Exploring Connecticut: Chatfield Hollow State Park
Remnants of the Past
Once a popular fishing site for Native Americans, and later home to a number of mills and a CCC building project, Chatfield Hollow State Park's grounds offer a glimpse into these past lives. You can also wander easy or difficult hiking trails, picnic on the grounds, swim in the pond or fish for trout at this park located in southern Connecticut.
Before colonists came to Connecticut, Chatfield Hollow was a popular site for Native Americans. They hunted and fished in the stream, and used natural caves in the rock outcroppings for shelter and meetings. Today the caves are covered with graffiti but still open to visitors.
Once settlers moved into the area, the Chatfield family built a gristmill here. There is also evidence of an iron smelting operation in the area. Today, all that remains of it's industrial history are chunks of random worked stone and foundations. A restored water wheel and replica covered bridge have also been installed.
In 1934, the Civilian Conservation Corps built a dam, creating Schreeder Pond. A fish ladder was installed for trout, which is still plentiful in season. In 1943, the Hollow was declared a state park.
Activities at the Park
Chatfield Hollow has no campground, but it has most other activities you would expect at a state park. Swimming is available on the east bank of Schreeder Park, where there is also a sand beach. The Hollow is very popular for picnics and can accommodate very large groups. Most picnic tables come with a grill or barbecue pit. Multiple onsite shower and toilet buildings are conveniently placed to both.
Chatfield also boasts pond and stream fishing. It is one of Connecticut's official trout parks and is stocked weekly with trout from the state hatcheries. The north pond of the park is the most popular place for fishers with easy access from parking and picnic areas.
Finally, what park is complete without hiking? Chatfield Hollow has numerous paved roads and trails of varying difficulty. If you want an easy walk in the woods, follow the main park road or gravel Buck road. Otherwise, choose one of the following:
- Paul Wilderman Boardwalk - A short boardwalk through the southern marshy end of the park. This path is handicap friendly although most easily accessed from the east parking lot.
- Purple Covered Bridge Trail - A fairly short trail from the beach to the bridge, it contains a large stone staircase.
- Yellow Nature Trail - A very short trail from one picnic site to the other near the park entrance. This trail is great for small kids.
- White Lookout Trail - This mile long loop trail runs through woods with some ups and downs. It also connects one side of the park to the other. It's the only trail option to reach the blue and green trails (technically inside Cockaponset State Forest but closer to Chatfield Hollow). Otherwise you'll need to take Buck road.
- Green Chimney Trail - This is another mile long loop, in neighboring Cockaponset State Forest. Foundations and chimneys can be found here.
- Blue West Crest Trail - Connecting the middle and north ends of the west side of the park, this trail diverts from the stream to run atop a low ridge through woods of hickory and oak.
- Green Caves Trail - This trail is very short but to access the caves requires medium-easy bouldering up to them. To walk around the boulders ventures into some swampy ground. Beware the abundant broken bottle glass on the ground. For added difficulty follow the southern spur up above the caves.
- Red Ridge Trail - When they say ridge, they mean ridge and over a mile of it! This trail frequently consists of broken rocks and crevasses, winding some 200 feet up into the forest and down again. Some easy bouldering is required. If you start at the north end, coming down the log stairs at the end is a sweet relief. As we were making our way along it, my husband noted that it seems like the red trail is always the hardest, no matter where you go and this is no exception.
- Blue East Woods Trail - Another trail technically in Cockaponset, this three mile loop trail will take you up, down and around a variety of terrain.
- Orange Deep Woods Trail - The other trail on the west side of the park, it runs the entire length of the park, about 2 and a half miles of deep woods and ridge hiking. Add the easier orange/white spur Pond Trail for another mile of exercise.
Directions and Hours
Chatfield Hollow State Park is located in Killingworth, CT. From I-95 take exit 63 and follow Route 81 north to Route 80 west. Park entrance is on the right hand side.
- Open sunrise to sunset, late April through October.
- Leashed pets allowed except on beaches. Horses allowed on paved and gravel roads.
- Handicap parking available. Beach area, most picnic areas and some nature areas are handicap accessible.
- Picnic shelter rental available.
- Parking fees every day. On weekends and holidays. $9/resident and $15/non-resident of Connecticut. Weekdays are $6/$10 respectively.
- Visit nearby Cockaponset Forest, Gillette Castle State Park or Hammonasset State Park while you're in town!