Here are six Thanksgiving hikes across Connecticut that are great for enjoying with relatives
Peter Marteka suggests six hikes good for burning off holiday calories.
The family is all together during one of those rare times of the year when there are no soccer practices to rush off to or work to do. There is finally a chance to take them outside and explore a piece of Connecticut.
But you don't want a strenuous climb to an overlook. You aren't looking for a demanding hike and a complaining family. You just want a chance to see what Connecticut has to offer, but at your own pace.
If you are looking for a family friendly walk to go on fit for a youngster or grandma or grandpa who are up from Florida, here are six walks across the state that won't get your shoes muddy or make you out of breath — a nice, gentle way to get outdoors and burn off a few of those extra calories from Thanksgiving dinner. Derby Greenway Trail — Ansonia, Derby, Shelton
A 1.7-mile paved multi-use path that runs along the top of dikes high above the Naugatuck River and Housatonic River that “links three cities, two rivers and six bridges.”
The trail curves along with the river, past historic railroad bridges and loops around O'Sullivan's Island and Hogs Island. The trail rewards visitors with panoramic views of Derby and Shelton along with factories and old Main Street buildings.
Parking for the trail is located at the corner of Main Street and Bridge Street in downtown Derby or off Division Street on the Ansonia/Derby border next to BJ's Wholesale Club. Hit the beach — at any beach
Late autumn walks along the beach are lonely. And sometimes that's a good thing. There are plenty of choices — and parking spaces — up and down Connecticut's shoreline. My favorite spots are Harkness Memorial State Park and the new Seaside State Park in Waterford. Both have swaths of open grass as well as beach to walk with historic buildings in the background.
Another fun walk is along the Shoreline Trail at Hammonasset State Park, which winds its way from the entrance, west 1.25 miles to the western end of the park, where there are plenty of vistas across the marsh. There is also a new paved path down to Meigs Point for those who don't want to get sand in their shoes. If paved paths on the beach is your thing, also check out the Niantic Bay Boardwalk along Route 156. Tidal Marsh Trail — North Haven
Visitors will find commanding views over the marshes of the river out to Sleeping Giant along the dune-like riverbanks. The trail begins along the banks of the river, near its outlet into New Haven Harbor and Long Island Sound.
Along this trail, the river's travels are only in the natural world, passing through meadows filled with reeds and along the banks that sometimes resemble sand dunes. Huge trees line the banks and fishing trails lead down to the river's edge.
The sights along the way are stunning, with views north to Sleeping Giant State Park and west to New Haven's East Rock Park and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Off to the east and covered in vines are the light platforms and abandoned towers that once guided trains into New Haven's Cedar Hill Rail Yard.
I-91 to Exit 9. Follow to Universal Drive. Take a left and follow the drive past Target and park
behind the store and look for the large trailhead sign. The trail is unmarked, but easy to follow.
Air Line Rail Trail — Portland
The southern section of the Air Line Trail south winds its way from Portland to Willimantic.
And it's flat, flat, flat with a smooth path of crushed bluestone.
This year, Portland finally joined the trail network and opened a two-mile section with a parking area along Middle Haddam Road off Route 66. Other scenic sections include the Lyman Viaduct with parking off Bull Hill Road in Colchester, and Hebron's Grayville Falls Park and Raymond Marsh. There is parking along Route 85 in Hebron and Old Hartford Road in Colchester. Trolley Trail — Branford
This walk includes views out to the Thimble Islands, a jaunt across an iron bridge and 500foot-long boardwalk through a marsh along an old line that took trolleys from New Haven to Branford's historic Stony Creek.
The Pine Orchard section of the 28-mile-long Branford Trail attracts nature lovers, birdwatchers and even train enthusiasts. The trail starts at a huge iron bridge that once carried the trolleys over a tidal creek from 1907 to 1937.
Take Exit 56 off I-95 and go south along Leetes Island Road. Cross over Route 146 to Thimble Island Road. Turn right on West Point Road and park in front of West Point Field.
Gillette Castle — East Haddam, Hadlyme
The fairy tale grounds of Gillette Castle include beautiful stone bridges and an old railroad bed. Visitors can follow the “Seventh Sister Short-line” — William Gillette's miniature railroad.
There are tremendous views, a rock turnaround and even a train tunnel along the old grade. There are several paths around the castle including a tremendous overlook where visitors can look down the Connecticut River and hear the Essex Steam Train.
From Friday through Dec. 23, the castle will be open to the public for tours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Outdoor entertainment will include bonfires, carolers and musicians at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
The castle is on 67 River Road off Route 148.
The Naugatuck River Trail, also known as the Derby Greenway Trail, winds along the Naugatuck River on top of dikes protecting the town from flooding.
The Tidal Marsh Trail winds along the banks of the Quinnipiac River behind commercial sprawl in North Haven.
The Shoreline Trolley once crossed this Branford Marsh. Now it is home to the Branford Trolley Trail.
A view across the Salmon River Valley from on top of the buried Lyman Viaduct in Colchester.
Grand Central Station, part of William Gillette's three-mile miniature train that once ran around the grounds.
Beaches along Long Island Sound make a great place for a postThanksgiving walk.