Hoffman Evergreen Preserve – Avalonia Land Conservancy, Stonington, CT
Today I traveled from my home in Niantic to hike the Hoffman Evergreen Preserve in Stonington. This is a 145 acre preserve that is located off Route 201 near the North Stonington border. It is one of the numerous properties owned or maintained by the Avalonia Land Conservancy. This was my first hike on an Avalonia preserve. There is no parking area but there is space along the roadway that will accommodate cars safely. The preserve entrance is marked by a split rail fence. A trail map can be downloaded from the Avalonia website.
I started my journey by taking the blue blazed trail that parallels route 201 for about 1500 feet before it turns north-west, merges into the yellow trail, and ventures deep into the woods. All the trails are very well marked. At various trail intersections there are kiosks with maps. The trail system also has numbered markings that are found on the map and labeled by metal discs affixed to trees at the intersections.
There were still pockets of snow and ice occasionally along the trails. I chose to wear micro-spikes to avoid slipping. The yellow trail follows the preserve border for a while then turns north-east. All along this trail there are towering evergreen trees. It is not all that common in New London county to have large evergreen stands, especially containing hemlocks. The oak trees over time have overshadowed the evergreens and they died off. As for the hemlocks, many of them were killed by bark boring pests over the past 30 years. The yellow trail eventually ends at an intersection with the blue trail at point 8. Just beyond this point is an old graveyard. There are about a dozen tombstones still erect. Most of the engravings are worn off, but I was able to make out one that indicated the occupant had died in 1839.
I continued along the blue blazed trail, past a nice stream, along an old carriage road and eventually looped around the northern end of the preserve near another giant evergreen grotto. Near this location, marked as point 4, I picked up the red blazed trail and followed it back south. The red trail traveled through intermittent evergreen stands and also more typical beech and oak stands that I’m more familiar with along the Connecticut shoreline. All along the red trail there are beautiful old stone walls, crossing and intersecting the woods. The red trail will bring you back to the trailhead on route 201.
This hike took me about 1 – 1/2 hours and I’d guess it was about 3 to 3- 1/2 miles long. The trails are for the most part flat with only an occasional up or down that was no more than a 20-30 foot rise. It was a very pleasant hike that I’d recommend to all.