Rock Spring Preserve
450 acres in Scotland, CT
Parking: Small pull off near 276 Pudding Hill Rd Scotland, CT
Trail Map Trails: 3 miles Rating: ★★★☆☆
Rock Spring is named for an “Indian Spring” located in the southern section of the property. The trailhead is a small dirt section on the shoulder of Rt. 97. A large new sign was installed around 2015, but the parking can still be easy to miss. Set back in the woods a small kiosk is bare of information, but usually sports a few lost items and a logbook. The logbook is an entertaining read and shows how popular even a small trail like this can be.
Every time I have hiked Rock Springs I do the perimeter loop (on the map above), which seems to be the least traveled but hits all the highlights of the property.
The trails for the outer loop head eastward on either side of the kiosk. A new hand painted rough trail map sign was added next the kiosk and directional signs point to highlights at trail junctions in early 2019. The main option heads downhill into heavy forest of oak and hickory in the Little River Valley. After 0.36 miles it reaches a junction which connects the old farm wagon paths that criss-cross the property. The outer loop can be taken by turning right at the junction. You’ll soon pass a kettlehole often still filled with water off to your left and a bit later enter what was once and open field on the farm past a massive old oak.
The main stop is the namesake spring also known as ‘Old Indian Spring’. The spring covered by a small stone column that keeps the water pure. A small engraved block built into the column reads ‘Old Bar I Indian Spring’. If you watch the sand near the column carefully you can see it bubbling up as it drains wide and shallow away from the trail. The narrow ridges that lead to and away from the spring are esker formed by glacial deposits and erosion. Their sandy soils stunt the trees except for the pitch pine which can thrive on it.
Coming off the esker you’ll reach the Little River where a large stone bench was added in 2010 dedicated as ‘Mike’s Bench’ a memorial for a local teen. The loop from here is often very overgrown and requires careful footing along the river. You can backtrack a bit to one of the interior trails or push through to some of the more interesting hiking.
The northern half of the loop is the most wild. It is frequently overgrown and infrequently blazed. But, there are high bluffs along the river, secluded fishing spots, and scrambles over glacial till. Occasionally in the spring the water can get high enough to make a stretch impassable. If you’re looking for something beyond a casual walk this part is for you.
In the homestretch back to the parking lot you’ll recross the main wagon path, take the the yellow blazed trail left to an overlook vista of the Little River Valley. The trail climbs a ridge to a set of cliffs with a great view east across the valley. A large stone bench is built with dedications to the Shoemakers who donated the property on the backside. There is an unblazed path leading up to Rt. 97 and a short road walk back to the parking area (about a half mile total) or retrace your steps back to the outer loop and the parking (about 0.75 miles).
The inner ‘wagon paths’ are generally wider and easier walking, largely serving as more popular shortcuts between the major highlights and back to the parking area.
The property is former farmland.
From the Nature Conservancy site, “David and Vanda Shoemaker donated land for this preserve, which was later augmented by a purchase from a neighbor.”
- Peter Marteka – Pick Your Trail When Hiking Rock Spring Preserve (2008)
- Peter Marteka – Wildlife Trail Offers 3 Miles of Peace and Beauty (2000)
- Janet Lopes – Rock Spring Preserve: A River Runs Through It (2015 archive link)
- Country Walks in Connecticut: A Guide to The Nature Conservancy Preserves, by Susan D. Cooley, Appalachian Mountain Club Books and the Nature Conservancy, 1989, pp. 117–125.
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Last updated March 14th, 2021
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