Mountain biking at Bluff Point State Park and Coastal Reserve, a landscape of sand dunes, steep cliffs, tombolo beach*, tidal salt marshes, and woods is a unique experience. This is the last remaining significant piece of undeveloped land along the Connecticut coastline. Jutting out into the waters of Long Island Sound, this peninsula, measuring one and one-half miles long by one mile wide, encompasses over 800 acres.
The Park is a delightful mixture of wooded hiking and biking trails coupled with spectacular vistas of the Long Island Sound, Mumford Cove and the Pequonnock River. The area has an abundant wildlife population. Shore birds and the endangered piping plover nest in the dunes. Hawks, cottontail rabbits and white tailed deer make their home in the forested upland hills. If you ride in the early morning or evening you are likely to spot wildlife along the trails and at the edges of the forest.
There are many picnicking sites where you can stop and enjoy the views. From Bluff Point, it is possible to walk down Bluff Point Beach and the rugged Bushy Point Beach to the tombolo's (sand spit's) end at Bushy Point.
At the end of the day, this popular Park gets crowded with people looking to get in an apres-work ride. We arrived at the end of a crisp fall day a couple of hours before sunset. We were on our way back to the Big Apple after a weekend of leaf peeping while mountain biking in Rhode Island.
Bluff Point State Park Trail Connections
Several paved and natural surface bike paths extend from Bluff Point State Park to provide both on road and off road routes to adjacent Haley Farm State Park and surrounding areas. These include the G&S Trolley Line Trail, The Groton Bikeway and mountain bike trails that run along the Amtrack Railroad track.
For more information see Haley Farm State Park Mountain Bike Trails
Despite the Park's small size, there are plenty of mountain biking opportunities at Bluff Point State Park Coastal Reserve in Groton, Connecticut. There are many singletrack side trails to explore that radiate out from the main trail as well as a network of trails and roads at the southern end of the park at Bluff Point and Bushy Point. It is also possible to connect to the adjacent Haley Farm State Park bike trails to add additional miles to your ride.
You can do a 4 mile loop ride of the Peninsula on the main hard-packed, gravel double-track jeep trail. The trail runs alongside the Pequonnock River to the sound where you can access Bluff Point Beach. You will encounter some short climbs and descents, as well as technical rocky and sandy sections. A sign board, at the park entrance has a map of the area.
The trailhead begins to the left of the signboard. After pedaling a short distance, you will come to a Y fork, (the trail loops back to this point). Take the right fork.
Less than 1 mile: Pass crossover trail on left leading to the Winthrop Home site. Stay to the right.
1.5 miles: Beach entrance on the right. Ride up the trail. Pass two outhouses on the left. Another sign board is on the right. Just beyond the sign board take the trail that travels up to Bluff Point.
The trail to the bluff passes through wooded and open areas and the view opens up as you approach the bluff. When we arrived at this windswept bluff, the sun was setting. Perfect timing. Just in time to watch the ripple of color on the water. The vegetation here on the bluff is sparse and diminutive. Among the plants to be found at the headland are native beach plum, beach pea and red and white shore roses. This is lovely spot to take and break and enjoy the views.
After visiting the Bluff, continue up the trail. Another trail leads to a second overlook. The trail bends inland and becomes rougher and hillier.
2.0 miles: Across from the bench, a small trail leads to the shoreline of Mumford Cove.
2.5 miles: Come to a sign for Sunset Rock. This trail leads to a huge boulder where sunset religious services were once held.
2.8 miles: The trail climbs to the home site of Connecticut's first Governor, John Winthrop, which dates back to the early 1700s. Some of the old foundation can still be seen amongst the overgrown meadow. A side trail leads to Mumford Cove. Take the trail that says "picnic area", and it's a rocky, descent, to where it loops back to the main trail. Head back to the parking lot.
3.7 miles: Return to the parking lot after a 3.7 mile round trip. We got back in the nick of time, just before the sun sank below the horizon.
Do the loop once more, this time exploring some of the side trails you missed the first time or cross the pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks to Haley's Farm to extend your ride. Take the trail on the left at the entrance to the park to access the tracks.
Caution: This is a busy rail corridor. Watch out for passing trains!
Trail Highlights and Nearby Points of Interest
Bikes & Lighthouses: London Ledge Lighthouse
Along the way to Bluff Point there are views of Fisher's / Long Island Sound, Fishers Island and the rumoured to be haunted London Ledge Lighthouse situated in the center of Thames River estuary. Built 1906-1909, it is a rare example of a turn-of-the-century, water-bound lighthouse with a masonry, domestic design - the light sits atop a three-story eleven room brick building. It was the last remaining manned lighthouse on Long Island Sound when it was decommissioned in 1987.
The ghost, said to be a former lighthouse keeper named "Ernie", had quite an impact on those who spent time on the lighthouse. A former Coast Guardsman penned this farewell note:
“Rock of slow torture. Ernie’s domain. Hell on earth - may New London Ledge’s Light shine on forever because I’m through. I will watch it from afar while drinking a brew.”
Tours of the lighthouse are available each summer.
Website: Project Oceanology
Bikes & Breweries
Outer Light Brewing Company
Brewery and Tap Room with a local eclectic vibe. Bluff Point State Park is a favorite local hang out and mountain bike destination. They hosted their (first) park cleanup effort at Bluff Point on September 2019.
Directions: 266 Bridge St, Groton, Connecticut 06340
Bluff Point was designated a Coastal Reserve by a special act of the Connecticut legislature in 1975 to establish the area for the purpose of preserving its native ecological associations, unique faunal and floral characteristics, geological features and scenic qualities in a condition of undisturbed integrity. The long, narrow beach is a geological remnant of the continental glaciers and subsequent erosion by wind and water... an ongoing process.
*Definition: A tombolo is unusual among beach-related landforms: it forms when a belt sand and/or gravel is deposited between an island and the mainland and it extends outward from the shore, connecting with an island.
From The East: Take I-95 South to exit 88. Turn right and go to the end. Take a right turn onto Route 1. Take a left at the light onto Depot Road. Go to the end. Park in the lot.
From The West: Take I-95 North to exit 88. Turn right and go to the end. Take a right turn onto Route 1. Take a left at the light onto Depot Road. Go to the end. Park in the lot.
State Park Website: Connecticut DEEP