Steep Rock Preserve
998 acres in Washington, CT
Parking: Medium sized lot near 2 Tunnel Rd, Washington Depot, CT
Trail Map Trails: 18.5 miles Rating: ★★★★☆
Note: The Steep Rock summit trail was closed on my last visit (June 2021) to protect nesting birds
With close to 20 miles of trails I’ve only scratched the surface with my recent hike. I started from the main parking area north of the riding ring and and took the green trail across the Shepaug River heading south. The former railroad bed is flat easy walking following the curves of the river. It soon passes two campsites (see camping section below) and continues to where the railroad crossed the river.
There is no longer an easy crossing (though when the water is low enough I’m sure it’s possible) and instead the green trail switches to a rugged and rocky technical hike along the high bank of the river. The difficult stretch lasts for about a half mile and can be navigated around if needed.
At the southern end of this loop is Hauser Footbridge, a 120 foot suspension bridge which crosses the Shepaug River. From here I took side trails over to the tunnel. Similar to the Taft Tunnel in Lisbon (though no longer active) the Steep Rock tunnel is 235 feet curving under a hill and through solid rock.
I followed the railroad bed back to Tunnel Road and the road back to the parking area.
The railroad tunnel was constructed from 1871 to 1872 as part of the Shepaug Valley Railroad. A crew of coal miners from Pennsylvania built the 235-foot curved tunnel by hand using picks, dynamite and nitroglycerin to blast through Steep Rock Ridge. It took them only nine months to complete, a remarkably quick project in those days. The railroad ceased operation in 1948.
Peter Marteka – Taking A ‘Holiday’ At Washington’s Steep Rock Preserve (2015)
Peter Marteka – Shepaug’s Tunnel Through Time (2008)
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Last updated June 28th, 2021
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