Exploring Connecticut: Rocky Neck State Park

Rocky Neck State Park is a diverse park offering both the casual beach-goer and avid hiker an excellent experience. Located in East Lyme, Connecticut, this family friendly park is most popular in the summer and autumn due to ocean swimming, camping, fishing and crabbing.

A blazing on the blue/white trail
A blazing on the blue/white trail | Source
Bride Brook from the white trail
Bride Brook from the white trail | Source
A leaf strewn rise on the red trail
A leaf strewn rise on the red trail | Source

Hiking at Rocky Neck

Rocky Neck is divided into three main sections: camping, hiking and the beach. The seven hiking trails cross the western side of the park and are accessible from the parking area and beach. Below are the three main trails:

  • Red Trail - The red trail is the longest and the only truly circular trail in the park. It is accessible from the parking lot or from the paved access road west of the lot. At times crossing the blue, white, purple and orange trails, the red trail is a nice easy hike through light forest, often with water views.
  • Blue Trail - This trail runs from the paved road near the beach to the park boundary at SR-156. It starts in a gently wooded ravine and crosses the large Shipyard Field in sight of the Stone Pavilion before ending in the woods. It connects to the red trail, offering an alternative route back. A very easy trail.
  • White Trail - The white trail is the most difficult trail in Rocky Neck with some parts of the trail doubling back through uneven, difficult rocky landscape. It offers the best view of Bride Brook and the marshlands around it, making this the ideal trail for animal and bird watchers. Of overall medium difficulty, it intersects with the blue and red trails, and offers some very easy short hikes at it's southern end, nearest the beach.

The paved roads at Rocky Neck also deserve a mention as trails. Taking an easy walk with your family from your campground to the beach will follow the paved roads, which are light on traffic if you stay off the main road from the entrance to the parking lot. To the north, fields adjacent to the park entrance are ideal for games such as frisbee. Past the parking lot on the western side, the paved roads intermingle with criss-crossing short trails that are a great introduction to hiking for kids of all ages.

The beach at Rocky Neck
The beach at Rocky Neck | Source

Camping, Swimming and Other Activities

Rocky Neck is one of the largest camping parks in Connecticut, with 161 individual campsites on the eastern side of the park. Tent and RV camping is available with on-site dumping. Water, trash, recycling and bathing facilities are on site and there is a Nature Center, basketball court and amphitheater in the camping area.

The beach at Rocky Neck is popular for swimming and sand. Lifeguards are on duty during regular business hours. A concession stand and bathing facilities are located adjacent to the parking lot and beach. Watercraft have access from a separate landing site off the western edge of the park, but not directly on the beach. Metal detecting is also permitted on the beach, although kite flying anywhere in the park is prohibited due to the close proximity of electric train wires. Make sure to read the posted rules at the beach entrance for full safety information.

Fishing and crabbing are also popular activities. The most likely crabbing site is at the bridges over Bride Brook. Families are seen there daily with nets, hoping to catch blue crabs under the bridge. Be alert for poisonous jellyfish that also live in the area and can get tangled in crab nets. Waterfowl are a common sight, as are frogs and turtles.


Crabbing at Bride Brook Bridge
Crabbing at Bride Brook Bridge | Source
Snowy Egret at Rocky Neck
Snowy Egret at Rocky Neck | Source

Directions and Hours

Rocky Neck State Park is located at 244 West Main Street, East Lyme, Connecticut. From I-95 take exit 72 to SR-156 (W. Main St.) and follow signs a quarter mile to the park.

  • Visiting hours are 8 am - sunset every day of the year. Campers will not be able to re-enter the park after close.
  • Fees are $9 for residents of CT and $15 for non-residents. On weekends and holidays they increase to $13/$22 respectively. Camping is $20/night for residents and $30 for non-residents. The Connecticut Parks season pass applies to day use only. Call (860) 739-1339 to reserve a site.
  • Leashed pets permitted only in picnic areas and trails. Pets are not allowed on the beach or campground.
  • Interpretive programs are available at the Nature Center.
  • Handicap parking is available near the beach and in the campground. Both areas are wheelchair accessible via either paved road or boardwalk.
  • Picnic shelters and pavilions are also available for rent.
  • Visit nearby Harkness Memorial, Devil's Hopyard or Hammonasset State Parks while you're in town!

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