John A. Minetto State Park is a state park in the town of Woodbridge, Connecticut. The park was named after John Arbore Minetto, a prominent citizen and manufacturer during the early years of the state’s industrial revolution. It features extensive use by mountain bikers, including trails for amateurs and professionals.
In addition to its biking facilities, the park also provides access to miles of hiking trails. The park is managed by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection as part of the state’s forest preserve system.
On May 15, 2013, an additional 2.5 miles (4.0km) of bike trails were added to the park through a partnership agreement with Trek Bikes, who donated their time and expertise to help develop the new routes. As a result, the total trail count now stands at nearly 20 miles (32km). These new sections are marked “S” on the map below. Other than these two additions all of the existing single-track loops remain unchanged and passable year round.
There are three main multi-use trails. All start and end near the parking lot/registration area.
Saugatuck Trail – This is the most popular trail in the park. Saunter’s Lane Trail – Named for the ruts created by sleds used to haul timber off the mountainside during the lumber era that swept over much of northern Connecticut, this narrow but well groomed trail has numerous roots and rocks to step through. It is suitable for hikers, joggers, bicyclists, and equestrians.
Sledding Hill Trail – This rugged, rooty, 12 mile long trail is one of the best mountain bike trails in the state. Riders can expect to find loose gravel, large boulders, tree stumps to jump, slide, and otherwise enjoy riding around. Amateurs and pros alike use this trail for its unique challenges.
Snowmobiles typically operate from mid December through late March, when the snow pack accumulates enough to make it unsafe to ride. Camping overnight in your vehicle is permitted anywhere in the park except along the roadways. Overnight parking is available between the hours of dusk and 6am within designated areas of the park. Additional information regarding camping in the park may be obtained by calling 860-246-6100 or visiting the park office. Hunting is not permitted at John A. Minetto State Park. Hunters must follow the rules and regulations of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Information about local hunting opportunities can be found at huntct.com.
Picnicking is allowed at any unposted picnic area throughout the park. No charcoal grills are permitted. Only electric hookups are permitted. Pavilions may be rented up to 11 months in advance. If you would like to have a permanent structure built, a permit must be purchased from the park offices. Group tenting is permitted in the large group tenting area. Eighteen sites are available, ten with electrical hookups. Toilets and showers are provided nearby. Tenting takes place in the large open field. Backpacking is allowed anywhere in the park.
Fifty-five campsites are available, thirty with water and twenty without. Water is available in the campground via pump. Modern restrooms and shower facilities are located centrally in the campground. Hiking is very popular in John A. Minetto State Park. Over 200 acres are dedicated to hiking trails. Most begin and end near the parking lot/registration area. Dogs are prohibited throughout the park. Cats are permitted only in certain parts of the park. Mountain bikes are welcome on several different trails. Saunter’s Lane Trail is particularly suited for them due to the abundance of roots and rocks to hop through.
Cycling is common both inside and outside the park. Sledding Hill Trail is considered the premier sledding destination in the region, drawing huge crowds every winter. Due to the shallow slope, it is especially popular with young riders. The park hosts many races each season, including multiple mini-races and cross country events. One of the largest annual cycling events in Fairfield County is the Bike MS 150, which passes through the park en route to raising money for the American Cancer Society. John A. Minetto State Park consists of approximately 1,500 acres, primarily wooded land with some fields and wetlands. Elevation ranges from 640 feet above sea level to more than 1,400 feet above sea level.
Temperatures range from milder winters than surrounding towns to hot summers compared to regions farther north. Precipitation falls mainly in spring and fall, increasing gradually from April through October, then falling heavily from November through March. Because of the rain shadow effect, there is less precipitation closer to the shoreline than inland. Winds blow mostly from the northeast, following the Long Island Sound, so the southwest side of the park is usually sheltered from windborne leaves and other debris.
However, strong winds do occur from time to time, especially in autumn. Tree growth varies depending on elevation. At higher elevations, red maple and black cherry dominate; lower down, white pine and hemlock grow larger. Fossils and dinosaur footprints discovered in the park included those of dinosaurs Nodosaurus, Thescelosaurus, and Triceratops.
John A. Minetto State Park is known for hosting extreme sports events. Multi-discipline competitions and festivals are held annually. X Games, BMX, motocross, slalom, downhill, cross country skiing, and ski orienteering events are just a few of the many sporting events staged at JAMDSP. JAMDSP also serves as home base for Sky Skiers, offering beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses. The park boasts a half pipe where skateboard tricks and other freestyle activities take place. JAMDSP also has a disc golf course, which is played using specially designed metal flying rings. JAMDSP regularly hosts Food Truck Nights, attracting hundreds of people who come out to eat while listening to live music and watching sports in the park.
Every Labor Day weekend, JAMDSP plays host to Flying Disc Summer Camp, where kids aged 13 to 18 can spend five days playing ultimate Frisbee, learning how to throw a discus, participating in track & field, and making friends with peers their own age. JAMDSP provides a venue for summer concerts presented by local musical groups. Free outdoor movies are shown nightly in the big screen theater. JAMDSP has a 25 meter pool, which is opened beginning Memorial Day weekend and ending Labor Day weekend. Beginning in 2008 lifeguards will not be posted at the beach. Boats may be launched from either a designated hand launch east of Sandy Point or from a car-top launch on Fishers Road. Boat launching fees are $20 per vehicle.\
Other activities include:
Common trees in the understory include:
- eastern hemlock
- yellow birch
- shagbark hickory
- and skunk cabbage.
Ground cover plants include:
- cardinal flower
- mountain mint
- pinxter azalea
Bird species observed at the park include:
- bald eagles
- owls such as barred owls
- saw-whet owls
- snowy owls
- turkey vultures
- wild turkeys
Mammals observed at the park included:
- river otters
- striped skunks
Reptiles and Amphibians
Reptiles and amphibians noted here included: