25 Must-See Scenic Outdoor Places in Connecticut!

Make a scene! πŸ“Έ You’ll love this list of the 25 most beautiful and scenic places in Connecticut.

These must-visit spots have all been visited by me and I’ve lived in CT for all my life. These are the places I keep coming back to – the places I like to visit throughout the seasons! β„οΈπŸŒ·πŸŒžπŸ

This CT state forest will transport you when all in bloom! 😍🌷

We’re talking about the most photogenic outdoor spaces in Connecticut.

What makes these spots special aside from their beauty is how they seem to transport you! Some of them make me feel like I’m in another country or someplace far, far away…

hillstead museum must visit in connecticut
Hill-Stead Museum, number 11 on our list

This post is divided into 2 sections;

  1. places that take little or minimal walking to get to πŸ₯ΎπŸŒž
  2. places that require a short walk or hike πŸ₯ΎπŸ₯ΎπŸ₯Ύ

There are places on this list I’ve visited with my mom who isn’t a hiker and there are lots of kid-friendly options, too. And most are pet-friendly because I rarely go anywhere without my dogs! πŸ™‚ πŸΆπŸ’—πŸΆ

harkness memorial picnic ct
Harkness Memorial State Park, number 5 on our list

So let’s get to it. I know you will find tons of beautiful places to add to your CT bucket list for summer, spring, winter, or fall!! πŸ™‚ πŸŒ²πŸ“Έβ›°πŸŒ·

25 Must-Visit Most Beautiful Places in Connecticut!

Scenic spots in CT that involve minimal or short walks:

1. Topsmead State Forest, Litchfield

A precious piece of an era past, I couldn’t have said it better! This is one of my favorite destinations in CT.

Visiting here transports me to another country with its rolling hill property, stone walls, and fairy-tale-like English Tudor style cottage.

Topsmead is the former summer estate of Miss Edith Morton Chase who left her country estate to the people of CT requesting that Topsmead State Forest “be kept in a state of natural beauty”.Β πŸ’šπŸ’—

  • What it is: A 510-acre state forest with trails for you to walk as much as you’d like or take the short walk from the parking lot right up to the main cottage (a must see)
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes, on leash
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: I love it here in any season but stop by in late spring and summer to see the gardens in bloom!
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

2. Gillette Castle State Park, East Haddam

As if William’s Gillette’s medieval 14,000 square foot stone castle sitting high above the Connecticut River isn’t enough to get you here – Gillette Castle State Park encompasses 184 gorgeous acres of CT woodlands for you to roam.

Here you can walk the grounds of the castle any time of year, arrange a tour of inside the castle, hike the trails, or even camp!

  • What it is: A CT state park with over 180 acres to roam and a 14,000 sf castle to visit
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes, on leash
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Open year-round!
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

3. Laurel Ridge Daffodils, Litchfield

You must see this sea of 10,000+ daffodils that will be in bloom late April to early May!

A small pond, rolling green hills, centuries-old stone walls and foundations, and a flowing sea of yellow daffodils make this an essential outdoor spot to visit in Connecticut in spring!Β 

To add more to your spring Connecticut outdoor list check out my post of 13 must-visit spring flower spots and walks in CT! πŸ’

  • What it is:Β Laurel Ridge Farm open to the public during daffodil season with 10,000 wild daffodils to roam about
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? No πŸ™
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Daffodils in peak bloom late April to early May (check Facebook page for updates)
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

4. Elizabeth Park, West Hartford

A must-see in late spring and summer as over 100 acres of formal gardens, green space, and walking trails come to life!

The Elizabeth Park Rose Garden covers 2.5 acres and is the oldest municipal rose garden in the United States, containing about 15,000 bushes of 800 rose varieties.

  • What it is: Oldest municipal rose garden in the US, acres of roses and over 100 acres of flower gardens, trails, a pond, and even the Pond House Cafe β˜•οΈ where you can get snacks and coffees during your visit!
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes, on leash
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Click for a blooming calendar. Best for late spring & summer for flowers and rose gardens but year-round for their peaceful walking loops
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

5. Harkness Memorial State Park & Eolia Mansion, Waterford

Take in the beautiful views of Long Island Sound from the sprawling 230 acres of seaside land to wander at Harkness State Park.

And if the grounds aren’t enough of a reason to visit, you must see Eolia Mansion, a Roman Renaissance Classical Revival-styleΒ built in 1906.

A must-visit CT spot with its large lawns and beautiful gardens. It can get crowded on weekends but there is enough space here to carve out your own spot!

  • What it is: Gorgeous mansion on more than 230 acres of lawn and gardens
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes, on leash
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: late spring and summer when the gardens are in bloom (non weekdays to avoid lots of people)
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

6. Kent Falls Waterfall, Kent

Kent Falls via Kent Falls State Park is a must-visit for any resident or visitor in Connecticut.

Who doesn’t want to check the tallest (at 250 feet) waterfall off their CT bucket list?! (For more waterfalls in Connecticut to put on your list click here for a list of 16!)

Take the short flat walk to the main fall or continue up the stairs and walk the less than half mile along the right side of Kent Falls where you can see all the different drops on the observation decks along the way.

  • What it is: Tallest waterfall in CT
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes, on leash
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: After recent rain (preferably not on weekends when it gets crowded)
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

7. Saville Dam, Barkhamsted

This 135-foot dam in CT along Saville Dam Road has the Barkhamsted Reservoir on one side and Lake McDonough on the other.

The main attraction is the fairy-tale-like dam house castle structure! It can be tricky to pull over and photograph along the busy road so use caution here.

barkhamsted reservoir and saville dam in connecticut at sunrise
  • What it is: The dam houses the largest reservoir in CT, Barkhamsted Reservoir
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? This is just a drive-by spot or you can pull over somewhere safe for photos
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: early morning or midday when there is not a lot of traffic
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

8. Avery Point & New London Ledge Lighthouse, Groton

A gorgeous place to come for sunset as you walk the short stretch of sidewalk along the ocean.

Aside from the Avery Point Lighthouse is the view of the New London Ledge Lighthouse in the distance in the middle of the ocean!

There is some interesting and “haunting” history at the New London Ledge Lighthouse that you can check out in my 11 haunted trails & places in Connecticut post!

  • What it is: A short walk on a sidewalk along Uconn’s Avery Point campus.
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Summer sunset time
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate here

9. Hole-in-the-Wall Beach and Niantic Boardwalk, Niantic

This scenic Connecticut boardwalk stretches 1.1 miles along the waters of Long Island Sound, from Cini Park to Hole-in-the Wall Beach.

I love walking here for sunset and particularly enjoy it after Labor Day Weekend when dogs are finally allowed! :)))

niantic bay beach connecticut

Be sure to check out the village of Niantic after and stop at the dog-friendly Gum Drops & Lollipops Candy & Ice Cream for a treat before or after your walk! :)🍦🍭

  • What it is: A scenic boardwalk and bay beach along the LI Sound
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Only before Memorial Day Weekend and after Labor Day Weekend
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: for sunset πŸŒ…
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click here to navigate

10. Mohawk Mountain, Cornwall

You can drive right to the top of this mountain in CT πŸš—β›° and I suggest doing so during golden hour as the sun sets. (If you’re looking for more sunset hikes in western Connecticut click here!)

With almost 360-degree views and a picnic table at the top you’ll feel like you had to hike several miles to get here!

friends hiking at mohawk mountain in connecticut on a sunny blue sky day
  • What it is: Drive to the top of 1,683-foot Mohawk Mountain where the Tunxis and Paugussett Indians used smoke signals to warn local tribes of the approach of the Mohawks from the north and west. 
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Any season has beautiful views!
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click here to navigate

11. Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington

Just one look at the pictures will show you why Hill-Stead is a must-see beautiful spot in CT.

You can walk as much or as little as you’d like as it has miles of trails on the property or stroll the short garden paths around the mansion.

  • What it is: A Colonial Revival mansion with 152 acres of gardens and grounds that is one of the nation’s few remaining representations of early-20th-century country estates.
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes!
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Any season for walking the grounds or museum, spring & summer for the gardens
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click here to navigate to Hill-Stead

Scenic outdoor spots in CT that involve a longer walk or a short hike:

12. Hidden Valley Preserve & Bridge, Washington Depot

You’ll love seeing and walking across the 134-foot hanging suspension bridge above the Shepaug River known as Thoreau Bridge.

While the bridge is always a highlight, visit the Hidden Valley Preserve page to check out the other attractions like the view and quartz mines.

  • What it is:  940 acres of mixed forest and meadows crisscrossed by nearly 20 miles of trails
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes, on leash
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Any season β„οΈπŸŒ·πŸŒžπŸ
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

13. Steep Rock Tunnel, Washington Depot

A must-see spot in Connecticut! Take any visitor here to wow them with not only the beauty inside the almost 1,000-acre Steep Rock Preserve but also the 235-foot curved tunnel!

Take the yellow circle trail 🟑 to the blue square 🟦 to the tunnel which was made by hand from 1871 to 1872 as part of the Shepaug Valley Railroad by a crew of coal miners! πŸ‘πŸš‚

  • What it is: the 998-acre Steep Rock Preserve offers hiking trails that run along the Shepaug River as well as the famous tunnel and scenic overlooks
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes, on leash
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Any season β„οΈπŸŒ·πŸŒžπŸ
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

14. Cathedral Pines, West Cornwall

Witness the remains of what was once the largest stand of old-growth white pine and hemlock trees in New England. The Nature Conservancy

cathedral pines in connecticut

If you’re a nature lover and love to hike you’ll appreciate walking through New England’s largest stand of old-growth white pine and hemlock trees.

15. Mount Tom Tower, Litchfield

Another must-see spot in CT that’s a tower!

Walk just 0.7 miles up to get to this 34-foot tall stone tower.

If you like to hike and you like history and you like good views you must hit up Mount Tom Tower in Mount Tom State Park.

  • What it is: A 1.3-mile hike (round trip) up to the 34-foot stone tower located in the oldest state park in Connecticut which comprises 231 acres to roam along with Mount Tom Pond and beach area.
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Any season β„οΈπŸŒ·πŸŒžπŸ
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

16. Camp Columbia Tower, Morris

Another scenic tower to visit in CT! The Camp Columbia Tower has 360-degree views at the top but the clearest and longest view faces west making it perfect for sunset!

The stairs of this tower of around the outside which makes it interesting to look at and climb! (There is a railing).

And if you haven’t had your fill of magical towers, find more in a post I wrote on 8 different tower hikes in Connecticut.

  • What it is: Take the short 0.6 mile (round trip) trail to see Camp Columbia Tower
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Any season β„οΈπŸŒ·πŸŒžπŸ but the stairs up to tower would be hard to navigate with snow or ice.
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

17. Haystack Tower, Norfolk

Perhaps the most gorgeous views in CT for little amount of work!

Haystack Tower should be at the top of your CT bucket list. From the tower, you can see peaks in MA, NY, and even the Green Mountains of Vermont!

I wrote a post outlining 3 different trails you can take to get to the top of Haystack Tower. Take your pick from just 0.8 miles to 2.3 miles. πŸ₯Ύ

Built in 1929, the tower and Haystack Mountain State Park were donated by Ellen Battell Stoeckel, a Norfolk resident, in memory of her husband. The tower is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sunset view from Haystack Mountain Tower in Norfolk Connecticut

18. Sleeping Giant Castle, Hamden

A favorite CT place to visit since I was a kid with visits here on school and camp field trips.

There are several trails you can take here but the main attraction (or most popular trail) is the 3-mile fire tower trail (wide gravel path) up to Sleeping Giant Castle! 🏰

  • What it is: Sleeping Giant stone tower in Sleeping Giant State Park, take the 3.1 tower trail route to the top, an “easy” wide gravel path that winds its way up to the castle
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes, on leash for popular tower trail
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Any season β„οΈπŸŒ·πŸŒžπŸ but the main trail gets crowded on weekends and in nice weather. I’d choose one of the less popular routes
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

19. Woodbury Tower via Orenaug Park, Woodbury

This one feels like a little secret. Walk only about 0.4 miles to the 67-foot tall tower.

There are sturdy metal stairs that make their way up. I was a little wary walking up but you feel secure with railings all around! You can read more about the history of this tower here.

  • What it is: 0.9-mile hike (round trip) to the tower which has amazing 360-degree views!
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Any season β„οΈπŸŒ·πŸŒžπŸ but it could be tricky navigating the steps up with snow or ice!
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

20. Heublein Tower on Talcott Mountain, Simsbury

Take your pick from a 2.5-mile roundtrip route or a 6+ mile route that incorporates a walk at the scenic West Hartford Reservoir.

I wrote a whole post about the different hikes up Talcott Mountain to see Heublein Tower. And if looking at the tower isn’t enough, come Memorial Day the tower is open for tours of the inside! That is something I have not done yet but it’s on my list! :))

  • What it is: Hike up Talcott Mountain to see Heublein Tower and views from the ridge, faces west for sunset!
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes, on leash
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Any season β„οΈπŸŒ·πŸŒžπŸ but the inside of tower is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

21. Rands View on the Appalachian Trail, Falls Village

This is one of my favorite views and places in CT to visit!

With views right into the Berkshires, this is a must-do walk in Connecticut along the Appalachian Trail. πŸ₯Ύ

Take your pick of 3 different hikes to get to Rands View ranging from just 2.2 miles to over 8 miles.

  • What it is: Wide open valley view that will make you feel like you’re in the Sound of Music! 🎢 Check out my post which discusses 3 different routes to get to Rands View.
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Any season β„οΈπŸŒ·πŸŒžπŸ
  • πŸš™ How to get here: depends which hike you want to take so click link above which offers 3 routes

22. Apple Hill Observation Deck, Morris

Part of the 1,000-acre White Memorial Conservation Center, this is a really cute tower to hike to.

The observation deck has a sweeping view of Bantam Lake and surrounding landscape.

Continue on the trail through the woods to a short boardwalk that leads to “secret” section of Cat Swamp.

Cat Swamp is described by the White Memorial Foundation as the “perfect place for solitude” and I agree! I loved my time there and took lots of pictures.

  • What it is: Short walk to Apple Hill Observation Deck or do the whole 3.3-mile loop!
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Any season β„οΈπŸŒ·πŸŒžπŸ
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

23. White Memorial Conservation Center, Litchfield

There are so many trails to choose from at White Memorial! My favorites are the Beaver Pond and the Boardwalk trails.

Read more about the 400 acres to roam within White Memorial and plan your visit to this incredibly scenic area of CT.

  • What it is: 400 acre conservation center with trails, camping, recreation center, education, and a museum
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes, on leash
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Any season β„οΈπŸŒ·πŸŒžπŸ
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

24. Pachaug State Forest & Rhododendrum Trail

must see forest in connecticut
  • What it is: walk across several boardwalks and a short trail to see the Rhododendrons in bloom
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes, on leash
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Any season β„οΈπŸŒ·πŸŒžπŸ but the Rhododendrons in bloom in August
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

25. Macedonia State Park, Kent

We might’ve saved the best for last on this epic must-see outdoor spots in Connecticut list.

The sprawling 2,300-acre Macedonia Brook State Park is not to be missed with its big hikes, big views, mini waterfalls, and campsites.

beautiful view from cobble mountain in connecticut
  • What it is: More than 10 miles to hike including the super scenic overlook of Cobble Mountain where you can see all the way to the Taconic Mountains in NY.
  • 🐢 Dog-friendly? Yes
  • πŸ—“ Best time to visit: Any season β„οΈπŸŒ·πŸŒžπŸ
  • πŸš™ How to get here: Click to navigate

I hope you enjoyed this list of 25 must-see outdoor super scenic places in Connecticut! 😍

Save this post and revisit when you need to pop by someplace beautiful in Connecticut.

And if you are looking for more outdoor places to see in CT, check out my post of 16 waterfalls in Connecticut. πŸ’¦

connecticut waterfall

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *