Yale Forest Camp
Parking: Shoulder parking near 98 Bigelow Hollow Rd Union, CT
Trail Map Trails: 2+ miles Rating: 2 stars
Yale-Myers Forest Camp is a Yale University facility which hosts students, apprentice foresters, and researchers throughout the year. This means that this is private property which is friendly to visitors and is likely to remain that way as long as everyone is respectful.
There is a driveway to the camp for students and guests, but for the purposes of this site we’re talking about the trails around the camp. From the gate on Rt. 171 the trail heads southwest named with a sign that says something like ‘Hitchens’ or ‘Hawkins’ (I only saw it as I was pulling away, will have to re-spot). The old farm road passes near Lost Pond and fisherman’s paths lead to it, but there isn’t a view from the main trail.
The trail is gently rolling occasionally lined with brief stonewalls and crossing small streams. After almost a mile you’ll reach a junction where an old cellar hole is hidden in a thicket of barberry. The cellar is filled with old glass bottles, scrap metal, and assorted trash but was still fun to poke around. The junction heads off in four directions taking the left will take you past Morse Reservoir to the forest camp. I haven’t yet explored the other two directions, but heading right will take you near Walker Mountain (and likely that section of the Nipmuck Trail) and heading straight looks like a possible loop around Plot 59.
Taking the left trail, about 0.3 of a mile downhill, is a view of the reservoir and a newly rebuilt bridge (2019) over the Branch Brook outflow from the reservoir. Continuing in this direction there will be a side path off to the right downhill towards the brook. Here you will find narrow ravine lined with stone foundations, likely the site of the Morse family mill (see History section below). There are still axles and gears slowly rusting on the ground. Scouting in the woods just south of the mill ruins is a secret treehouse.
The actual Yale Forest Camp was unoccupied on my visit. There is a new 3-season research facility built in 2018 and the bunkhouses and kitchen also appeared new or at least spruced up. I’m told that caretakers have always been friendly to visitors so we did a quick loop among the camp buildings and then retraced our steps back to the parking area.
This area was purchased by George Hewitt-Myers from the Morse family of North Ashford who had operated a mill here. I couldn’t find information on when the mill was originally built, but it operated as a sawmill (with an edger and circular saw) and was repaired and converted from water to tractor power in 1933. The mill operated through at least 1942, when it Yale decided it had become too unprofitable to continue.
Morse Reservoir just north of the camp is named for the family and was used for log storage for the mill. The dam for the reservoir is an interesting mix of old stone and newer concrete. A bit downstream on Branch Brook is the 1 acre former mill pond.
Two Yale camp buildings were originally built on the property in 1933, the main office appears to be one of these. Transfer of the property to Yale officially occurred in 1934 and a third dormitory building was built. The camp was used until the 1938 Hurricane which damaged much of the area and student programs were transferred to Norfolk. Lumber trees were stored in the area ponds and active management of the forest restarted in the early 1940s, but no date yet for when classes resumed at the camp.
- Meyer, Walter H. and Plusnin, Basil A., “The Yale Forest in Tolland and Windham Counties, Connecticut” (1945). Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies Bulletin Series. 49.