Fam­ily walks

Here are six Thanks­giv­ing hikes across Con­necti­cut that are great for en­joy­ing with rel­a­tives

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Front Page - PETER MARTEKA [email protected]

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.

PETER MARTEKA/HART­FORD COURANT

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.

PETER MARTEKA/HART­FORD COURANT

The Tidal Marsh Trail winds along the banks of the Quin­nip­iac River be­hind com­mer­cial sprawl in North Haven.

PETER MARTEKA/HART­FORD COURANT

The Shore­line Trol­ley once crossed this Bran­ford Marsh. Now it is home to the Bran­ford Trol­ley Trail.

PETER MARTEKA/HART­FORD COURANT

A view across the Salmon River Val­ley from on top of the buried Ly­man Viaduct in Colch­ester.

RICK HART­FORD/HART­FORD COURANT

Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion, part of Wil­liam Gil­lette's three-mile minia­ture train that once ran around the grounds.

PETER MARTEKA/HART­FORD COURANT

Beaches along Long Is­land Sound make a great place for a postThanks­giv­ing walk.

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