The Connecticut Forest and Park Association has over 825 miles of Blue-Blazed trails in 96 towns. The problem isn’t usually finding a trail to hike, it’s choosing which one to do. Having very little experience hiking to the west of New Haven I consulted the CFPA’s Connecticut Walk Book: West for ideas. The book highlights all of the Blue-Blazed trails in the western part of Connecticut. It doesn’t always include other connecting trails so it is sometimes hard to find a loop to hike. Fortunately, with all of the maps in the book I was able to pick out what looked like a good loop hike, the Zoar Trail. Zoar Trail is a 6.5 mile loop hike in the Newtown section of Paugussett State Forest. This section is also referred to as the lower block of Paugussett State Forest. I decided to open up the hike to Team Red, White, & Blue to see if we could get a group to join in. Our plan was to meet at the trailhead parking lot at the end of Great Quarter Road and head out at 10:30am.
The idea of a group hike turned out to be a big hit. Altogether we had 10 adults, 4 kids, and a dog. After hearing during the week that some families wanted to come along I suggested that we have one group do the entire loop and another do an out and back to Prydden Falls. There are two parking lots along Great Quarter Road. The first one is small, for only 3 or 4 cars while the one at the end of the road can fit around 15 if people park well. From the parking lot we headed out along the trail in a northerly direction along Lake Zoar (a section of the Housatonic River north of Stevenson Dam.) The trail the follows the lake is a mix of some easier grades from old roads to the more rocky and root covered trails that are a Connecticut mainstay. There are some ups and downs but the group did well with hiking along. We stopped at an opening to get a picture of the group with Lake Zoar behind us. This portion of the trail is also labeled by the CFPA as a Scenic Trail as most of the trail is right along the lake.
After a little over a mile and a half we reached Pyrdden Brook. Before crossing over the brook there is a 0.1 mile trail that leads down to Pyrdden Falls. Depending on what time of year you go this can be merely a trickle or possibly a torrent. With recent rains over the holidays and now colder weather we were rewarded with partially frozen falls. This of course made for some good Kodak moments. We didn’t linger too long before heading back up to the main trail and parting ways. The families headed back to the parking lot and a group of 5 of us continued along the Zoar Trail.
A little past Prydden Brook is a blue/yellow blazed trail. Between April and mid August the upper portion of the Zoar Trail is closed to protect nesting hawks. This alternate route is what you would take to get back to the Blue-Blazed Trail without disrupting the hawks. Being that it was January we stayed on the main trail. After about another half mile the trail takes a sharp left and goes up a nice steep section. In a quarter of a mile we gained almost 250feet. From here the trail was rolling through the forest with sections of laurel and mixed hardwoods. According to the CFPA book and map there were suppose to be two more lookouts. Even with the leaves off the trees we struggled to figure out what they might have been. It also appears that since my version of the book was printed that they changed up the trail slightly at the end. Instead of doing the last 0.5mile walking along Great Quarter Road, there is now Blue-Blazed Trail that stays in the forest all of the way back to the parking lot. Being that Zoar Trail is located in a state forest I was able to find a more accurate map on the Connecticut DEEP website. Our last mile of hiking the snow had started and made us all enjoy being out in the cold that much more. When we got back to the trailhead I broke out Peanut M&Ms and mini Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups to celebrate a great 6.5 mile hike.