Off the Beaten Path: Seven Falls from Aircraft Road
Seven Falls is a picturesque series of small cascades that can be visited from a popular road-side stop. To reduce congestion at the stop-off and enjoy some of Middletown’s most rugged hiking, try this loop hike instead. It features copious mountain laurel and rock features, streams and cascades, pine and hemlock groves and unique views through a utility corridor. It also offers a great opportunity to learn reading the different types of trail blazes. It is a very well-marked route but requires understanding what the different blazes mean. Don’t worry, descriptions are included below. Boots are recommended due to the rocky terrain and some muddy sections. The full loop is rated as challenging. Alternatively, you may avoid the difficult sections and have a moderate hike by following the instructions for the yellow-blue trail.
Total length: 2.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to challenging
Elevation gain: 200 feet
Trails: Yellow-blue Seven Falls Loop Trail and blue-blazed Mattabesett Trail
GPS link to trailhead on Aircraft Road, Middletown, CT
Directions: Take Route 9 to exit 10 for Aircraft Road. At the end of the ramp continue 0.8 miles to roadside parking for the trailhead.
Begin at the Mattabesett Trail which crosses Aircraft Road. The left side of the road has a sign and a pull-off plus a wide shoulder for ample parking. This hike, however, begins on the right side of the road (side opposite to blue oval trail sign). There is some room to pull off and park on the right before the guardrail too. If you’ve parked on the left, cross the street and step over the guardrail to take you to the southbound blue-blazed trail.
Follow the clearly marked blue blazes.
Reading blazes: When you see two blazes with the top one offset to the right, it indicates the trail makes a right turn. Pictured here at the trailhead. Conversely, if the top blaze is offset to the left, you’d be turning left.
Continue hiking until you’ve reached the junction with the yellow-blue trail. Instead of continuing straight on the blue trail, turn right onto yellow-blue. This begins a counterclockwise loop.
Reading blazes: If blazes are in line above each other, it means a trail continues straight. Pictured here on the rear tree, the blue trail continues straight. The yellow-blue blaze to the right indicates our right turn for this hike.
As the hike continues, it is important to keep an eye out for the blaze. The trail has frequent blazes that are generally easy to follow. There are nonetheless some unmarked trails that you will pass. The trails described in this hike are well marked, so if you don’t see blazes ahead of you or behind you, turn around and walk back the way you came until you can pick up the blazes again.
You will pass some wet areas that have nice wildflowers in the spring like the trout-lily in the photo. Click here for more on trout-lily and to learn why it’s special when you see them in bloom.
You will reach a rocky stream with small cascades which you’ll need to cross on the stepping stones. This crossing is a good example of the need to pay attention to the blazes. Notice the blaze on the opposite side indicating to turn right immediately after crossing, hugging the stream’s edge.
Eventually you will come to a utility corridor. Despite the power lines, the open space presents interesting views that are particularly beautiful when the mountain laurel is in bloom around early June. You will also find artful rock sculptures and a rockscaped homestead slightly off-trail being built by a kind resident. For the remainder of the hike, look not only for blazes on trees, but also on poles, rock piles and painted onto ground rocks.
The yellow-blue trail terminates at the road (route 154), indicated by the sideways double blazes that look like an = sign. Walk all the way to the guardrail and turn left to pick up the blue trail.
The blue trail follows the Seven Falls section of Bible Rock Brook before turning back into the woods. Enjoy the stream before continuing on with the blue trail. The blue trail is more rugged than the yellow-blue section. If you would like to stick to a moderate intensity hike, you may choose to retrace your steps to your vehicle via the yellow-blue trail. (It would be roughly the same mileage as the loop, but easier terrain.) If you’re up for some rock scrambling, continue onward down the blue trail for completing the challenging the loop.
After winding back through the forest, the trail takes you out into the utility corridor for some interesting scrambling and walking before you cross the utility road and head into the woods again. This begins with a mass of rocks. The rock pile forms a talus cave. Keep right to find the ascent over the rocks.
To begin the scramble, you’ll see a set of 3 blazes. Imagine them as an upside down U. You are about to make a u-shaped turn, or switch-back, to zig-zag up.
Continue following the blazes to get up the steep ascent.
You’ll find more interesting ups and downs on this section of the loop as you cross back through the utility corridor and into the forest. Eventually you’ll reach the junction with the yellow-blue trail where you began the loop. Stay straight on the blue trail and you will soon return to your vehicle.
Coronavirus & Tick Safety
- When social distancing is in effect, give other hikers six feet of space. Do not touch other’s dogs and keep your own dogs on a leash. When stepping off trail to make room, be mindful of any flora underfoot and step on rocks where possible.
- To prevent overcrowding and facilitate social distancing, hike during less popular times such as early mornings and weekdays. Even hiking in a rain jacket during light rain can be a rewarding experience.
- Follow the Leave No Trace principles which have been updated for COVID-19. The document at the link offers important considerations, such as being prepared to use the bathroom outdoors and carrying out your own trash.
- Ticks are active March to November. Wear long clothing, tuck pants into socks, wear a repellant on your skin and pretreat your hiking clothes with permethrin. Shower afterwards and launder clothing. Click here for information on identification of different ticks.
Interested in discovering your own off the beaten path hikes? The Connecticut Walk Book and interactive trail map at ctwoodlands.org are excellent resources. Continue to follow The Rockfall Foundation’s blog for more guided suggestions.
Contributed by Amanda Kenyon and Lucy Miegs.