas of the countryside, along with views of a reservoir and meadow. Visit for more information.

Naugatuck State Forest

The Naugatuck State Forest has almost 5,000 acres in Naugatuck, Beacon Falls, Oxford, Bethany, Hamden, Cheshire, Ansonia, and Seymour. This forest offers hiking trails and scenic water and countryside views.

Dennis Jakiela, a volunteer hike leader with the Connecticut Forest & Park Association and Connecticut chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club, has led hikes through this forest. “œThere are many sections of the forest, and I’d particularly recommend the Mt. Sanford block on the Quinnipiac Trail, which has great views.”

Parking is available at multiple locations, such as off of Downs Road in Hamden or on Route 42 in Cheshire. Visit for more information.

Tri-Mountain State Park

Go north to Wallingford and Durham’s Tri-Mountain State Park, a 157-acre property which features hiking at Fowler Mountain and Trimountain. Access the park from the Mattabesett Trail, on Durham Road, (Route 68) at Reed Gap.

West Rock Ridge State Park

This park in Hamden and New Haven boasts an elevation of over 600 feet, providing views of New Haven Harbor and Long Island Sound. According to Jakiela, this park offers a beautiful walk by Lake Wintergreen, and hikers who climb to the summit can enjoy great views. “It’s a great alternative to Sleeping Giant,” Jakiela said. The main entrance is off of Wintergreen Avenue.

East Rock Park

East Rock Park is another spot offering wonderful views of New Haven, Long Island Sound, and changing leaves. Park Ranger Dan Barvir called it a “beautiful place to view fall foliage.” You can see the mountains to the north, along with a great panoramic view of southern New England. Barvir noted the leaves typically change later in the season here because of the park’s southern location, giving visitors more time to plan a visit. According to Barvir, visitors may also spot birds of prey. This park is a popular tourist destination, and it offers over 10 miles of trails. East Rock Park is at 41 Cold Spring St., New Haven. For more information, visit the city’s web site at

National New England Trail/ Northwoods Trail System

Head east from New Haven to enjoy scenic trails in Guilford. At Chittenden Park in Guilford, off Seaside Avenue, visitors can find the platform gateway to the New England Trail. Hikers can walk along this series of trails to New Hampshire, with beautiful vistas along the way, according to Little. To get to higher elevation quickly, go to the Bluff Head parking lot on the west side of Route 77 in North Guilford, for the Northwoods Trail System, which has a steep climb at the start, followed by rewarding views.

For information on hiking in the above and additional state parks, visit Another hiking resource is available at