Bailey’s Ravine at Ayers Gap Preserve

The Nature Conservancy Property managed by the Town of Franklin

80 acres in Franklin, CT

Parking: Small pull off at 291 Pond Rd, North Franklin, CT

Trail Map           Trails: 2 miles              Rating: ★★★☆☆

Ayers Gap Preserve run by The Nature Conservancy is best known as Bailey’s Ravine.  This property is one of the best locations in eastern Connecticut. While the trails aren’t long there are many highlights packed into such a small area.
The two-mile loop around the ravine has waterfall views and a rocky overlook.  The real gem here is the hike through the ravine.  It is best reached by heading down Ayer Rd from the parking area and heading into the woods before crossing Bailey Brook. A short walk reveals a cascading waterfall with drops totaling at least 20ft.  The rough trail continues upstream crossing back and forth over the brook through impressively sculpted slabs of Scotland Schist.  I’ve hiked here long enough to recognize the subtle changes of the ravine over the years.
The not-so-subtle wind and winter storms have knocked down trees throughout the property. The Nature Conservancy tries to walk the property twice a year and perform maintenance.  The main trails are generally clear but hikers should be prepared to hike over and around fallen trees if going through the ravine
From the Nature Conservancy site (dead link),
The cliffs that overhang Bailey Brook harbor yet another natural wonder: a delicate fern that is known to exist in only five other locations across Connecticut. This lovely plant has found a refuge in the cool, moist recesses of the rock outcrops.

The fern is known as the spleenwort Asplenium montanum.


The preserve was established in 1988 when it was purchased by the Nature Conservancy from Felice Marnicki.  The property was dedicated to Helena E. Bailey-Spencer (wife of Lt Gov. Samuel R. Spencer) on July 15, 1989.  Both women have plaques just off Ayers Rd near the trail entrance.

The lower waterfall in this area was known as the Water Nymph as a stop along the trolley line through Ayers Gap as it headed to Willimantic.

There is also a plaque on the rock just east of the parking lot dedicated to John Ayer Trapper for whom the area is named: “JOHN AYER Trapper. First settler in the Town of Franklin, lived near this spot as early as 1665. Erected by his descendants, 1937.” John came from Haverhill, MA and bought 300 acres from the Mohegan chief Uncas.

Ayer’s have lived in the area ever since running possibly the state’s oldest agricultural business.  Including the brothers, John B. (dec. 2006) and Eugene L. Ayer (dec. 2002) mentioned in Peter Marteka’s 2001 article who were 10th generation descendants of John Ayer Trapper.  In 2018, the farm celebrated its 350th Anniversary.  A quote from Sarah Ayer stuck with me, she was speaking about the farm, but I think it applies nicely to Bailey’s Ravine as well:

“It’s more of a gift to be taken care of,” she explained. “The history of it astounds me, and the heritage of it has always been important to me. It’s always been such an amazing place to be.”


The information shown here is for general reference purposes only. gives no warranty, expressed or implied, as to the accuracy or reliability of this data. Parking in all areas, whether designated here or not, is at your own risk. is not responsible for any damage or loss to vehicles or contents.
Last updated Feb. 6, 2018


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