By guest blogger Paul Parulis
Nestled amongst expansive stances of evergreen trees in East Haddam along Hopyard Rd. you will find another gem of a State Park, Devil’s Hopyard. As you travel down Hopyard Rd from Rt 82 the trees seem to get denser and the road gets narrower and curvier. When you finally arrive at the parking area for the park you’d swear you were in a different part of the state.
The State DEEP web site states that the exact origin of the name of this park is not confirmed, but it may have had something to do with a gentleman named Dibble who was growing hops for beer nearby. I’ve been there often enough and have never encountered either a devil or anyone making beer! Just a great place to hike or picnic along the stream. You can read more about this State Park and download a copy of the trail map by clicking this link.
For me, Devil’s Hopyard is a “Tale of Two Parks”. Hopyard Rd cuts the park in half and there are excellent hiking trails on both the east and west sides. Most people that visit the Hopyard are familiar with the east side which includes the beautiful waterfall and picturesque covered bridge that are near the main parking lot. Once you cross the covered bridge you join the main Orange ‘Vista’ trail. This is a 2 ½ mile loop trail that includes a nice overlook of the valley almost 100 feet or so below. To get to this vista, however, you will need to tighten those hiking shoe laces and prepare for some uphill work. No matter which way you go on this loop there is a variety of terrain including stream crossing, rock hopping and up and down hill. This trail includes sections that I feel would not be suitable for mountain biking. You can shorten the loop by taking one of the crossover trails that bisect the loop. You may recall that last year there was a forest fire in this State Park. As you approach the vista overlook you will witness firsthand some of the damage from the fire. There are some charred trees, stumps and logs still visible.
After completing this vista loop, if you are still in need of more exercise cross the Hopyard Rd near the waterfall and find the Red ‘Millington’ trail. This west side trail climbs for nearly a ½ mile before turning a sharp left. It then follows a nice wide and nearly flat section for the next ½ mile. Along this section there are 4 small stream crossings (wooden bridges provided) that are tranquil and picturesque. After crossing the last bridge there is a choice, continue straight for 0.1 mile on the red-yellow trail back to Hopyard Rd or take the Yellow ‘Witch Hazel’ trail. I recommend taking the Yellow trail. This trail is a 1 mile up and down with a minor view at the trail high point. As with the Orange trail on the east side, this trail is probably not suitable for bikes. This trail is steep in sections and will definitely get your heart rate up. At the high point, the Yellow trail splits with one branch going to a pond about ¾ mile beyond. This is a dead end so be prepared to turn around and hike back to the high point. The other branch at the high point starts a ½ mile descent back to the Hopyard Rd. Connecting points along the west side Red trail you will find the Green trail that provides even more hiking opportunities.