Difficulty: Family Hike
Distance: 4 miles
Time: 2.5 to 3 hours
Another wonderful weekend, another family hiking trip in the books. My wife picked the location, and Mrs. McGovern likes places with intriguing sights. That’s how we found ourselves headed to Mashamoquet Brook Start Park in Pomfret Center, Connecticut, which is infamous for being where the state’s last wolf was killed.
With a total elevation gain of under 400 feet and multiple options to lengthen or shorten the hike, Wolf Den is a great option for getting out with the family. Mashamoquet seems forgotten. On a summer Sunday afternoon, we only passed two other hikers on the trail plus another couple starting out when we got back. The trail starts at the ranger station on Wolf Den Road. The trailhead is behind the parking lot to the left. At the trailhead and each trail intersection, there is a posted map.
The trail starts with a small incline and then passes through an old rock wall. At the top of the incline (hill is too strong a word), the trail dips down and then goes right back up again. It repeats this pattern for the majority of the hike. Throughout, there are a variety of spots where the kiddos will want to climb the rock formations and find spots to snack.
Slightly over a mile in you will come to the first named attraction: Indian Chair. This rock looks like a king’s throne and overlooks the nearby valley. Careful, though: when we were there poison ivy was all around the edge of the clearing and along the side of the trail in most places.
Continuing on and past the intersection with Horse Trail, the rock ledges start having small caves. After a rather long climb up a particularly rocky ledge, you’ll reach the Wolf’s Den. There is a plaque detailing the actions of that fateful day. The cave is rather small, perhaps only 15 feet deep. A tenth of a mile later and up some rock stairs is Table Rock. Long, flat, and square, this piece of granite encourages hikers to stop and rest.
Eventually, the trail continues on through remnants of the former farms that dotted the landscape. We passed numerous rock walls and an old well. The trail loops around a kid’s campground and then ends at the driveway to the ranger’s station.
Having never been to Mashamoquet Brook Start Park before, it was worth the hour drive. I would recommend this park to any family looking for a hiking day trip; however, it’s worth noting that the entire hike was within the tree-line so there aren’t any viewpoints. For experienced hikers, the ledges will seem more a warm up than an actual challenge, but young ones will enjoy climbing on the rocks and in the caves. Overall rating: B.