Family-Friendly Fall Hikes in Fairfield County

10/9/14 - By Susan Isaak

Fall is here with gorgeous, crisp weather and changing leaves. It's the perfect time of year to take your family on a hike. Hiking is a great weekend activity, especially if you've already picked your pumpkins and want to do something else before it gets too chilly outside. Fairfield County has something for everyone, including countless miles of hiking trails. Whether you're looking for an easy, flat loop or a challenging hike to the top of a ridge, you'll find it here. No matter what, enjoy the fall, unplug the kids, get outside and take a hike!


Hikes are great fun but there are few things worse than hearing "I'm hungry" when you're half a mile into the woods, so don't forget to bring a snack and a drink. (They don't call it trail mix for nothing!) Sturdy shoes are a must to better navigate any uneven ground. Dressing in layers is helpful since you can get pretty warm if you hike at a good clip, but it can also feel a lot colder in a heavily wooded area that doesn't get much sunlight. Also remember to tuck those pants into your socks and bring some bug spray since ticks are just as active in the fall. Most of all, have fun!

Mianus River Park - This 391 acre park straddles both Greenwich and Stamford and features woodlands, wetlands and riverbanks. Here you'll find a network of rolling trails that run along the river, winding past vernal pools, outcroppings, wooded ledges and small knolls. The paths are hard packed and easy to navigate, making it a great place to hike with kids. The park also features a 2.6 mile "nature trail" that includes 12 educational stations with information about the local ecology and wildlife. There are two entrance points, one in Greenwich and one in Stamford.

Mianus River Park, 360 Merriebrook Lane, Stamford CT 06902; 450 Cognewaugh Road, Greenwich CT, 06807

Devil's Den - At 1,756 acres, this preserve is the Nature Conservancy's largest in Connecticut. You can choose from a wide variety of loops depending on the distance and type of terrain you want to explore. You could hike for hours in this enormous, beautiful nature preserve past woodlands, streams and rock ledges. I like taking the Laurel Trail around Godfrey Pond. The loop is a little over a mile and the views around the pond are really lovely, especially when the leaves start to turn.

Devil's Den, 33 Pent Road, Weston CT, 06883, 203-226-4991

Tarrywile Park - This park is 722 acres offering hikers of all ages over 21 miles of well-marked and maintained trails. The trails here wind past ponds, fields and orchards towards spots with amazing views of downtown Danbury and Candlewood Lake in the distance. You'll also find the Tarrywile Mansion and Hearthstone Castle, both listed on the National Register for Historic Preservation. Print out the self guided tour to learn about the history of different parts of the park during your hike.

Tarrywile Park, 70 Southern Blvd, Danbury CT, 06810, 203-744-3130

Webb Mountain Discovery Zone - We've already told you how the Webb Mountain Discovery Zone makes a great Day Trip, but this incredibly family-friendly nature sanctuary deserves another mention as a terrific destination for a fall hike. The 171 acre space offers a self directed scavenger hunt on easy to walk, well-marked trails. 27 learning stations encourage visitors to look for evidence of how the land has been used by people and animals, with subjects such as plants and wildlife, ecology, rocks and minerals and Native American and Colonial history. Each of the three trails is under 2 miles long and features memorable and silly names like Turtle Turnpike, Salamander Street and Froggy Freeway.

Webb Mountain Discovery Zone, 71 Webb Circle, Monroe CT, 06848, 203-556-9737

Aspetuck Land Trust - the Aspetuck Land Trust has preserved over 1,700 acres of land, open space and natural resources in Easton, Fairfield, Weston and Westport. Visitors are welcome to explore all of their 45 trailed preserves from dawn to dusk. Since the land in this preserve is not one big space, but instead it's dotted throughout the four towns, your best bet is to check their website to figure out where to go and what kind of hike you'd like to take. There are a number of great trails specifically tailored for kids throughout the preserve as well as events and guided tours for kids. I recommend starting with the 20 acre Leonard Schine Preserve and Children's Natural Playground. The playground was built with natural materials found in the preserve, featuring slides made from rocks and logs as well as hikes that are are easy for kids and great for collecting acorns and leaves.

Aspetuck Land Trust, Leonard Schine Preserve, 1 Glendinning Rd, Westport CT, 06880

Lake Mohegan - This park offers 170 wooded acres that surround a fresh water lake, close to the Merritt Parkway. The Cascades at the northern end is a short section of rapids on the Mill River, which is the river that feeds into the lake. My kids love climbing on the rocks in this area. This is a very popular place for families and dogs, so feel free to bring Fido as long as you keep him on his leash. There are two main trails: Red which is 1.6 miles and follows the edges of the lake and river, and Yellow which is 2.5 miles around the perimeter. Lake Mohegan manages to make you feel like you're in a much more remote location, and the views and foliage are lovely. The beach at Lake Mohegan offers a a nice spot for a picnic as well as a good playground.

Lake Mohegan, 960 Morehouse Hwy, Fairfield CT, 06825

Shelton Lakes Recreation Path - The "Rec path" is a popular, beautiful multi-use path located along the Shelton Lakes Greenway. The path passes along all three of Shelton's lakes as well as dams, gatehouses, streams and meadows. The path itself is 9-12 feet wide with a crushed stone surface, making it easy to walk and stroller and wheelchair accessible. This lovely trail is flat and winds through the Shelton Lakes Greenway for nearly 5 miles. (for a more challenging hike, check out the other trails in the Greenway.)

Shelton Lakes Recreation Path, 135 Shelton Ave, Shelton CT, 06484

New Canaan Nature Center - If you're looking for an easy, fun and educational hike, the New Canaan Nature Center is perfect. Located on 40 acres, you'll find wet and dry meadows, ponds, woodlands, thickets, a marsh and an orchard. You can experience all kinds of ecosystems while walking across the two miles of trails. The trails include marsh boardwalks and two observation towers that overlook the wetlands and catail marsh. When you're done hiking, you can enjoy the playground and everything else this popular nature center has to offer.

New Canaan Nature Center, 144 Oenoke Ridge, New Canaan CT, 06830, 203-966-9577

Audubon Greenwich - Here you'll find 7 miles of trails across 285 acres of woodland, wetland and meadow habitat. The trails are open from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year. The views are breathtaking and the environment is very diverse, from open fields to forests and shrub swamps, vernal pools, wildflower meadows and an old apple orchard. The Byram River cuts through the sanctuary and was dammed in the nineteenth century to create Mead Lake, home to turtles, frogs and water snakes. On the Lake Loop Trail, you'll find a boardwalk and two bird blinds which are camouflaged shelters that allow you the chance to observe wildlife without scaring anything away. In addition to the birds, you might spy a river otter, flying squirrels, owls, wild turkeys and bats. This is definitely a hike to bring your binoculars! When you're done exploring the wildlife along the beautiful hiking trails, check out the Kimberlin Nature Education Center. It's open from 10:00am- 5:00pm daily and has an art gallery featuring John J. Audubon's famous watercolors of bird species, a live honey bee hive exhibit, and a wildlife and bird feeder viewing window. Don't miss the Hilfiger Children's Learning Ceter which provides a terrific, interactive hands-on learning space with information about birds, wildlife and our environment. My kids love to play in this space, especially the puppet theater. I highly recommend the Nature Store gift shop for it's great selection of nature-oriented toys, games and books. Audubon Greenwich Trail and Nature Education Center, Free for National Audubon Society Members, non-members $3/adult, $1.50 youth/seniors.

Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, Greenwich CT 06831, 203-869-5272

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