One of our new favorite hiking spots is right over the Massachusetts border in Enfield, CT-- The Powder Hollow section of Scantic State Park. This hike has it all -- rapids, easy access to safe water, frog ponds, lots of fallen logs to practice balance on, wide open clear trails and old ruins. What more can you ask for?
Powder Hollow is a local favorite. The trail is nearly always busy -- even though we're practicing 'social distancing' right now -- if you don't like to be alone on a trail this is a good pick. You're also close to a neighborhood the whole time so there's no deep woods creepiness. However, if you're worried about social distancing on the trail -- this might not be the right time for you to explore here.
Powder Hollow is named for the Hazardville Powder Factory -- a gun powder factory that supplied over 40% of the gun powder used by the Union during the Civil War. Follow the obvious trail in this park to discover the remains of this old gem. This is the type of spot that immediately makes kids think of a "secret hideout." Take it from our experience: Stay. On. The Trail. There are a few spots where it seems like you can blaze ahead on a less travelled path but you will end up frustrated (you can't really get too lost here as you are right off Route 190 and surrounded by neighborhoods) and needing to cut through the brush. Not a pro move if you've got littles with you. The woods are very overgrown in season and who knows what itchy leaves are hiding in there. If you really want to explore, visit during the dead season and you can walk all around to the discover all the hidden remains without fear of poison anything.
There are a few frog ponds to explore, lots of fallen trees to practice balance on, tons of bird calls to identify. This is a really fun spot. In the summer you can bring your bathing suit and a floaty if you want to enjoy the rapids at the entrance to the trail. Or pick any other of a number of spots to enjoy the water. Bring water shoes for the littles if they don't appreciate natural water. There are many fun spots with different depths to explore and even some spots with still water. Lots of opportunities to cool off.
This is an approximate two-mile loop hike. The terrain is easy with some slight elevation. Not stroller friendly. You need a backpack carrier if you're bringing a toddler or younger. Very dog friendly trail. You will meet lots of furry friends along the way. The trail is obvious and easy to follow. Even off season there are a few spots where you can cross the dry stream bed to collect rocks.
A good turnaround point is when you reach the high cliff over the river -- you'll find some barbed wire and no trespassing signs. Although you can continue the trail here around the private property it's a little risky for little kids.
For a delicious treat after your hike visit Collins Creamery located right up the street at 9 Powder Hill Road. Some of the best locally made ice cream and soft serve around. (Open daily in season -- early spring through fall).
If the parking lot at the corners of Maple Avenue and Powder Hollow Road is full (which it often is and often patrolled by police), head over the bridge and take a left past the big red barn. Follow Dusthouse Road back to the baseball fields and park there. Parking here adds a quarter mile to the hike, but it's worth it (and you'll miss out on a chance at a parking ticket).
Set the GPS for Scantic River State park at 98 S. Dusthouse Road in Enfield, CT. You'll be glad you did. See you on the trail!