The 285-acre Wadsworth Falls State Park, bordered by the Cochinaug River along it's western edge is located in Middletown, Connecticut. It is noted for it's beautiful curated parkland and trails that lead to two dazzly waterfalls (Wadsworth Falls and Little Falls).
The interconnected trail system travels through densely wooded areas, along several meandering streams and connects the falls with the main swimming / picnicking area and other sections of the park including the adjacent marvelous historic Wadsworth Long Hill Estate.
Highlights and points of interest along the trails other than the falls are the picturesque views of the river, the groves of trees of almost every variety in the northeast, the distinctive moss and lichen covered stone arched bridges over Laurel Brook and foundations of houses, barns and the sluice-ways of early mills and factories that once stood on the land.
Wadsworth Falls State Park Trail Connections
Perimeter Trail - Wadsworth Long Hill Estate
Mileage / Blaze: 1.5 miles, blaze Blue, Easy / Intermediate (Walking Only).
The Perimeter Trail begins left of the entrance road of the Wadsworth Estate near its junction with Wadsworth Street at a trail kiosk. It travels along Long Hill Ridge, one of the highest points in Middletown, CT and connects to adjacent Wadsworth Falls State Park via the Laurel Grove Access Lane.
Wadsworth Falls State Park Mountain Bike Trails
Most trails are marked with small metal placards or blazing on the trees along the trails. While there isn't much in the way of singletrack, it's refreshing when you are able to bicycle to not one but two beautiful waterfalls and cool off in the mist of the falls on a hot summer day. Explore the park trails for a parade of Spring flowering trees like the Laurel and for Autumn foliage color effects – golden bronze of the American Beech, Paper Birch yellow, the copper to yellow to bright red leaves of the northeastern noble oaks, the brazen red of the Maple, the female eastern Red Cedar lush with dark blue fruit and the dark green, graceful down-sweeping branches of the Hemlock.
The Cedar Trail offers an easy alternative to the first half of the Main Trail; the Laurel Grove Brook Trail and the Little Falls Trail require some tough negotiating. The blue blazed Little Falls Trail is the more demanding of the two trails with steep switchbacks, a rugged rocky climb and a creek crossing.
Mileage / Blaze: 2 miles, blaze Orange, Easy
The Main Trail is a fairly uncomplicated mountain bike ride for beginners and those just out for a romantic or scenic recreational cruise on a well-maintained trail over a wide, packed dirt path. This is the most direct north to south mountain biking route to the big Wadsworth Falls located at the southern end of the park. Consider this trail the main park highway, it's not the trail you shred on. Hikers, families, pets on a leash and other mountain bicyclists are obstacles to watch out for. It can get crazy during the peak summer season. When crowded, use the trail to connect to other trails that lead to the waterfalls and park amenities. Options listed below.
Trails To Waterfalls - Suggested
Mileage / Blaze: 2 to 4 miles. Easy to Advanced
Start your bike ride at the trailhead to the Main Trail located near the main Wadsworth Falls State Park entrance to the left of the parking area.
Stick to the main path or not (maybe try the red blaze Cedar Trail). At 0.7 miles, at the junction where the technical and rugged blue-blazed Little Falls Trail branches off to the right you have two ride options. Head onto Little Falls Trail or stay on the Main Trail. Both routes will eventually lead to Cherry Hill Road. Which route you choose will depend on your mountain bike skill level, trail conditions and time of day or year.
Main Trail Direct to Wadsworth Falls
Bear left at the junction with the Little Falls Trail 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 walk down the ramp and across the grass.
A cement sidewalk will take you to the top of the fall. It is wheelchair accessible. Instead of taking the sidewalk, walk down the steps to the bottom of the falls. From there it's a short walk along a level path to the brink of the impressive Wadsworth Falls.
Main Trail To Little Falls
Recommended for the skillfull mountain biker "with the right stuff". This steep and narrow trail descends to the base of Little Falls. At the junction with the Main Trail, bear right onto the challenging Little Falls Trail. Soon the trail will cross a streambed of very fine grained and thinly bedded Portland Arkose sandstone. Water-flow in the stream will depend on seasonal conditions.
Continue on the Blue Trail to Little Falls. You can see Little Falls where the brook cascades over a series of large ledges. Continue to the top of the cliff. On the the downstream is a large outcrop that rises above the falls. Note the cross bedding pattern formed when the stream changed direction of flow eons ago.
Beyond the falls on the west side of the brook, a steep incline on the Little Falls Trail leads back to the main trail. Return on the Main Trail back to the ride start.
Cedar Trail to One or Two Waterfalls
Trail Length: 0.81 mile with a 0.45 mile loop option, blaze Red, Easy, Moderate
The Cedar Trail derives its name from the predominant tree along the route. Mostly level, smooth singletrack with a camel hump or two that crimps between the Main Trail and the White Birch Trail. Access from the Park entrance and turn east onto the Bridge Trail. In about 0.9 of a mile head south on the Cedar Trail.
To Wadsworth Falls: It reconnects at the Main Trail halfway point. Just before that there is 0.45 mile Cedar Loop Trail option that travels north then humps south back to the main Cedar Trail branch. The trail ends at Cherry Hill Road and from there it's easy access to Wadsworth Falls.
To Little Falls: At the junction with the White Birch Trail and Blue blaze Little Falls Trail - head west. The trail melds with a small section of the Main Trail and then continues on the challenging Blue blaze Trail to Little Falls.
Laurel Brook Trail
Trail Length: 0.45 miles, blaze Yellow, Intermediate, Advanced
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. Laurel Brook which feeds the Coginchaug River, usually flows steadily even in the summer and is subject to periodic flooding. Two foot bridges, about 730 feet apart cross over the stream.
There are many singletrack and steep sections along the banks of Laurel Brook aka "The Banks". The route can be treacherous, especially during the winter. Trail access is from the Bridge Trail or White Birch Trail.
White Birch Trail
Trail Length: 0.5 miles, blaze White, Easy
The White Birch Trail travels over varied terrain and derives its name from the stands of White Birch trees found along the route.
The Bridge Trail
Trail Length: 0.27 miles, blaze Light Blue, Easy, Moderate
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 Great Depression of the 1930's. It is bordered by moss and lichen covered stones.
Trail Highlights and Nearby Points of Interest
Crowds gather at park waterfalls seeking the purifying cool mist and thrill of the falls. Day trippers overload the falls, they want to experience them up close and take waterfall selfies, climb into the falls or the strong currents above and below the falls (not permitted). During peak season the park staff often has to turn cars away. But with the chaos can come accidents and garbage galore. The Wadsworth Falls area was designed to accommodate a small number of people at any one time for short periods. The trail conditions and crowds will vary with the season. If you can, avoid late spring and summer weekends or the busiest trails for a more "peaceful" experience.
MIDDLETOWN PRESS - Release Date - July 26, 2019
There is ample parking .... but
Wadsworth Falls & Little Falls
The impressive Wadsworth Big Falls, located on the Cochinaug River in the southwest corner of the park boasts the most powerful water flow in the state. The water-flow is more steady seasonally than it's sibling, "Little Falls". Wider than it is high, it drops over the 52-foot breadth of the river some 30 feet over a series of dark gray, orange-to brown Hampden Basalt shelves. The remains of an old dam provide a walkway out to the top of the falls.
It powered early factories and mills that produced cotton and wool, pistols, rifles and machinery. Remnants of mill sluice-ways can be seen along the Cochinaug River near Wadsworth Falls.
The pretty 15-ft high Little Falls is found along Wadsworth Brook and descends approximately 40 feet over a stepped outcrop of sandstone known as Portland Arkose. This is the famous brownstone quarried in Potland, CT that was used for the brownstone buildings at Wesleyan, around Connecticut and the brownstone buildings of New York City.
See mountain bike ride descriptions above.
Stone Arched Bridges
The stone bridges were part of the carriage road system of the Wadsworth Estate. Historic bridges like these add panache to any trail system. The larger moss and lichen covered bridge can be experienced on the blaze Purple "Bridge Trail" which runs east-west from Laurel Grove Road to connect to the Main Trail. A small brownstone bridge is found on the Laurel Grove Brook Trail.
Wadsworth Long Hill Estate
Adjacent to Wadsworth Falls State Park, nestled within the “Long Hill” in the rolling hills of western Middletown, CT, is the beautifully restored, circa 1908-1911 Beaux Arts Mansion that was once the summer residence of Colonel Clarence S. Wadsworth (1871-1941) and his wife, Katharine Fearing. The mansion is the centerpiece of an idyllic 103-acre property purchased by the city with Open Space funds. Today, it is the centerpiece of the Middletown, CT Historic District which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 25, 1996.
The landscape design of the property reflects Wadsworth's passion for the conservation of forests, parks, woodlands and wild lands. Working with the nationally renowned landscape architectural firm, the Olmsted Brothers, 500 acres of Long Hill were designed in the tradition of a working landscape.
Starting in 1900, thousands of trees and shrubs were planted to change pastures and orchards into a naturalistic woodland setting around the mansion. Dense nursery plantations were established and mature specimen trees were planted. Some pasturage was left in its natural state and open areas were set aside for a lawn tennis court, the great lawn south of the mansion, and formal gardens.
Two walking trails, the 1.5-mile Perimeter Trail borders the estate, while the 0.5-mile Olmstead Loop Trail forms an inner loop.
Website: Wadsworth Long Hill Estate
Location: 421 Wadsworth Street, Middleton, CT
Historical Note: Notable Trees - The Wadsworth Legacy
In celebration of his generosity in planting this magnificent living museum of northern U.S. forest trees for the citizens of Middletown. Created in 1909 with the Olmstead Brothers Landscape Architects, the arboretum now holds more than 200 trees of all ages, representing 56 species both native and exotic, including every large oak species native to Connecticut.
Clarence S. Wadsworth was a noted scholar, linguist, philanthropist and a dapper "tree hugger" with a handlebar mustache which he twirled around the edges. His family tree began in America in the 1600's when Joseph Wadsworth hid the charter of England in an oak tree to protect it from King James II's representatives who wanted it back. The Charter granted by King Charles II proclaimed Connecticut's right to non-colony status. This is the reason the Charter Oak is Connecticut's state symbol.
Clarence settled in Middletown, and embarked on a forty year effort to preserve the natural beauty of Wadsworth Falls. An authority on the emerging science of forestry and conservation, he had a concern for the environment far ahead of his time.
He served Middletown as a member of the town Park Board and the Planning Commission, and served in the Connecticut General Assembly as a Senator from the 33rd District. As an active conservationist, he developed the parkland adjoining Long Hill Estate and with help from the famous Olmsted Brothers firm of landscape architects, Clarence Wadsworth designed and planted the arboretum on Long Lane in Middletown to extend and enhance the approach to his Long Hill estate.
After the Colonel’s death in 1941, 267 acres of estate land were donated to the State of Connecticut 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.
The main park entrance is located on Route 157 in Middletown, near the Middlefield line. Additional parking is available for the Big Falls on Cherry Hill Road off Route 157.
State Park Website: Connecticut DEEP