Highlights Enjoy sweeping river views as you walk along an iron ore history trail. The hike to Prospect Mountain and Rand's View awards hikers with panoramic views of pastoral landscapes that epitomize the agricultural heritage and unspoiled natural beauty of CT's Litchfield Hills. Rand's View is noted by many to have the best views from the CT section of the Appalachian Trail.
DIRECTIONS: At the jct. of Rte. 7 and Rte. 126 in Falls Village, take Rte. 126 north turn left on Point of Rocks Rd., turn right on Water St., pass under the upper railroad bridge, continue on Water St., cross the iron bridge. Parking is to the left of the iron bridge in a picnic area facing the Housatonic River and Power Station. There is an outhouse in this small recreation area.
Trail Directions: This walk is part of the Appalachian Trail and is marked with white blazes. To reach the entrance of this trail from the parking area walk toward the Iron Bridge look for the two white blazes on the telephone pole, to the left of the bridge. Follow the blazes into the woods. Keep to the trail's defined footway, and carry out what you carry in.
Walking Time: 4 hours
Distance 6 miles
To begin follow the white blazes into the woods that are to the left of the Iron Bridge. The bucolic village you are visiting today was once a busy industrial community that produced an enormous variety of iron ore products. As you walk along this 1/2 mile path, look for 19th century foundations that are a testament to the iron industry that once thrived here over 150 years ago.
In a short time the white blazes will lead you to a paved road. Continue following the white blazes along this scenic country road with its bird's - eye view of the river. Just after crossing a fieldstone bridge, follow the white blazes back into the woods. Great views of the river and falls can be seen along this elevated path. The trail turns from the river and begins a short climb to what is known as the scenic overlook area.
Continue following the white blazes along a narrow wooded path and over rocks and ledges that offer a variety of splendid views of the Housatonic River and Great Falls. After admiring the views, continue following the white blazes to a canoe launch and parking area.
At the far end of the area you will see a brown display kiosk that marks the beginning of a fascinating 1/4-mile iron history trail. As you begin this short but rewarding historic walk you will learn from the kiosks set-up along the trail that in 1833 brothers Oliver and Horatio Ames founded the Ames Iron Works. Using high quality ore from the area and harnessing the power of the river they made many products from ship cannons to railroad cars. The railroad arrived in 1842 and their business prospered. After the Civil War, the Housatonic Railroad purchased the Ames Iron Works and converted it to railroad repair and construction. In 1898, the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad purchased the Housatonic Railroad; and by 1900, all the repair and construction shops were closed and moved to New Haven. Later, buildings were demolished in anticipation of the Dam and Hydroelectric plant that began operation here in 1914. The plant, located below the falls, has been producing power ever since.
The entrance trail to Prospect Mountain and Rand's View is across the paved street and to the left of the boat launch and parking area and is marked by two white blazes and a sign that reads "FootPath No Bikes". Follow a gradually ascending narrow footpath into a mixed hardwood forest. Along the way, look for several outstanding glacial erratics which are large independent rocks left behind during the last ice age.
In 5 minutes you will come to a meadow surrounded by several lovely views of the Litchfield Hills. Soon you will follow the blazes back into a mixed hardwood forest and continue a gentle but steady climb up Prospect Mountain for the next 20 minutes. Here, the narrow forest path, wends its way through a colorful forest of oak, birch, elm, hickory, pine and young maple trees.
For the next 5 minutes stroll along an elevated rock ledge that offers good views of the forest just traversed. This section of walk is uneven and will be slippery in inclement weather. Soon you will enter a beautiful hemlock forest that is cool and shady in summer and fall and offers protection in winter and spring. This section of trail is flat and offers gorgeous glimpses of the surrounding Litchfield Hills through the lacey green hemlocks.
Walking along this part of the trail, it is hard to believe that these quiet woods were once a hive of activity. This area, one of many in Litchfield Hills, is where charcoal was made to feed the fires of the regions many blast furnaces in the production of iron ore.
In a short time, you will enter a mixed hardwood forest. Reaching the summit of Prospect Mountain you are rewarded with stunning views of rolling landscapes, Canaan Mountain, and the village of Canaan nestled in a serene valley to the north.
To reach Rand's View continue following the white blazes along a mostly level forest path. In 20 minutes, the trail turns sharply right at the intersection of the blue blazed Limestone Trail to your left. Continue 500 feet down the Appalachian Trail to Rand's View.
Rand's View, named for the family that owned Hamlet Hill Farm for many years, is considered by many to have the best views from the Connecticut Section of the Appalachian Trail. Hikers are rewarded with undisturbed views of farms and forests, a landscape that hasn't changed much in the past hundred years set against the dramatic backdrop of Wetauwanchu Mountain that rises in the left foreground. On the horizon, you will see Connecticut's Bear Mountain and Mount Everett in Massachusetts. The land for this view is owned by our National Park System and will never be developed.
Retrace your steps back to the summit of Prospect Mountain. After enjoying the view, once more, retrace your steps along the same route to the parking area where this hike began.