Mountain Laurel Loop Hike
TRAIL DIRECTIONS: There are four trails on this 70 acre preserve. The Mountain Laurel Loop includes the best of each circuit. On this walk you will take the red trail to the yellow trail to the white trail to the blue trail which brings you back to your starting point. Trails are open dawn to dusk. No pets, bikes, or motor vehicles are allowed on the trails. Please do not pick or damage any of the plants.
HIGHLIGHTS An undulating forest path leads you through tunnels of mountain laurel, past babbling brooks and through a colorful wetland area. Mountain Laurel, the state flower, blooms in mid.-June to early July. A small nature museum is on the grounds.
Before beginning your walk visit the nature museum. Here you will find displays of animals found in Connecticut, a reptile exhibit, animal room, and a small nature library.
To begin your walk, face the nature center building, bear right and follow the red trail past a small pond into the woods.
In five minutes you will enter the mountain laurel tunnel that wends its way through the forest adjacent to a babbling brook. Mountain Laurel, a large evergreen shrub with shiny leaves is Connecticut's state flower that blooms in mid.-June to early July. This hardy evergreen edges much of the red and yellow trail as well as parts of the white and blue trail. The much smaller evergreen also found along the trail is called Sheep Laurel and can be identified by its dull green linear leaves. Sheep Laurel has dark pink flowers that are a little smaller than the magnificent delicate pink blossoms of Mountain Laurel.
Cross the brook on a sturdy wooden bridge and continue following the red trail through the mountain laurel tunnel.
At the junction of the red and yellow trail, take a right onto the yellow trail and continue this serpentine walk through pink clouds of mountain laurel in mid.-June and early July.
In a short time, you will reach a mixed hardwood forest, continue following the yellow blazes along a narrow footpath. At the split in the trail, bear right and follow the yellow blazes up a gradually ascending hill. A staired path leads you to the summit of Pigeon Hill that overlooks Coppermine Mountain. The name of the hill is derived from the time when this area was a favorite feeding site of the Passenger Pigeon. This handsome bird, that resembled a morning dove, use to travel in flocks of millions in the 1800's. Sadly, the species became extinct with loss of habitat and by hunting. The last passenger pigeon died in 1914.
Continue following the yellow blazes on an elevated path. Dry hillsides, like the one that you are traversing are perfect habitats for an oak forest, which we see here. Oaks are divided into two main categories, red and white oaks. The ridge that you are traversing is called a glacial esker. It was formed millions of years ago when glaciers covered this area. Cracks or tunnels in the ice filled with sand and gravel, leaving ridges, such as this one when the ice melted.
At the junction of the yellow and white trail, take the white trail. This undulating pine scented path is edged with mountain laurel, sheep laurel, the smaller of the two evergreens, and wild azaleas. Soon you will reach a bog and wetland area with an interesting series of bridges.
Each season the wetland area offers a colorful display of flowers and foliage from the brilliant yellow of spring's marigolds to autumn's fire colors. Red maples, and yellow birch are the predominate trees found here. One of the most common wetland plants found in the bog area in the spring is skunk cabbage that gets its name from its distinctive smell!
As you meander through this wetland, you will cross two bridges. After crossing the third bridge, turn left onto the blue trail. This section of trail follows Falls Brook through a mixed hardwood forest. Walking through the forest look for shagbark, hickory, and oak trees whose nuts provide food for the wildlife of the center. You will also see white pine trees and paper or American white birch trees easily identified by their peeling, chalky white bark. In the summer, the trail is edged with a variety of ferns, including the cinnamon fern with its rusty brown center spore stalk. As you approach the Nature Center you will notice a meadow to the right of the trail. In the summer the meadow is full of sun loving plants like stag horn sumac and blackberry bushes that provide berries for wildlife found here. Follow the blue blazes to the Nature Center where this loop began.
More Nature Centers to Explore in Litchfield Hills:
Ansonia Nature and Recreation Center 10 Deerfield La., Ansonia, CT (203) 736-1053. 2.5 miles of trails wind their way through a variety of habitats in this 146 acre center. A butterfly /hummingbird garden and award winning wildflower/ fern garden grace the center. Trails open sunrise to sunset. Interpretive center open 9 to 5 daily.
Audubon Center at Bent of the River National Audubon Society, 185 East Flat Hill Rd., (1.5 mi. from Exit 14, I-84), South Britain/Southbury, CT (203) 264-5098. 700 acres with 15 miles of trails. Open daily, dawn to dusk. Meadows, forests, 1.5 miles along Pomperaug River. Designated an important bird area.
Flanders Nature Center and Land Trust Office at Flanders Rd., off Rte. 6, Woodbury, CT. (203) 263-3711. Hiking trails wind through various sanctuaries and are open year round, dawn to dusk. Office open Mon.-Fri. 9-5.
Hidden Valley Nature Center Gilotti Rd., New Fairfield, CT . (203) 312-5633. Log lined trails wind their way through the woods and wetlands and have viewing stations. The Museum has exhibits of local trees, animals and geological traits found here. Trails open dawn to dusk. The center is open May through October.
Kellogg Environmental Center Dept. of Environmental Protection, 500 Hawthorne Ave., Derby, CT 06418. (203) 734-2513. The Center offers workshops, exhibits, nature activities, scout programs, nature walks and family programs throughout the year. Tues.-Sat. 9-4:30.
Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Sanctuary Duck Pond Rd., Litchfield, CT . (860) 567-2062. Home to more than 50 species of waterfowl, that inhabit a series of natural ponds and covered aviaries within 37 acres of wetland habitat.. Tours on Sat. and Sun. May -July and Sept. - Oct. at 2 pm. Adm. $10 adults. Call 203-567-1691 for tour reservations.
Pratt Center, 163 Papermill Rd., off Rte. 202, New Milford, CT. (860) 355-3137. 193 acre nature preserve with hiking trails over diverse terrain offering woods, meadows, streams, ponds, and bird watching. A 2.5 mi. hike up Mt. Tom (1,200 ft.), New Milford's highest peak. Trails open dawn to dusk. Call ahead for trail conditions. Center open 9-5.
Sessions Woods, Wildlife Management Area, Rte. 69, Burlington, CT. (860) 675-8130. This 455 acre track of land introduces visitors to wildlife and natural resources management through various educational programs, habitat demonstration areas, self-guided interpretive hiking trails and a backyard wildlife habitat area. Trails open at sunrise and close at sunset.
Sharon Audubon Center, National Audubon Society National Audubon Society, 325 Rte. 4, Sharon, CT. (860) 364-0520. 1,200 acres and 11 miles of trails open dawn to dusk, daily. Woods, gardens, and ponds. Building open year-round Tues.- Sat. 9- 5; Sun. 1- 5. Exhibit animals, children's discovery room, natural history, and gift/book shop.
Sunny Valley Preserve, The Nature Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, 8 Sunny Valley Lane, New Milford, CT. (860) 355-3716. Over 1,850 acres of farm and natural land including diverse habitats and 10 plus miles of trails for daylight hiking. Call weekdays for maps.
Tarrywile Mansion and Park 70 Southern Blvd., Danbury, CT. (203) 744-3130. Explore over 20 miles of hiking trails or come visit the historic Tarrywile Mansion. 654 acres of fields, forests, ponds, and wetlands with abundant flora and fauna. Park open sunrise to sunset. Mansion open by appt. only Mon.-Fri. 8:30- 4:30.
White Memorial Foundation and Conservation Center, off Rte. 202, 2 mi. west of center, Litchfield, CT. (860) 567-0857. Grounds open year-round daily. 4,000 acre nature preserve with 35 miles of trails for hiking, x-country skiing, birdwatching, picnicking, camping and boating. Nature Museum contains unique exhibits depicting the history and natural resources of the area, as well as a Children's Room and Nature Store. Museum open year-round, Mon.-Sat. 9-5; Sun. noon-5.
Woodcock Nature Center 56 Deer Run Rd., Wilton/Ridgefield, CT. (203) 762-7280. A series of four trails offering beautiful woodland, swamp, river and pond habitats wind their way through this 146 acre preserve. Special programs for children and adults are offered year-round, Mon.- Fri., 9:30 -4:30. Trails open dawn to dusk daily.