Take a Hike: Devil’s Hopyard State Park
By Julia Lucey
We all know Connecticut is full of beautiful hiking trails and delightful beaches to visit, and as it turns out, you don’t have to travel far to find sizable and stunning
waterfalls right here at home. As winter approaches, now is the time to get outside for one last hike before the temperatures drop, and Devil’s Hopyard State Park will certainly exceed your expectations with both its falls and trails.
Devil’s Hopyard is contained within 860 acres in East Haddam, CT and is open to the public daily from 8 am to sunset. The park is about 90 miles out of Greenwich, amounting to an hour and 45 minute drive via I-95 to Exit 70 and then 15 miles inland toward East Haddam. Parking is free and available at the top of the falls, but the lot is fairly small and fills up fast on weekends, so consider visiting during off-peak hours.
The park’s main attraction is its 60 foot waterfall, Chapman Falls. The falls are beautiful to stop and enjoy before or at the conclusion of a hike, or on a sunny day, the large, flat rocks at the top of the falls serve as a warm spot to sit and soak up the warmth and enjoy the sound of the water flow. In the summer months, the foot of the falls serve as a great spot for a quick dip or for some fishing, but this time of year they are equally as picturesque to spend time admiring.
While today the falls serve as a point of attraction for visitors, they do have a particularly interesting history. The powerful falls once powered local mills until the 1890s, and by 1919 the area became a Connecticut state park. But even before that, they were given an unexpected backstory by the area’s 18th century settlers. Haddam’s Puritan settlers believed the Devil himself inhabited the area, and while there are slightly different stories of the story out there, the general idea is that the cylindrical potholes found within the falls were made by the Devil. One version on the CT State Website explains that as the Devil passed though the falls, his tail got wet, angering him to the point where he burned holes in the stone beneath the cascade with his hooves. These pothole formations can still be seen at the park today — they are perfectly cylindrical and ranging in size and depth. We now know they were formed as stones moved downstream where they became trapped in small whirlpools, thus spinning the rocks and forming these holes within the rock. Of course, the story still gives visitors a sense of where the park’s unique name originated.
Beyond the falls are a number of trails for hikers of all levels. Some trails stay local to the falls, while others go farther out through the property, many at an incline to reach scenic views overlooking the area. Continuing with the devil motif, atop the 2-mile “vista” trail (follow the orange markers) is the “Devil’s Oven” — a cave-like rock formation with a dark entrance. Other trails hug the Eightmile River or pass through wooded areas, and many connect with other routes, so your hike can be as long or as short as you’d like. A full trail map can be found on the Devil’s Hopyard State Park webpage on the CT State Webpage as well as posted at the park itself.
So whether you’re just in search of a scenic hiking trip or want to see these Devil’s formations for yourself, consider taking a drive up to Devil’s Hopyard State Park for a refreshing, socially distant day enjoying the beautiful nature Connecticut has to offer!