Hiking the Horse Guard State Park Overlook Trail in Avon, CT
Horse Guard state park is a tiny local park located in Hartford County, but it sure does pack a big punch with it’s view. One of my favorite views of the entire year comes from just a 1.2 mile (total – out and back) hike to this lookout located in Avon, CT.
The land at Horse Guard state park is a 105 acre reserve purchased in CT in 1964. The history of the area goes back to 1766, when it was purchased by Lucy Derrin. She built a house on the property that still stands today near the entrance of the trail.
There aren’t a lot of trails here, and really the one that most people use is the short 0.6 mile one up to the scenic view. With that said, be prepared for some mud. Maybe it was that I went hiking here in Fall, a notoriously rainy season. But, I stepped into a mud pit more than once on this hike.
If you’re looking to get to this view (especially in fall), check out the guide below!
Location: Avon, CT
Distance: 1.2 miles (0.6 to the summit)
Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour
Cell-Phone Service: No issues
Features: Scenic lookout
Hours: None listed, but sunrise to sunset is a good guide
Parking: Small gravel lot
Dog Friendly: unclear, no rules listed
Location, Parking, and Bathrooms at Horse Guard State park
Horse Guard State Park is located in Avon, CT. It’s one of those small parks that you’ll come across, seemingly out of no where, while driving down the road. The entrance sort of springs up on you.
However, the entrance isn’t far away from more populated areas and its fairly close to restaurants and stores. As it’s such a short hike, I’d recommend combining this hike with some other errands, shopping, or eating at some of the local establishments.
Horse Guard State Park is easy to find using these coordinates. Once you turn into the lot, you’ll notice it’s fairly small. But, since it’s not a super popular park, I do feel that the parking areas are adequate to the number of visitors.
There are no bathrooms (including no portable toilets). Be prepared, but worst case you are close to local establishments some of which are sure to have a public restroom.
Horse Guard State Park Trail Entrance and Path
After parking there will be the red Derrin house across the field in front of you and then only one trail entrance directly to the right. At the start of the trail there is a little trail map and write up on the history of the area.
I did this trail in fall and so you can see the trail is covered in leaves. Sometimes when leaves cover the trail it can be difficult to identify where you’re supposed to go – especially if the trail is small or windy.
The trails at Horse Guard State Park aren’t small or windy – they’re large, wide, and easily navigable even with lots of leaf cover.
Additionally, this trail follows white blazes. Along the entire trail (including at the rock scramble) the white blazes are easily identifiable and followed.
What to Expect Hiking at Horse Guard State Park
This trail is short – and most of it consists of these wide open trails. There is a slow incline until you get to the rock scramble (where the incline substantially increases).
Again, no worries about getting lost on this trail. There really is only one way to go and it’s easily marked the entire way.
However, there is one thing to consider when hiking these trails: the mud.
I hiked at Horse Guard State Park in fall, and after it had spent the better part of the week raining. So, my experience may not be how the trail is at other, less rainy times of the year.
Despite that though – the entire first 0.3 miles of the trail was just mud bogs. I was in my hiking boots and a few times I tested how deep it was. Let’s just say I submerged my feet multiple times.
These muddy areas also weren’t the easiest to navigate around.
Without clear route arounds you are forced to make your own way around – and at best it’s just slightly less muddy then these bogs. Not the best or funnest hike I’ve done – but also not entirely unnavigable. Just be aware of the mud and be prepared with proper footwear and you will be fine.
Rock Scramble Up to Scenic Lookout
After you make it past the muddy areas you’ll quickly come across a rock structure, for which you’ll need to hike straight up for the views.
Depending on your level of hiking and experience with rock scrambles, you may view this rock scramble in a variety of different ways. I would say that it was on the easier side of medium. It did have about 500 ft of elevation in only 0.2 miles – so in that way it was definitely moderate.
But, it is clearly labeled, so you know where to go – and really because it is a fairly narrow area even if it wasn’t labeled you’d probably be able to figure it out.
Since this is an out-and-back trail – when you go up you will need to eventually come down. This could be challenging for those who are scared of heights – but I always find it easiest just to go back down places like these on my butt. Much less scary.
After the rock scramble though, you’ll walk a short, narrow trail all the way to the lookout point. This point is absolutely stunning.
Really though, there are two lookouts – the first one, and then the second one a little ways down. I found the second view point prettier (mainly because of the colors) BUT there was a lot of graffiti on the rocks in this area that took away a little from the beauty around me from the view.
Clearly, this doesn’t abide by leave no trace principles and it’s disappointing to see such disregard for the natural environment. But, I did my best to look past it and just truly take in the sight before me: Avon Connecticut in all of it’s fall-color glory!
Once I got my fill of these beautiful colors, I just turned around and headed back the way I came in. It was easy to get back (minus the slower speed going down the rock scrambles).
Funnily enough navigating the mud bogs on the way back was an entirely different beast than on the way out. I just couldn’t find the same walk arounds again. But, I made it back a different way and was able to thoroughly enjoy the trip to Horse Guard State Park.
Other Tips to Remember
Horse Guard State Park is a small local park with an incredible view! It’s short distance and scenic lookout make it a great place to visit for everyone – including beginner hikers.
Be prepared for the mud though. Proper footwear is absolutely essential for this trail – both to keep your feet clean and dry but also to navigate the rock scramble both up and down to the lookout.
Other than that – just enjoy your trip! Since it’s such a short hike, you may be able to stop by other Avon hiking areas – or just take some time in town to take in all Avon has to offer.
Looking for similar hikes? Check out Kent Falls, or Dover Stone Church both great for families, and have short distances and some beautiful sights.
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