285 acre Wadsworth Falls State Park, bordered by the Coginchaug River along it's western edge, is noted for it's beautiful parkland consisting of waterfalls, laurel groves, the Wadsworth Mansion. Hikers and mountain bikers can easily access the falls via a network of well-maintained multi-use trails. The trails pass over distinctive stone arched bridges over Laurel Brook, and past foundations of houses, barns and the sluiceways of early mills and factories that once stood on the land.
Trails travel through densely wooded areas, along several meandering streams and connect the falls with the main swimming/picnicking area and other scenic sections of the park.
Take the time to cool off in the mist of Wadsworth Falls before, during or after your mountain bike ride. The impressive 30-ft high Wadsworth Falls, located on the Coginchaug River in the southwest corner of the park boasts the most impresive water flow in the state. It is accessible by bike via the orange blazed Main Trail (see trail descriptions below). There is also a level walk from the parking area on Cherry Hill Road, off Route 157, to the brink of the falls.
The pretty 15-ft high Little Falls flows over a series of stepped Brownstone ledges. Brownstone is a Triassic sandstone which was once a popular building material. The dark reddish color contrasts quite nicely with the water. More advanced riders can reach the falls via the challenging Little Falls Trail (see trail descriptions below).
Wadsworth Falls State Park Trails
This is a great place for a family bike ride, beginners and those just out for a deliciously romantic or scenic recreational cruise on mostly doubletrack trails. The easier trails are located in the northern half of the park and wind through great hemlocks, noble oaks, beech and birch trees. For intermediate and advanced mountain bikers, while there isn't much singletrack, the Laurel Brook Trail and the Little Falls Trail will whet your appetite. The blue blazed Little Falls Trail is the more challenging of the two with steep switchbacks, a rugged climb and a creek crossing. It leads to the 15-ft high Little Falls.
The versatile Wadsworth State Park Trail System offers a variety of mountain bike ride options from loop rides that lead to one or both waterfalls to challenging figure 8's around the perimeter of the park.
Two Waterfalls Loop
Trail Length: 3.4 miles
There are several mountain biking options available on this 3.4 mile ride that leads to both waterfalls and back. Begin your bike ride at the trailhead to the orange-blazed Main Trail located near the main Wadsworth Falls State Park entrance to the left of the parking area. This 1.6 mile, well-maintained trail offers an easy ride over a wide, hard-packed dirt path. It crosses a stone bridge and travels through forest and past stands of giant mountain laurels. Many of the park trails intersect the route. Stick to the main path. At 0.7 miles, where the rugged blue-blazed Little Falls Trail branches off to the right you have two ride options. Head onto the rugged Liitle Falls Trail or stay on the Main Trail. Both routes will eventually lead to Cherry Hill Road.
Main Trail to Cherry Hill Road Option
This is an easy, family-friendly option. To get to Wadsworth Falls, bear left at the junction and continue on the Main Trail. After crossing Wadsworth Brook the trail leads to Cherry Hill Road. Turn right and follow Cherry Hill Road about 700 feet until you see the parking lot for the falls. From there it's a short walk along a level path to the brink of the impressive Wadsworth Falls..
Little Falls Trail Option
Recommended for experienced mountain bikers. Bear right onto the challenging Little Falls Trail. This steep and narrow trail descends to the base of Little Falls. You can see Little Falls where the brook cascades over a series of large brownstone ledges. The trail crosses Wadsworth Brook at its lowest point and then climbs steeply back to the Main Trail. Turn right on the Orange Trail and follow it to its end at Cherry Hill Road. Follow same directions above to get to Wadsworth Falls.
Return on the Main Trail back to the ride start.
More challenging 4 mile mountain bike rides can be made by following combinations of the Laurel Brook Trail, White Birch Trail, Cedar Loop Trail, Little Falls Trail and Main Trail out to the railroad tracks. From there you can catch a trail that travels past the spectacular Wadsworth Falls.
Laurel Brook Trail
Trail Length: 0.45 miles
The Yellow blazed Laurel Brook Trail is one of the more challenging trails at Wadsworth State Park with singletrack sections and steep climbs. It follows Laurel Brook along the eastern side of the park. Steep secrions of this trail, especially narrow sections along the brook banks can be treacherous. Trail access is from the Bridge Trail or White Birch Trail.
White Birch Trail
Trail Length: 0.5 miles
The White blazed Laurel Birch Trail travels over varied terrain and derives its name from the stands of white birch trees found along the route.
Cedar Loop Trail
Trail Length: 0.45 milesThe Red blazed Cedar Loop Trail derives its name from the predominant tree along the route.
The Bridge Trail
Trail Length: 0.27 miles
The Light Blue blazed rocky and rooty Bridge Trail is fairly level and follows Laurel Brook. It is named for the brownstone bridge that was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression.
On The Town: Middletown, CT
The fertile alluvial plain of the Connecticut River Valley attracted settlers to the area. The earliest known inhabitants of what was to become Middletown were the Wangunk tribes who were affiliated with the Alogonquin nation. They lived in settlements on both sides of the river. Of these, the Mattabeseck was the name most associated with the Wangunk by early English settlers (corresponding with Middletown). The people raised maize, beans and squash, and supplemented their diets with seasonal fish and game.
Early "Puritan" English colonists arrived around 1650. They established an agricultural community and laid out the beginnings of the town on what is now Main Street. In the early 1800's, Middletown became a major port in the West Indies coastal trade. This led to a thriving shipbuilding and mercantile shipping industry. Local produce, including grain, livestock and wood products, were traded for rum, molasses and sugar coming mainly from St. Kitts, Martinique and St. Christopher. Sometimes slaves were part of the return "cargo" to Connecticut.
During this period, Middletown was a center for artisans and was well known for producing Colonial Pewter. An artisans enclave sprung up and thrived on the lower part of College Street, west of Main Street. Many of these colonial houses and shop buildings remain today; most notably the properties of notable colonial pewter makers : the house of Joseph Danforth (122-124 College Street, ca. 1787), and the shop of Thomas Danforth II (120 College Street, ca. 1759).
The decline of the West Indies trade, the continued threat of slave rebellion and economic problems eventually brought the Coastal Trade Era to a halt. Thus began the transition to a manufacturing economy. Early factories and mills sprung up and produced cotton and wool, pistols, rifles and machinery. Remnants of some this early industry such as mill sluiceways can be seen along the Coginchaug River near Wadsworth Falls.
From the earliest agricultural beginnings through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars to the Industrial Revolution, Middletown has gone through many transitions. During the Civil War, The Benjamin Douglas house located at 911 South Main Street, Middletown, CT 06457) was an important stop on the Connecticut Underground Railroad Trail System.
Today, there remains a lot of history to explore in modern Middletown, CT.
Historic Districts & Architecture: Middletown Historic District
The circa 1908 -1911 English Palladian style country house, was once the summer residence of Colonel Clarence S. Wadsworth (1871-1941), a noted scholar and his wife, Katharine Fearing. Wadsworth's passion for forestry and conservation led to a forty-year effort to preserve the natural beauty of Wadsworth Falls. The design of the property reflects his avid interest in the emerging science of forestry and conservation. The mansion was built by the New York architecture firm of Hoppin and Koen, who also architected Edith Wharton's home, "The Mount" in Lenox, MA.
After the Colonel’s death in 1941, 267 acres of estate land were donated to the State in 1942 to become Wadsworth Falls State Park. The rest was donated to the Rockfall Corporation, a non-profit organization he created whose mission was to administer, preserve and maintain the natural beauty of the park for the use and enjoyment of the public.
In 1947 and for the following 40 years, the Mansion was owned and managed as a retreat and shelter by the Sisters of the Cenacle, a Roman Catholic organization. The property was sold off peicemeal and what remained eventually fell into ruin.
The city of Middletown agreed to try to purchase what was left of the Mansion grounds, even if open space were to be it's only asset. They applied to the State Legislature for a grant and on June 30, 1994, the Long Hill Estate finally became the property of the city of Middletown.
The Wadsworth Mansion and immediate grounds underwent a complete historic rehabilitation. Today, it is the centerpeice of the Middletown, CT Historic District which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 25, 1996. The district includes the 270 acres of land which encompasses the mansion's associated outbuildings, the Middletown portion of Wadsworth State Park, the Nehemiah Hubbard House, and several barns and farmhouses along Laurel Grove Road.
The Parklands are open daily from sunrise through sunset for passive recreation and ceremonies including weddings. Walking paths including a 1.5-mile perimeter trail and an interior 0.5-mile loop trail are open to the public. The terrain is mostly flat, but the Perimeter Trail does climb to the top of Long Hill. There are also several small streams and a small pond on the property.
There is parking near the building and a larger parking area is located behind the building. The mansion can also be reached via the Purple blazed hiking trail across Laurel Grove Road.
Trail brochures detailing the history of the landscape and the Wadsworth family are available at the kiosk at the head of the driveway.
Location: 421 Wadsworth Street, Middleton, CT
Nehemiah Hubbard House
This historic 2 1/2 story "Center-Chimney Saltbox" colonial house was built in 1745. It later became the home of Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr., a prominent banker and merchant who was a 4th generation descendant of the early settlers of Middletown.
Nehemiah served as Deputy Quartermaster for Middletown during the Revolutionary War. The house remained in the Hubbard family through the nineteenth century. In 1929, the Colonel Wadsworth family restored the house. The 20th century additions were "sensitively" combined with the old. It continues to be used as a residence today.
Location: Laurel Grove and Wadsworth Street, Middleton, CT
Wadsworth Falls State Park
Phone: (860) 345-8521
State Park Website: Wadsworth Falls State Park