Bigelow Hollow State Park is a state park in the town of Easton, Connecticut. The park’s 1,100 acres (430ha) include forested woodlands and glacial erratics as well as open meadows, wetlands, ponds, and rocky outcroppings. In addition to its proximity to Mount Blue, the highest point in the state at 401 feet (123m), the park has scenic vistas due to its varied terrain; it includes areas with steep slopes, flat ground, and even swamps.
The remaining acreage is managed by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection as a public recreation area offering opportunities for hiking, cycling, fishing, and cross-country skiing. Prior use for these lands may have included timberland or agricultural production. A variety of habitats exist within Bigelow Hollow State Park. Forested woodlands can be found on north facing slopes, while wet valley bottoms host herbaceous plants. Rocky outcrops provide habitat for rodents, moles, chipmunks, and other small mammals. Open meadows are dominated by wildflowers in summer, but also support an understory of shrubs and trees.
Swamps offer poor habitat due to high water tables, frequent flooding, and low light penetration. Bigelow Hollow State Park features multiple access points with parking lots providing easy entry for visitors. All trail heads are clearly marked with posted signs showing distance to the next intersection and pointing the way to the summit of Mount Blue which sits about two miles distant. There are over thirty trails available ranging from easy to difficult depending on your experience level and fitness. For example, the hard packed dirt Beech Grove Path requires moderate physical exertion and elevation gain, whereas the more swampy Huckleberry Trail calls for greater caution.
Each trail provides different views of the surrounding countryside, some overlooking Mount Blue and others featuring less obvious landmarks like the “twin peaks” of Boaz Mountain or Nipmuc Peak farther east. Dogs and horses are permitted on certain paths and trails throughout the park, although they must always be kept under control. No hunting is allowed at Bigelow Hollow State Park. Parking fees are in effect during the months of May through October. The fee is $6 per vehicle per day, however, there is a special permit that can be purchased at the park office for those interested in exploring the park on horseback.
Back country campsites are available for individuals traveling with their RVs/Trailers. These sites feature minimal amenities and access to potable water. Water and electric site-wide hookups are not available. Back country campsite reservations can only be made online through the reservation system. Reservations can only be made between the hours of 8am and 5pm Eastern Time. Subject to availability, dogs are permitted on the back country campsites. They must remain on leashes no longer than six feet. Camping permits can also be purchased at the park offices. Group campground facilities include 50 tent and trailer sites, modern restrooms, hot showers, laundry facilities, and a sanitary dump station.
Advance campsite reservations can only be booked through the reservation system. Half of the group campsites are available for self-registration on a first come, first served basis. Unreserved group campsites are available on a walk-in basis. Access to the group campground requires a separate entrance fee of $8 daily for vehicles and $4 for pedestrians. The fee is waived for honorably discharged veterans and Connecticut residents age 62 & older and their spouses. Passes good for three days or a week are also available; annual passes good at both the reserved and unreserved sites are offered at an additional cost. Picnic tables and charcoal grills are provided at several locations around the park. Modern playground equipment is installed at the main picnic area. An accessible playground is located near the ball field.
The following state parks are within 30 miles (48km) of Bigelow Hollow State Park: Fairfield County Parks and Recreation District operates four regional parks in Fairfield County, including Bigelow Hollow State Park. These parks cover 2,936 acres (1,188ha).
Bigelow Hollow State Park is one of eleven protected areas occupying 100 Mile River Valley National Corridor, a section of the Long Island Sound that runs along the border of Stamford and Greenwich. This stretch of shoreline contains important wildlife habitat and unique cultural history. It also hosts sports events, including major league baseball games, and attractions like the Ives Concert Hall and the John F. Brown Conference Center. The region boasts extensive recreational facilities, including beaches, bike paths, boat launches, boardwalks, equestrian centers, hiking trails, picnic grounds, playing fields, and ski hills.
The park offers hiking and biking trails, beach access, boat launch, cabins, conference center, equestrian services, fish cleaning stations, food concession, general store, ice skating rink, nature center, picnic facilities, pool, sledding hill, and waterfront access. The park is home to the nationally ranked women’s soccer team, the University of Connecticut’s equestrian program, and the World Rugby Sevens Tournament held annually.
The tournament features international teams and draws huge crowds every year. Other popular sporting events held at the park each season include cross-country running, triathlon races, and volleyball matches. Cross-country skis and snowshoes are available for rent in the winter.
The park was named after William B. Bigelow who owned property here from 1851 until 1861 when he sold 640 acres (260ha) to Oliver Peabody who in turn bequeathed half his estate, including the land now known as Bigelow Hollow, to the state upon his death in 1918. From 1923 until 1961, the state used 300 acres (120ha) of this portion of the estate for a prison farm where inmates grew crops such as corn, potatoes, and beans.
Bigelow Hollow State Park offers hiking trails for all skill levels, including children, and facilities for:
- cross-country skiing
- mountain biking