Hiking Naugatuck State Forest & Toby’s Rock Loop in Beacon Falls, CT
Naugatuck State Forest, located in New Haven County, is a great park to explore. In this post we’re talking about the Toby’s Rock Loop, which if you’re following AllTrails takes you around Toby’s rock. But, I decided to take a detour to the top of Toby’s Rock to see what it’s all about.
This trail has a bit of everything. A river with several small waterfalls, a beautiful scenic lookout, and some moderate elevation for those looking to get their heart pumping.
I did this trail in late fall and highly recommend to go then or early spring. My opinion is that the best time to do this trail is when it’s a bit overcast or damp. Something about that weather makes this place seem magical.
Keep reading the guide below to learn what to expect when hiking Toby’s Rock Loop at Naugatuck State Forest.
Location: Beacon Falls, CT
Distance: 2.6 miles (can make longer
Time: 1.5 hours-3 hours
Cell-Phone Service: No issues
Features: Waterfalls, Toby’s Rock, Scenic Lookout
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Parking: Large dirt lot
Dog Friendly: On-leash only
Location, Parking, and Bathrooms at Naugatuck State Forest
Getting to the parking lot for this trail is fairly simple – your GPS should take you right to the entrance. But, this isn’t the type of trail you’d want to drive your pristine sports car to (you know, if you have one of those). Depending on which way you enter, the road leading to the trail is filled with bumps, gravel, and sometimes mud. Make sure your car can navigate it before heading out.
Once you get to the parking lot, it is a large dirt lot. Since I went in late fall/early winter, there had been a lot of rain and a massive puddle existed taking up at least 25% of the lot. Other than the puddle though, there were only 2 other cars here, so there should be plenty of room. If you arrive and find it’s full, there are two more lots a bit further up the road you can travel to if needed, although I’d predict that to be unlikely.
There were no bathrooms here, including no portable toilets. This may have been solely because of the time I went, but I wouldn’t count on having any available should you come to hike this trail.
Toby’s Rock Loop Trail Entrance and Path
After parking, you may be a bit confused on where to go. There is seemingly a trail entrance right off the parking lot, but this isn’t where the start of the trail is. Instead this just offers you a view of the river and trail marker with some history on it you can read.
Instead, you’ll want to walk out of the parking area back onto the road. You’ll follow the train tracks until you cross the river. Immediately after the river there is a winding trail on your right. This is the start of the trail.
It is marked with a hot pink ribbon so it should be easy to locate.
What to Expect Hiking at Naugatuck State Forest
The Toby’s Rock Loop at Naugatuck State Forest is a really great trail. If you go in late fall/winter expect it to be a bit slippery, just due to all the downed leaves and the likelihood of rain/damp conditions.
I think this has a great combination of flat areas and areas with a bit of elevation to get your heart pumping.
One thing to note is that near the waterfalls you’re walking on a narrow trail next to a drop-off. It may be a bit scary if you have a fear of heights.
I would divide the trail I hiked into three parts: the waterfalls, Toby’s Rock, and the scenic lookout. Each of these have a bit different terrain.
Additionally, while I was hiking there were off-road vehicles/ATVs present. I don’t believe these are allowed in the park, but there were clearly trails where these are found more often than others, and the Toby’s Rock Loop had some well worn paths. The riders were very respectful of hikers, but just be prepared that you may hear those sounds in the distance, occasionally.
One more section to highlight is at the end of the waterfall section. Here you’ll come to what appears to be a river crossing. You do not have to cross the river to continue on this trail (other trails can cross the river though). Instead you’ll climb up the mossy area next to the river to continue on the Toby’s Rock Trail.
Walking Alongside Several Waterfalls
When I started this trail I decided to start with the waterfall section. This means that I followed the river upstream to begin the trail.
This isn’t a trail with one massive waterfall. Instead, there are several small waterfalls that are sporadically placed alongside the trail the entire way up the river. There were some waterfalls bigger than others, but they were all beautiful. When you’re hiking by them you will be on a ledge that isn’t always accessible to the river. But, there were a few waterfalls with marked paths to hike down to the river from the trail on the ledge.
I lost count of the number of waterfall areas, but it was somewhere between 5-10. So, you’ll get lots of opportunities to see the various waterfalls at this part of the hike.
Eventually, you’ll reach a part of the trail where it will look like you need to cross the river to continue. You do not cross the river to continue on this trail. Instead there is a large moss covered rock to your left. You’ll need to climb up this rock (with your hands & feet) to continue on the trail. There are clear hand/foot holds and this is easily navigable by an upper-beginner level hiker.
Ascending Toby’s Rock
So, climbing to the top of Toby’s Rock isn’t actually a part of the Toby’s Rock Outer Loop trail. But, there are a few different trails that extend through the middle of the loop around the bottom of Toby’s Rock that allow you to ascend to the top.
I took one of these because I wanted to see what the view was like from up there and… it really wasn’t anything special. When you get to the top of the rock there aren’t any views, as trees obscure everything. It’s just a slightly more rocky area with trees around.
So, climbing to the top of Toby’s Rock is something to do if you want to get more elevation than just doing the outer loop trail, but if you’re just looking for views then it’s probably not the way to go for you.
Finally we are to the real reason I chose this trail: the scenic lookout. This lookout overlooks I-8, which by itself wouldn’t be spectacular. BUT this is the stretch of I-8 surrounded by mountains where the Naugatuck River runs alongside the highway. It’s an absolutely beautiful section of Connecticut, even with a massive highway running through it.
To get to this section you’ll come to an offshoot where you’ll hike out onto a massive rock for the lookout spot. There is some graffiti on the rocks but if you can look past that it’s a great place to perch and enjoy the view for a while before heading back to the entrance.
If you started the trail at the waterfall section, then by the time you reach the lookout you are almost done with the hike.
Other Tips to Remember
Naugatuck State Forest is a fantastic park with a lot of hiking trails. The Toby’s Rock Outer Loop gives a good diversity of landscapes, including waterfalls, Toby’s Rock, and a scenic outlook.
I’d recommend this trail in early spring or late fall/winter. Something about the overcast, dampness, and cool weather made this place magical in a way I’m not sure I would have experienced in the dead of summer.
With that said, watch the slippery leaves if it’s wet and make sure you’re wearing the proper shoes to hike in so you don’t slip.
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