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Exploring Connecticut: Gay City State Park
A Gem of a Park in the Heart of Connecticut
Let's get the snickering out of the way and acknowledge that yes, Gay City State Park was named in a different era. Once that's over we can begin to explore this absolutely beautiful park located in Hebron, Connecticut. It has everything a state park could want - camping, hiking, swimming and a little bit of local history. Although I've only been there in the summer, this is a year-round access park. With New England's reputation for fall foliage, one can easily imagine it's splendor in autumn.
What's in a Name?
Gay City, Connecticut was settled in the late 1700s by a religious sect led by Elijah Andrus and Rev. Henry Sumner. The Gay family made up approximately 25% of the town, and when they selected a name for the town that sprung up around their mill business it was only appropriate to name the city after it's most prominent family. The town's success fluctuated during the War of 1812 through the Civil War, when many of it's young residents left to find urban jobs or were killed in active service. Nature reclaimed the land and in 1944 the state created a park around it. Today only a few foundations, cellar holes and gravestones remain to indicate it's forgotten past.
Activities at the Park
A variety of activities are available at Gay City, most notably swimming, hiking and group camping. Fishing, biking and picnicking are also popular.
Swimming is available in the main pond, inside the roped area. A sand beach is adjacent, and also a large picnic area and restrooms. No boats are allowed in the park.
Camping is for youth groups only, such as Boy and Girl Scouts, church groups and 4-H. Reservations can be made with the DEP by calling 860-454-3200.
There are five main hiking trails in Gay City State Park. Hiking difficulty of all trails is easy to moderate.
- The White Trail runs from the beach area spur south to the Old Mill Site or north and around the pond, terminating near the entrance to the park.
- The Red Trail is the giant loop trail. Almost 5 miles long in it's entirety, it overlaps with all other trails at one point or another. It's also the roughest and most strenuous of trails.
- The Orange Trail is a small connector trail between white and red trails, offering access to the north end of the park while avoiding some of the most strenuous parts of the red trail.
- The Blue Trail is an east-west bisector trail running from the paved road to the west edge of the park and into nearby Blackledge Falls Park.
- The Yellow Trail is a wide, easy trail connecting the blue to the red trail's southern edge, offering access to the southern edge of the park without the length and difficulty of the red trail.
Directions and Hours
Gay City State Park is located just north of the intersection between SR-85 and SR-66 in Hebron, CT. Unfortunately it doesn't have an exact address but we did find it in our GPS, which then took us past the park entrance, so once you get within a few miles, trust your eyes over your GPS.
- Open daily 8 am - sunset. Summer parking is available April through September.
- There is a day use/parking charge on weekends and holiday through peak season. $9 for residents and $15 for non-residents of Connecticut.
- Pets on leash allowed in hiking and picnic areas only.
- Handicap parking provided. Beach is somewhat wheelchair accessible (gravel roads).