13 Best State Parks in Connecticut You Have to Visit!

Despite its small size, Connecticut boasts many beautiful state parks, perfect for enjoying outdoor recreation year round.

From coastal spots to mountaintops and waterfalls to historic sites, you have lots of options when it comes to state parks in Connecticut.

Connecticut’s state parks are particularly beautiful in the fall, when they are dressed in fall foliage colors of yellow, orange, red, and russet.

Covered bridge at Devil's Hopyard State Park in CT.
Covered Bridge at Devil’s Hopyard State Park PC: Shutterstock/Isabel Eve

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Outdoor enthusiasts planning a trip to state parks in Connecticut can enjoy the many hiking trails, go fishing, swimming, or camping in season, or do cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.

Many state parks also feature historic sites and picturesque covered bridges, making for great landscape photography opportunities.

Considering a getaway into nature? Whether you plan to visit for the day, or you are looking to overnight at a campsite, read on to discover the best state parks in Connecticut to visit!

Macedonia Brook State Park

One of the most beautiful state parks in Connecticut, Macedonia Brook State Park is located in Kent. It encompasses over 2,300 acres.

Trail in Macedonia Brook State Park in Connecticut in the fall.
Fall in Macedonia Brook State Park PC: Shutterstock|LBSimms Photography

With 11.5 miles of trail, hiking is one of the most popular activities in the park. Trailheads originate along the Macedonia Brook Road, which runs through the park.

The blue-blazed Macedonia Ridge Trail loops around the park, and offers outstanding views of the Taconic Range and the Catskill Mountains from Cobble Mountain.

There are several smaller side trails off the Blue Trail that you can hike, and you’ll encounter several streams and brooks as you hike the park.

Other than hiking, you can fish, camp, and picnic in Macedonia Brook State Park. Fall leaf peeping here is exceptional. Go cross-country skiing in the winter.

Camping in Macedonia Brook State Park

The Macedonia Brook State Park Campground offers 51 campsites in the woods or near a stream or brook, in a rustic setting.

Camping season generally runs from mid April until early October. Pets are not allowed.

Location, Hours, and Admission

Macedonia Brook State Park is located at 159 Macedonia Brook Rd, Kent, CT 06757.

The park is open everyday from 8 a.m. until sunset. Pets on a leash are allowed in picnic areas and on hiking trails.

There is only a campsite fee at this park.

Kent Falls State Park

Located in the beautiful Litchfield Hills in the town of Kent, Kent Falls State Park protects the scenic namesake waterfall. It is just under 300 acres in size.

The waterfall plunges about 70 feet in a powerful cascade, after which the water continues to flow down the valley, creating a number of lesser falls along the way. Eventually it joins the Housatonic River.

Lower cascades of Kent Falls in Kent Falls State Park in CT.
Lower cascades of Kent Falls PC: Shutterstock/Tomaz Kunst

While Kent Falls is at its most powerful in the spring, with snow melt, it looks beautiful much of the year. Like other New England destinations, the park looks stunning when fall foliage is at its peak.

The stream has created interesting limestone formations along its route. The covered bridge in the park is from 1974.

The Kent Falls Trail makes its way up along the falls. It is short but steep. Stop at overlooks along the way to enjoy the waterfall. Other than hiking, you can also fish or picnic in the park.

Location, Hours, and Admission

Kent Falls State Park is located at 462 Kent Cornwall Rd, Kent, CT 06757.

The park is open everyday from 8 a.m. until sunset. Pets on a leash are allowed in picnic areas and on hiking trails.

There is no admission fee for CT residents, but a parking fee may be charged for out-of-state vehicles.

Devil’s Hopyard State Park

Devil’s Hopyard State Park, located in East Haddam, is home to the Chapman Falls, which drops more than 60 feet in a stepped cascade.

Chapman Falls in Devil's Hopyard State Park in Connecticut
Beautiful Chapman Falls PC: Shutterstock/Isabelle O’Hara

Near the falls, be sure to check out the pothole formations! They are shaped like cylinders, they vary in size from a few inches in diameter to several feet. The holes are formed over time by stones that are spun around by the water.

Devil’s Hopyard State Park offers a variety of recreational activities, from hiking and biking to fishing, swimming, picnicking, and camping. It is also an excellent birding location, so bring your binoculars!

There are eight trails in the park. The Chapman Falls Loop is a short trail with great photo ops. The Blue and Yellow Loop is a moderate trail, about 3.6 miles long.

Camping in Devil’s Hopyard State Park

The Devil’s Hopyard State Park Campground offers 21 campsites in a wooded setting.

Camping season generally runs from mid April until end September. Pets are not allowed.

Location, Hours, and Admission

Devil’s Hopyard State Park is located at 366 Hopyard Rd, East Haddam, CT 06423.

The park is open everyday from 8 a.m. until sunset. Pets on a leash are allowed in picnic areas and on hiking trails.

There is only a campsite fee at this park.

Burr Pond State Park

Located next to Paugnut State Forest, Burr Pond State Park is about 438 acres in size. Burr Pond is an 85-acre man-made lake with little islands and a rocky shoreline.

Burr Pond in Connecticut
Tranquil Burr Pond PC: Shutterstock/Shanshan0312

One of the buildings, originally mills and a tannery, was used by Gail Borden in the late 1850s and early 1860s to create Borden condensed milk. Sadly, the building burned down in the late 1870s.

You can hike, fish, swim, and picnic in Burr Pond State Park. In season, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, canoe and kayak rentals are available by the hour or by the day. There is also a boat launch.

The walk around the shore along the blue-blazed Walcott Loop Trail is beautiful, and easy. You can also hike the John Muir Trail to Sunnybrook State Park.

Location, Hours, and Admission

Burr Pond State Park is located at 384 Burr Mountain Rd, Torrington, CT 06790.

The park is open everyday from 8 a.m. until sunset. Pets on a leash are allowed in picnic areas and on hiking trails.

There is no admission fee for CT residents, but a parking fee may be charged for out-of-state vehicles.

Wadsworth Falls State Park

Located on the Coginchaug River, Wadsworth Falls State Park encompasses about 285 acres, and has as its focal feature the gorgeous Big Falls, on the river, and Little Falls, on Wadsworth Brook.

Wadsworth Big Falls in Connecticut
Wadsworth Big Falls PC: Shutterstock/Enfi

Wadsworth Big Falls is a wide cascade that plunges about 30 feet over a ledge of basalt. Wadsworth Little Falls falls about 40 feet over a sandstone outcropping.

Visiting the two scenic falls is one of the top things to do in Wadsworth Falls State Park. You can also hike, go mountain bike, do stream fishing, swim in the designated area, and picnic at the picnic area in the park.

The park features a little over three miles of hiking trails. The Big Falls are a quick walk from the parking lot on Cherry Hill Road. A longer trail leads to the taller and gentler Little Falls. The falls flow especially well after rain.

Location, Hours, and Admission

Wadsworth Falls State Park is located at 721 Wadsworth St, Middletown, CT 06457.

The park is open everyday from 8 a.m. until sunset. Pets on a leash are allowed in picnic areas and on hiking trails.

There is no admission fee for CT residents, but a parking fee may be charged for out-of-state vehicles.

Southford Falls State Park

Established as a state park in 1932, Southford Falls State Park is small, at about 169 acres, but it is a beautiful park and offers a variety of recreational experiences.

Southford Falls in Connecticut
Southford Falls PC: Shutterstock/LB Simms Photography

Paper Mill Pond, its surface covered with water lilies, is lovely, as is Southford Falls on the Eight Mile River. The waterfall cascades over a rock formation in a few steps.

There’s also a small watch tower, about 25 feet high, and a covered bridge to visit, as well as an old dam. The red covered bridge is a reproduction of the original and makes for a nice photo.

Walk the trail to get close to the falls, both the bottom of the falls and the top. Other than hiking, you can also fish, or picnic in the park. In the winter, go cross-country skiing.

Location, Hours, and Admission

Southford Falls State Park is located at 175 Quaker Farms Rd, Southbury, CT 06488.

The park is open everyday from 8 a.m. until sunset. Pets on a leash are allowed in picnic areas and on hiking trails.

There is no fee to enter.

Rocky Neck State Park

Located on Long Island Sound, Rocky Neck State Park sits on 700 acres, and includes a stunning 0.5-mile long crescent-shaped sandy beach.

Rocky Neck State Park in Connecticut
Rocky Neck State Park PC: Shutterstock/Isabel Eve

The park is bounded on the west by a tidal river. To the east of the park is a scenic salt marsh. Rocky Neck State Park offers excellent wildlife viewing and birding. Look for cranes, herons, and osprey.

The park’s sandy beach is great for swimming. You can also go scuba diving, fishing, or crabbing. There are picnic areas by the ocean. Mountain biking and rollerblading are also popular. In the winter, you can go cross-country skiing in the park.

There are about 5 miles of hiking trails in the park. Easy and scenic trails lead to points of interest such as Baker’s Cave (a rock formation of sorts), the salt marsh, and the Tony’s Nose overlook.

Camping in Rocky Neck State Park

The Rocky Neck State Park Campground offers 160 sites, in both open and wooded settings.

The camping season begins in May and ends September 3. Pets are not allowed.

Location, Hours, and Admission

Rocky Neck State Park is located at 244 W Main St, Niantic, CT 06357.

The park is open everyday from 8 a.m. until sunset. Pets on a leash are allowed in picnic areas and on hiking trails.

There is a campsite fee at this park, and non-residents of Connecticut may be charged a parking fee for day use in season.

Sleeping Giant State Park

A mountain top that resembles a sleeping giant in profile gives the Sleeping Giant State Park its name. The mountain is covered in forest, making the park especially striking in the fall.

Fall colors in Sleeping Giant State Park in Connecticut
Fall foliage in Sleeping Giant State park PC: Shutterstock/Chuck Hayden

The Sleeping Giant Lookout Tower on the peak of Mount Carmel offers superb views of Long Island Sound and the New Haven area. The stone tower can be accessed via a 1.5-mile trail. The tower has a ramp instead of steps for easier climbing.

Sleeping Giant State Park offers stream fishing, rock climbing, birdwatching, and picnicking in addition to hiking. The park is a designated trout management area.

There are over 30 miles of trails in Sleeping Giant State Park, including part of the Quinnipiac Trail. Hiking trails in the park are color-coded based on length and difficulty. Get a trail map when you enter the park!

You’ll find designated horse riding and cross-country skiing trails in the lower elevations of the park.

Location, Hours, and Admission

Sleeping Giant State Park is located at 200 Mount Carmel Ave., Hamden, CT 06518.

The park is open everyday from 8 a.m. until sunset. Pets on a leash are allowed in picnic areas and on hiking trails.

The park is free for residents of Connecticut. Non-residents may be charged a parking fee.

Gillette Castle State Park

Gillette Castle was originally the home of William Gillette, an American actor known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on stage. He lived in the home for about 18 years in the early 20th century.

The home and grounds encompass 184 acres.

Gillette Castle in East Haddam, CT
Gillette Castle PC: Shutterstock/jgorzynik

The castle is built on the southernmost of a series of hills known as the Seven Sisters. Gillette Castle State Park includes the residence and the grounds, and has hiking trails and a picnic area.

Gillette designed the home, which has three floors and a tower, and looks like a medieval fortress. The exterior is stone, and the interior includes many quirks, including trick locks on doors and a secret passageway.

There are 47 doors in the castle, and each door is unique! There are built-in couches, a table that moves on tracks, and many other curiosities.

There was a 3-mile narrow gauge railroad on the grounds. The track has since been pulled up to make way for hiking trails, and the engines are on display in the park visitor center. You can still see the railroad station, Grand Central.

Location, Hours, and Admission

Gillette Castle State Park is located at 67 River Rd, East Haddam, CT 06423.

The castle is open for tours everyday from 9 a.m. until 5.30 p.m, generally between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The grounds are open from 8 a.m. until sunset. Pets on a leash are allowed in picnic areas and on hiking trails.

Castle tours are offered for a fee. At the time of writing, the fee is $6.00 per visitor aged 6 or over.

Sherwood Island State Park

Located on the shore of Long Island Sound in Westport, Sherwood Island State park is Connecticut’s first state park.

Encompassing 238 acres of coast, woods, and wetlands, Sherwood State Park is definitely one of the best state parks in Connecticut.

Sherwood Island State Park in Connecticut
The beach at Sherwood Island State park PC: Shutterstock/hs3189

The park contains Connecticut’s 9/11 memorial, because you can see the New York City skyline from here. It is also home to the Sherwood Island Nature Center, which offers interpretive programs for both kids and adults.

The park’s beaches stretch over one mile, and are unique for having three distinct colors of sand, separated by the ocean: red, white, and black.

You can swim in Long Island Sound, fish, or go scuba diving. The park is also an excellent birding location. There are picnic facilities in the park, numerous tables set in a beautiful grove of trees.

Location, Hours, and Admission

Sherwood Island State Park is located at Sherwood Island Connector, Westport, CT 06880.

The park is open from 8 a.m. until sunset. Pets are not allowed in the park between April 15 and September 30.

The park is free for residents of Connecticut. Non-residents may be charged a parking fee.

Hammonasset Beach State Park

Located along the Long Island Sound, Hammonasset Beach State Park is Connecticut’s largest shoreline park, with over two miles of beach.

Hammonasset Beach in Connecticut
Hammonasset Beach PC: Shutterstock/Burning Light Photo

Beach activities are popular in the park: go swimming in the Long Island Sound, sunbathe, look for sea shells, or build a sand castle. You can launch a car-top boat or canoe here, or fish. There is also a boardwalk trail to stroll.

The park also offers biking and picnicking. There are walking trails to enjoy the scenic setting.

Hammonasset Beach State Park is an excellent birdwatching location: dozens of species have been spotted in the park, so be sure to bring your binoculars!

Meigs Point Nature Center features exhibits on area flora, fauna, and geology. Here you can also experience the saltwater touch tank.

Camping in Hammonasset Beach State Park

The Hammonasset Beach State Park Campground offers 552 grassy sites with amenities like restrooms, showers, dump stations, and water. There is also an onsite camp store.

The camping season begins around the end of May and ends in early October. Pets are not allowed.

Location, Hours, and Admission

Hammonasset Beach State Park is located at 1288 Boston Post Rd, Madison, CT 06443.

The park is open everyday from 8 a.m. until sunset. Pets on a leash are allowed in picnic areas and on hiking trails. They are not allowed on the beach in season.

There is a campsite fee at this park, and non-residents of Connecticut may be charged a parking fee for day use in season.

Bigelow Hollow State Park

Located in the Quinebaug Highlands, Bigelow Hollow State Park encompasses 516 acres. The park has a very scenic setting, bordered by Nipmuck State Forest in the east and west. Mashapaug Lake lies to its north.

Breakneck Pond in Bigelow Hollow State Park in Connecticut
Fall at Breakneck Pond PC: Shutterstock/Jennifer Yakey

The park features not only a beautiful landscape but also lots of wildlife and birds. Deer, beavers, coyotes, and bobcats call the area home.

There are over 35 miles of trails in the park, mostly forested. Many scenic trails are located around Breakneck Pond, a picturesque body of water that can only be accessed on foot.

You will find a boat launch and picnic facilities at 18-acre Bigelow Pond, right at the park entrance, and at Mashapaug Lake, which is almost 300 acres in size.

You can fish in the summer and do ice fishing in the winter. You can also go cross country skiing and snowmobiling here in the winter!

Location, Hours, and Admission

Bigelow Hollow State Park is located at 298 Bigelow Hollow Rd, Union, CT 06076.

The park is open everyday from 8 a.m. until sunset. Pets on a leash are allowed in picnic areas and on hiking trails.

The park is free for residents of Connecticut. Non-residents may be charged a parking fee.

Lovers Leap State Park

Lovers Leap State Park is located on the beautiful Housatonic River and encompasses just about 160 acres on both sides of the Housatonic Gorge.

Lovers Leap Bridge at Lovers Leap State Park in Connecticut.
Lovers Leap Bridge PC: Shutterstock/Alexanderstock23

The park contains the Berlin Iron Bridge from 1895, included in the National Register of Historic Places. You can also view the ruins of the factory of the Bridgeport Wood Finishing Company.

Part of the park’s acreage was bequeathed by Catherine Hurd, and you can see the remnants of the Hurd estate in the park, with its yellow cat tea house.

There are many trails in the park, some of which lead to the historic sites referenced above. Hike the Lovers Leap Trail to find the formation that gives the park its name. Look for birds as you walk!

Location, Hours, and Admission

Lovers Leap State Park is located at 178 Short Woods Rd, New Milford, CT 06776.

The park is open everyday from 8 a.m. until sunset. Pets on a leash are allowed on hiking trails.

The park is free to enter.

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