Haystack Mountain in Norfolk, CT has a magnificent stone fire tower that provides some of the finest views in all of Connecticut. If you love to hike for the views, then you'll have to get up there if you haven't been already. Haystack is a state park that sees quite a bit of traffic from out-of-towners and locals, alike. Summer weekends and peak fall foliage week are the most popular days but it's not hard at all to find a day where you'll have the place to yourself more or less.
The park system maintains a paved road from the park entrance to nearly the top of Haystack. However, the road seems to be closed often and I suspect that it's to keep car traffic down and encourage folks to walk or ride a bike rather than pollute the scene with fossil fuels. Even when the road is closed, the hike up to the top isn't bad at all and people of all ages who are in decent walking shape will have no problem. However, I don't want to make it seem like it's an easy hike if you're someone who hasn't hiked in a long time or aren't in the best of shape. At the end of the paved road, the trail dips into the forest and there is a short but very steep hike up to the tower. The tower has a circular stair system that winds up the 35 foot stone tower. If you're in great shape this hike is easy and if you're not in great shape it's still very doable if you take your time and rest along the way. The paved road walk is serene and quiet with tall hardwoods, a picturesque pond, and couple of decent overviews to break up the trek to the tower.
Once you reach the end of the paved road you'll notice a dirt trail heading into the woods. Those of you who are very tired at this point or not used to climbing up?...you have a decision to make. It's still a good little climb to the tower. Depending upon your conditioning, your hike could take between 15 and 30 minutes to get to the tower. Though a short distance away, it's a much steeper climb than the paved road section. This might be a good place to have a rest, eat, and fuel up for part two of the hike. But I would suggest heading back to the car if you or someone in your group is very tired and concerned about continuing on. For those continuing on, the dirt trail to the tower is clearly marked and well maintained so you won't have any problem following it. It's a little rocky in some parts so just watch your step in these sections. The dirt trail to the tower initially goes straight for a good bit and gives the impression that you may have gone the wrong way or lost the tower trail but soon you'll see that it doubles back to the left and begins to head straight up. Just keep following the trail and eventually the tower looms large and marks the end of your hike. I promise that the views will be worth the hike!
Directions: From the center of Norfolk, CT take Route 272 north and very short distance after getting on 272 is the entrance to Haystack on the left side of the road. Drive slowly as you could pass right by easily. Call ahead if you hope to drive to the top as they close the road often: Official website
Printable version of the Haystack Mountain page
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