Off the Beaten Path: Banningwood Preserve

Just north of Hadlyme Four Corners is Banningwood Preserve, a 102-acre parcel of woodlands owned and maintained by the Lyme Land Trust. This is a perfect place to go as a family, as Banningwood offers hikers a short, easy loop that is filled with diverse terrain and educational opportunities.

Hike Overview:
Total Length: 1.7 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Type: Loop
Elevation Change: 190 feet
Trail: Red Trail and Yellow Brook Trail

Lyme Land Trust, with the support of an Environmental Grant from The Rockfall Foundation, created interactive trail maps that allow you to learn about the terrain as you enjoy Roaring Brook, former farming fields, and the view from Parker’s Perch. The maps are offered at the trailhead, but you can download them below as well just in case there aren’t any available at the time of your visit. They make a great addition to the hike!

Download the Lyme Land Trust’s map and self-guided trail walk brochures here:

Banningwood Map and Self-guided Walk for All Ages

Detailed Banningwood Map and Self-guided Walk Geology and Ecology

These brochures were referenced in the creation of this blog.

GPS link to the trailhead on Route 82

Directions: From Middletown, take Route 9S and take exit 7 to Route 82 in Chester. Continue on 82 for 2.2 miles, and then turn left on to Route 154. After .4 miles, turn right onto Route 82 E. Stay on 82 for about 1.2 miles until you hit Ray Hill Road, where you’ll take a right. After another 1.2 miles, turn right onto Route 82 E. Stay on 82, and in 3.2 miles the entrance to Banningwood will be on your right. You might feel like you’re pulling into someone’s driveway, but you’re in the right spot! The parking lot will be on your left.

Banningwood Preserve consists of two trails, the 1 mile Red Trail and .7 mile Yellow Brook Trail. You can choose to just hike the red trail for a shorter hike, or add on the Yellow Trail for a larger loop (and better view of Roaring Brook!), which is the hike we chose to do. To get started, take a right out of the parking lot and head counter-clockwise on the Red Trail. The trail quickly brings you to an open meadow that previously served as a pasture or hayfield for the family who owned the land a century ago. You can tell that the trails in Banningwood were used for farming transport, as they remain wide for much of the hike. Keep going down the trail and head into the woods.

You’ll soon get your first glimpse of Roaring Brook, which runs along Banningwood’s eastern border. Roaring Brook flows all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, first moving through Whalebone Creek and Whalebone Cove to the Connecticut River. There had been some rain prior to our visit to Banningwood, so Roaring Brook lived up to its name! There is a bench alongside the river which is a perfect spot for a quick break to take in the scenery.

Continuing on the Red Trail, you’ll soon reach a fork in the road with the Red Trail continuing left and the Yellow Trail starting on the right. To complete our full 1.7 mile loop and stay near Roaring Brook, keep right with us on the Yellow Trail.

The area along this stretch of the Yellow Trail is known as the Forested Floodplain Area, and is often flooded by Roaring Brook during the springtime. While that might make things muddy for hikers at times, the damp soil as a result of these floods contributes to a thriving habitat for numerous species of wildlife.

Continue on the Yellow Trail.

There are a few small sections of Banningwood that will get your heart pumping, but don’t let this deter you! This is a great spot for beginner hikers and for those that prefer not to navigate tough terrain. The overall elevation gain for the 1.7-mile hike is just 190 feet.

Continuing on the Yellow Trail, you’ll soon come across a series of bridges. These bridges not only make it easier for hikers to cross the terrain when its flooded, but they also protect the surrounding habitat from hikers as they prevent hikers going off-trail to avoid muddy areas.

We hiked at Banningwood in mid-November, which meant that we caught the tail end of foliage season. The yellow shades in particular made for a gorgeous hike!

The Yellow Trail will eventually bring you to a large clearing, known as Diana’s Field. This is a great spot to stop for a picnic lunch with the family!

Before heading into Diana’s field, note the entrance to the Red Trail immediately to the right. This will be where you continue your hike, not to be confused with another section of the red trail on the other side of the field.

My dog, Marshmallow, posing with the Diana’s Field sign. With lightly trafficked trails, Banningwood is a great place to take your dog for some exercise!

When you’re done taking a break at Diana’s Field, continue on the red trail and enjoy the rolling hills through the forest.

When you’re done taking a break at Diana’s Field, continue on the red trail and enjoy the rolling hills through the forest.

Shortly you’ll reach Parker’s Perch, the highest point in Banningwood at 230 feet above sea level.

This was a highlight of the hike for us, as the viewing platform is unlike anything else in the area!

The viewing platform offers hikers a place to rest while taking in the views of the Lyme Hills, and on clear days, the haze of the Connecticut River to the west.

Once you’re done taking in the view, continue down the red trail to head back to your car. On the way, you’ll see an old stone quarry as well as the Honey Hill fault zone, which was created 300 million years ago. For all of the details, make sure to download the interactive trail maps linked above!

Alternative Options

  • If you’re looking for a shorter hike, you can take just the Red Trail. The loop is 1 mile, compared to the 1.7 mile loop that we did here.
  • Banningwood is close to several other preserves of the Lyme Land Trust – before this hike, we visited the Selden Creek Preserve , which is just five minutes down the road. Across the street from Selden Creek is the Brockway-Hawthorne Preserve. Check out the Lyme Land Trust for other hikes in the area – there are a ton of options that can easily be paired with your Banningwood hike!

Interested in discovering your own off the beaten path hikes?  The Connecticut Walk Book and interactive maps on www.ctwoodlands.org are excellent resources.

Other Considerations:

  • While ticks are active March to November, it never hurts to be cautious regardless of the season. 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

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