Take a Hike: Mount Tom

By: Julia Lucey

There’s just nothing like a New England autumn. One great way to enjoy the colorful foliage, cool autumn air, and panoramic views Connecticut has to offer is by paying a visit to one of its beautiful state parks. In a state where there is so much natural beauty a short drive away, there are always opportunities to get out and explore a new destination. If you’re looking for a quick hike with an excellent payoff this season, Mount Tom State Park in Washington Depot is a great spot to add to your list for an easy day trip out of town.

The 231-acre park is named after Mt. Tom, which lies within its bounds. Mt. Tom reaches 1,325 feet above sea level, although the hike itself is under a mile and ascends about 500 feet. At the mountain’s base is Mount Tom Pond, a 56-acre pond with a small beachfront.

Mt. Tom State Park is around 60 miles or little over an hour and a half north of Greenwich. Reaching the park is an easy drive straight up route 7 and then route 202, which puts you on a wonderfully scenic final stretch before reaching the park’s entrance. The parking lot puts visitors right at the hiking trail’s start, but parking is limited, so try to plan your visit during off-peak hours!

A climb up to the mountain’s summit from the parking area can be done in under 30 minutes. The hike itself is moderate, with a few steeper inclines as you make your way toward the peak. The hard work pays off once you reach the top, which overlooks the pond and hills beyond the park. In addition, atop the mountain sits a stone tower that visitors can enter and walk up to the top for an even better look of the surrounding area. On a clear day, you can expect to find views of Mount Everett in Massachusetts and the Catskills. This time of year, the park’s beauty is amplified by the vibrant fall colors, as orange and yellow colored trees hug the trails and mountain top, and surround the lake down below.

Not only is the park a picturesque destination to enjoy the leaves’ changing colors this fall, but it’s also a park with a rich history. Established in 1915 as a state park, Mount Tom is one of the oldest parks in the Connecticut State Park system. In 1911, New Yorker Charles Senff offered land including Mt. Tom as a gift to the State of Connecticut to be used as recreational parkland, according to the National Register of Historic Places. Prior to this, the state only owned one park, which was not open for public recreation. One of Senff’s conditions upon gifting his land was that a tower remain in place at Mount Tom’s summit, and upon visiting you’ll find this wish remains fulfilled to this day. The current tower was built all the way back in 1921, primarily using stone found on site.

Of course we can always experience the charm of the autumn months here at home in Greenwich, but local day trips offer a fun and — in the midst of COVID-19 — safe way to experience a change of scenery from time to time. Outdoor hikes at locations like Mount Tom State Park are an especially great way to go about doing this, as it allows hikers to keep their distance while enjoying the beautiful nature of autumn and maybe even some good company!