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Is Connecticut the Least Outdoorsy State? Maybe, But There’s Still Plenty of Outdoors To Enjoy

There is no exact science to determine which state should be named the least outdoorsy. There are a lot of arguments that can be made for and against each state as far as outdoor access, as some states have less public land and smaller GDPs in outdoor recreation. Connecticut fits both categories. In defense of the Constitution State, though, there are still great ways to explore the outdoors.

So why is Connecticut on the wrong side of this list? For one, only 0.3% of Connecticut is federal land. While this isn’t synonymous with public land, federal land (as seen in the West like classic outdoor paradises like Colorado, Washington, or Alaska) often comes with national forests and Bureau of Land Management properties to explore. Secondly, in the yearly GDP report on outdoor recreation, Connecticut ranked last, with 1.4% of the state’s GDP being part of the world of outdoors. 

All that said – don’t let these numbers stop you from getting outside. There’s plenty of great outdoor spots to explore in Connecticut. Let’s explore some of the best.

hiking in connecticut
(Source: Derek Story)

1. Sleeping Giant State Park

This state park gets its name from a two-mile stretch of mountaintop that resembles a sleeping giant. The numerous trails in the park almost create a spiderweb of paths to choose from. The legends of this well-defined rock line go back hundreds of years and even include stories from the Indigenous peoples who called the area home. And one of the best things about this park is its great location – it’s a short drive from New Haven and Hartford.

2. Gillette Castle State Park

As the name implies, Gillette Castle State Park has a castle on the property. While the building from the early 1900s looks medieval on the outside, inside, it’s relatively modern. The building was home to actor William Gillette, who died in 1937. The state has owned the property for years and has restored it as a museum. Outside the home (castle) are miles of hiking trails overlooking the Connecticut River’s views.

connecticut outdoors
(Source: Elaine Brewer)

3. The Appalachian Trail

One of America’s best-known trails makes a stop through Connecticut. About 52 miles of the Appalachian Trail go through the state. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy says hikers in Connecticut pass-through “hardwood forests and what was once called the “Arsenal of the Revolution.” Today’s hikers can see historic remnants of old charcoal pits from the Trail. Camping in the state is allowed, but only in designated areas.

4. Explore the Coast Around Mystic

Outdoors doesn’t only mean mountains and trails. There are plenty of other great ways to get a dose of nature, one of which is to head to the beach. And Connecticut has plenty of celebrated coastlines, and the Mystic area may be the most well-known. With several beaches to choose from, visitors can go fishing or swimming in the Long Island Sound. There are also several campgrounds in the area to complete the outdoor experience. 

beachs in connecticut
(Source: Christopher Luther)

5. Go Skiing at One of the Ski Resorts

While many don’t associate elevation with Connecticut, the state is still in New England and with the nearby Appalachian Mountains, you’ll find plenty of slopes. The state has a few different destinations that entice locals and others in nearby cities like New York to spend the day skiing and snowboarding. The largest resort is Mohawk Mountain.

So, is Connecticut the least outdoorsy state? Doesn’t look like it.

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