The Unusual Trail of Guilford Westwoods



Split Rock Cypress, Westwoods, Guilford CT
Split Rock Cypress, Westwoods, Guilford CT
Guilford is the quintessential small town with an arts-village-type town square framing a manicured New England green. Its WestWoods Land Trust brings in mountain bikers, boulderers, hikers, and dog walkers from around the state. If Westwoods was a county fair, its Yellow Circle Trail would be the funhouse. Here is one of the most cleverly blazed hiking trails in all of New England ... delights and surprises abound. 
 




 
Each New England town, just like each medieval fairy tale, harbors within its borders an enchanted forest. The forest is an unknown and wild world. It is a disorderly world, unlike the perfect squares that define town greens. Dangers lurk in every rock crevice and shadow. Powerfully magic transformations materialize beneath each unturned leaf. Even when we are not in the forest, when we are safe at home in our beds next to open windows or rocking in chairs on the front porch, summer breezes bring us the spooky calls of the owls and the longing cries of coyotes.

Fairy tales are written for children. Their silver threads often weave characters with child-like qualities: little people, dwarves, elves, fairies, and the like. They all live in the enchanted forest. Children are especially good at navigating forests. Maybe its because they are smaller and closer to the ground. Nothing gets past them. If there is a creepie green crawling caterpillar under a leaf, they will find it. If there is a tree that seems impossibly small to climb, they will scale it like a dainty spider. If there is a stream to cross, they will hop between the rocks with the same ease that celebrities approach a red carpet. If there is a single narrow ledge that ascends a towering shear cliff-side, a child will find it as though there were giant blinking neon signs pointing the direction.

Westwoods Land Preserve in Guilford Connecticut is as close to an enchanted forest as any in New England. Even a quick look at the map will foretell a mysterious story. The landmarks are named like the features of a Harry Potter adventure: Lost Lake, Great Fallen Cliff, Indian Cave, and Plank Walk. One expects to find some miniature grablenurfs dancing in the crag between split-rock-cypress.

A 5 mile route can be taken from the Sam Hill Road parking lot along the White Circle trail to the Lost Lake vista. From the vista you can hook onto the Yellow Circle Trail - which is the star of this novella. And, just before reaching the plank walk you can loop back on the Orange Circle Trail. Depending on your level of ability and purpose this route will take from 1.5 hours to 3 hours. 

The Yellow Circle Trail is the kind of trail that I would have blazed as an 11 year old boy - when I was adept enough to climb and clamor, but young enough to see and find trails that never speak their presence to adults.

It is a wondrous trail - and perhaps on the difficult or dangerous side. Its travails are foreshadowed by its initial intersection with the white trail at Lost Lake Vista. I nearly missed it. If not for the yellow paint blazes on the rock walls and trees I would not have suspected that this was a formal or official trail at all. There are full-body, three-points-of -contact climbs at several rock slides along the trail. It goes without saying, but I will say it anyways - be careful!

The yellow trail opens up for a mile or so of comfortable climbs and run-away valley plunges. They're enough to get your heartbeat going a little bit.

But, after crossing beneath a set of power lines the trail closes in. I started to doubt the course, but there were these yellow circles with arrows pointing in a direction that seemed to lead to dead ends in high places. A switchback trail climbed a shear cliff perhaps 150ft in elevation change.

And, after that, the real fun began. Again, I doubted the direction of the trail as it lead to the face of a gigantic boulder. The arrows pointed to a small crevice. To negotiate it, I had to toss my backpack through and then sit on the ground and shimmy though. Beyond the crack was a stone interior with corridors. And, where the path exited the interior of these roofless caves, it re-turned and came back in. The yellow blazes led towards multiple dead ends where right turns revealed entrances to more corridors.

Trees growing is these chasms presented more obstacles to overcome. Surely a child would negotiate this trail with ease. But, it is also a fat man's misery.

While Westwoods does not provide the same mature level of greatness in hiking that a Blue-Blazed trail will provide, it is a fun and exhilarating playground for nature lovers. A day in Westwoods can remind a seasoned hiker why he/she started hiking in the first place. The twists and turns made me giddy. I laughed out loud at the audacity of the trails. In so many other public places these sort of challenging obstacles would be chained off or policed. At Westwoods you are welcome to explore and tramp all over, underneath, and inside every rock.

Welcome back to the enchanted forest.

Lost Lake Vista, WestWoods Land Preserve, Guilford CT
Lost Lake Vista, WestWoods Land Preserve, Guilford CT


DIRECTIONS

Address for your GPs: 1 Sam Hill Road Guilford CT
| coordinates: N41.269479,W072.69582 |
From Bridgeport45 Minutes
From New Haven25 Minutes
From Hartford1 Hour
From New London40 Minutes
From Providence1.5 Hours
From New York2 Hours




LINKS

Guilford Land Conservation Trust

Westwoods Trail Map

Guilford Green

Nearby Restaurants:

Perk on Church - Coffee House and Cafe

Sunnyside Up Cafe - Coffee House and Cafe

Nick and Tony's A Pizza - Casual Italian

Other Blog Articles on Westwoods:

A Walk Across The Giant's Article

Trailblazer Hub


PHOTOS

CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGES

Split Rock at Westwoods, Guilford CT
Split Rock at Westwoods, Guilford CT
 

Moss Tree and Rock, Westwoods, Guilford CT
Moss Tree and Rock, Westwoods, Guilford CT


Indian Cave, Orange Trail, Westwoods, Guilford CT
Indian Cave, Orange Trail, Westwoods, Guilford CT
Beginning of Yellow Trail, Westwoods, Guilford CT
 Beginning of Yellow Trail, Westwoods, Guilford CT
Yellow Trail, Westwoods, Guilford CT
Yellow Trail, Westwoods, Guilford CT
Yellow Trail through boulder, Westwoods Guilford CT
Yellow Trail through boulder, Westwoods Guilford CT
Hiking Trail Westwoods Guilford CT
Hiking Trail Westwoods Guilford CT
Hiking Yellow Trail Westwoods Guilford CT
Hiking Yellow Trail Westwoods Guilford CT
The hiking trail goes through there,  Westwoods Guilford CT
The hiking trail goes through there,  Westwoods Guilford CT

Bouldering Rock - Westwoods Guilford CT
Bouldering Rock - Westwoods Guilford CT

The Chalk marks on this rock face that remain from last year's climbing season indicate that it is a popular bouldering site.
Soft Moss, Westwoods Guilford C
Soft Moss, Westwoods Guilford CT
Panorama of Lost Lake - Westwoods Guilford CT