22 Best Connecticut State Parks with Forests, Lakes, Beaches, Camping & More!

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Looking to soak up the beauty of Connecticut’s natural wonders? 

Well, you’re in for a treat, because this article is all about the fantastic state parks that dot the landscape of the Nutmeg State!

With a staggering 110 of them scattered across its diverse terrain, this small but captivating state beckons adventurers, nature enthusiasts, and families alike to revel in its scenic glory.

So if you’re planning to explore one of them, this guide will take you through some of the best CT state parks you can check out close to home or while on vacation.

Picture rolling hills, lush forests, and serene beaches — whether you’re seeking a scenic hike, a tranquil spot for a picnic, or an adventurous day on the water, these spots are sure to satisfy your spirit of adventure.

For the ultimate escapade in the state, check out our CT bucket list.

You may also want to see what activities you can enjoy in Connecticut during spring, fall, and winter.

Best State Parks in Connecticut

To make your exploration a breeze, we’ve organized our list of Connecticut state parks starting with those along the shores in the southern area.

We then venture northward for more parks and then end up around Litchfield County.

Mianus River State Park

Just north of Stamford is Mianus River State Park, a 527-acre park centered around a small river in southwestern Connecticut.

The park is minimally developed but has more than 10 miles of hiking and biking trails.

Nearly two miles of the Mianus River runs through the park, offering ample fishing opportunities to interested visitors.

The park’s forests are scattered with rock outcroppings and old stone walls, making for interesting hikes.

Sherwood Island State Park

One of the state parks in CT with a beach is Sherwood Island State Park, located in Westport on Long Island Sound.

The park offers almost a mile of sandy shores for beach activities, accompanied by scenic walking paths that wind through its grassy lawns. 

Additionally, hobbyists can take advantage of the designated model airplane field featuring two runways for launching and landing their models.

There are also several acres of wetlands on the back side of the island which are open for paddling.

Hammonasset Beach State Park

If you’re looking for state parks in Connecticut with camping, check out Hammonasset Beach State Park.

Located just west of Clinton on Long Island Sound, this park offers ample space for campers with seven diverse campgrounds, perfect for road-trippers with all their gear. 

Additionally, you can find convenience in the park’s camp store situated at the northwest end, providing easy access to beach amenities along its two-mile shoreline.

For reservations, make sure to check out their website.

Seaside State Park

Seaside State Park is a small park with an interesting story.

The park is home to an old sanatorium that has existed on the property since the state bought it.

Originally built for children with tuberculosis, the sanatorium accommodated a variety of patients over time.

Now closed to the public since 1996, the old building can still be observed from all sides while the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection devises a plan for its removal.

Other than the sanatorium, the park has a short walking path and hundreds of feet of waterfront.

It also has a rock pier for fishermen.

Bluff Point State Park

Bluff Point State Park is located on a peninsula outside of Groton and is one of the state parks near Mystic CT– around 15 minutes away.

While the park is surrounded by water, some parts of the park rise 120 feet above the water.

Visitors to the park can enjoy a secluded, mile-long beach after a peaceful hike, offering a serene and uncrowded retreat. 

Also, there’s a spacious parking area, ideal for launching boats into Long Island Sound, while smaller kayaks and canoes can be easily launched for a delightful paddle around the point.

Stoddard Hill State Park

Stoddard Hill State Park is a relatively small state park in ct at just 55 acres in size.

Nestled south of Norwich, the park features a 120-foot hill overlooking the Thames River and offers approximately two miles of scenic riverside trails. 

While mainly a local retreat, it also boasts a convenient boat launch onto Stoddard’s Cove, providing access to a charming small pond within the park.

Those who hike to the end of the river trail will see the boulder piles along the west side of the hill, a common geological occurrence in Connecticut.

Eagle Landing State Park

Eagle Landing State Park is a small park on the Connecticut River.

At just 16 acres, the park is a small local fishing and birdwatching location.

The park also has a dock that has boats that take visitors on scenic tours of the Connecticut River.

Plus, it offers fantastic views of the East Haddam Swing Bridge.

Sunrise State Park

Just east of Middletown is Sunrise State Park, another small park on the Salmon River.

The park has a few miles of trails as well as a canoe and kayak launch and also has a few small ponds that are open to fishing, as well as the Salmon River.

For those interested in abandoned places, the park also has standing foundations from old buildings as well as a set of old unused tennis courts.

Machimoodus State Park

Adjacent to Sunrise State Park is Machimoodus State Park.

The two state parks almost function as one since they are so small.

Machimoodus State Park is about 300 acres on the Salmon River with multiple fishing ponds within the park.

The park has more than three miles of trails that connect with Sunrise’s trail system to create a robust trail system for the area.

This is also one of the state parks near New Haven CT so if you’re from the area, you can take less than an hour’s drive.

Tri-Mountain State Park

Tri-Mountain State Park is another one of the small Conn state parks that is minimally developed.

This park is 187 acres on a hill that stands 350 feet above the surrounding ponds and reservoirs.

There is also a single trail that runs north to south through the park.

It ascends the ridge and follows it to the other side of the park, occasionally offering views of the ponds on either side of it.

The park is perfect for those looking for a walk in the woods.

Quinnipiac River State Park

North of New Haven is Quinnipiac River State Park.

The park, a narrow strip of land, safeguards about 300 acres of the river’s floodplain, offering locals a few miles of trails to explore.

At the end of the main hiking trail lies the park’s highlight, The Pines, an enchanting grove of old-growth trees. 

With its floodplain setting and a one-mile trail, the park provides an excellent starting point for beginners looking forward to hiking in CT state parks.

Southford Falls State Park

Southford Falls State Park is a small but popular park featuring a set of waterfalls on Eight Mile Brook.

The park has a few miles of trails through the woods, but the main attractions are the falls and brook.

There is also a short bird-watching tower at the south end and a covered bridge over the brook.

Forest trees with fall leaves on ground at Southford Falls State Park, Connecticut

Rocky Glen State Park

Rocky Glen State Park has similar amenities and features as Southford Falls.

This 46-acre park, located on the Pootatuck River, showcases a captivating display of waterfalls formed by old spillways and natural streams. 

Visitors can traverse the park’s small trail system and enjoy the picturesque views from several scenic bridges overlooking the river.

Rocky Glen heavily revolves around the Pootatuck River and nearly all trails, amenities, and features are along it.

Wooster Mountain State Park

Wooster Mountain State Park is another small, minimally developed park in west central Connecticut.

A small trail system winds through the east side of Wooster Mountain, boasting an elevation of nearly 1000 feet above sea level.

 As hikers explore the forested hillsides, scattered rocks serve as a reminder that they are venturing into the foothills of the northern Appalachians. 

The park’s primary developed area is the shooting range, doubling as the main parking space and attracting the majority of foot traffic.

Squantz Pond State Park

Squantz Pond State Park is a popular outdoor location in western Connecticut.

The park in itself is small, but its trail system connects to Pootatuck State Forest, which has many more miles of trails crisscrossing the hillsides.

Squantz Pond is flanked by two 600-foot hillsides, making the location extremely scenic.

The park has great paddling opportunities on the pond, and visitors with larger boats can also launch there and explore nearby Candlewood Lake, which is 10 miles long from end to end.

Lovers Leap State Park

Lovers Leap State Park is a small park on the Housatonic River outside of New Milford.

The park features views of the river from over 100 feet above it and is divided into three sections, each with its own historic site.

The old factory section is north of Still River Drive and features what is left of a factory on the Housatonic River.

The Indian Springhouse is in the southern part of the park, and visitors can learn about the natives that inhabited the area before Europeans came over.

Finally, east of the river but south of the road is the Historic Hurd Estate, which features a castle and tea house.

A historic iron bridge allows hikers to cross the river in the park as well.

Dinosaur State Park

Dinosaur State Park is one of the state parks near Hartford CT which is just less than an hour’s drive away.

The park is perfect for those who like interactive park experiences and it is highly staffed with lots of activities being guided or administrated by workers there.

A good example of this is the exhibit center, which contains over 700 different dinosaur tracks.

It’s a great park for families with young children, and the exhibition center offers many hands-on learning opportunities.

There is also a small trail and path system, a butterfly garden, and an amphitheater at this place.

Beaver Brook State Park

Beaver Brook State Park is a 400-acre park outside of Mansfield.

The park is centered around Beaver Brook and Bibbins Pond and is almost completely undeveloped.

Locals say fishing on Bibbins Pond is relaxing for those looking to catch small fish so it’s great for beginning fishers.

The park has no trails, and thus almost the entire park is open to hunting during the season.

Killingly Pond State Park

A small pond that straddles the Connecticut and Rhode Island border comprises Killingly Pond State Park.

The 162-acre park is almost completely undeveloped and is similar to Beaver Brook.

There is only one trail, a segment of the North-South trail, which is regional and runs through multiple parks and natural areas.

Other than that, fishing and hunting are the main activities here, with parking being near the dam on the south side of the lake.

Talcott Mountain State Park

Talcott Mountain State Park lies in the center of the state just northwest of Hartford.

The park is mainly centered around hiking, with a few trails traversing the park north-to-south.

Heublein Tower atop Talcott Mountain is the main attraction, offering amazing views of the surrounding countryside and forests.

All park amenities must be accessed by hiking to them.

The tower, picnic shelters, bathrooms, water, and overlooks all lie atop the mountain away from roads.

It takes just over a mile to hike up the mountain.

Mount Riga State Park

Connecticut’s northwesternmost state park, Mount Riga, is a small park that contains the gateway to Connecticut’s highest point.

Bear Mountain lies outside the park, but the park’s parking area is the main access point for the peak.

The mountain is 2,323 feet above sea level, and the hike to the summit is just over six miles roundtrip.

At the peak, you’re offered views of three states: Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts.

Kent Falls State Park

If you can’t get enough of state parks in Connecticut with waterfalls, visit Kent Falls, a popular outdoor spot just north of New Preston.

The park is centered around a set of waterfalls that cascade 250 feet down to the Housatonic River.

Picnic shelters, restrooms, and approximately three miles of trails are available at the park, all along Kent Falls Brook. 

For those seeking adventure, the brook offers numerous spots to climb on rocks near the falls.

Waterfall and fall foliage at Kent State Park Connecticut

Final Thoughts

We hope we have inspired you to go on an epic outdoor adventure with our list of CT state parks.

Which one of these are you looking forward to visiting? Let us know in the comments!

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