Hiking the Quartz Mine at Hidden Valley Preserve
Hidden Valley Preserve is an excellent park in Connecticut. Not only is it pretty remote, it offers some really cool features you won’t find anywhere else in Connecticut. Among these include the suspension bridges, quartz mine, overlooks, and an old train tunnel.
For this hike, I’m highlighting the quartz mine and the Hidden Valley Overlook. These are easy-intensity trails and both features can be hit in a fairly short 3.0 mile loop hiking trail. This trail is great for kids because of the views and all the quartz crystals to explore at the quartz mine.
I’ve already covered the Bee Brook Trail, which will take you to the suspension bridges. These trails are easily combined if you want to cover all of the cool features in one trip.
Overview of Hidden Valley Preserve Quartz Mine Hiking Trail
Location: Washington Depot, CT
Distance: 3.0 miles
Time: 1.5-2.5 hours
Cell-Phone Service: Not great service; several spots with no service
Features: Overlook and Quartz Mine
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Dog Friendly: Dogs on leash only
Location, Parking, and Bathrooms for Hidden Valley Preserve
The parking lot on Sabbaday Lane is less of a parking lot and more of a bit of gravel on the side of the road. At best, it’ll fit 4 cars and that’s only if everyone is really great at parallel parking.
With that said, there’s rarely any cars ever at this entrance. I went hiking on a beautiful Saturday and didn’t start until around 11am. This lot was a ghost town, and even after finishing my hike there was only one other car there. So, even though it’s small it’s unlikely you’ll ever have to fight for a parking spot.
There is no bathroom here, or at any of Hidden Valley Preserve parking lots. This is a fairly short hike, so you’ll likely not need a bathroom – but if you do you’ll want to stop before arriving at the park.
There is no service at the parking area. This means you need to have downloaded a trail map and have a general idea of where you are because your GPS will not work in the parking lot (and only be very spotty while on the trails themselves).
Overview of Hiking to the Quartz Mine and Overlook at Hidden Valley Preserve
The 3.0 mile trail is a fairly easy and flat trail. When you start you’ll be on the green square trail. To get to the overlook, you’ll hike until you hit the yellow square trail and turn left. The overlook is about ~0.5 miles away from this split and you’ll come across it by just staying on the trail.
The overlook portion is out and back, so when you return back to the green square trail, you’ll follow it until you hit the quartz mine. From there, you’ll return back and there’s several ways to go. I recommend following the old railway trail next to the river.
Generally, there’s not a ton of elevation – but there is some small elevation when you climb to the overlook. This is the “hardest” part of the trail, and I’d still recommend it on the easy level, but maybe the moderate side of easy.
Hiking at Hidden Valley – the Main Features
Hidden Valley Preserve is definitely know for it’s features! It’s a great place to explore to see things you won’t be able to see in any other hiking trail. Check out my favorites below.
The quartz mine is such a fun place to visit! When you’re hiking towards it you’ll know you’re getting close because you’ll start noticing these white “rocks” covering portions of the trail. These aren’t really rocks, but are quartz crystals. The farther away from the mine you are, the smaller these crystals are, but when you make it to the mine itself they become larger (although I personally didn’t see any truly massive pieces while at the mine).
The mine itself is really just a massive rocky area, but beneath it is coated in quartz crystals. Most of these are tiny, as they’ve been broken and pushed into the dirt from hikers or other passerby. But, if you spend a little bit looking around you can find some hand-held sizes to pick up and explore.
Just remember, although these are tempting to take home, it’s always better to follow leave no trace principles and leave the crystals in the mine. Remember, take only photographs and leave only footprints.
Hidden Valley Overlook
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting too much from this overlook, mainly just due to the size of the park and because I hadn’t really seen pictures from other hikers. But, boy was I wrong. This overlook was more special than I had expected.
When you get to the overlook, the trail opens up to a circular clearing that expands the viewing area and just creates an ambiance that causes you to want to just sit and soak it in for a while. Although I went in summer, and the view was stunning, I can only imagine how gorgeous these same views would be in fall.
Luckily, this overlook is not crowded at all, as people don’t typically make the hike out to it – so if you want to just hang out here for a while (and maybe eat some lunch – it’s a fabulous place for a picnic), then you can do so for as long as you want without a lot of people stumbling upon your spot.
The railway trail is a wide, flat trail that follows the Shepaug River. It’s origins are unsurprisingly an old railway path. As it follows the river, it’s a beautiful place to hike and although this river wouldn’t be deep enough (at least in this area) to go swimming, it is good for wading. And several spots along the trail have offshoots to get closer to the river to explore or wade into the water.
For those looking to fish, you do need to have a special membership to be able to do that here. Be sure to contact the park to get more information on how and where to fish properly in the park.
This hike doesn’t pass by the suspension bridges, but I can’t really do a post about Hidden Valley without mentioning them. The suspension bridges are a destination hike and I recommend traveling there at least once if you haven’t seen them already.
If you want to combine them with this hike, you can keep going on the yellow circle trail after the overlook and you’ll eventually make your way to the Bee Brook Entrance of the park. The suspension bridges (or at least the first one) is really close to that entrance. But, you’ll need to add a couple of additional miles onto your hike if you plan to do that.
If instead, you want to split the park into two, then check out my guide Bee Brook Hike to the Suspension Bridges.
Other Tips to Remember
Hidden Valley is an excellent, remote park to visit with a lot of cool features to explore! Although it’s not a very crowded park, you may find that you’re hiking with some equestrian users, as some of the trails do allow horses. So, before heading out here make sure you know how to hike around horses and what to expect on multi-use trails.
On a good note, I don’t find this park particularly buggy, so although I do always recommend bug spray I don’t think this hike should be bad for the bugs (at least it hasn’t been when I went). All the trails are exceptionally taken care of and marked, so you’ll have no problem navigating around any trail you wish to take!
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