Hiking Quinnipiac River State Park

The Qunnipiac Trail - Quinnipiac River State Park
The Qunnipiac Trail - Quinnipiac River State Park

Every trail has its challenges. The first section of the Quinnipiac Blue Blazed trail is 4-5 miles of difficult stream crossings and hacking through dense underbrush. The Quinnipiac is the original Blue Blazed Trail. The complete trail is 24 miles and travels from North Haven to Cheshire.

Along its way it passes through two State Parks: The Quinnipiac River State Park and Sleeping Giant State Park. Section 1 is contained within the former. The elevation is constant; so the challenge is not in the climbs. But, because the entire length of Section 1 lies with in a flood plain, the geography of the river changes so frequently that it becomes difficult to provide bridges to cross streams and oxbows.

The vegetation here is rapid growing and weedy. If it is not hacked clean weekly the path becomes overgrown with thorny thistles. Your best bet for completing this section is to go in high winter; particularly after a week of deep freeze when streams are frozen and able to be crossed. A summer hike here is a battle against undergrowth, mosquitoes, and flies.

The Quinnipiac Blue Blazed Trail
The Quinnipiac Blue Blazed Trail
I was planning an unremarkable hike. Having loafed around for a couple months I thought I would start out easy in 2014. I chose a section of trail which had no elevation change. My 8 mile out and back took 3.5 hours - an hour and a half beyond what I had planned. Nonetheless, I am glad to have tackled this section in winter when the blue blazes were clearly visible in the distance. At least I knew where I was going. The only problem was that getting from one blaze to the next required ducking, crawling, untangling, and tracking far off the trail to find a reasonable path forward.

The scenery isn't without its beauty. But, this place is essentially some left over land from when Route 15 was originally constructed. Freeway noise is dominating. And, liter has piled up where pooling flood waters receded and left it. So, this state park does have a particular feel - similar to a sewage ditch.

As to the challenges of making forward progress on this section, I have some recommendations. Being an Eagle Scout and an aspiring cross country hiker I don't often recommend blazing your own trails. The whole concept of leave no-trace-goes to hell when you start building your own personal way through. But, look around yourself ... this isn't exactly pristine wilderness. If you bring a machete and hack your way through you will be doing a favor to the next hiker, and you won't in any way be endangering the wildlife - it will grow back before you can turn around.

Logjam Bridge Across Stream
Logjam Bridge Across Stream
At one of the stream crossings I had a choice. I could strip my pants off and wade through (nightmares from a scene from Stand by Me encourage me not to); I could build a logjam bridge; or I could turn back. I chose to build a logjam which took about 30 minutes. I started by infilling with thin branches, then plopped heavier logs on top. The logs sort of floated on top of the branches. I used both my trekking poles to shift my weight onto as I crossed between each floating log which shifted beneath my footsteps. After fording across I found the perfect sized log and completed the bridge for my return.

Here is my advice to CPFA on bridge building. The typical CPFA bridge starts on the bank edge. These bridges easily wash away. You have to extend the bridge about 10' on each side of the bank to prevent it from washing out. The other issue here is that the water level clearly rises high above the ground. You need to get your bridge off the ground in these conditions. A simple lashed rope bridge achieves this height; you suspend it between two anchor tripods build with local logs. Even a single rope suspended overhead would be helpful, as a good hiker could shimmy across it.
But, alas, even if good bridges were built, the geography changes so frequently that new bridges would have to be built annually. 

Notwithstanding the challenges of this course, it is a stimulating route. You have to have a sense adventure if you plan on hiking every mile of Blue Blazed Trail.

The Quinnipiac River State Park - Quinnipiac Blue Blazed Trail
The Quinnipiac River State Park - Quinnipiac Blue Blazed Trail

Quinnipiac Trail

COUNTY: New Haven
COMMUNITIES: North Haven, Wallingford, Hamden, Bethany, Prospect, Chesire
POINTS OF INTEREST: Quinnipiac River State Park, Pine Brook, Sleeping Giant State Park, Mt Carmel, Giants Chin, RockyTop, York Mountain, Roaring Brook Falls, Mount Sanford

Quinnipiac Trail - Section 1 Trail Map

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Address for your GPS: 4 Banton Road, North Haven
| Coordinates: N41.397896,W072.868707 |
From Bridgeport25 Minutes
From New Haven15 Minutes
From Hartford30 Minutes
From New London1 hour
From Providence2 Hours
From New York1.5 Hours