Hubbard Park and Undercliff

Hubbard Park
Photographs by: Hidden Wonders Photography

One of my favorite things to do is hike and enjoy the outdoors. So to start off Spring of 2013, my boyfriend Sean and I went online searching for a new hiking spot; we came across Hubbard Park and the “Rolling Hills” in Meriden, CT. It looked perfect and full of interesting places to explore! So March 29th at 1:00pm we set out on the 45 minute drive to Hubbard Park. The park can be found using exit 4 on Route I-691. Once you reach the end of the exit signs for the park will appear. The main entrance to the park is near Mirror Pond where the ducks live. Drive up the road a bit and you will see cars parked up on a hill, park there. If you reach the playground you have gone too far (although walking under the highway can also get you to the park, you’d just be going through the park the wrong way). At the beginning of the hike you’ll see a sign with a wooden painted map and the title “Hubbard Park Trails.” After walking for about 15 or so minutes you will reach a covered foot bridge that takes you over the highway.

Once you reach the end of the footbridge you will see a tree with a white paint splotch on it. Remember, stick to the trail with the white markers and you won’t miss any unique stops along the way!

White Trail Marker

As we continued to follow the path we happened to look up and saw around 5 turkey vulture flying up above. It was a tad bit creepy seeing scavengers circling above!

As we walked we came across a small foot bridge that passed over a creek. It was so peaceful out in the woods and spring had brought with it the chirping of birds. The bridge was just wide enough for two people and below we could see water as it trickled down the rocks. As we walked we occasionally took breaks and sat on the many boulders that can be found along the trail. They provided dry, comfortable seats to sit and just listen to nature.

foot bridge

The next hidden wonder that can be found along the white trail is the Beehive Spring. The spring got its name from its beehive design. When we walked up to the spring we looked inside it and saw a small pool of water and a small tube coming out the front. This seems to be the “spring” part of the beehive. The spring had some water in it and it would occasionally overflow and flow down the path in a small stream. I found the spring to be fascinating and was full of wonder as to why it had been built out in the middle of the woods.

Beehive Spring

Along the way I couldn’t help but look up at the gorgeous sky and as I looked up and into the distance I saw my first glimpse of the “castle.” Up on the very top of the mountainous hill was Castle Craig and by its side was an American Flag flapping in the breeze. The castle seems so far away and I didn’t know if I’d make it! But we continued on…

Castle a little closer castle from afar Sky

We continued along the path for another 30 minutes or so. For most it probably wouldn’t be that long, we like to take our time and stop whenever we see anything interesting (an animal, etc.). Then we got to the base of the so called hill. As we started up the path we realized that the path was made of very loose rocks/stone and was not sturdy beneath our feet (if you go make sure to walk very carefully and strategically place your feet. As you get higher up a fall may mean serious injury!).

loose gravel path

Halfway up we spotted a cave and of course had to investigate! It was not a safe climb so I do not recommend it unless you are very sturdy on your feet and have a lot of experience climbing steep hills. Luckily we made it to and got right up to the mouth of the cave. It was very dark inside and got very narrow. It became too tight for a grown adult to fit in but it was evident that it went very deep into the hillside.

IMG_6002 the cave

After investigating, because we don’t follow the beaten path most of the time, instead of crawling down to the path we continued on our own path right against the rocky cliff. Then we turned and started climbing up the side of the cliff/hill which I would again not recommend unless you have experience doing so and do not fear the risk of injury or death.

Off the beaten path

It was a very steep climb and I did slip a few times but we finally got to a ledge and were able to rest and take some pictures. The view was amazing! We could see quite a ways and you could see the highway and the towns below. It was very interesting the see the suburbs from above. They seemed to be placed on a grid similar to that of Boston or New York. We could also see one of our future destinations on our walk; The Halfway House. This structure is a gazebo that is midway along the white trail and provides beautiful views of Meriden, etc. I will discuss this more later on. From our ledge we could also see the hills and cliffs of South Mountain which was across from our current location. This mountain also has very steep cliffs and ledges but from certain locations it can be hiked as well. Maybe we will visit South Mountain on another hiking trip!

view from off the path the faraway cliffs view from off the path 4 view from off the path 2

Next, we continued up the steep cliff and after pushing through bushes and trying not to slide down the cliff face we finally made it to the top and sat down for a late lunch. We sat leaning against the rock wall that circles around the top of the hill and around Castle Craig. From our lunch spot we could see out for miles and the view was even more spectacular than the ones from our ledge below. We could also glimpse the tops of the famous Undercliff Sanatorium that closed down in the 1970’s and has been abandoned since. It is heavily patrolled by police and is a very dangerous location. More to come later! Once we hopped over the wall we had finally reached Castle Craig at the very top of EAST MOUNTAIN.

the wall around the castleUndercliff from afar

The castle reaches to a height of about 4-5 flights of stairs and is at the edge of the cliff. From the top one can see clearly 360° around. We could see Meriden, Hartford, etc. Alongside the castle, flapping in the wind is a very large American flag and I had to take a picture of it! It looked so pretty against the blue sky above. Once inside the tower we could see the black, shiny, and a bit rickety stairs that had to be ascended to reach the top. Once at the top the view was spectacular! You could even see Hartford way out in the distance!

view from the side god bless view from above _MG_6056 castle craighartford

After exploring around the castle we headed back down the path and continued one our way. The next stop was a gazebo that was halfway between Castle Craig and the main entrance; it was named the Halfway House. From the gazebo we could look back and see Castle Craig on top of its mountain. It was hard to believe we had hiked all the way to the top and back down. From below it seemed so high up!

WARNING! at the halfway house looking back looking back 2

After the Halfway house came another lake with a small island in the middle. This lake was protected and used to supply the surrounded homes with water. As we walked by we were squawked at by a few Canadian Geese who were resting in the waters.

lake beneath the cliffs 2

From here we did what we do best and strayed off the main path to do a bit of our own exploring. While doing so we came upon a startling discovery. Hidden among the trees was an abandoned Sanatorium called Undercliff Sanitarium. We later learned that the hospital had shut down in 1976 and the state began using it for storage, etc. (for more information please visit http://www.damnedct.com/undercliff-sanatorium-meriden/) Now it lies in ruins, windows smashed, graffiti covered walls, etc. We did not enter the building because we’d be breaking and entering; we had no wishes to be arrested (cops patrol the area and a state police officer lives on the premises). We stayed good distance away but were able to get some pretty cool shots.

IMG_6288 _MG_5955 _MG_6280 _MG_6279 _MG_6277 _MG_6274 _MG_6266 _MG_6265 _MG_6256 _MG_6255 _MG_6254 _MG_6245 _MG_6239 _MG_6229_MG_6215_MG_6206 _MG_6202undercliff 3_MG_6196 undercliff building 2 undercliff 2 undercliff

After Undercliff we headed back to the main path and reached the end of our adventure. We ended up at Mirror Pond that is home to ducks, a swan, geese, etc.

IMG_6325 IMG_6317 IMG_6314 big bullies IMG_6303 IMG_6298IMG_6382IMG_6338IMG_6371IMG_6358

We spent an hour feeding the birds and then headed home. Hubbard Park was amazing and we had a great time!

 

If you go:

Hubbard Park is an amazing place to hike but the trail we took had moments when being an experienced hiker was a plus. Some areas of the trail were very rocky and unstable so be prepared! Along the trail there were many areas to explore and see amazing views which was something I really enjoyed. When we went the trails weren’t very busy which was also a plus and we only passed by others on a few occasions; the most populated area was by Castle Craig. In regards to Undercliff; the place was amazing to see and had an eery feel but be careful, as I said before, an officer lives on the premises and the place is patrolled. We didn’t stray far from the field and did not trespass. I hope you won’t either! It was an amazing experience though and a once in a lifetime chance! Overall, the hike was amazing and so were the views. I can’t wait to go back!

 

If you want to visit as well please visit;

http://www.meridenlandtrust.com/Hubbard_quad.pdf

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