Sunrise State Park is a state park in the town of Ridgefield, Connecticut. The park’s 1,400 acres (567ha) include forested woodlands and wetlands that offer opportunities for hiking, fishing, cross-country skiing, and seasonal horse-riding stables.
Additional purchases have brought the park up to nearly 2,000 acres. Sunset Farm offers trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians, facilities for picnics, camping, and swimming, and a playground. The park also includes an environmental center called “The Barn”, which features exhibits on local ecology and conservation issues. There are more than 20 miles (32km) of bridle paths around the perimeter of the park, plus additional riding areas inside the park proper.
The main entrance to the park is located at 59 Church Street in Saugatuck. An alternate entrance can be found at 144 Buckland Avenue in Fairfield. Parking fees are in effect from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. The park is open seven days per week beginning at 8:00 am and ending at sunset. Horses under saddle may be rented all day long every day except Fridays, where they must be returned by 5 p.m. No refunds are given if weather conditions prevent riding. Rides range from easy to difficult and vary greatly depending upon the skill level of the rider.
On most rides the participant will pass through several different barns/stables containing various types of horses, ponies, donkeys, llamas, musk oxen, pigs, sheep, turkeys, and other farm animals. The park has two designated wilderness areas totaling 200 acres (81ha), one of which is accessible via trail bike routes. The park hosts many events including equestrian shows, fairs, festivals, races, and auctions. It is used as a venue for cross country skis, triathlon training, and endurance sports such as running, cycling, and walking.
The park is crossed by the Ives Trail, part of the CT Greenways system. This allows cyclists using this portion of the Shoreline Pathway to access the park without having to go through the traditional car-campground parking lot. The park is staffed seasonally by two full time natural resource managers and four seasonal employees. Natural resources manager Heather Fassett oversees maintenance of the forests, meadows, and waterways within the park. She is assisted by Justin Bussard, who manages wildlife and habitat management, Sarah Marconi, who assists with fish and wildlife management, Amy Sherman, who helps maintain parks and preserves, and Laura Cresap, who maintains the grounds and buildings of the park. Seasonal workers perform a variety of tasks each month, including mowing, weeding, tree thinning, pond cleaning, and building maintenance.
The park has picnic tables and grills scattered throughout, along with playing fields and a horseshoe pit. Swimming is available at Twin Lakes Pond during summer months. Campsites range from modern to rustic. Modern sites feature electric hookups and water hydrants, while rustic campsites lack these amenities but do provide fire rings and picnic table shelters. Advance campers may choose between a tent site or a cabin. Backpackers are not permitted to camp overnight in any of the park’s cabins. Group camp is available for organizations like the Boy Scouts and Venture Outdoors.
Approximately 130 acres of the park are dedicated to equestrian use, primarily focused on showing and racing Thoroughbreds. Stables are located inside the park, offering a selection of warm-up tracks for riders and their mounts. Riders may enter the track at no cost, although they are encouraged to make a donation. Entrance fees are charged from May through September. The park contains a number of handicapped-accessible trails, some of which allow wheelchair users to ride side-by-side with their able-bodied counterparts.
These trails include portions of the Longmeadow, Willowdale, and Saugatuck loops. Hiking is allowed anywhere in the park, though it is advised against during winter months due to icy conditions. Mountain bikes are only allowed on certain non-winterized sections of the park. All other bikes are prohibited. Snowmobiling is allowed on certain roads and trails in the park, subject to DEP regulations. Cross-country skiing is permitted on all ski marked trails. Sledding is permitted on the Long Meadow loop. Ice skating is permitted at Twin Lakes Pond during the winter months.
Stargazing is popular activity at sunrise and sunset, especially after dark, as the park sits atop a 300 foot hill. Stargazing requires appropriate eye protection. The park provides over 12 miles (19km) of bridle path, 10 miles (16km) of hiking path, 6 miles (9.7km) of mountain bike path, 3 miles (4.8km) of equestrian road, and 7 miles (11km) of snowmobile route. Additionally there are 4 miles (6.4km) of canoe path, and 3 miles (4.8km) of multi-use rail trail available for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
The park has three separate golf courses. The Championship course is a regulation golf 9 hole course measuring 5,864 yards from the back tees. The Executive course is par 72, 6,861 yards from the back tees, with green fee $75 for nine holes, Monday – Friday. The Pro Shop course is par 74, 7,011 yards from the back tees, Saturday and Sunday, April through October. Fees are $150 for nine holes, $175 for eighteen holes, and $275 for twenty-nine holes. The park has fourteen tennis courts, six of which are lit for night play. Courts are open from dusk till dawn, seven days a week beginning Memorial Day weekend and ending Labor Day. Entry is free, however players are asked to bring their own equipment. Equipment rental is available. Volleyball courts and basketball courts are open year round, with games played on weekends.
The park has ten soccer fields, half of which are covered. Field dimensions depend on the size of the field being used, and sizes range from 120 x 68 inches (310 x 170cm) to 180 x 110 inches (550 x 280cm). Ramps are provided in both ends of the fields, and goals are in the far corner of the larger fields. Game times are dependent on league standards, and practices are held on weekday evenings in the fall and spring. Scoreboards are mounted above the fields, and radio stations broadcasting matches live are commonplace.
It is managed by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. In 1961, conservationists purchased land near the village of Saugatuck with the intention of creating a new public recreation area. A year later, 700 acres were set aside as a nature preserve; another 900 acres were added to create what was first known as Saugatuck
Reservation before its official name, Sunset Farm. From 1963 until 1967, about 100 acres annually were added through purchase or gift, taking the total acreage to approximately 1,400 acres by 1971. Another large addition took place in 1976 when conservationists purchased the former Charles W. Billington estate, which had been held by the family since 1871.
Activities outside the park include:
- mountain biking
- ice skating
Other park activities include:
- bird watching
The park has an extensive network of ponds and lakes for fishing, with:
Common game species include:
- black bears
- white tail deer