For outdoor enthusiasts seeking a Connecticut state park offering fishing, hiking, mountain biking, picnicking and swimming in a forested setting, Wadsworth Falls State Park checks all the boxes. See if this nature retreat delivers your ideal park experience.
The Coginchaug River runs through it, beckoning fishermen to cast a line while shaded picnic tables invite picnicking. Little falls and big falls attract hikers to explore along wooded trails. And sports enthusiasts pedal to adventures along mountain biking trails. Welcome to Wadsworth Falls State Park, a Connecticut gem situated between Middlefield and Middletown just 26 miles northeast of New Haven.
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Established in 1942, Connecticut’s Wadsworth Falls State Park bears the name of Colonel Clarence S. Wadsworth. Once a Colonel in the New York National Guard, Wadsworth was an academic, conservationist and linguist. After settling in Middletown, he became involved in a 40-year effort to preserve the natural beauty of Wadsworth Falls for all people. In 1942, Wadsworth donated the 267 acres to the State of Connecticut.
Things to Do
For a relatively small park, this New England gem provides plenty of outdoor adventures. The Big Falls at Wadsworth draw the most attention and often serves as the main destination for hikers in the park. But even if hiking isn’t an option, the Big Falls are visible from an overlook just off the entrance at Cherry Hill Road. For those who want to get closer to the waterfall without the hike, a short downhill path leads to the edge of the water.
For those of us who want a bit more action in our outdoor pursuits, the Wadsworth Falls State Park offers fishing, hiking, mountain biking, picnicking and swimming.
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Hiking Trails in Wadsworth Falls State Park
With hiking being our primary focus, we chose to park in the parking lot at the main entrance at 721 Wadsworth St. From there we took the main trail designated by orange blazes. Starting at the trailhead, we set off to find the Big Falls. The 3.6-mile loop trail has an elevation gain of 364 feet. Just before the falls, the trail leaves the forest and follows Cherry Hill Road crossing a railroad track before arriving at Wadsworth Big Falls.
On the return hike, we detoured onto the blue trail for a glimpse at Little Falls. Although twice as tall as the Big Falls, Little Falls is less powerful but a lovely example of staircase falls. Other hiking trails include the yellow trail along Laurel Grove Brook which leads to a view of the old pump house. The purple trail follows the road that originally led to the Wadsworth Estate providing access to the estate grounds for more hiking options.
Mountain Biking in Wadsworth Falls State Park
The park provides approximately six miles of double- and single-track trails and fire roads for mountain biking ranging from easy to difficult. Intermediate riders enjoy the Laurel Grove Brook trail that begins with an uphill rock garden. The trail splits and riders that keep to the left encounter a steep climb, optional log rides, a wooden bridge and a winding single-track at the finish. For a more challenging ride, mountain bike brave hearts tackle the Little Falls trail strewn with loose rocks along a steep descent. Getting down is a challenge, but getting back up is even harder.
Beginners or those seeking an easy ride will enjoy the Bridge Trail. This wide doubletrack trail presents a slight hill at the far west side but most of the trail is an easy wide dirt track. The Main Trail running through the center of the park is also a good ride for beginners. The trail is a little hilly but has few rocks or roots making for an easy ride.
Some of the mountain bike trails are multi-use, so it’s important to watch for hikers and dogs.
Fishing, Swimming and Picnicking
The Coginchaug River runs throughout the park and is stocked with trout. Fishing is catch and release at the park. A fishing license is required for anyone over 16 years old. The park has a designated swimming area. Open seasonally, the swimming area is located near the parking area off Route 157. Nearby facilities include a picnic area, changing room and bathrooms.
What You Need to Know
Wadsworth Falls State Park charges a parking fee for out-of-state registered vehicles from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Fees are $15 on weekends and holidays and $10 on weekdays. Park regulations are posted at the main entrance. Pets must be on a leash and under control at all times. Pets are prohibited from the beach area.
SheBuysTravel Tip: We visited in winter and the bathroom facilities were closed.
Where to Stay
The Inn at Middletown
70 Main Street
Located just 2.5 miles from Wadsworth Falls State Park, the historic Inn at Middletown presents an old-world Colonial style retreat. Amenities include complimentary self-parking, fitness center, indoor heated pool and Tavern at the Armory restaurant.
Best Western Plus New England Inn & Suites
2253 Berlin Turnpike
If you need more space, the Best Western Plus New England Inn & Suites is located 5.3 miles from Wadsworth Falls State Park. All rooms come with a full hot breakfast. Additional amenities include complimentary WiFi, fitness center, guest laundry and an indoor pool.