Off the Beaten Path: Wilcox Conservation Area
If you’re looking for a beautiful, short walk in nature, this loop trail is for you! Wilcox Conservation Area boasts a plantation of red and white pine groves with a summertime ground cover of brilliant fern. The mixed hardwood forest also includes a red maple swamp. This 151 acre preserve in western Middletown abuts Lamentation Mountain in Berlin, and Guiffrida Park and Chauncey Peak in Meriden. See additional options at the end of this blog post for more adjacent or nearby suggestions. In particular, nearby Highland Pond gives you a chance to see aquatic wildlife. The blue-blazed trail on both of these properties is the Mattabesett Trail, part of the 220-mile New England Scenic Trail.
Total length: 1 mile, plus additional options
Elevation change: 90 feet
Trails: Blue and white
From its intersection with Interstate 91, take Country Club Road west 0.5 miles to Atkins Street. Turn right onto Atkins Street and continue for 0.7 miles, then turn left onto Footit Drive. Go 0.3 miles to find trailhead parking on the left.
Pull off to park on the left. You will find the property map sign. Our hike begins on the blue-white trail, clearly labeled, just past the sign. As indicated with the arrows on the above map, we’ll be guiding you on a counterclockwise loop, starting on the blue-white trail, joining the blue trail, and ending on the white trail.
Follow the blue-white blazes. You will pass multiple unmarked cross trails.
In 0.1 miles, the trail ends at a T intersection. You will make a left turn, noting a blue blaze to your left.
Stay straight until you come to this junction, then veer left, uphill, and continue following the blue blazes. There is a lot of invasive garlic mustard on this section. While it’s past its prime for eating during the summer, you can visit in early spring to forage this edible plant. Learn how to identify it and cook with it here.
Continue through beautiful forest of pine trees with wonderful specimens of tulip and beech trees until you reach a junction with another map. Turn left to follow the white trail.
The white trail will take you directly back to your car.
- Follow the map to create an additional mile loop with the red and blue trails. The red trail can be difficult to follow, and doesn’t offer the same beauty as the white loop, but if you want more exercise or time outdoors, there is this option.
- From the blue-white trail you started on, instead of turning left onto the blue trail, you could turn right and hike 2.2 miles in one direction on the blue trail to reach Chauncey Peak in Meriden. Reference Connecticut Walk Book, page 114, Map 20-MB-05 or ctwoodlands.org interactive map.
- If you’re looking for another beautiful and short nature walk, down the road is Highland Pond. Drive back to Atkins Street, turning right. In about 0.7 miles on the left is the trailhead. You will need to park on the curb. It is a 0.5 walk from one end of the pond to the other, ending at Bell Street (where there is also curb parking). For a map, go to Middlesex Land Trust.
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. Check the website for your town’s land trust as well. For Middlesex Land Trust Properties, visit their Preserves & Maps webpage. 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 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 Amanda Kenyon.