2016 Marathon Hike #10: Birchbank Trail

SUMMARY:  Hiking this 1.9-mile "lollipop loop" is a good workout through one of our more remote and scenic parks along the banks of the Housatonic River. You'll start out at elevation 94 feet, and after an easy stroll along an old road, you'll head up the river bank alongside the falls and chutes of Upper White Hill Brook to an elevation of 323 feet, a gain of 230 feet.

PARKING: Easily confused with parking at Indian Well. The Birchbank Trailhead is located on Birchbank Road (aka Indian Well Road), 1.9 miles north of the junction with Route 110, and one full mile north of the Indian Well State Park beach area. After passing the beach turnoff, you will find yourself on Shelton's most interesting road. You'll know it when you see it, and GO SLOW. The road then drops down and takes a sharp turn to cross the railroad tracks. The trailhead is just before the RR tracks, marked by a sign kiosk and bench. There is parking for two cars here, but additional parking on the other side of the tracks. See Google Map for location.

BLAZE COLOR: White.

The hike route is shown in orange

HIKE DESCRIPTION: We will be doing this "lollipop loop" counterclockwise. From the kiosk, follow the white blazes along an old, flat road for about half a mile, passing a bench, a trail junction (the beginning of the loop part of this hike) and going over a wooden bridge that crosses Upper White Hills Brook.  In April, there is an explosion of native woodland wildflowers in that first flat stretch, but most of these plant die back and go dormant for the summer.

Immediately after crossing the wooden bridge, the trail goes left and begins to climb the riverbank along the the brook. This is a beautiful spot, with water chutes, slides, and falls. Continue up the hill with the stream to your left and eventually reach the Birchbank Chimney in front of you, with the white blazes curving off to the right. This is what remains of the old Monroe Rod and Gun Club lodge. You should also see blue blazes here where the Paugussett Trail crosses on it's way from Monroe to Shelton Lakes.

After enjoying this location, find the white blazes, now taking you away from the stream, and continue on, eventually reaching another wooden bridge over Upper White Hills Brook and the trail curves left to take you back down the hill.  You will be following an old road for part of the ways, although it became so damaged from illegal ATV use we have had to reroute portions of the trail off of the old road.

(If you are interested in a detour to the beautiful Housatonic River Overlook, keep an eye out for blue blazes going off to the right about where the white trail leaves the old road. If you follow those blue blazes for 0.2 mile (and going up 80 feet), you'll get a great view. )

The blue-blazed Paugussett Trail will join this trail for a ways as you look down on the brook (now off of the old road) and you will see blue blazes on the trees next to the white blazes.  The blue blazes head off to the left towards the chimney, which you might be able to spot through the trees, and the white blazes curve right to link up with an old road again. Continue follow this, passing a junction with a trail that is getting a color change this year from blue to blue/white, and keep  heading down the hill very gradually. Just before you reach the hairpin turn in the old road, there is a minor new reroute due to ATV damage. As of this writing, this route is cleared but not yet blazed.  If you follow it, you'll get a great view of the waterfalls and chutes of the brook.

Continuing on down the old road that is benched into the side of the hill, you will soon reach the bottom and turn right onto the first old road you came in on. Follow this back to your car.

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