Outdoor Adventures with Ranger Bill – Old Furnace State Park
A beautiful 2.5 mile loop hike
One of my favorite locations for a quick hike is Old Furnace State Park in Killingly. I have organized hikes there for TLGV and family outings and for good reason. With a location close to I-395 it’s easily accessible for folks living in or visiting the national heritage corridor and it’s got a view that’s hard to beat. I have a loop that is about 2.5 miles that I enjoy for a quick hike. It has some ascents and steeper descents, so I consider it a moderate hike. You can create longer loops at Old Furnace and also enjoy some good mountain biking.
There are two parking areas for accessing the property, but I prefer in the parking area on South Frontage Road located off Rt. 6 and less than a mile east from I-395. The second parking area is off Ross Road, also accessed a short distance past the main lot on South Frontage Road and offers parking for folks with boats accessing the Ross Pond boat launch.
From the parking area on South Frontage Road the trail leads through a stand of conifers to small field and then to a new walking bridge that crosses over Fall Brook. This new bridge replaces the somewhat dangerous jump from rock to rock crossing that was difficult at highwater. The new bridge was built by volunteers from the Quiet Corner NEMBA (New England Mountain Bike Association). From there you can take either the blue or orange trails that are well-marked with paint blazes on trees of orange or blue about every 50 feet or so. Both trails go south towards the cliffs on Half Hill that overlook Furnace Pond (also called Upper Ross Pond). The trails merge a short distance before crossing Half Hill Brook and then split with the orange trail heading southwest (right turn) and blue continuing south towards Furnace Pond and the steep accent to the summit.
I prefer to take the orange trail with its meandering gradual incline towards the top of Half Hill Cliff where is merges with the blue trail near the summit. Near the top of the hill the blue trail joins the orange, and from there, several small side trails lead to four excellent viewing areas with spectacular, uninterrupted vistas to the east towards Rhode Island. Be very careful not to venture too close to the edge of the cliffs. It is a deadly 200-foot drop and treacherous in winter with ice and snow slippery conditions. Too often I hear about someone who has fallen from the cliffs, so, please, keep your footing. And in any conditions, please be mindful of children at the top of the hill if you take them on this hike.
The orange and blue trails continue southward and split below Half Hill, with the blue trail continuing south through beautiful forest habitat of pine and oak ending at a parking area on Squaw Rock Road. The orange trail turns east towards the second and larger pond in the park – Ross Pond. From there the orange trail crosses Half Hill Brook and then around the eastern side of Furnace Pond back to the parking area.
This loop hike is only about 2.5 miles, great for a quick outing with family and friends. You may want to bring a lunch and spend the day exploring the ponds, fishing, and hiking the blue trail to Squaw Rock Road and back. Old Furnace State Park is maintained by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and its website has helpful information on the history of the area, as well as a very handy trail map.
More information can be found at:
The hiking trail map is at:
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