If you’re in Connecticut and enjoy nature and spending time outdoors, then this list of Connecticut parks is for you. The comprehensive list covers twenty-five of the best outdoor recreational spaces which preserve the natural beauty of the land while providing ample opportunity to partake in activities such as hiking, fishing, swimming, camping, and more. In many of the parks we’ve listed, the fun continues during the colder winter months as they also provide snowshoeing, ice fishing, and cross-country skiing. You can pick the park that’s right for you based on their facilities, no matter if you’re in the mood for a scenic picnic or a day of fly fishing on the Housatonic River.
1.Bigelow Hollow State Park
Along with the adjoining Nipmuck State Forest, Bigelow Hollow State Park offers over 9,000 acres of beautiful outdoor space which you can explore. Bigelow Hollow, on its own, was established in 1949 and only spans 516 acres. There is an 18-acre pond, miles and miles of hiking trails, and a plethora of recreational opportunities you can participate in. Amenities include designated picnicking facilities and a boat launch; this allows for boating and fishing. You can fish for native trout, pickerel, and small and largemouth bass in both the summer and the winter (ice fishing). Other activities include hiking, snowmobiling, and backcountry camping.
Address: 166 Chestnut Hill Road, Stafford Springs, Connecticut, 06076, Phone: 860-684-3430
2.Black Rock State Park
Black Rock State Park is a public recreational area that was established in 1926 and is open to the public every year during the warmer months. The state park adjoins Mattatuck State Forest and comprises 444 acres of land for visitors to explore. Much of the state park comprises large rock face, hence the name ‘Black Rock’. You can take in scenic views as you hike through the endless trails, go swimming in Black Rock Pond, go fishing for numerous species of fish, or enjoy camping in the beautiful outdoors in one of their 78 campsites.
Address: 2065 Thomaston Rd, Watertown, CT 06795, Phone: 866-283-8088
3.Campbell Falls State Park
Spanning only 102 acres, Campbell Falls State Park may be one of the smallest nature preserves and public recreation areas in the state but it is also one of the most beautiful. The state park was established in 1923 and its natural beauty has been preserved impeccably throughout the years. You can spend your time hiking, viewing an array of wildlife, stream fishing, taking stunning natural photography, and viewing the park’s namesake waterfall which cascades over 100 feet into the Whiting River. Be sure to stop by the iconic stone monument inside of the park which marks the border between Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Address: 385 Burr Mountain Road, Torrington, Connecticut, 06790, Phone: 860-482-1817
4.Chatfield Hollow State Park
Since it was established in 1949, Chatfield Hollow State Park is a 412-acre natural space that can be found right beside Cockaponset State Forest. There are several unique attractions and features in the park including the 6.67-acre Schreeder Pond, a restored water wheel, a reproduction covered bridge, Indian caves, and several other historic sites. You can spend your time picnicking, hiking the trails, mountain biking, rock climbing, swimming at the pond, and fishing for trout and other species of fish. The 825-foot Paul F. Wildermann Boardwalk is one of the best ways to cross an inland swamp and really get up close and personal when exploring your surroundings.
Address: 381 CT-80, Killingworth, CT 06419, Phone: 860-663-2030
5.Dennis Hill State Park
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Established in 1935, Dennis Hill State Park is a gorgeous public recreation area which was once the estate of Dr. Frederick Shepard Dennis. The park spans 240 acres and is now on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Amenities include designated parking, a lovely picnic area, and a web of hiking trails which will take you through all of the breathtaking scenic views in the park. One of the park’s main features is the Tamarack Lodge Bungalow, which was originally built as a summer lodge and is now a significant example of local estate architecture.
Address: 385 Burr Mountain Road, Torrington, Connecticut 06790, Phone: 860-482-1817
6.Devil's Hopyard State Park
Established in 1919, Devil’s Hopyard State Park is a public recreation area that spans nearly 1,000 acres. It is extremely popular with local residents and visitors, especially during the summer months, as there are an array of things you can see and do. Some of the activities you can partake in while exploring the state park include picnicking, hiking, bicycling, fishing, and camping. There are several attractions you should visit while visiting Devil’s Hopyard. For example, Chapman Falls is considered the principal feature of the park and displays a stunning 60-foot drop over a series of unique stone formations. Other attractions include Vista Point Cliff, Eightmile River, and three historic bridges which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Address: 366 Hopyard Rd, East Haddam, CT 06423, Phone: 860-424-3200
7.Dinosaur State Park & Arboretum
© Dinosaur State Park, Friends
Dinosaur State Park & Arboretum is an 80-acre U.S. National Natural Landmark which was established in 1968. The natural history preserve protects one of the largest dinosaur track sites in the United States. You’ll be able to see Jurassic-era fossil tracks embedded in sandstone; these date back to over 200 million years. The dinosaur tracks were discovered in 1966 and is one of the largest fossil discoveries made in the state. The site opened as a state park two years later at the same time the dinosaur trackway was honored as a Registered National Landmark. Other aspects you’ll see are a geodesic dome which encloses and preserves other dinosaur tracks, an arboretum with over 250 species of plants, and over 60 miles of hiking trails located within the park.
Address: 400 West St, Rocky Hill, CT 06067, Phone: 860-529-8423
8.Gay City State Park
Managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Gay City State Park is more than just an outdoor public recreation area. The 1,569 acre park, which borders Meshomasic State Forest, was established in 1944 and is home to deep forests, marshlands, millponds, and the historic remnants of a mill town that occupied the site during the 19th century. The village, which was named Factory Hollow, housed a sawmill, a wool mill, a paper mill, and 25 families, many of whom had the surname Gay. One of the last descendants sold the property to the state, and a year later, the state park was established. Today, visitors can partake in picnicking, swimming, hiking, pond fishing, and camping within the state park.
Address: 386 North St, Hebron, CT 06248, Phone: 860-295-9523
9.Gillette Castle State Park
Gillette Castle State Park is a wonderful outdoor space for the entire family to explore while in Connecticut. The park houses the remnants of the namesake castle, which was originally a private residence designed and commissioned by an American actor who famously portrayed Sherlock Holmes on stage, William Gillette. He lived in it from 1919 to 1937 until the state purchased it in 1943; it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1986. The park receives over 100,000 visitors annually, all of whom come to explore the park’s beautiful surroundings, visit the castle turned museum, and to enjoy the many theatrical celebrations which are hosted there throughout the year.
Address: 67 River Rd, East Haddam, CT 06423, Phone: 860-526-2336
10.Haddam Meadows State Park
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Occupying 175 acres on the west bank of the Connecticut River, Haddam Meadows State park is one of the most popular public recreation spaces in the area. You can spend your time there walking the extensive park trails which will take you through a diverse array of riverside landscapes from sand bars and marsh beaches to hardwood forests and meadow lands. There is a boat launch which allows for boating and fishing on the river, as well as several picturesque picnicking sites for a relaxing lunch. Prior to the park’s creation in 1944, it played a role in the agricultural economy of the area as well as an important shipping point.
Address: 381 Route 80, Killingworth, Connecticut, 06419, Phone: 860-663-2030
11.Hammonasset Beach State Park
If you’re traveling with family or younger visitors, then one of the best state parks to explore in Connecticut is Hammonasset Beach State Park. The park is filled with facilities and activities to make your stay more pleasant; some of these include bathrooms, showers, pavilions, picnic tables, concessions, a boardwalk, a car top boat launch, and a nature center. It is the largest beach park in the state and is filled with visitors wanting to take a refreshingly cool dip in the summer. You can choose from an array of activities such as walking the trails, bicycling, swimming, fishing, picnicking, or camping on one of their 550 grassy campsites. The nature center hosts several programs and exhibits throughout the year and can accommodate visitors of all ages and skill levels.
Address: 1288 Boston Post Rd, Madison, CT 06443, Phone: 203-245-2785
12.Harkness Memorial State Park
Harkness Memorial State Park is a botanical garden and historic preservation area which is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The 304 acre outdoor space was established in 1950, though its history goes back a lot further. One of the main features of the park is Eolia, which is a Renaissance Revival mansion that was the former summer home of philanthropists, Edward and Mary Harkness. At 220 acres, the mansion, greenhouses, and formal gardens takes up a majority of the park. You can take a tour of the stunning masterpiece, which was designed by famed New York-based architectural firm, Lord & Hewlett. Other activities also include picnicking on the grounds or enjoying shoreline fishing.
Address: 275 Great Neck Rd, Waterford, CT 06385, Phone: 860-443-5725
13.Haystack Mountain State Park
Haystack Mountain State Park offers an outdoor experience like no other, allowing you to hike the rugged trail or drive the twisting mountain road to the top. You’ll be astounded by the spectacular colors of the fall foliage and the beauty of the mountain backdrop as you explore the park. There is a 34-foot-tall observation tower within the park - Haystack Mountain Tower - and that is the primary landmark which visitors like to see. If you choose to climb to the top, you’ll see amazing views of the surroundings and the neighboring town of Canaan. The public recreation area, which was built in 1917, has a number of activities you can participate in and wildlife lovers will be amazed at the array of animals they come across which may include deer, bears, foxes, and coyotes.
385 Burr Mountain Road, Torrington, Connecticut 06790, Phone: 860-482-1817
14.Housatonic Meadows State Park
Housatonic Meadows State Park is lovely outdoor space which evoke feelings of peace and relaxation. It is extremely popular with anglers as it provides the opportunity to go fly fishing for trout and bass on the clear, cold river which runs through it. Some of the primary facilities and activities which are available at the park include an extensive hiking trail, fishing, a swimming beach, boating, and winter activities such as snowshoeing. There are 95 rustic, seasonal campsites at which you can enjoy the outdoors camping overnight and taking in the views of the tall pines on the riverbank.
Address: 59 Macedonia Brook Road, Kent, Connecticut 06757, Phone: 860-672-6772
15.Collis P. Huntington State Park
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Donated to the state of Connecticut by the renowned Huntington family, Huntington State Park is a tranquil and peaceful outdoor space to explore. There are several unique features of the park, including its array of lifelike sculptures of wolves, bears, and other wildlife. The open fields and dense woodlands give you an array of environments to hike through; much of the trails are paved and are suitable for hikers on varying skill levels. The 1,017-acre land provides opportunities for an array of outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing. The park ponds are also open to the public for fishing and canoeing. Archery-only deer hunting is available seasonally with the proper licenses.
Address: 492 Black Road Turnpike, Redding, Connecticut 06896, Phone: 203-938-2285
16.Hurd State Park
Enjoy scenic views of the Connecticut River and the thriving nature that surrounds it during your visit to Hurd State Park. The park is named after the Hurd family, a prominent family who moved to the area around 1719. It was initially started as a 150-acre patch of land purchased in 1914 and has since then grown to encompass nearly 1,000 acres. Within the public recreation area, you’ll be able to enjoy picnicking, hiking, mountain biking, boating, and camping alongside the river. It is one of only four state parks in Connecticut which will allow the opportunity for boaters to enjoy primitive camping on the river.
Address: 67 River Road, East Haddam, Connecticut 06423, Phone: 860-526-2336
17.Kent Falls State Park
Kent Falls State Park was established in 1919 and has, over the years, grown to become one of the more popular parks in the state. The park spans 307 acres and is situated within the Litchfield Hills region. One of its main features is Kent Falls, which is a series of waterfalls on a tributary of the Housatonic River. Collectively, the falls drop 250 feet, with the largest cascade dropping 70 feet into a reflecting pool. During your time at the park you’ll be able to take in the stunning scenery, which you can enjoy from the covered bridge which allows you to cross the brook and access the falls. Additional activities are picnicking, hiking, and fishing.
Address: 159 Macedonia Brook Road, Kent, Connecticut 06757, Phone: 860-927-3238
18.Kettletown State Park
Kettletown State Park is situated on the shores of the Housatonic River and is a beautiful place to spend the day outdoors with the entire family. The park was established in 1950 and stretches out to almost 600 acres. It is managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and each season they add an array of activities that visitors can participate in. During the summer you can enjoy a leisurely picnic and take in the surrounding views or go swimming and fishing in the park’s lake. Other activities you can participate in also include hiking and camping throughout the stunning state park.
Address: 492 Black Rock Turnpike, Redding, Connecticut 06896, Phone: 203-938-2285
19.Millers Pond State Park
Millers Pond State Park is a scenic and quiet park at which you can enjoy the outdoors while in Connecticut. There’s an easy, flat trail for visitors to walk on, circle the lake, and take in the stunning views that surround them. You’ll be surrounded by lush greenery, wooded forests, and wonderful rock outcrops which can’t be seen in many other places in the state. Activities that are available at the park include taking a boat ride on the scenic lake, going for a swim at the park’s beach, or fishing from the several platforms that are scattered throughout the park. Anglers will be able to catch smallmouth bass, trout, and several other species of fish from the lake.
Address: 381 Route 80, Killingworth, Connecticut 06419, Phone: 860-663-2030
20.Mount Tom State Park
Mount Tom State Park is one of the oldest parks in the system, having been established in 1915. The park spans 231 and is filled with a number of amenities and features for visitors to enjoy. Mount Tom Tower is one of the more iconic landmarks in the park; it was built in 1921 and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The permanent observation tower stands at 34 feet high and is 15 feet in diameter. Visitors are able to climb to the very top, from which they can see the Catskills in New York and Mount Everett in Massachusetts on a clear day. Activities you can partake in at the park include hiking on a mile-long loop trail, picnicking, fishing, swimming, and canoeing on the 56-acre Mount Tom Pond.
Address: 30 Lake Waramaug Road, New Preston, Connecticut 06777, Phone: 860-868-2592
21.Penwood State Park
Open throughout the year, Penwood State Park is an 800-acre natural space that is perfect for the entire family. The public recreation area was established in 1944, spans 787 acres, and is located on the end of Talcott Mountain. The history of the state park dates back to 1944 when industrialist, inventor, and outdoors person, Curtis H. Veeder donated the land to the state so that it would be kept in a natural state for nature lovers to enjoy for many years to come. He blazed many of the original trails in the park which people can still hike through today. The Metacomet Trail is a popular option and runs through the entire length of the park.
Address: 57 Gun Mill Road, Bloomfield, Connecticut 06002, Phone: 860-242-1158
22.Quinnipiac River State Park
© Christian Hinkle/stock.adobe.com
Quinnipiac River State Park is a public recreation area that was established in 1948. The park spans 323 acres and houses over four miles of the Quinnipiac Trail which can be used for hiking and mountain biking. The park also protects six miles of the Quinnipiac River, a beautiful river that flows through Plainville, Cheshire, and Yalesville, into the New Haven Harbor. In addition to hiking and mountain biking, you can also spend your time at the park canoeing and fishing. Hunting is permitted seasonally in certain areas of the park and is only available to visitors with valid licenses.
Address: 200 Mount Carmel Avenue, Hamden, Connecticut 06518, Phone: 203-789-7498
23.Rocky Neck State Park
Rocky Neck State Park is a marvelous outdoor space which comprises several unique aspects such as a diverse trail system, a gently sloping beach, and a large stone pavilion perfect for summer barbecues and family get-togethers. Ornithology aficionados will love exploring the area as they come across cranes, herons, hawks, and several other residential and migratory species of birds. The park is ideal for families with younger kids; you can spend your time hiking, swimming, fishing, crabbing, snowshoeing, or seasonal camping in their 160 wooded or open sites. If you choose to go fishing, come prepared to catch an array of striped bass, mackerel, flounder, blackfish, and more.
Address: 244 W Main St, Niantic, CT 06357, Phone: 860-739-5471
24.Sherwood Island State Park
Connecticut’s first designated state park, Sherwood Island State Park continues to be one of its finest. There is so much for visitors of all ages to explore and do while there. Popular activities include swimming in the Long Island Sound, having a leisurely picnic in the shade of the designated picnic grove, or viewing interesting marsh like from the observation platform at Sherwood Island. In addition to the beautiful beaches, shelters, and picnic areas, you’ll also come across more interesting aspects in the park such as a model airplane runway, distinctive red and black sand influenced by garnet and magnetite in the area, and gorgeous rock outcrops.
Address: Sherwood Island Connector, Westport, CT 06880, Phone: 203-226-6983
25.Wadsworth Falls State Park
Spend a warm summer day in Connecticut hiking or biking on varied trails or cooling off in the mist of a waterfall at Wadsworth Falls State Park. The preserved natural area and public recreation space spans 285 acres and is one of the most popular outdoor sites in the area. In addition to hiking or biking on the extensive trails or exploring the namesake waterfall, you can spend your time there picnicking, swimming, and fishing. The swimming area is a pond which is open seasonally and supervised by lifeguards. The main feature, Wadsworth Big Falls, is a waterfall with a 52-foot drop off of Coginchaug River, while a smaller Wadsworth Little Falls has a 40-foot drop over Wadsworth Brook.
Address: 381 Route 80, Killingworth, Connecticut 06419, Phone: 860-663-2030
25 Best Connecticut State & National Parks
- Bigelow Hollow State Park, Photo: Jennifer/stock.adobe.com
- Black Rock State Park, Photo: Dan/stock.adobe.com
- Campbell Falls State Park, Photo: duke2015/stock.adobe.com
- Chatfield Hollow State Park, Photo: hookmedia/stock.adobe.com
- Dennis Hill State Park, Photo: Sandra Cunningham/stock.adobe.com
- Devil's Hopyard State Park, Photo: Vinoverde/stock.adobe.com
- Dinosaur State Park & Arboretum, Photo: Dinosaur State Park, Friends
- Gay City State Park, Photo: duke2015/stock.adobe.com
- Gillette Castle State Park, Photo: jgorzynik/stock.adobe.com
- Haddam Meadows State Park, Photo: Anette Andersen/stock.adobe.com
- Hammonasset Beach State Park, Photo: duke2015/stock.adobe.com
- Harkness Memorial State Park, Photo: duke2015/stock.adobe.com
- Haystack Mountain State Park, Photo: xalanx/stock.adobe.com
- Housatonic Meadows State Park, Photo: Cliff/stock.adobe.com
- Collis P. Huntington State Park, Photo: Elizabeth C. Waters/stock.adobe.com
- Hurd State Park, Photo: vovan/stock.adobe.com
- Kent Falls State Park, Photo: duke2015/stock.adobe.com
- Kettletown State Park, Photo: Rich/stock.adobe.com
- Millers Pond State Park, Photo: xmagics/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Tom State Park, Photo: bernardbodo/stock.adobe.com
- Penwood State Park, Photo: duke2015/stock.adobe.com
- Quinnipiac River State Park, Photo: Christian Hinkle/stock.adobe.com
- Rocky Neck State Park, Photo: ablokhin/stock.adobe.com
- Sherwood Island State Park, Photo: ericurquhart/stock.adobe.com
- Wadsworth Falls State Park, Photo: Jennifer/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Jennifer/stock.adobe.com