Location: Union, CT
Difficulty (for little feet): Medium
Total Duration: 2 hours
Summary: Hiking with kids at Bigelow Hollow brings back great memories. Over 9,000 acres are available for your hiking (or boating) pleasure between Bigelow Hollow State Park and Nipmuk Forest- this is one of the largest unbroken woodlands in Eastern Connecticut. Great for adults and kids alike, you can assemble your own trek ahead of time by reviewing the trail map.
I hooked up with Rob, Director of Young Life, UConn. We did a two hour hike, which included some swimming, and that was just right for our group of kids which totaled six, ranging in age from two to nine. This walk is rated "medium" simply because there is a lot of elevation gain and loss in short spurts. The trail is plenty wide and has good footing, but we made sure to talk frequent water breaks since we had their little legs pumping.
The trail is often covered in pine needles which makes it soft, but there are some rock gardens too...nothing too ominous. Not too many roots to interfere either. The woods are beautiful and spacious, with lots of evergreen and fern foliage. It's a truly pleasant scene as you make your way towards Mashapaug Pond (we took the white and blue blaze trail and stayed right (looking north on the map), which we highly recommend for kids).
The biggest and most rewarding surprise was the water. We followed the blue blaze to the front of a peninsula to a place where the kids could wade. I only expected some rock tossing but the water was exceptionally clean and warm...warmer than our pools...so most of the kids went for a full-on swim. Note: for anyone looking to swim, bring a change of clothes, towels, or some quick-dry clothing. We didn't do this and regretted it, which led to us walking back on the road in squishy shoes. It was still a blast though (For your reference, we parked at the 3rd parking area in from the park entrance.)
You should know that there is a charge on weekends and holidays. So go during the week! Overall, this was a great place to eat, hike and swim and we'll be going back very soon. Next time, we might just drive straight to the boat launch and head over to the swimming area...but there is a lot of great trails so be sure to hit those up, too.
Quotes from the kids:
"It was awesome!"
"My favorite part was the swimming...and the downhills."
"I didn't like the uphills."
"My favorite part was riding on my daddy's back."