A Connecticut Hiking Trail: Bluff Point, Groton
Bluff Point State Park and Coastal Reserve boasts over 800 acres of varied landscape. It is one of my "go-to" walks, as it is a circular path. Once I am on it, I challenge myself to go full circle and do the whole 3+ miles.
This is a very family-friendly, well-traveled path. Almost everyone you encounter is smiling and eager to greet you. Why not? Here you can escape the hustle and bustle for a few hours and feel as if you are traveling away from home.
I will give you as much information as I can think of, from the point of view of someone who has done the Bluff Point walk. My goal is to give you a comprehensive view and more information about it than you can find in any one other place.
To get to Bluff Point, I always take Exit 88 off of I-95. Head south on Route 117 until you can't go any further and you will hit Route 1 (Fort Hill Road). Turn right and at the next traffic light (by Town Hall) take a left onto Depot Road and go straight under the railroad bridge it will become a hard-packed dirt road. Follow this into the parking lot. You will always find ample free parking here.
We went to scope this out on August 18, 2011 around noon, and for the first time ever, I saw a mobile concession stand in the parking lot. He was selling Nathan's hot dogs, snacks and beverages. I don't know how often he is here, but I will check again.
There is one handicapped parking spot, but if that is taken the rest of the parking lot is reasonably flat.
You will be able to tell where to start as there is no guard rail at the entrance. Again, no admission fee. The park is open year-round.
Just inside the entrance on both the right and left (in season), there are six or seven picnic tables. On the left, two tables have standing barbeque pits next to them. Although there are only a few tables, there is usually an empty one. Most people don't come to picnic.
Also, to the left are two solar-powered composting restrooms. These are also handicapped accessible but have no facilities for washing your hands.
Bluff Point Path
The main paths are very wide, ranging from about 12 feet wide to 6 ft wide as it narrows. They are hard-packed dirt and gravel. They can get muddy if you are walking after snow or rain. I recommend walking shoes or sneakers, but something close-toed. The Connecticut State website provides a detailed trail map, as well as lots more helpful info.
The first part of the walk is probably wheelchair accessible for someone with decent upper body strength to wheel themselves, or a reasonably strong person pushing someone. You would probably be able to get almost to the Bluff, but not on it.
You need to be mindful that there may be bicycles or horses coming, although the horses are not that common.
After 0.10 miles you will come to a fork in the road—take it. (Sorry I couldn't resist).
It doesn't matter which side of the fork you take, the path is circular around the park. The path to the right is flatter up to The Point. Often, I will take this to the point and back and not do the circle.
If you take the right fork, the water will be on your right going up to the point.
Along The Way to the Point
At the beginning of the walk, you will be quite close to the water. You will see narrow strips of sand and people clamming. If you want to clam, you need to obtain a permit at Town Hall (at the corner of Depot and Fort Hill Road).
You will also see people throwing balls and sticks for their dogs to fetch. Dogs are supposed to be on a leash, but no one seems to mind a well-behaved dog fetching.
On the subject of dogs, the water leading up to Bluff Point is the Poquonnock River, but it leads to Long Island Sound so it is brackish rather than fresh water. You may want to bring a cooler or bottle of fresh water for your dog.
You will pass through beautiful marsh and wetlands with different wildflowers in bloom. There are wild roses and honeysuckle which scent the air when in bloom.
There are two benches for sitting, early in the walk. From either bench, you may watch the planes take off from Groton Airport, across the river.
Later on the path, there are large stones in the shade, where you may sit and rest.
Don't Be Led Astray
You will encounter a sign for the "Winthrop Foundation". When I was a newbie, I took this path and was very disappointed. I expected to find a "Foundation" or a "Trust" maybe housed in a Neo-classical mansion. Nope.
It is the foundation of the house that used to belong to governor of Connecticut—John Winthrop, Jr. (not to be confused with John Winthrop, Sr. who was the governor of Massachusetts). If you would like to see it, by all means take the little side path and then turn around and come back to the main path. It will be 0.36 miles round trip.
If You Want More of a Challenge, Take a Side Path
There are little side paths off the main path. Some of them are quite challenging. They go uphill and over large rocks. For these, I would suggest serious hiking shoes.
There are also many mountain bike paths off the main path.
These paths are much narrower than the main path so tick management is a good idea. There are deer in the woods, and thus deer ticks. Take precautions. Wear light clothes so you can see the little devils and tuck your pants into your socks.
Also, there is a presence of poison ivy.
You will see jewelweed growing along the paths. It has a bright yellow and gold flower. It is trumpet-shaped, has three petals, one of which is curled and forms a slipper-like sack.
The Native American cure for exposure to poison ivy is to take the jewelweed flower and squeeze it on the poison ivy. I have never had poison ivy to test this, but if you are out in the woods and you touch poison ivy, I suppose you could try.
Swim at Your Own Risk
On the way to the Bluff, there is a nice beach area. There is no lifeguard on duty and dogs are not allowed.
The beach is clean, and I have never seen it crowded. Often, there is no one on it. I took this picture on a Thursday afternoon in August at midday on a good beach day.
There is beautiful sand. Part of the sand has a lot of seashells on it, which makes walking toward shore difficult with bare feet. Bring flip-flops or other footwear.
At the Bluff
The Bluff is about 1.6 miles from the start of the trail. The above picture is looking somewhat down and outward from the top of the Bluff.
Just before the Bluff, you will find additional restrooms and then there is a sign pointing toward the right to the Bluff.
Once on the Bluff you can look across to Fisher's Island and the Long Island Sound. It's a beautiful view often filled with sailboats.
Okay, now a decision needs to be made. You may go back the same way you came for 1.6 miles or you can continue around the loop for another 2 miles. The continuation of the loop is less flat than the approach, but not horrendously hilly.
Other Major Attractions in This Area
We have a wide variety of things to do in Southeastern Connecticut. There's a little something for everyone!
- Mystic Seaport
A recreated seaport village with historic sailing vessels and sailing items.
- Mystic Aquarium
Very close to Mystic Seaport. Live fish, seals and penguins. Educational displays. Family fun.
- Mashantucket Museum and Research Center
Beautiful displays of indian artifacts. Special self guided tours through an indian village as it was in the 1600's. "18,000 years of native and natural history."
- Submarine Force Museum
Visit the museum and USS Nautilus. Admission free.
We'll have to do it again sometime soon.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Ellen Gregory
Did You Enjoy Our Walk? - It was nice walking with you.
Ellen Gregory (author) from Connecticut, USA on July 28, 2013:
@anonymous: Wow that's fascinating. I didn't know it had been there as recently as 1963. You are lucky to have had that experience and an opportunity to share a slice of history.
anonymous on July 26, 2013:
my name Kenneth e Holloway, I lived in the old farmhouse that used to be the governor Winthrop house. the year was 1934 to end of 1939 it was then called the Ackley farm by the town folks the Ackley leased it from henry Gardner who lived at millstone point. what a wonderful place to start growing up.the house burnt to the ground august 1963 my dad and I mi ght have been the last to see the house standing. besides the person that torched it.
Vicki Green from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA on January 07, 2013:
What a lovely place for a walk and such a beautiful beach. I also appreciated the photo of poison ivy - it's not found near where I live so I've never seen it, but good to know when I travel and hike in areas where it grows.
Anthony Altorenna from Connecticut on July 11, 2012:
Beautiful! I've walked through Bluff Point many times, and fished for striped bass and blue fish off the beach in Long Island Sound. Nicely done!!
poutine on June 24, 2012:
Loved walking with you....
angelsigh on April 12, 2012:
Love it! We had so much fun trekking the trails and wondering all over the place in there. We actually thought we were lost at one point haha. Thank you again for a great lens.
JEMArtistry on February 26, 2012:
It is beautiful! When it warms up a bit I am going to take my kids there for some hiking and a picnic. Thanks so much for sharing this!
julieannbrady on February 24, 2012:
Ah, indeed ... now it is time to sit for a spell and reflect.
flicker lm on February 15, 2012:
As a child, my family used to visit "Groton Long Point" in CT. I think this must be in the same area. We also used to go to the Mystic Seaport. Enjoyed the lens and the photos!
Indigo Janson from UK on November 02, 2011:
Thanks for taking me along on your walk. :) Looks like you live in a beautiful part of the US and I bet it's gorgeous there at this time of year.
Patricia on October 24, 2011:
Looks nice there. Weather looks similar to where I live. (Oregon).