Located in the vicinity of Hartford, CT the Talcott Mountain Range encompasses two state parks, Penwood State Park and Talcott Mountain State Park. This long, precipitous wooded ledge with it's high point at 950 feet, provides sumptuous views of the Connecticut landscape. On a clear day it is possible to discern Mount Monadnock, eighty miles away in New Hampshire. Atop the northerly portion of the Talcott Mountain Range lies 800 acre Penwood State Park affording dizzying views from overlooks and great hiking along the exposed traprock ridges.
Tables, grills, and toilets are available for picnickers.
Penwood State Park Trail Description
When we first wrote up this review, mountain biking was an activity listed for Penwood. Times have changed and if you want to mountain bike on Talcott Mountain, the West Hartford Reservoir is the place to go.
There are a few possible hiking routes to take of varying degrees of difficulty. The majority require more endurance than technical skill due to the many ups and downs, long steady climbs along precipitous ridges and some rough and rocky terrain in places. For an easier ride, use the old asphalt roads as the basis for your loop and incorporate some of the side trails to make your hike more challenging (yellow, red and white - see trail map above for a general overview).
By no means is the following recommended loop the be all and end all. It is intended as a basic ingredient. You can add side trails that have more technical stuff for a more delicious mix.
A recommended hiking route is a loop which starts out at the entrance parking lot. At the north side of the parking lot take the left fork onto an old asphalt park maintenance road. Climb gently for a little more than half a mile. At the junction make a sharp left onto the yellow trail (single-track dirt), cross a small wooden bridge and climb steadily up onto the ridge. The ridge and the views are just fabulous. Admire the views, but watch out for roots, rocks and places where the trail comes very close to the 200 foot high cliff edges. It's a long way down and you don't want to do a face plant at the bottom from such a height.
The trail drops back down below the ridge and meets up with our old friend, the asphalt road. Head north on the road. At the junction with the WHITE TRAIL (Variation 1 - see notes below) to the left, stay to the right on the asphalt road. You'll cross the blue Metacomet (Hiking Trail) and come to a junction. The road to the left leads to the Pinnacle Tower. Stay to the right and head south (Variation 2 - see notes below) back to your starting point on the asphalt Park Road.
You can add some variety to this basic loop by:
Variation 1: Head north onto the WHITE TRAIL and continue along the ridge. The trail connects with the Orange trail to your left. It eventually becomes wider and begins a rocky descent to the northern end of the park, ending on a tar cul-de-sac. (Wintonbury Road in Simsbury). Turn around and go back the way you came, turning left at the junction below Lake Louise (asphalt road) to complete the loop.
Variation 2: When heading back to your starting point on the asphalt Park Road, turn left to go the Visitor's Center. From there head south onto a dirt trail with NO BLAZE COLOR. It becomes the single-track RED TRAIL and intersects with the paved road again near the starting point.
Running through the park is a section of the Metacomet Trail (Blue). The statewide Blue-Blazed hiking trail system is maintained by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, a private non-profit conservation organization.
Penwood State Park was donated to the state in 1944 by Curtis H. Veeder, who founded the Veeder Manufacturing Company (Gilbarco Veeder Root) in Hartford in 1895. He also invented the Cyclometer, a simple mechanical device that measured the distance you travelled by the number of bicycle wheel rotations.
This was the company's first product and patented when Veeder was only 18 years old. The slogan was "IT'S NICE TO KNOW HOW FAR YOU CAN GO" .
From 91 North or South: take Exit 35B which is the Bloomfield Route 218 exit. This road is also known as Cottage Grove Road. Follow Cottage Grove Road heading west until you hit Route 185. Follow Route 185 heading for Simsbury. At the top of the hill, the entrance to Penwood will be on your right.
From 84 East or West: take the Route 44 Exit. Follow Route 44 heading west until you hit the junction of Routes 10 and 202 in the town of Avon. Follow Route 10 north until you hit Route 185 in Simsbury. Follow Route 185 heading for Bloomfield. At the top of the hill, Penwood is on your left.
Connecticut Dept. Of Energy & Environmental Protection: https://portal.ct.gov/DEEP