Exploring Connecticut: Devil's Hopyard State Park

History and Hiking Collide in this Unusually Named State Park

Most would agree that Devil's Hopyard is an odd name for a state park, but don't let the slightly menacing tone fool you - this is one of the most majestic parks in New England. Over 860 acres of forested, rocky terrain plays host to miles of hiking trails, camping sites and the impressive Chapman Falls - which is the source of the unusual geologic formations that grant Devil's Hopyard it's name.

One of many pothole creating eddies at Devil's Hopyard
One of many pothole creating eddies at Devil's Hopyard | Source

Legend and Geology

The origin of the name "Devil's Hopyard" is something of a mystery. An early settler named Dibble might have established a brewery in the area, his name becoming mangled over time. A more likely origin is rooted in the strict religious Puritanism of early New England's settlers.

Cultures all over the world have tried to explain natural phenomena through spirituality and mysticism. From the desert-enclosed Pyramid Lake in Nevada to the salt of the Dead Sea and presence of oceanic fossils at high altitudes, religious stories offer explanations for the idiosyncrasies of the natural world. Devil's Hopyard is home to one of the world's best examples of "potholing" (and I don't mean the kind you run over with your car). These perfectly cylindrical holes are created when stones become embedded in small divets of larger rocks, such as those found at Chapman Falls. River water causes them to spin rapidly, eventually wearing away at the base stone and creating holes from only a few inches to several feet across. More rocks would catch in the larger holes, widening and deepening them. Because the process takes many years, it is not readily apparent what the source of these holes is. Therefore, the early settlers surmised the Devil had come through the area and burned holes in the ground with his hooves.

The covered bridge leads from the picnic area to the orange and blue trails
The covered bridge leads from the picnic area to the orange and blue trails | Source
A wooded glen on the orange trail
A wooded glen on the orange trail | Source
The scenic view near Devil's Oven
The scenic view near Devil's Oven | Source

Hiking at Devil's Hopyard

Hiking is the park's bread and butter. Nine different hiking trails wind through the park, of all varieties of difficulty. Below are a sample of the five main trails:

  • Orange Vista Trail - The Orange Vista trail is the most popular trail in the park and you will often encounter other hikers. It has three entrances - Helen Cone Road across from the campground, Fox Town Road just east of the bridge or across the covered bridge in the picnic area. This is one of the two long trails in the park, generally circular with spurs that extend to scenic views. Following the riverside part of the trail you will come to Devil's Oven, the best example of pothole formations in the park. The back side of the trail follows the hills and explores the deeper forest. Although long, this is one of the easier trails.
  • Blue Trail - This trail is a short circle accessible from the orange trail just beyond the covered bridge. Although it is short, it has steep up and down hills through open forest, increasing the trail to medium difficulty.
  • Green Woodcutter's Trail - The Woodcutter's Trail starts on the opposite side of the road from the main park entrance. It follows a single track through the west side of the park before opening into a circle through alternating rocky and marshy terrain. It cuts across the red trail on multiple occasions, offering an alternative to following the green trail's entrance back to the parking lot. Depending on the amount of red trail used, this path is of medium to medium-hard difficulty.
  • Red Millington Trail - The only trail to travel on both sides of the park, the Millington Trail is also the straightest. It can be accessed at either the north or south ends of the park, as well as near the picnic area. On the shorter eastern side, the trail is steep with loose dirt and rocks, but the western side is easier and flatter, taking you deep into the woods and marsh. It also connects to the yellow and green trails. This trail is medium-easy difficulty.
  • Yellow Witch Hazel Trail - The longest and hardest trail is only accessible from the red trail or a blazeless path adjacent to Mitchell Road on the south side of the park. This trail is shaped like a "Y" offering an alternative exit and entry route. Steep rolling forest and dense undergrowth lead to a rewarding vista and large pond. The yellow trail connects to the red trail and several smaller nature paths at the southern end, and is medium-hard to hard difficulty.

These trails are accessible year round, and in winter they become a destination for cross-country ski-hikers and snowshoers.

Other Activities

Aside from hiking, Devil's Hopyard has both individual and group camp sites, available for rental from mid-April through the end of September. There is a large riverside picnic area accessible via road or a short trail from the campground. Picnic tables, grills, a covered pavilion and composting toilets are provided.

The Hopyard is also famous for brook trout fishing and wildlife watching. Deer are a common spring sight along with waterfowl, frogs, turtles and even water mammals. Finally, there is Chapman Falls, the most visited part of the park. A stepped waterfall falling over 60 feet, it is accessible year round from the north parking lot, and it's roar can be heard well down stream.

Chapman Falls in summer
Chapman Falls in summer | Source

Directions and Information

Devil's Hopyard is located at 366 Hopyard Road, East Haddam, Connecticut. It is most easily reached from I-395 by exiting at CT-82 and heading west. Turn right onto Hopyard Rd. and follow the signs. Be alert of your GPS's directions when heading to the park. Many GPS devices set to shortest route will take you through unpaved one lane back roads that can be dangerous in inclement weather, and are not plowed in the winter. When in doubt, do not take these roads, especially if you are traveling in a bus or RV.

  • Devil's Hopyard is open 8am - sunset every day of the year.
  • There are no fees to visit the park. Camping incurs a nightly fee of $14 for CT residents and $24 for non-residents. Call the park for reservations at (860) 526-2336.
  • Leashed pets are allowed in picnic areas and on trails, but not in the campground. Horses are not allowed on trails.
  • Handicap parking is provided at falls parking and picnic parking. The campground, top of the falls and picnic areas are wheelchair accessible.

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Comments 4 comments

J.S.Matthew profile image

J.S.Matthew 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Beautiful photos! Makes me want to visit! I am voting this Hub Up. Great job.

JSMatthew~


kestrana profile image

kestrana 5 years ago from Virginia Author

Thanks and do go if you have the opportunity. It's a remarkable place.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

Beautiful photos - such a lovely place to visit. I was hoping for a picture of a "pothole" but yours were quite beautiful.


kestrana profile image

kestrana 5 years ago from Virginia Author

They are very difficult to take pictures of since many are underwater in the spring and summer when the river is highest.

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