1. Silver Sands State Park
This hidden gem has a hidden gem of its own; a secret path that parts the sea leading straight to a mysterious island. The entrance peeks out from behind Milford, directing you down a dirt road to a pleasantly serene escape from the bustling city nearby. Here a maze of boardwalks will emerge, hovering over salt marshes, and pointing towards the elusive trail. This magical trek out to Charles Island is accessible at low tide when the sand bar rises above sea level but is closed May through August for nesting birds. Nevertheless, this shallow sandbar is sure to spice up your visit and provide a mystical scene as the path starts to appear. At hightide the quivering water rolls over the trail, and fades into white froth at the crash zone. The calm surrounding water is perfect for swimming, or to cool off after a day of seashell hunting. Speaking of seashells, this beach is filled with them. Colossal piles of twirling colorful shells are mixed in with small stones scattered all over the sand. Whistling grasses also poke out and sway in the wind pointing visitors to a dramatic jetty which tip is swallowed up by the twinkling water.
2. Saugatuck Falls Natural Park
This hidden gem may be the shining diamond in the rough. Tucked behind John Read Middle School, the Saugatuck Falls Natural area provides a jaw-dropping scene of glimmering waterfalls and lush green vegetation. In spring, you’ll be welcomed by a triumphant patch of red trillium flowers which garnish the entrance to a wide trail littered with pine needles. Soon, a calm reflective wetland will bubble up to the edge of the path as your surroundings morph into a dense old-growth forest, blanketed in moss. A river will begin to rush past on your right, and ragged rocks will pierce through the steep hills on your left. Be equipped with your best hiking footwear because the spacious trail you were first on will soon become a narrow path crawling with tree roots. An array of boulder fragments will guide you up several steep hills until all sound is drowned out by the booming water. Wispy streams branch off from the white rapid falls, trickling around walls of flat rocks. The earthy scent of freshwater spray from the rapids is reminiscent of a backcountry trail in the Adirondacks. For an easier route to the falls, turn left onto the hemlock trail as you enter the first meadow, then right on Knapp Way, right on the Power Line trail and reconnect with the Falls Trail.
3. Seth Low Pierremont State Park
Love a good view? Then this is the place for you! The Seth Low Pierrepont Park can be found by entering the parking lot in the forest off the corner of Barlow Mountain Rd. and North St., but its’ simple appearance is deceiving. About a mile into the park, an ethereal overlook is waiting. You’ll be met by a secluded narrow path at the entrance to the park, which leads you along Lake Naraneka into a forest speckled with wildlife. As you follow the blue trail, the first hill you’ll encounter ushers you up a sharp climb and across a scraggly mountainside ledge. Once you’re thoroughly winded from scaling this cliff to the treetops, an improvised tipi will welcome you to your well-earned destination; an elegant vista overlooking the valley below. Here you will find plenty of flat rocks to lounge on, and spongy moss to sink into. Feel free to soak in the warm light that illuminates the surrounding leaves and breathe the crisp air which blows through the branches. On cloudy days, fog from surrounding clouds will swirl through the canopy and mist you with water droplets. The tropical feel of this location makes it a perfect escape from reality. You would nearly expect a monkey to swing past, but rest assured the only rainforest-like critters you’ll see are little orange newts hiding in the leaf litter.
4. Sheep Falls
Follow the orange trail through the pristine Wilton Town Forest. The path follows a meandering stream through moss covered boulders until the sound of falling water swallows up the chattering wildlife of the forest and reveals itself to be a small glittering waterfall. Beneath this rock shelf the falls’ spill into a shallow pool of crisp, clear water. This is an idyllic forested area, and it’s a perfect cool-down spot for furry friends (who are allowed into the park if they are leashed) or for kids to climb on nearby rocks and search for the many frogs that live here. The park is open to mountain bikers as well, who can take advantage of this rest area for a snack or just to sit and soak in the refreshing mist that floats off the falls on a hot day.
5. Sherwood Island State Park
This beach is sure to serve up a healthy dose of vitamin sea! Its coarse sand and refreshing salt breeze make it the pinnacle of New England beaches, with a unique twist. Off to the left, a nature center sits, overlooking sea glass green water tumbling onto the coast of East Beach. Live critters and local wildlife information awaits you inside. A salt marsh nature trail can also be found nearby, which welcomes visitors to learn about the salt marshes around the beach. The beach itself is a sight for sore eyes; sprinkled with glistening shells outlined with blue hints from the horizon. The sound of small crashing waves compliments the soft chimes of seashells beneath your feet, nearly lulling you to sleep. Shore birds can be seen pecking at the salty water and dunking beneath little swells. Endless fields of trimmed grass display exquisite picnicking grounds to escape the sand and admire the view. The park has sections for family swimming, boardwalks and playgrounds, making it truly a place for anyone. •