Saturday, May 19, 2012

East Granby - Cowles Park to Tariffville Gorge

Date Hiked:  Friday, May 18, 2012
Number in Group:  8
Estimated distance round-trip:  2 miles
Weather:  Absolutely perfect!  Sunny, 74°.
Highlights of the trip:  The Farmington River as it runs through the gorge.

I think we need to do this hike again.  I'll get to the reason why in a minute.

I could not find a trail map for this hike on-line.  I did find a map someone made using their GPS and planned on using that as a guide.  When we got to the park, there were some copies of a hand drawn map in the box at the trail head.  Trying to mash these two sources together, we headed north on the yellow trail, looped around to the south and after a little bit connected to the orange trail.

Our walk through Cowles Park itself was a nice enough, although unremarkable.  The trail was relatively flat, with several side trails that led to places unknown.  We followed the orange trail until we came to Tunxis Avenue.  The river was on the other side of the road.

A map I drew to show how to get from Cowles Park 
to the Metacomet Ridge overlooking Tariffville Gorge.

When we got to the Farmington River (outside Cowles Park boundaries), we followed a trail upriver a bit until we got to an area that looked like an old dam.  The water flow was pretty impressive, but I am sure it was nothing to what it could be during the spring thaw.  While we were there, two kayakers came through the rapids.

What looks to be part of an old dam.
Kayakers coming through the rapids.

Back up on Tunxis Avenue, we had the choice of returning the way we had come or completing the orange loop by walking down Tunxis Avenue toward Route 187.  Since we had already been out for awhile and the map indicated a steep, rocky area if we completed the loop, we decided to simply return the way we had come.  (This turned out to be a good idea - see below).


Now to the reason we need to do this again.  If you look at the GPS map that I mentioned above, you will see that there are pictures that are synced up to the trail they took.  In some of those pictures, they are well above the river and have expansive views to the west with the Barndoor Hills in Granby clearly visible.  We did not get to this place.  I was kicking myself, because if I had more carefully studied their map before I left the house, it would have been obvious.

On Saturday, I decided to return to the park with a friend to figure out how to get to the Metacomet Trail.  It really wasn't that difficult, especially after running into my mailman on the trail in Cowles Park and getting a few instructions.  So here is what we did, so we know for next time:

We took the yellow trail as we did yesterday.  Where it meets up with the orange trail there is a bench.  A trail leads off to the right, behind the bench.  You cross over a small stream on a wooden bridge, start to climb a little hill until you come to the power lines (lots of clearing done here).  Cross the power lines and keep climbing until you reach the blue blazed Metacomet Trail.  Turn left and before too long, you will come to a path that goes off to the right (somebody has spray painted arrows on the rocks).  This leads you to an overlook where you can see the gorge, Tariffville, and the Barndoor Hills.  At this point, we became a little confused because there seemed to be blue blazes everywhere.  Do you stay close to the ridge and hope there is a way down, or go back to the area of trail  that you left?  We kind of took the middle road and kept losing and picking up a/the trail.  No matter.  We made it down to Tunxis Avenue eventually.  From there, we walked north along the road until it dead-ended (there used to be a bridge across the river, which I assume came down in the flood of '55).  Here, we were able to get close to the water and see the gates that are used in the kayak competitions. There were also several kayakers practicing their rolls.

(Note: At the end of the road, there was a red trail that went north under the area where the lookout was.  Does this trail climb up to the ridge?)

We returned to Tunxis Avenue and walked south. Yesterday, we had returned on the orange trail the way we had come.  My friend was willing to be adventurous, so we decided to complete the orange loop.  We continued down Tunxis toward 187 looking for a trail marker to lead us back into Cowles Park.  We saw a metal signpost with the top painted orange, but when we looked up the slope, there just didn't seem to be any clear trail.  We continued, but quickly got to 187.  There was a trail that seemed to go up here, but it essentially took you up to the highway.  I think the trail is at the orange-painted post, but it wasn't that clear, so we returned to the trail I had taken yesterday.


I think we need to revisit this hike on a clear, crisp day this fall.


  1. Sarah ... THANK YOU for the Middle School Chemistry site! Excellent! I love how you can put in your state and it pulls up the PASS objectives covered in the curriculum. I have "clipped" it and will definitely be using it to supplement our studies.

  2. Thanks for the map, you guys rock! I've been letterboxing the New England Trail and all connecting trails this year starting in Guilford and am now working on East Granby. For the life of me I could not find a map of the trails at Cowles Park or how to get to them from the New England (Metacomet) Trail, until I found your map online :). I have my own blog entry on the hike with a map of the parts I hiked (using the gps). I dashed in some gray lines on the map based on your map as being approximate, since I didn't hike them all. Thanks again!

  3. Teresa,

    I've been enjoying your posts about the New England Trail. I may yet get the motivation to do one of CT's long trails!