Hike the Mill River Trail to the Blue Trail at Sleeping Giant SP
Connecticut › Tower Path Trailhead
Added by Shannon Kalahan
The Sleeping Giant – two miles of traprock ridge line resembling a person napping – is a popular feature of South-Central Connecticut skyline. Although it reaches a maximum height of only 738 feet, the park offers an almost 360 degree view and many recreational activities.
Since I was a child, I’ve always enjoyed hiking the Giant. As Connecticut parks go, this terrain is some of the most challenging (and unfortunately, the most dangerous) in the state. The actual ridge is approximately 2.75 miles long by 1.75 miles wide, and offers approximately 24 miles of hiking trails, from hard, steep climbs all the way to leisurely strolls. The park also has horse friendly trails, skiing trails, fishing, bird-watching and in 2007, re-instated rock-climbing (with care, please!). There are picnic areas and some youth camping allowed with permit only.
Most days I combine several of the more difficult trails to challenge myself, if not in distance, then in rapid elevation gain. My favorite combination is the violet trail (the trailhead for the violet trail is to the left by the river from the parking lot), which follows the Mill River to the old traprock quarry cliffs and mining ruins, where you then pick up the red trail briefly on your way to the blue trail. The blue trail follows the quarry edge with steady elevation gain along open rock face. If you aren’t comfortable with rock scramble, or heights, the blue trail is not for you!
Eventually, the blue trail crosses the tower trail and you have the option to pick up an easier trail if needed. Both the tower and the blue trail lead to a stone viewing tower (“The Castle”) on the Giant’s hip. The Castle is a nice spot to take in the view on a clear day.
Most people use the tower as a turn-around point. Typically, if I still have the energy I'll do an out-and-back along some combination of the violet-red-blue trails (they all cross at different points and end in the same general area), but if I've tuckered myself out on the way up, I'll turn this into a loop instead and take the tower trail down. Think of it as a choose your own adventure!
For the ambitious hikers, the blue trail does continue along the remainder of the ridge, ending several miles away on the same road as the main entrance. The total distance for the entire blue trail is 5.1 miles. The approximate total distance for most loop options is about 3 miles.
Beyond the recreational enjoyment, the Giant is known for its unique microclimate ecosystems, which support several plant and animal species that are state-listed or globally rare. This includes some seasonal raptor species.
- Hiking poles
- Sturdy foot wear
- Water and snacks
- Trail map
- Bug spray in summer
- Other appropriate recreational gear (cross country skis or snowshoes, fishing gear, camping gear, rock climbing gear)
- Flashlight, ace bandage and emergency whistle…the Giant is known to have some dangerous terrain, with a history of accidental falls (hence the recent re-opening of rock climbing after several years of closures)
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A CT Must Do
It seems as though most people who know about Sleeping Giant State Park, have been going there for years. Having attended Quinnipiac University I wandered the trails in the park for 4 years and it never got old. Shannon is right in that there are so many different trails combinations you can put together varying in difficulty. If you are ever in the area make it a point to stop in and explore.
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