Like many 2 and 3 year olds, my children can become a little obsessed with books. Their favorites change weekly, even daily, but some stick around for quite a while.
Recently a new favorite has emerged in our house and the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
Have you ever read the childhood classic, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt“?
It is such an engaging book and describes a family’s outdoor adventure [which ends with a bit of excitement]. The book is fun to read, entertaining for the kids, and even makes them want to get out of the house and go on their own “bear hunt”.
With our current combination of picturesque fall views, mild temperatures, and the motivation from this book, going on a “bear hunt” has become a regular outing for my mini crew.
We’ve been exploring many of our regular trails and then recently decided to check out a new destination.
Penwood State Park was a place I had been wanting to explore ever since we moved to Connecticut eight years ago. I have friends that run in this park often and I had heard that it was quite beautiful. I never was sure, though, if a stroller was feasible on the trail, so I had never ventured there with the kids. But, when I learned that there were two paved trails available, I decided to try it out.
The entrance to the park was located right off route 185 on the border of Bloomfield and Simsbury.
From the entrance, it was a short drive to the main parking area.
Right near the parking area was the trail information and maps that you could take with you.
There were several trail options at this park, but only two paved paths to choose from. Since we were bringing a stroller on this outing, we decided to go the paved route and randomly choose the entrance on the left.
The paved paths actually are part of a large loop in the park, so it really didn’t matter which direction we choose.
For reference, below is a picture of the park’s trail map (or you can take a look at the original).
We went down the left paved road all the way to Lake Louise and then looped around back to the parking area.
The route we took was about 5 miles in total (which I’m still not sure how we accomplished with three kids ages three and under, a dog, and only one stroller!)
The first part (the path on the left) was a little bit hilly but flat and wooded on both sides. The second section (after we passed the lake) had a wider pathway/road but also had some fairly steep drop off areas right next to the trail.
In hindsight, we probably should have just gone about a mile down the trail and then turned around and headed back.
But of course we didn’t. We were too curious about the trail and what it would be like to do the loop.
Before we got started, I snapped a picture of our traveling companions [including our sweet dog]. These kiddos were ready for their bear hunt!
Away we went!
Not too far down the pathway we saw a restroom/outhouse. Of course all of my kids wanted to use it. Fortunately it wasn’t too bad.
After the brief potty break, we continued on our way down the beautiful path.
The kids were really into looking for bears along our journey, but were also entertained when they found other wildlife including birds, bugs, chipmunks and more. They collected leaves, rocks, sticks and a few other outdoor goodies along the way.
The pathway we took was technically paved, but some of the sections were a little worn and were crumbling, so parts of the trip were a bit bumpy for whoever was in the stroller. Not a problem for my kids, but it might be an issue for a little baby.
The kids continued to entertain themselves along the way by throwing leaves and having a mini photo session.
When they became tired, we either gave them a turn in the stroller or carried them for a bit of the way.
About a mile or so into our hike, we saw a sign for the Cedar Ridge Overlook. Of course we had to check that out!
We left our stroller at the bottom of the pathway and made the short hike up to the overlook.
The views were absolutely stunning.
But having three kids up on an overlook was a bit nerve racking too, Make sure you have a safe kid to adult ratio before heading that way.
As the sun started to set, we began to make our way back down onto the trail. We had walked about a mile and I was convinced it was time to turn around and head back to the car. But, my husband had other plans and we decided to continue onto the next destination, Lake Louise.
So after another mile (or so) of walking and keeping the kids entertained, we arrived at the lake.
And of course did another mini photo shoot.
Here there were also a few picnic tables and the kids stopped to take a break and enjoy the snack I brought them, Ina Garten’s blueberry muffins.
At this point, we wanted to take the path that looped back to the parking area (not the other path that would extend our route an additional 3 miles). It was time to check the map! Fortunately, we had a map-lover in our group and he gave us guidance on the right path for home.
About another mile into the walk we found a clearing with more picnic areas. According to the map, there were also restrooms in this area, but we didn’t have a chance to check them out.
Then we just kept on walking and tried to keep our minds off the fact that we had almost gone 5 miles (a big distance for my little ones!)
Fortunately there were some cool rock formations to keep us entertained.
And then, before we knew it, we were back at the parking area and ready to drive home.
Now, we didn’t find a bear and we did end up getting the kids to walk/ride for almost 5 miles, so I was expecting to hear some complaining when we were done. But I heard no such thing. The kids kept telling me that they had a great time and wanted to know when we could go again. Guess I need to plan another trip soon!
Phone: (860) 242-1158
Daily, 8:00 am to sunset
- Stroller Friendly: YES. The paved paths will work with a jogging stroller. Part of the paved paths are rather bumpy, so running with a baby might not work.
- Coffee Mug Friendly: YES.
- Restroom: YES. There is an out house a the beginning of the trail and a full restroom near the picnicking area.
- Baby Changing Station: NO.
- Parking: YES. There is a parking area near the entrance.
- Food for Sale: NO.
- Outside Food Allowed: YES. Bring a picnic to enjoy. There are a few picnicking areas along the way.
- Cash Required: NO.
- Dress Code: Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. In the cooler months, make sure to bring hats, gloves and coats for the kids in case they are cold.
- Evening/Weekend Hours: YES.
- The loop we took on the trail was about 5 miles in length. The main trail is about 8 miles long.
- Paved paths are available, though some sections need repair.
- Around mile 1 you have to check out Cedar Ridge lookout.
- Bring plenty of water and snacks for your outing. Also bring sun tan lotion and bugs spray just in case.
- The Independent Day School – Located on a rural campus in Middlefield, CT this private pre-school, elementary and middle school serves families from over 20 communities.
- Mandell JCC – The Mandell JCC, Zachs Campus, 335 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford, CT, welcomes and serves families and individuals of all ages, stages, backgrounds and faiths. Our fitness, wellness and recreation, arts and culture, camp, early childhood education programs, classes, clubs and services are open to all. You Belong Here!
- NEW – Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Hartford, CT
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