Living in Hartford, I am usually surrounded by the trappings of an urban environment - sidewalks, asphalt, glass, steel, cars, trucks, horns honking, sirens blaring. And yet it is fairly easy to take a short drive and find oneself surrounded by wilderness. An accessible semi-urban hike is a real treasure.
One example is the hike we did last weekend. We had a pretty glorious day on our hands, so that helped. Heading west, we went to Reservoir 6 in the Metropolitan District's recreation area system. Reservoir 6 offers a wide, 3.6 mile path around the reservoir that is a real pleasure to walk on. You can get a PDF map here. Sometimes, taking a stroll around the reservoir makes for a great day.
But sometimes you want something a little more. So, we walked about half way around the reservoir trail where the Metacomet Trail breaks off and heads up to Heublein Tower. Heublein is a popular destination, though the tower itself doesn't open until Memorial Day (here is the official site). There are a lot of ways to get up to the tower, but taking the Metacomet ensures a quiet hike away from the crowds.
The only downside for us on this hike was that there was a lot of mud. Recent rains had really saturated the trails and in some cases getting muddy was unavoidable. But hey, that's part of the fun. Around the tower there are great views and picnic tables - a good place to chill out and hang out - and there is great space for bigger groups if you are looking for that.
Also, interesting fact: A party was once held at a large BBQ pit (which is still there) for Republican political leaders. At that event, Dwight Eisenhower was asked to run for president. A little history!
At one point, wooden boards had been placed on the ground to help navigate some muddy sections.
Another fun fact: at one place near the tower, the borders of three different towns all converge: Simsbury, Avon and Bloomfield. A sign marks the spot.
And here is the route we took. It was about 3 hours for us, moderately difficult verging on easy. We covered 6.5 miles with about 600 feet of elevation gain (and loss since we did an out and back).
Having a hike like this - that truly feels like wilderness and yet is just a few minutes out of the city - is a wonderful thing. It would be nice if more Hartfordians took advantage of this very accessible widerness.