Hiking the Bee Brook Loop at Hidden Valley Preserve in CT
Hidden Valley Preserve is one of the most well-known parks by locals. This is because not only is it remote, but it’s also incredibly kid-friendly and has some amazing sites that you don’t get at other parks.
There are some pretty beautiful views you can spot here, if you know where to go – but generally this isn’t what people hike here for. No, there are two main attractions you can visit at Hidden Valley Preserve: The Quartz Mine and the Thoreau Suspension Bridge.
This guide covers only the white circle trail, which takes you to the suspension bridge. If you want more information on the hike to the quartz mine, check my guide out here.
So, if you’re looking to visit the large suspension bridge, covered in Thoreu quotes – then keep reading to get the full guide to this hike!
Location: Washington Depot, CT
Distance: 2.1 miles
Time: 1.5-2.5 hours
Cell-Phone Service: Very little. Spotty at best
Features: Suspension Bridge, Wooden Bridges
Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Parking: Small dirt lot available off of the road
Dog Friendly: On-leash only
Location, Parking, and Bathrooms at Hidden Valley Preserve
Hidden Valley Preserve has a well marked trail entrance, even if the parking lot is just a road-side gravel lot. It’s easy to find just using google maps, but you should know that cell service isn’t great out here. So, have a general idea of the directions before you get there, lose service, and get a bit turned around.
The parking lot is a regular off-road lot. Not too large, but also not incredibly tiny. It can fit around a dozen or so cars, and when I went on a weekend afternoon there were plenty of spots available. I can imagine, though, that around certain holidays or events this place could get very crowded – so plan ahead.
As this is an off-road parking lot, there are no bathrooms (not even portable toilets). You’ll need to prepare for this, especially if you’re planning on hiking with kids.
Hidden Valley Preserve Map, Trail Entrance, and Path
Once you park, the entrance is immediately off the lot, with a large trail sign with park map showing you’re in the right place. You’ll take a large wooden bridge across and enter immediately onto the trail.
There are a couple of different trails that start at this lot, but they are all well marked, so you should be able to find your way easily. If not, come prepared with an all-trails downloaded map of the Bee Brook Loop to help guide your way.
I’ve added the trail map here, and for the suspension bridge loop (also known as the bee brook loop) you’ll want to follow the white-dot trail.
Clockwise or counterclockwise doesn’t really matter in this case. I chose to take the counterclockwise approach as it lead me to the suspension bridge first.
If 2.1 miles doesn’t seem like enough for you, there are plenty of other trails to choose from while in Hidden Valley Preserve in order to lengthen your hike. All the trails are very well marked, so plan your trip for however long you’d like to visit.
What to Expect Hiking at Hidden Valley Preserve
Once you get started on the white dot trail, you’ll come across the Thoreau suspension bridge very quickly (if going counterclockwise). It’s definitely the first highlight you come to, and if you’re hiking with young kids is great for getting you to a cool feature early in the hike.
There is a wooden path that you use to enter onto the bridge. This curves around before you actually start crossing the water.
Now, I know it’s tempting to just stay looking at the bridge. First, it’s such a cool structure and since it wobbles a little while you walk it’s neat to just feel the movement as you walk across.
But you’re going to want to look up and around.
The reasoning for this is two-fold. First, the views from the bridge are absolutely incredible. You don’t want to miss those, especially on a sunny day with the blue sky and clouds reflecting against the water.
Secondly, the bridge gets it’s name from the Thoreau quotes lining both the bridge handrails AND a bench at the end of the trail.
The Thoreau quotes make you stop to reflect the beautiful environment around you and remind you why it’s so important to get out into nature. Reflecting on these beautiful quotes help to center yourself (or maybe just entertain your kids) while on this hike.
After enjoying the bridge and its quotes, you can continue on your way. The second bridge you’ll come to is a wooden bridge. It too has incredible views, but doesn’t have the Thoreau quotes like the suspension bridge.
After the second bridge, though, there aren’t any specific sites to visit or that stand out. It will get steep for a short while, with a switchback immediately after this bridge. But then you casually stroll down the hill the rest of the way back to the car while enjoying the woods.
Hiking the other trails at Hidden Valley Preserve
As stated before, Hidden Valley Preserve has several hiking trails to choose from. This guide highlighted the Bee Brook Loop which takes you to the Thoreau suspension bridge. However, the other well-known trail here is the quartz mine trail which takes you to an 1800s quartz mine. Lots of crystals here, if that your thing. So, if you want to continue exploring Hidden Valley Preserve add this trail, or one of the other trails, into your planned hike and enjoy more of what Hidden Valley Preserve has to offer!
Other Tips to Remember
Hidden Valley Preserve is a popular park with some really interesting and unique trails. The Thoreau suspension bridge located on the Bee Brook Loop is a big hit for kids and adults alike.
While you’re out there remember to follow the principals of leave no trace, and general hiking etiquette as you explore the trails.
Otherwise, have fun! It’s a great preserve for the entire family – so I hope you enjoy it!
Looking for similar hikes? Check out Kent Falls, or Dover Stone Church both close by.
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