Length 4.3 km (2.7 miles), terrain: hilly, gain 78 meters
New England is one of my favorite places, with historic towns, wooded hills and glacier-smoothed rocks that look just like those in Scandinavia. So when I was working in Ridgefield, Connecticut, I made sure I got out into the countryside to try some good trail runs, even though it was still wintery, with short evenings.
I found a nature preserve between Danbury and Ridgefield, called Topstone Park, with a nice mixture of everything you need for scenery on a nice trail run: ponds, hills, cliffs, woods. In the summer there is even a public beach where you can swim at the end of the run (well, actually it is reserved for town residents only, but maybe you can talk them into it...).
|In Topstone Par, along Saddleback Trail|
There are a few parking spaces right at the entrance, where you can park and immediately get on the trail. Or should I say the first of several trails: we'll change trails a few times through the park to travel the most interesting route. I ran it on three evenings: once in a snow shower, once in pouring rain with fog, and once without any precipitation from above.
The pictures here are a blend of all three runs. Except for one woman walking a dog, I didn't see another person in the park on those February evenings. My experience was one of splendid isolation and pure nature.
So, with your car cooling in the parking lot right off Topstone Road, look for the trailhead on the left for the Saddleback Trail, and start running uphill. The trails are blazed with lots of white rectangles, so it's hard to veer off the trail.
|Start of run at Saddleback Trail: head straight uphill!|
You'll go up over a ridge towards the southeast, and come down a bit on the other side. You'll be running next to a swamp along the left as the trail heads southwards.
|The turnoff to Boulder Top Trail to the right: take that turn!|
When you get to the eastern shore of the lake, after another half-kilometer, you'll hit the Pond Trail. You are now just across a tiny bay from the park beach and the main parking lot.
|Steichens Pond in fog and ice|
When you get to the south end of the lake, you'll first pass a turnoff to the left to another park exit (on Old Redding Trail), then come to a second left-hand turnoff for Topledge Trail, at about the 2-km-mark. Let's turn left there to climb the biggest hill in the park!
|On the way along Topledge Trail|
|On the way up to Topstone: a toppled tree|
Now just turn around and head back north along Longview Trail as it heads steeply downhill to a second pond, with a private house across the water.
|View of the smaller pond|
You'll hit the water at a fenced-in little dog-beach, then you need to run along the top of the little cement dam at the north end of Steichens Pond.
|Cross this dam, then hang right!|
|View from the beach|