Staycations: Mt. Tom State Park
The first time I climbed to the top of Mt. Tom and peered out over the mountain, seeing the sea of deep red, dark orange and golden yellow hues atop the autumn trees in Litchfield was breathtaking.
Summertime at Mt. Tom can be beautiful too and quite an adventure for the outdoorsy type. Just a little more than an hour’s drive from Ridgefield, this state park has been beautifully maintained and offers hiking, swimming, canoeing, fishing and grills for cooking.
About a 45 minute drive from Bethel, Mt. Tom is a great place to go and spend the day. The scenic ride up Route 202 in New Milford includes farms, open pastures and historical buildings. When you pass New Milford Hospital on your left, you’re about 20 minutes away.
Follow the brown state park signs and Mt. Tom will be on the right. Pull into the driveway slowly, as there are many summer camps going on with children walking on the side of the narrow road. Ask for a map at the booth, which shows all the trails leading up to the lookout tower. If you wish to hike first, park at the first lot on the right-hand side. Otherwise, follow the road around the mountain down to the lake.
Mt. Tom doesn’t allow motor boats in its calm lake, so there are no loud noises from the motors and no oil slick from their engines. Gazing over the serene waters, you will see kayaks, canoes and small sailboats as you travel down the hill to the parking area.
We always bring a small wagon to load up the coolers, sand toys and other awkward items nobody wants to carry down the hill to the beach area. If you want to get a grill and a picnic table, go early (around 9 or 10 a.m.). This beach doesn’t get over-crowded, except on holiday weekends.
Fishermen will want to stay on the far left or the far right of the lake to fish for guppies, trout and even crayfish. Children bring their nets and buckets to catch tiny fish that swim right up to the edge of the water. Dogs are allowed in the park but not down in the beach area.
The roped-off swimming section has a gradual incline which makes it safe for little ones. There are two lifeguards on duty during the week and three on the weekends. Be careful for a few large rocks in the water toward the left; I have seen many people stumble over them.
If you don’t feel like cooking or packing a picnic and are hungry from all the boating and swimming, there is a snack stand which has a pretty big variety of edibles. There are chicken nuggets, burgers and hot dogs all for about $3 each. Fries are $3 for a portion big enough for two children and there’s a huge variety of ice cream novelties.
The park is rents canoes and kayaks to take out on the lake for $15 an hour. If you choose to hike up the trail, it is about a 20 minute hike up to the “Witches Tower” which offers beautiful views. I recommend sneakers or hiking boots—it is pretty rocky.
Whether it is swimming or hiking, kayaking or fishing, Mt. Tom State Park offers something for everyone.
Parking is $9 per car or for $67 visitors may purchase a season pass which allows access into all CT State Parks. For more information on the park click here.