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7 Best Hiking Trails for Seniors Near Essex, CT

7 Best Hiking Trails for Seniors Near Essex, CT

Walking. Strolling. Traipsing. Perambulating. Ah, hiking! It’s the simple activity that stretches the muscles, fills the lungs and nourishes the spirit. The more you explore our lovely neck of the woods around Essex, CT, the more hiking trails you’ll discover – from easy hikes for seniors along mostly flat, groomed trails to demanding vertical rock scrambles that’ll challenge your body and your sense of vertigo.

Whatever your preference and level of physicality, walking as an exercise for seniors is healthful and a terrific reason to get outdoors. Best of all, some of the best hiking spots in Connecticut are found around Essex.


7 Good Hikes In and Around Essex, CT.


  1. Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge. Located on the Atlantic Flyway, expect to see wildlife aplenty. This refuge provides important habitat for many species of birds, mammals, fish and amphibians. The 10 units that stretch across 70 miles of Connecticut’s coastline encompass 1,000 acres of forest, barrier beach, tidal wetlands and fragile island habitats. The Salt Meadow area is a perfect destination for easy senior hikes, with well-maintained trails described on Trails.com as “good for all skill levels” offering “great birding opportunities.”
  2. Centennial Watershed State Forest. This expansive state forest, mostly in Fairfield County, offers more than 15,000 acres for hiking, fishing, birding and other outdoor pursuits. There are more than 17 miles of scenic trails, including The Saugatuck Universal Access Trail, a 500-foot wheelchair-accessible hiking trail that ends in a platform overlooking the Saugatuck Reservoir. Access to hiking trails requires a permit; for seniors and physically disabled visitors, permits are free.
  3. Haley Farm State Park. Farmed until the 1950s, this is now a 276-acre escape offering a range of habitats, from highland forest to marshy wetlands. Look up – birds and butterflies color the seasonal sky. As you strike out on the hiking trails, you’ll see ponds, stone walls, and a large glacier erratic named Jemima’s Rock or Hanging Rock. All levels of ability will find enjoyment at Haley Farm State Park, with a .8-mile wheelchair-accessible trail through the scenic old shoreline farm.
  4. Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens. These 99 acres in Stamford include 12 gardens and numerous hiking trails perfect for children (and leashed dogs) of all ages. Admission is free. Why not start with Bartlett Arboretum Trail, a 1.1-mile easy hike said to be suitable for all skill levels.
  5. Selden Neck State Park in Lyme. This unique island park is accessible only from the water. Formerly home to a farm and stone quarry, it was cut off from the mainland by the snow melt of 1854. Now it’s a serene, roadless destination for hiking, birding, fishing and camping – with four primitive boating campsite areas. It’s not for everyone. Elevation reaches 230 feet, providing some strenuous hiking. But lookouts from the trail offer wonderful views of the lower Connecticut River, an area designated by the Nature Conservancy as one of “America’s Last Great Places.”
  6. Kent Falls State Park in the Litchfield Hills. You’ll feel the fresh mist on your face as Falls Brook drops in a series of waterfalls 250 feet to the Housatonic River. Stroll across the quaint covered bridge or take a short wheelchair-accessible path to the base of the falls. The route to the top isn’t an easy hike for everyone; it’s been described as fairly steep, but it has handrails to help you get there. There are several beautiful vistas along the way.
  7. The Preserve. Step into one of the best hiking spots in Connecticut: 963 acres of lush forest located in the towns of Old Saybrook, Essex and Westbrook. The Preserve offers easily followed color-coded trails of varying distances. Few sounds from the human world can be heard as you pass by 38 vernal pools, miles of streams and verdant wetlands. Naturalists have identified 25 species of amphibians, 30 kinds of mammals and 57 different birds within the forest’s boundaries. Essex Meadows, a 104-acre full-service retirement community in Essex, CT, abuts The Preserve, giving residents walkable access to the beauty and serenity of this natural treasure.


5 Simple Hiking Tips for Seniors

There are so many benefits to hiking. Most of us don’t move about enough or spend enough time outside. Hiking is natural exercise for seniors that requires little special equipment and offers a simple way to immerse yourself in the uplifting elements of the great outdoors.

Before you head out, here are a few simple tips to have fun and stay safe.

  1. Invest in comfortable shoes with good traction. If your feet are comfy, the rest is gravy. Let’s face it: One blister will ruin your day. One bad slip could do worse.
  2. Consider a walking stick or two. This is a game-changer, adding a surprising amount of stamina and stability to your gait.
  3. Stay hydrated. Drink water before you go and bring more with you. Finding a scenic spot for a water break is as good for your soul as it is for hydration.
  4. Bring snacks. A vigorous hike can sap your energy. A calorie- and protein-rich snack will help perk you up again.
  5. Over-communicate. Hiking is great with a companion or a group. However, if you strike out alone, tell a friend, loved one or park ranger where you’re going, when you’re leaving, and when you expect to return. Even if you’re trying to disconnect for a few hours, bring a cell phone just in case. Hey, it doubles as a camera.

The healthful benefits of hiking for seniors are plentiful. For such a simple activity, it does wondrous good for the heart and muscles. Additionally, exercise of all kinds have been shown to improve mental acuity and stave off dementia. And when you get right down to it, it just feels good to get outside and surround yourself with the beauty so accessible in Connecticut.

If you’d like to sample the rewards of exploring the trails on and around Essex Meadows, contact us here. We’ll be happy to show you around our community and grounds, including the access to our nextdoor neighbor, The Preserve.