Hiking the Regicides Trail at West Rock Ridge State Park in Hamden, Connecticut
West Rock Ridge State Park is an expansive park covering New Haven, Hamden, Woodbridge, and even goes up into Bethany, Connecticut. There are multiple trails to choose from depending on whether you want something long, short, with mountain views, around water, etc… Also good for family friendly hikes, or hikes for the more experienced – all can be found at West Rock Ridge State Park.
This post covers the upper regicides trail loop located in Hamden, Connecticut. It’s a moderate hike, with most of the intensity at the beginning. Following the rocky and steeper start, you spend most of the hike on flat lands and seeing some incredible views.
Other than hiking, West Rock Ridge State Park allows plenty of other activities, including mountain biking, kayaking/canoeing, horseback riding and fishing.
Location: New Haven, CT and Hamden, CT
Distance: 6.5 miles
Time: 4-6 hours
Cell-Phone Service: Great – had service the entire trip
Features: Overlooks, pond, and pine-tree-lined path
Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Parking: Large lot off of Main Street in Hamden, but gets crowded and full.
Bathrooms: Yes, composting toilet
Dog Friendly: On-leash only
Location, Parking, and Bathrooms for West Rock Ridge State Park
West Rock Ridge State Park has several parking areas that access the regicides trail. The one highlighted in this post is here in Hamden, Connecticut. But if you’re looking for a longer hike you can park here or here. Also, if you’d rather start from the opposite side of the loop you can park here.
Since there are so many parking lots I’d recommend scoping out a trail map and using an all trails guide to help get you where you want to be without confusion.
For the 6.5 mile regicides trail loop beginning in Hamden, the parking lot is large but it gets full quickly due to the number of activities you can do there. Not only do several trailheads meet here, but you can also kayak or canoe at Lake Wintergreen from this entrance. There are also picnic benches for family picnics. So, come early or be prepared to wait on parking for a while.
There is a single compositing toilet at this parking lot. Because of the large parking area and the variety of people using this area for all sorts of activities, be prepared for a line. It won’t be a super long line, but there could be 1-2 people in front of you waiting to use it. However, it was a fairly clean restroom facility, if a bit smelly (composting toilet and all).
West Rock Ridge State Park Regicides Trail Entrance
From the parking lot you’ll see the large sign holding the trail map and other park notifications. From here, you’ll notice there are so many different trails accessible from this area, so where do you go to start the regicides trail??
You’ll want to walk directly past the sign and towards Lake Wintegreen. You’ll pass Lake Wintergreen and enter onto the white trail. Once you’re on the white trail it’ll quickly fork into two directions. Stay to the left to the gold trail and you’ll be headed directly towards the blue regicides trail.
From the gold trail, you’ll meet the blue regicides trail and you’ll continue along the blue regicides trail until it meets the yellow. Then you’ll follow yellow, to the mountain road, to the red and the redial take you back to the parking lot.
So – the path is parking lot – white – gold – blue – yellow – mountain rd (which is a real road) – red – parking lot.
What to Expect Hiking the Regicides Trail at West Rock Ridge State Park
The upper regicides trail loop, in my opinion, can be divided into distinct sections. Each of these sections are unique and have different intensity levels and things to see while hiking the trail.
The first section is the section you are hiking while making it to the blue trail. It’s steep and rocky and will be slower going as you make your way to the top for the upcoming overlooks.
Although the hike as a whole is rated 4.5, I’d rate this section maybe a 5.5, because it is steep while heading to the top. But, there are some really neat rock features that I really enjoyed while hiking this section of the trail. I think my favorite was the large rock that resembled a face, although the rock chair is definitely a close second.
Overlooks and Features on the Regicides Trail
Once you make it past the steeper first section you’re then onto a series of three overlooks that overlook the bordering Hamden lakes. This area is still rocky, and you do need to continue to watch your footing, but it’s more flat than the initial part of the hike.
It was a pretty cloudy day when I went, but still beautiful. I will definitely need to go back during fall, because I can imagine these colors in fall are just stunning!
At various points throughout the trail you’ll come across stone buildings and other similar ruins. I love stumbling across these on trails as it reminds me that these beautiful natural places used to be where people lived and survived.
I always try to take a moment and reflect on who these people were and their lives while exploring around these structures. Maybe they too sat in the rock chair I enjoyed earlier in the hike?
Ponds and Pine-Tree Lined Pathways on the Regicides Trail
After about mile on the red trail, you’ll come across a large pond next to a red brick building. When you see this pond, your entire hiking experience is about to completely change.
Before this pond, you are in a very wooded, rocky area moving slowly through the trail. After this area it’s pretty much a straight path to the parking lot. Although, straight, flat paths like these always feel like they’re much longer than they actually are.
But, before heading to the flat section, you should spend some time at this pond. You’ll cross a metal bridge, under which you can see water flowing over a small dam. There is a small fence at the end of the bridge that was open and allowed me to walk out on a small concrete landing to view the pond.
Here, I could see it’s expansiveness, and enjoy the view of the lily pads. If I had a bit more time it would have been nice to sit down and just enjoy the water for a bit before moving on.
Once you’re done at the pond you’ll cross a short field and Mountain Road before coming to a beautiful pine-lined trail section.
This section of the trail was my favorite. It was breathtaking – literally. And, this part went on for such a long time (around three-quarters of a mile). The beautiful pine-lined trees made for an exceptional ending to this trail.
If you only want to see this section, you can always do the trail backwards – and this part will be first!
Once the pine-lined section of the trail ends, you’ll begin on a grassier area that is still flat and fairly straight. After a short time in this section, you’ll come out at the tip of Lake Wintergreen, where you started, and need to walk back up that main path to the parking lot.
Other Tips to Remember
West Rock Ridge State Park is an expansive park, and without a map or clear sense of direction, you may get lost. We did, while doing the trail and it added nearly 1.5 miles to our intended distance. So, be sure to have a map or all trails and check it regularly so you do not get turned around.
This is a multi-use trail, so be sure to follow proper etiquette. There will be mountain bikes on the white trail that runs parallel to the regicides loop, so know how to properly interact with bikes while hiking.
The end of this trail is fairly grassy, and is a perfect place for ticks. Always do a tick check after hiking, on you and your pets.
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I maintain the trails at West Rock Ridge State Park as a volunteer. Thanks for the write-up. The Gold Trail is now blazed Blue-White, although as of July 2022, the map had not been updated. My website has all the necessary details: http://westrocktrails.blogspot.com
Hi Tom! That’s great – West Rock Ridge is one of my favorite parks, as I used to live very close to it a few years back and was always exploring the trails there. That’s definitely good to know about the gold trail – I appreciate the heads up! I gave your blog and look and it’s so informative. Really appreciate the information you have there and will be checking it before heading out that way in the future.
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