Hiking The Menunkatuck Trail

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By H. Morrow Long (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By H. Morrow Long (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Menunkatuck Trail is the first/last leg of The New England National Scenic Trail. It extends North from Long Island Sound at Guilford Harbor to a junction with the Mattabesset Trail in North Branford. The 16 mile trail crosses through The Cockaponsett State Forest, Tiimberlands Preserve, and Nut Plains Woods. Other sections are along roads through Guilford town center. There are several good parking areas, and the trail may easily be split into three segments.

Menunkatuck Blue Blazed Trail
Menunkatuck Blue Blazed Trail

Still her gray rocks tower above the sea
That crouches at their feet, a conquered wave'
'T is a rough land of earth, and stone, and tree,
Where breathes no castled lord or cabined slave,
Where thoughts, and tongues, and hands, are bold and free,
And friends will find a welcome, foes a grave;
And where none kneel, save when to heaven they pray,
Nor even then, unless in their own way
...from Connecticut c.1820 By Fitz-Greene Halleck

Bridge along The Menunkatuck Trai
Bridge along The Menunkatuck Trail

Halleck, A native of Guilford who was born in George Washington's first term as president, captures the youthful spirit of freedom in his exalting poem: Connecticut. He is mostly accurate in his description of The Connecticut landscape as well. I will give him this credit, even though he exaggerates the still gray towers of rocks at the sea shore.

The time of his writing this foundational work of literature was a time predating photography - words alone were used to describe far away places, words and graphic images composed according to the aesthetic rules of the Renaissance Humanists.

The idea of a coastline where the contrast between the realms of earth and sea is brutal and stark. It makes for a terrifying poetic vision - emblemizing an untamed and wild land. Yet, in reality, there is a comfortable easing between the two at the Guilford shoreline. A glance at the elevation profile for the Menunkatuck Trail reveals this. Still, Halleck is not seeking to describe the geography of  Connecticut; his purpose is to describe the relationship between a place and its people.

Freedom is a topic of many poetic essays, usually penned by young men; as well, it is the irrational reason most hikers take to the trail. Hiking on a Blue Blazed trail is not just a walk in the park from which we return unchanged. Point to point hiking requires a certain kind of internal combustion. Or, perhaps a secret intention - to one day walk off - never to return again.

Choose a direction; bearing West or North or South-by-Southwest. And, when it rains it will be your rain falling on you. And when the Sun warms your back - it will be the warmth of your Sun. The real Sun, not the one written of in text books or taught about in classrooms, nor the one prayed to by long extinct civilizations.

There is a freedom when you leave behind the abstract and fabricated human world and encounter a real world laid out before your feet. With each step comes the joy of fearlessness. And, this is why in Hallecks' Connecticut, none kneel - because to kneel is to embrace fear; to kneel is to accept an other's power over your own manifestation of self. And, yet, Hallecks' early Connecticuters do kneel ... in their own way - in a sort of respect for the mysterious complexity and greatness of nature - but a respect among unshackled equals.

And, then, after walking for three or four hours, tripping over Connecticut's bounty of stones and rocks, your feet become tired and exhausted and that new-found fearlessness morphs into a hunger for a supersized McRib - and it feels so good to ease into a car seat, turn on the A.C. and crank the Top-40 - and speed off down the highway. It is a good thing The Menunkatuck is where it is - close to civilization.

Menunkatuck Blue Blazed Trail

COUNTY: New Haven

COMMUNITIES: Guilford, Madison

DISTANCE: 16.6 Miles

POINTS OF INTEREST: Long Island Sound, Guilford Green, East river Preserve, Nut Plains Woods,
Timberlands, Cockaponset State Fores

Directions and Trail Map

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Parking at Sullivan Dr: Gravel lot along a road entrance to town dump. Parking for 8 cars
Address for your GPS: 50 Sullivan Dr. Guilford CT | N41.31229, W072.67516

Parking at Highway 80: Gravel lot for 30 cars - information station for Cockaponset State Forest: Address for your GPS: 250 Old Toll Road, Guilford CT | N41.35323,W072.68488

Parking at Highway 77: Gravel Lot for 20 Cars - Information station for Mattabesset Trail.
Address for your GPS: 4450 Durham Road, Guilford CT | N41.40795, W072.69618

From Bridgeport45 Minutes
From New Haven25 Minutes
From Hartford45 Minutes
From New London45 Minutes
From Providence1.5 Hours
From New York2 Hours


The Menuntuck Trail, Guilford CT
The Menunkatuck Trail, Guilford CT

North Guilford Lake, Menunkatuck Trail
North Guilford Lake, Menunkatuck Trail

Menunkatuck Trail in The Cockaponset State Forest
Menunkatuck Trail in The Cockaponset State Forest

Reflections in a vernal pool, Menunkatuck Trail
Reflections in a vernal pool, Menunkatuck Trail

Sculptural Cairn along the Menunkatuck Trail
Sculptural Cairn along the Menunkatuck Trail

Wolf Tree along the Menunkatuck Trai
Wolf Tree along the Menunkatuck Trail
Menunkatuck Trail, Guilford CT
Menunkatuck Trail, Guilford CT

Menunkatuck Trail, Guilford CT
Menunkatuck Trail, Guilford CT

Violets on The Menunkatuck Trail
Violets on The Menunkatuck Trail