Trail Length: 17.6 miles
Towns: Hampton, Eastford, Ashford, Chaplin
Allowed Uses: Hiking
Partners: Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP), Friends of Goodwin Forest, Yale Forest
The Natchaug Trail traverses the James L. Goodwin and Natchaug State Forests. Together with the Nipmuck State Forest, Yale Forest, and several large private tracts, they combine to form one of the largest areas of contiguous forest in southern New England supporting a large variety of wildlife.
The trail follows a short portion of the beautiful Still River and journeys along Bigelow Brook. Meandering over relatively easy terrain, it crosses several small brooks, passes stone walls, and slips through interesting stands of trees. State foresters actively manage these forests for wildlife and timber production and the trail traverses a diverse and interesting tree mix ranging from 2 to well over 100 years old.
There are opportunities to catch sight of a variety of wildlife including turtles, beavers, and many birds along the streams and in the areas around Pine Acres Pond, Black Spruce, and Beaverdam Marshes. Active forest management has produced a variety of young, early-succession forest habitats which abound with diverse species of birds and other wildlife.
History is abundant along the trail as it passes near old CCC Camp Fernow (1933-42) and through General Nathaniel Lyon Memorial Park (the first General to be killed in the Civil War). A short northern section also coincides with the Old Connecticut Path traveled in the 1630s by settlers (driving over 100 cattle) from the Boston area to the Hartford area in one of the first major inland migrations of America by European settlers.
The Natchaug Trail joins the Nipmuck Trail in Ashford and hikers can continue exploring north to Bigelow Hollow State Park and the CT/MA state line or south to Mansfield Hollow State Park.
The James L. Goodwin Conservation Education Center, on Pine Acres Pond in Hampton, offers extensive educational programming, interpretive trails, and guided walks. It maintains a Native Plant Wildlife Garden and offers both Nature and History Museums. This site is jointly managed by CFPA and CT DEEP.