HIGHLIGHTS: Stroll along an emerald forest path edged with mountain laurel to a hilltop gazebo with a stunning view of the Litchfield Hills. Afterward, walk (or drive) to the 1,627 foot summit of Dennis Hill to enjoy a view of three states from a rooftop observation platform.
DIRECTIONS At the junction of Rte. 272 and Rte. 44 in the center of Norfolk, take Rte. 272 south for 2.5 miles to the entrance of Dennis Hill State Park, on the left. Hiker parking is in the half moon dirt driveway on the left.
Walking Time: one hour
Distance: 2 miles
TRAIL DIRECTIONS: This easy loop is maintained by the Norfolk Land Trust and is marked by a yellow blaze. The entrance to the Romantic Ramble trail is .2 miles from the stone entrance of the Park and has a wooden gate across the trailhead. This trail is for walking and x- country skiing only. If you are bringing a picnic lunch, please carry out what you carry in.
Begin your Romantic Ramble by going through the wooden gate and following the yellow blazes into the woods. Stroll hand in hand, along an old wood road that winds its way through a mixed hardwood forest. Like romance, each season in Litchfield Hills has its own special treasure trove of delights ! In the Spring, the forest is fresh minty green with shafts of sunlight breaking through the evergreens, illuminating the colorful panoply of wildflowers. The sultry trees of summer, mostly oak and maples, are brilliantly adorned in a rich intoxicating green mantle, that is always at its most intense when the leaves are gorged with chlorophyll. A walk in Autumn's amber light, under a jeweled canopy of tree's, ablaze with the passionate fire colors of the season -- cinnabar and citron, molten rubies, topaz and copper, is unforgettable. In the winter, listen for the whisper of snowfall, as you glide through viridescent stands of hemlocks, iced with luxurious stoles of snow, like beautiful women wrapped in fur - glistening with the silver filigree of bare branches and punctuated by a sapphire blue sky.
At the Y in the trail, bear right and continue following the yellow blazes. Walk along the meandering path, shaded by an arbor of hemlocks and edged with a bridal bower of pink and white mountain laurel interspersed with feathery fans of ferns and fragrant wildflowers. At times, the quietude of this forest give it a primeval feel, at once enticing and entrancing.
The trail gradually ascends to a fairy tale fieldstone gazebo situated on the crest of a hill with a scintillating view of the Litchfield Hills. This is a perfect spot for dalliance, daydreams and a leisurely picnic lunch.
After lunch, continue following the yellow blazes past the ruins of a hearth and chimney and onto a narrow forest path edged with ferns and mountain laurel. In 20 minutes or so, you will come to a double yellow blaze representing a three way intersection in the trail. Take a left at this intersection and continue your easy descent.
At the next double blaze, turn right, onto the main access trail and follow to the wooden gate where this loop began.
The summit of Dennis Hill is reached by going up the paved road to a octagonal bungalow with a roof top observation platform. The bungalow was built in 1908 by Dr. Frederick S. Dennis, a prominent New York City surgeon who had it designed to resemble the open stone wool markets of Wales.
At one time, this hilltop bungalow had leaded glass windows, parquet floors, and elegant furnishings. The house was well known for its unique "Spanish" room which included a cryptic Mayan design, still visible today above one of the small fireplaces. The bungalow provided the perfect setting for many of Dr. Dennis's lavish soirees whose guests included the President & Mrs. Taft, the Mayo Brothers, Walter Damrosch, Dr. William Welch of John Hopkins and perhaps his most famous patient, Andrew Carnegie. It was Dr. Dennis who persuaded Mr. Carnegie to establish the famous Carnegie Laboratory of Medical Research. Today, visitors can step out of their cars on the same porte cochere as Dr. Dennis's guests once did as they arrived or departed from one of his posh parties.
Dennis Hill offers spectacular panoramas in all four directions. Looking to the north, you will see the bucolic village of Norfolk and Haystack Mountain behind it. To the south, is a vista of Torrington and East Winchester. To the west, you will see Mount Everett and Mount Greylock in Massachusetts, Bear Mountain in Connecticut, and the Green Mountains in Vermont.
Special Notes: What to bring on your romantic ramble... a country quilt, a single rose, cloth napkins, real silverware, and crystal goblets. Wine from Hopkins, Haight or DiGrazia Vineyards; a picnic lunch, your favorite book of poetry, or other romantic reads to set the mood.