Imagine the quiet swoosh of a cross country skier gliding across the winter landscape in one of the many state parks and nature centers that abound in this unspoiled northwest corner of the state. Here are a few of our favorite spots to cross country ski.
White Memorial Foundation, on 71 Whitehall Rd. (off Rte. 202) in Litchfield offers 35 pristine miles of trails to explore. The Apple Hill Trail is especially scenic for x-country skiing as it meanders for approximately two miles from Laurel Hill to the summit of Apple Hill, the highest point around Bantam Lake. An observation platform located on top of Apple Hill provides stunning views of the lake, hills and unspoiled countryside as far as the eye can see. Gliding through open fields and forests you may catch a glimpse of a white tailed deer or a red fox.
Burr Pond State Park, on Burr Mountain Rd. in Torrington offers a lovely blue blazed three mile trail with very little elevation that circles Burr Pond making it easy to ski on. The trail takes you through a portion of Paugnut State Forest with its sheltering pines and hemlocks. In addition to including many fine views of the pond – popular with ice fishermen, you will also glide through a variety of habitats.
Collis P. Huntington State Park on Sunset Hill Rd., in Redding is a quiet hideaway park that offers several unexpected charms. The hill at this park is excellent for sledding and sliding and the network of trails here, most were former roads offer excellent and easy cross -country skiing. The Blue Trail circles the park in a 5.7-mile loop that is perfect for an afternoon excursion. A highlight of the park is the unique bronze animal sculptures made by Anna Vaughn Hyatt, one of America’s most prolific sculptors.
Housatonic Meadows State Park located one mile north of Cornwall Bridge on Rte. 7 offers idyllic cross country skiing along the Housatonic River. Swoosh through pine scented trails along the river keeping your eye peeled on wildlife that makes this area their home.
Perhaps one of the most scenic parks for cross country skiing is Topsmeade State Park located on Buell Road off East Litchifeld Rd. of Rte. 118 in LItchfield. Nestled in a setting of great natural beauty you will find a maganificent Tudor style home that was once the summer estate of Miss Edith Morton Chase, heiress to a brass family fortune in Waterbury. There are numerous trails to explore here as well as a number of unpaved roads. Look of rhte 7/10 of a mile nature walk with interpretive signs.
In 1917, Miss Chase received from her father approximately 16 acres on Jefferson Hill in Litchfield. Here she built a rustic cabin, which was replaced with a more substantial summer home in 1923. She hired noted architect Richard Henry Dana, Jr. to help her design and build the English Tudor style house which was completed in 1925. The exterior woodwork is of cypress, the downspouts are lead, the walls of brick and stucco, and the roof is slate. Upon her death in 1972, Edith Chase left her beloved country estate to the people of Connecticut and to be known as Topsmead State Forest. In her will, Miss Chase requested that Topsmead State Forest “be kept in a state of natural beauty”. To ensure that Topsmead would remain undisturbed, Miss Chase left an endowment to be used toward maintaining and operating the buildings and grounds as they were upon her death.
For more information about crossing country and down hill skiing in Litchfield Hills, visit www.litchfieldhills.com.