Connecticut Countryside - Part I
Total distance: 11.6 miles (18.6 kilometers)
Total hiking time: approximately 4.5 to 6.5 hours
This route follows a portion of the Narragansett Trail entirely in Connecticut, beginning at The Nature Conservancy's Gladys Foster Preserve in North Stonington and visiting Wyassup Lake along the way. It leaves the Narragansett Trail at the Green Fall River in Voluntown, taking Green Fall Road to end at Yawgoog at the Connecticut/Rhode Island border. In Connecticut, the trail is maintained by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA).
Caution: Hikers should be very careful, by wearing at least 400 square inches (2,580 square centimeters) of blaze orange material, such as a vest, when hiking in Connecticut during the state's hunting season. The hunting season starts on September 1 and runs through the end of February. The portion of the Narragansett Trail between Route 49 (Pendleton Hill Road) and Tom Wheeler Road in North Stonington is on land owned by the Groton Sportsmen's Club; hiking is prohibited on that stretch of trail from October through March. Hunting is prohibited in Camp Yawgoog.
Driving Directions from Interstate 95:
- From I-95 South, take Exit 92 in Connecticut and go straight at the traffic light. At the next light, turn right onto Route 2 West.
- From I-95 North, take Exit 92 in Connecticut and turn left onto Route 2 West.
Following the signs for the Foxwoods Resort, proceed on Route 2 West (Norwich-Westerly Road), circling a rotary along the way. From the rotary, continue following the Foxwoods signs on Route 2 West for 3.9 miles (6.2 kilometers); Route 201 will merge with Route 2 along the way. Make a hard right (southeast) turn onto Ryder Road; this turn is just before the traffic light from which Routes 2 and 201 split off again. Follow Ryder Road for 700 feet (200 meters) to The Nature Conservancy's Gladys Foster Preserve on the left (northeast). Limited roadside parking is available. Please note that traffic on Route 2 may be heavy in the afternoon, especially during weekends.
Note: Opposite the turn onto Ryder Road, a blue oval "Narragansett Trail" sign may be seen to the left (west); the sign marks the point where the trail crosses Route 2 after coming in from Lantern Hill -- the sign does not mark the beginning of this hike.
From Ryder Road, the blue blazes of the Narragansett Trail head northeast to immediately climb Cossaduck Hill, named from the Mohegan or Niantic expression, "kowas-'htugk," for "pine-wood" or "pine trees" (Hughes and Allen pp. 409, 738). Along the way, Cossaduck Bluffs offer a good view.
Panoramic view from Cossaduck Bluffs
The trail eventually descends to a 4-way intersection. Unmarked paths lead right (south) and straight ahead (east), while the blue blazes lead left (north); within a few yards, the blue markers veer right (northeast). Just after this point, the trail enters the Pachaug State Forest, named for the Pachaug River, which runs through it. "Pachaug" is a Mohegan word for "the fork or turning aside place" or "bend" -- a reference to the river's winding nature (Huden p. 161; Hughes and Allen pp. 748, 763).
The trail soon descends to Yawbucs Brook and crosses it before reaching an unnamed pond. The rock crossing was placed in 2012 by volunteers from the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (Fagin).
Rock crossing at Yawbucs Brook
The brook's name is derived from a Native American (possibly Mohegan) term "yaw-paugs" that means "on one side of the small pond"; the name is sometimes spelled "Yawbux" (Hughes and Allen pp. 411, 762; Huden p. 297). At this writing, a beaver lodge is visible in the pond. The beaver dam can be seen atop the pond's small man-made dam, to the left (northwest) of the point where the trail first meets the pond; the man-made dam was built in the 1950s or 1960s for expanding wildlife habitat (Hochholzer p. 6). The dead trees along the pond's edge are further evidence of beaver activity.
Panoramic view of unnamed pond on Yawbucs Brook
Panoramic view of unnamed pond on Yawbucs Brook in autumn
The trail continues northeast near the pond as it tapers off into the brook; more beaver activity may be seen along the way. Hikers will soon cross the brook, then a dirt road and cross the brook one last time before reaching the boat launch on Wyassup Lake.
Panoramic view of Wyassup Lake
The lake's name may have been derived from Mohegan expressions meaning "wild hemp place" or "rushes or wild flax" (Hughes and Allen pp. 408. 411, 762; Huden p. 296). It has been written that the lake "was named after an Indian who had built a wigwam near it, and who was looked upon by the other Indians as a very wise man" (Crandall p. 107). The lake has also been referred to as "Wetesamoonsuck Pond" (Hughes and Allen p. 411) and "North Stonington Lake" (Crandall p. 107). During the warmer months, a portable latrine may be available at the parking lot there. Swimming is prohibited.
The trail follows Wyassup Lake Road northeast very briefly and turns left (north) onto a dirt road at a gate to begin an extended stretch in the Pachaug State Forest. At a three-way intersection of dirt roads, veer right (northeast). The trail's footpath soon leaves the dirt road by turning left (north), then crosses a stream and a right-of-way for a buried fiber optic cable. Hikers will soon climb High Ledge to a view of Wyassup Lake.
View of Wyassup Lake from High Ledge
Near High Ledge are two noteworthy features: an interesting stone structure and the Legend Woods Adirondack Shelter. It is important to note that there are no trails to these features from the High Ledge area, but there is little undergrowth in the forest there. Start by backtracking away from High Ledge to the point where the trail meets a stone wall as it starts to descend the hill. From the wall, walk about 200 feet (60 meters) northwest to find the stone structure -- possibly a hearth; the author is seeking more information about this structure. To reach the beautiful Adirondack shelter, return to the wall/trail crossing and walk west then southwest on the southern side of the saddle ridge, being careful not to go down the steeper slopes. The shelter, or the grassy road that leads to it, will be reached in about 650 feet (200 meters) of walking from the wall. The shelter was rebuilt under the direction of Steven Hedler of Troop 75 Preston, Connecticut, as an Eagle Scout project. A reservation is needed from the Pachaug State Forest in order to camp in the shelter.
Stone structure, possibly a hearth, near High Ledge
Legend Woods Adirondack Shelter
Returning to High Ledge, the hike leaves the ledge and descends to cross an intermittent stream in a ravine. The trail follows glacially-formed ridges until it turns right (east) onto the dirt Legendwood Road (also called Legend Wood Road); a 1937 map from the Rhode Island State Planning Board (RISPB) names it "Ledging Road" and The Connecticut Guide names it "Bullit Ledge Road" (Heermance p. 247). In summer motorboats can be heard on the nearby Billings Lake. About a quarter of a mile (0.4 kilometer) along the road, hikers may see the deteriorated, stone-lined foundation hole of an old homestead off to the right (east), among ferns.
Foundation of homestead on Legendwood Road
The road soon arrives at a three-way intersection of dirt roads; the trail turns left (northwest) onto a road that descends to the base of a rock outcrop called Bullet Ledge, also known as "Bear Ledge" or "Bear Ridge" (Hughes and Allen p. 408; RISPB). The trail briefly leaves the road by veering left (west) and climbing the ledge.