Monday, August 16, 2021

"Birch-Well" Hike

If you live in Shelton, it's hard to get in shape for some serious hiking in the White Mountains or along the Appalachian Trail, where you may have elevation gains of a couple thousand feet. Our Birchbank Mountain is just 350' elevation gain. Sleeping Giant in Hamden is a bit more, but that's a very busy park and then there's traffic. There's always Bear Mountain in the northwest corner of the state for an elevation gain of about 1500 feet, but that's a long drive. 

1400-foot elevation gain
(click image to enlarge)

Here's a "Birch-Well" option in Shelton that gives you a 1400-foot cumulative elevation gain over 6.5 miles.  It's the Paugussett Trail between Birchbank Mountain and Indian Well State Park with loops at each end. Parts of the route are similar to the terrain you would find up north, with lots of mossy rocks to navigate, and two good overlooks of the Housatonic River down below. What we call "the Boulders" mark a high point you'll need to cross twice (this is where you need to use your hands). The other high point is capped with the "Top of Tahmore," along the blue/yellow Tahmore loop. 

Overview Map
(click image to enlarge)

Be aware that many map sources are obsolete after trail changes over the past few years, including the All Trails, Gaia, the State Park map, and even the CFPA map hasn't been updated for Tahmore Trail and the new blue/red Beach Cutoff Trail as of this posting. Refer to the City of Shelton Conservation Department maps - those are correct:

Birchbank Mountain Map

Tahmore/Indian Well Map

If you'd like a verbal description, here you go:

  • Park at the Birchbank Trailhead on Indian Well Road/Birchbank Road
  • Take white (go straight through white/white junction), cross bridge, follow stream up the hill to Chimney Junction, turn left on blue-blazed Paugussett Trail and cross the brook. 
  • Follow blue up the hill to the overlook. 
  • Continue following blue up and over the boulders and beyond to Indian Well. Pass the white-blazed turnoff, arrive at Tahmore Junction.
  • Follow blue/yellow Tahmore Trail around the loop, passing the Indian Well Overlook. Arrive back at Tahmore Junction.
  • Follow blue blazes towards the Falls (not the way you came).
  • Turn left at new Blue/Red trail marked "<---BEACH"
  • At the Indian Well Parking area, head over towards the trail kiosk and go up the big stairs on White. Arrive quickly back on the blue Paugussett Trail, turn right. 
  • Follow blue blazes back the way you came, up and over the boulders again. 
  • Turn right onto blue/white Birchbank Connector, near a sign telling you the overlook is 0.1 mile ahead. 
  • When blue/white ends, go right on white. 
  • When white gets to the bottom of the hill, go right and return to your car.