Visit This East Coast State Park For Stunning Landscape And Hiking Adventures

The New England state of Connecticut is conveniently located right between major Northeast cities, Boston, MA and New York City. But the Nutmeg State — although small — has plenty to offer all on its own, especially when it comes to outdoor fun and hikes with gorgeous scenery. One of the best hikes can be found at a state park nestled in southeastern Connecticut's scenic countryside: Devil's Hopyard State Park in East Haddam. This outdoor oasis is spread over an expansive 860 acres.

The true origins of its unique name are unknown, but there are several intriguing stories surrounding it. According to one legend, the name is inspired by the potholes located near the park's waterfalls, which are perfectly cylindrical in formation. Early settlers believed there was a supernatural reason for this phenomena: The Devil had walked through the waterfall and been so angered when his tail got wet, that he used his hooves to burn holes in the stones. Between the peculiar rock formations and the lush greenery (not to mention the stunning foliage during the autumn months), the park has a mystical aura. It's the perfect spot for outdoorsy nature and hiking enthusiasts, as well as those interested in local folklore.

What to do in Devil's Hopyard State Park

One of the park's most popular features is Chapman Falls. Formed by the Eightmile River, which winds its way through the park and carves out rocky ledges, the falls scale upwards of 60 feet in height.. Visitors can be found relaxing as they take in the mesmerizing view, enjoying a picnic by the falls, and, during the summer months, taking a dip in the cool water at the base. 

Although the falls are a huge draw (for good reason), the park has a lot of other wonderful things to offer, from a manmade covered bridge to amazing, well-maintained hiking trails. "I initially went to the park to practice photographing a waterfall. About a 1/2 hour into it, I started looking around and found some trails. About 10 steps in and you will find yourself emerged into a beautiful forest with plenty of breath taking [SIC] views," one reviewer wrote on TripAdvisor. "I couldn't wait to see what was waiting beyond each twist and turn along the path. I was only planning on spending about 1 hour at the park but wound up spending the entire day exploring. Don't be afraid to get off the path along the river. There are a few hidden gems along the way."

Devil's Hopyard State Park has over 8 miles of hiking trails

The park is home to 8.5 miles of hiking trails that cater to various skill levels. The trails provide an excellent opportunity to explore the park's diverse ecosystems, from dense woodlands to open meadows. The Orange Loop Trail is one of the most popular hikes. It's just about 2 miles and takes a little over an hour to complete on average, but you get a lot of bang for your buck. The hike starts at the covered bridge (which is located over the Eightmile River) and leads to the Tablet Rock Vista, which is an expansive viewpoint. Along your way, be sure to check it out a natural cave known as the Devil's Oven. Other hiking trails in the park include Woodcutters Trail, Millington Trail, and Witch Hazel trail. All the trails are clearly marked so no need to worry about a misadventure. 

Other popular Devil's Hopyard activities include fishing in the Eightmile River and the surrounding ponds in the park, and birdwatching. The scenery in the state park transforms with the seasons (it is New England, after all). During springtime and summer, there are beautiful wildflowers and lush greenery, while the fall months boast absolutely stunning foliage. If you're willing to bundle up in the winter, you'll find the park is much quieter and you'll be treated to views of the snow-covered landscape.

Be sure to explore East Haddam

East Haddam is a quintessential New England town that has a lot to offer — so be sure to carve out at least a few hours before or after your visit to Devil's Hopyard State Park to explore the town. Plus, after a hike, a good meal is certainly in order. Just a 15-minute drive from the park is Gelston House Restaurant and Inn. It's located right on the Connecticut River, so you'll get yet another gorgeous view as you enjoy your meal. Next door to the restaurant is Goodspeed Opera House, which has produced over 250 musicals since it opened its doors. Built in 1876 by shipbuilder William H. Goodspeed, it's also a beautiful building that history buffs will love to check out. 

Lastly, you won't want to miss Gillette Castle State Park. Located on a sprawling 184-acre estate, the castle was designed by actor and playwright William Gillette in the early 20th century. The interior has 24 rooms and stunning architecture that's a nod to castles from the medieval times. The grounds are no less impressive, and they include bridges, a goldfish pond, and even a railroad station inspired by Grand Central Station in New York City.