Off the Beaten Path: Palmer Taylor Preserve

This is a nice spring adventure for individuals and families who want a shorter and less strenuous hike. The first part of the hike winds through the gardens of what once was the estate of TJ and Prudence (Taylor) Palmer.  This 1.2 mile hike features the garden, a pond, rock outcroppings, a stream, and a view through the trees of the Connecticut River. The trail is very narrow in a few places. Practice the coronavirus safety measures listed at the end of this blog. The Palmer Taylor Preserve is owned by the Middlesex Land Trust.  If you want to extend your hike, you can explore more trails on the preserve or the nearby Air Line Trail.

Hike Overview
Total length: 1.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Type: Lollipop loop
Elevation gain: 90 feet
Trail: Palmer Trail
GPS link to trailhead in Portland, CT

Directions: The parking area for this hike is at 258 Middle Haddam Road, Portland. From the center of Portland, take Rt-66 east for 3.1 miles to a stoplight. At the light, turn left on Middle Haddam Rd. Go 1.2 miles and turn left into the parking area.

The red Palmer Trail is in the lower left of the map.

Park in the field by the big red barn.

For this hike you will be following the Palmer Trail that has red trail markers (blazes). It starts to the left of the information kiosk.

After a short distance the trail crosses the road and then winds up Snow Drop Hill.

In the spring, the trail on Snow Drop Hill is lined with flowers (many pink, purple and white wood hyacinths in photo). Most of the flowers along the trail were planted by (or for) Prudence Taylor Palmer who was an active member of the Middletown Garden Club. The trail winds down the hill to a pond where you can often find frogs and tadpoles. Please note: this short section of the trail is narrow. For safety, please be conscious of social distancing if you meet other hikers in this area. There is a bench set back from the trail at the top of the hill and there are a few places you can step off the trail onto rock.

Near the pond there are some wonderful native flowers and plants mixed in with the non-native plantings. Keep an eye out for jack-in-the-pulpit (pictured), white trillium and spicebush (not pictured). For more about these and other native plants, visit the Everyone Outside blog.

A short distance after you pass the pond, you get to the intersection of the red Palmer Trail and the yellow Taylor Brook Trail. Veer to the right to stay on the Palmer trail. As you keep following the red trail, you will pass the half quarried rock (just after you cross over an unmarked trail). Children often enjoy climbing up and “sliding” down it.

You will cross a small brook that flows through a tunnel beneath the Airline Trail. The loop portion of this hike begins just after the brook.

You may veer uphill to either the left or right and will circle around the loop, eventually returning to this junction with the “fort” made of sticks.

After hiking the loop, cross back over the brook and retrace your steps towards the parking area. Keep noticing what is around, you can often see new things when you hike a different direction on a trail. When you get back to the junction with the Taylor Brook Trail, veer left and pass the pond to return to your car.

Additional Option

When passing the yellow-blazed Taylor Brook Trail, you have the option to explore this trail too. It is 1.1 miles one way, as indicated on the map. The Taylor Brook Trail crosses the Air Line Trail. A short distance after their junction, Taylor Brook Trail goes along the edge of a field that is mowed for hay. This section can be hard to follow when the grass is tall. Follow the below tick safety precautions as well.


Interested in discovering your own off the beaten path hikes? The Connecticut Walk Book and interactive trail map at by Connecticut Forest and Park Association are excellent resources.  For more Middlesex Land Trust Properties, click here.

Continue to follow The Rockfall Foundation’s blog for more guided suggestions.


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, evenings, 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.

Contributed by Lucy Meigs and Amanda Kenyon.

Did you try this hike? Please leave us a comment below!

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Showing 7 comments
  • Carrie Bulger

    What a great little hike! Loved the flowers and the pond, and the old rock walls. Just enough hills to break a sweat and make us feel like we did a decent workout, but no steep ascents. Thanks to the Middlesex Land Trust for keeping up this trail.

    • Amanda Kenyon

      Glad you enjoyed it! We are grateful to MXLT as well and hope to feature another one of their trails in the future.

  • Elwin Guild

    Absolutely wonderful presentation. It is truly a gift. Thank You

    • Amanda Kenyon

      Thank you for the kind words, Elwin. Enjoy!

      • Lucy

        Thank you Elwin for all you do as one of the stewards for the Palmer Taylor Preserve. We are happy to show off this nice MxLT Preserve.

  • Steve Crusberg

    Beautiful presentation about a beautiful preserve.

    • Liz Britney

      Thank you, Steve! We hope to go back and visit soon – the preserve is especially beautiful this time of year!

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