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The Larkin State Park Trail meanders 10.8 miles through the woods and around the lakes and low hills of southwestern Connecticut. The rail-trail follows the route of the New York & New England Railroad, founded in 1873 (with this section built in 1881) and succeeded by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in 1898.
The trail’s former name—the Larkin State Bridle Trail—attests to its origins as an equestrian trail. A local surgeon, Dr. Charles Larkin, bought the disused railbed and donated it to the state in 1943. Horseback riders use this trail frequently and have the right-of-way. Bicyclists should remember to approach horses slowly and quietly, speaking softly and taking cues from their riders. If necessary, dismount on the low side of the trail, as horses instinctively fear anything that might pounce from above.
While railroad builders avoided steep hillsides with a serpentine route and railroad cuts, the trail slopes gently uphill from each end to the high point at Prokop Road/Riggs Street in Oxford. The path also ascends or descends steeply at some road crossings. While the trail’s surface is typically firm, sections in the west can be rough or soggy, making mountain bikes or hybrid bikes with wide tires a preferred choice.
Even though the trail rolls through the outskirts of the Colonial-era towns of Naugatuck, Middlebury, Oxford, and Southbury, there are no services along the trail, so stock up with food and water.
Starting at the parking lot on CT 63 in Naugatuck, you’ll pass through heavily wooded Whittemore Glen State Park. Forests border the route most of the way to the trail’s end in Southbury, making this an ideal destination for leaf-peeping in autumn.
After nearly 4 miles, the trail passes the southern tip of Long Meadow Pond, inaccessible behind private properties. At Long Meadow Road, you’ll briefly leave state-owned property for a 0.5-mile on-road detour around a privately held stretch. Turn left onto Long Meadow Road and right onto Towantic Hill Road, then watch for trail access on the left side of the road.
Back on the pathway, you’ll get views of Towantic Pond’s boggy shoreline and pass over wetlands on a causeway. The trail brushes the southern end of the Waterbury-Oxford Airport at 5.7 miles, and then passes through more woods on its final run to Kettletown Road in Southbury.
To reach the eastern trailhead in Naugatuck from I-84 W/Yankee Expwy. southeast of Waterbury, take Exit 17 onto CT 64/Chase Pkwy. Go 0.3 mile and turn left onto CT 63/Straits Turnpike. Go 2.5 miles and look for parking on the right at the sign for LARKIN STATE BRIDLE TRAIL. From I-84 E, take Exit 17, and turn right onto CT 63/Straits Turnpike. Go 2 miles and look for parking on the right at the sign for LARKIN STATE BRIDLE TRAIL.
To reach the western trailhead in Southbury from I-84/Yankee Expwy. east of Waterbury, take Exit 16 and turn left onto CT 188 S/Strongtown Road. Go 2.5 miles and look for parking on the left. The trail ends 2.4 miles west on Kettletown Road.
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