Off the Beaten Path: Sheepskin Hollow Preserve
To put it simply, Sheepskin Hollow is charming. Between mossy forests, fern-lined pathways, small waterfalls, and water views, Sheepskin Hollow offers visitors six trails with a little bit of everything. This 119-acre preserve is owned and maintained by the East Haddam Land Trust and is located down the street from popular Devil’s Hopyard State Park. Beat the crowds at the State Park, and join us in taking in the beautiful, less-traveled trails at Sheepskin Hollow.
Total length: 2.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Elevation change: 262 feet
Trail: This route hits all of the trails at Sheepskin Hollow, with the exception of the orange trail. Feel free to mix & match!
Dog policy: Keep your dogs on-leash and under your control at all times.
With 6 different trails to choose from, a trail map can come in handy during your hike. The East Haddam Land Trust offers trail maps at the trailhead; however, in the event that there aren’t any, you can download the map from the EHLT website, or access the map via AllTrails. There are three different entrances to the Preserve; our hike begins at the entrance off Sheepskin Hollow Road, circled on the trail map.
Directions: From Middletown, take Route 9S and take exit 7 to Route 82 in Chester. From Route 82, take Mt. Parnassus Road east about 3 miles. Turn right onto Sheepskin Hollow Road and continue past the Pet Kennel to find the small dirt parking area on the left, pictured. There are enough spots for about 4-5 cars in the lot; if this spot is full, you can access this hike via one of the other two entrances to the preserve: GPS link to Woodmont Circle, GPS link to Ridgebury Road.
Our hike starts on the blue trail, which envelopes you in a dense, green forest and leads you downhill. I went to Sheepskin Hollow on a Sunday afternoon after a heavy rain and quickly realized that was a good decision.
Down the blue trail and onto the footbridge, you get your first look of the waterfall and bubbling stream. After the rain, the damp, mossy forest and the sounds of the rushing water made me feel like I was somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
If you want to get a closer look of the waterfall (which I did, of course!), you can access it across the footbridge to the left. Be careful, it was slippery!
Once you’re done taking in the waterfall (which understandably might take a while!), you’ll hop back onto the blue trail and follow it until the trail splits into blue and purple. Our hike continues left on the blue trail.
The blue trail eventually runs into the red – take a left on the red trail.
The red trail leads you through a forested section of the preserve, that eventually veers right and leads you towards Sheepskin Hollow Pond.
On the tail end of the red trail, you’ll get your first view of Sheepskin Hollow Pond. There’s a small trail that leads you in for a closer look. The pond offers a valuable habitat for the beavers, mink, weasels, and muskrats that live there. While there’s a clearer view of the water further in the hike, this outlook gave me my first look of one of the beaver dams – can you spot it?
You’ll reach the white trail marker standing amidst the ferns. Our hike continues to the left and loops down by the pond. To get in the full mileage and continue with our hike, take the left here and ignore the directions for a shorter trip.
For a shorter route: If you’re looking for a shorter loop, this is an easy spot to cut some distance from the hike. To take the shorter route, turn right at the trail marker and continue on the white trail. This will eventually meet up with the end of the white loop, and our hike will continue on the yellow trail.
You’ll quickly gain better views of Sheepskin Hollow Pond as you continue on the white trail. Even more exciting than the pond views were the clear views of beaver dams across the pond.
If you’d like some background information before heading out on your hike, check out this video from the “Leave it to Beavers” series on PBS, which explains how beavers build dams. For a more in-depth look, check out Scientific American’s Science Talk podcast episode “A Breakdown of Beavers,” in which author Ben Goldfarb talks about his research in his book “Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter.” This podcast is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.
Continue down the white trail, which meanders through stone walls and rock formations while staying close to the pond.
The trail eventually veers right, as indicated on the trail marker, and brings you back towards the remainder of the loop. This part of the hike is where you’ll gain most of the elevation. Follow the white trail up the hill until you reach the yellow trail.
When you reach the yellow trail, keep right.
(If you entered the preserve from the Ridgebury Road entrance, this is where you would meet up with our hike; as this is a loop, you can still use the remainder of our directions and then those from the beginning to complete your hike.)
Following the yellow trail through the forest, you’ll find yourself crossing another footbridge over a babbling brook.
If you’d like to stay closer to the brook when the yellow and blue trail meet, continue right onto the blue trail and use your trail map to complete your hike. To continue following along on this route, stay to the left on the yellow trail.
Shortly past the intersection, you’ll also find the entrance to the orange trail. Stay to the left and go straight on the yellow trail.
As you head towards the yellow trail, you’ll come across a clearing in the woods. Continue on until you reach the red trail where you’ll take a right back into the forest.
(If you started the hike at Woodmont Circle, this is where you will meet up with our route.)
The purple trail eventually meets with the blue trail, which is where we started our loop at the beginning of the hike. Take the left down the blue trail to head back to your car.
Luckily, hopping back on the blue trail lets you take in the waterfall again before you head home! Follow the bridge and head up the hill back to the parking lot. Be sure to Leave No Trace, and bring out anything that you brought in!
- While our route hits the majority of trails at the preserve, it doesn’t offer them in their entirety as we kept to the outer loop of the property. If you’re interested in exploring the preserve more, mix & match these trails to make your own hike.
- As mentioned, this preserve is a short distance from popular Devil’s Hopyard State Park. If you’d like to add more miles to your hike and don’t mind dealing with crowds, that’s an easy place to take in some views and waterfalls.
- Check out the East Haddam Land Trust for other hikes in the area.
- Ticks are active March to November, and this is an especially bad year for ticks. 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.
- Follow the Leave No Trace The document at the link offers important considerations, such as being prepared to use the bathroom outdoors and carrying out your own trash.
- Follow Covid-19 safety precautions as comfortable. If unvaccinated, we recommend bringing a mask in your bag in the event you run into other hikers.
Contributed by Liz Britney