Pharisee Rock Trail
acres in Sterling, CT
Parking: Shoulder parking on Cedar Swamp Rd, Moosup, CT
Trail Map Trails: 0.7 miles Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Pharisee Rock is part spur trail off the nearby Pachaug Trail and part destination all by itself in this northern parcel of Pachaug State Forest. The hike is short at just 1.4 miles round trip but there is certainly enough here for a great little hike.
From the pull off parking on Cedar Swamp Road the trail starts just behind a gate with the classic wood Blue Blaze destination sign. The trail is a wide old gravel access road through a forest tunnel for the first 0.3 miles or so. You very gradually climb to a marsh that has been flooded by beavers for the last decade or so. They’ve built a substantial dam raising the water by at least three feet.
The trail turns off the road just before this beaver dam that sits above an old mill dam spillway. The trail veers right down past a fern covered boulder to a bridge over what might be the upper reaches of Wood River. Off to the left are mossy cascades and the remains of an old mill.
Older versions of the Connecticut Walk Book call this an old sap mill which extracted acid to dye textiles black likely referring to the James Pike sap distillery that was known to operate in the area. However, a recent article by the Sterling Historical Society says that a sawmill operated in this spot in 1813, but later maps don’t show anything. James Pike meanwhile lived and operated his mill about 3 miles north which is marked on the 1869 map. So still not conclusive, but an interesting little mystery.
Beyond the mill site the trail has been rerouted (in May 2020) up and over a rocky ridge instead of continuing to follow the old road. The reroute definitely levels up the hike and keeps things interesting a you climb towards the namesake rock. You’ll approach the 15′ rock face and make your way to a tiny scramble up the backside to the summit of Pharisee Rock and the end of the trail.
The summit is forested so there wasn’t a view on my early Fall 2022 visit. Most others seem to visit in winter and the rocks provide a view west to Ekonk Hill. Even without the view there was a trail register to peruse and a nice wide area to enjoy the sunny day. Trails do appear to continue north, but you’ll quickly hit No Trespassing private property so no loop options just a simple retrace your steps back to Cedar Swamp Road.
The area was the farm of Andrew Gallup from the 1800s to the early 1900s.
This trail has existed since at least 1990.
CTMQ – Pachaug: Pharisee Rock Trail (2012)
Sterling Historical Society – A Quick Historical Hike: Pharisee Rock Trail (2019)
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Last updated September 26th, 2022
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