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The Paugussett Trail Shelton and Monroe, Connecticut

Length: 8.7 miles (one way)

Difficulty: 99% Easy to Moderate and 1% Difficult (rock scrambling). The less agile will have difficulties with portions of this trail. A few sections are steep.

Features: Indian Well Falls; views of the Housatonic Valley, Stevenson Dam, and Lake Zoar. Campsites are available at Webb Mountain. Park in Monroe. CFPA usually sponsors a group hike each year on National Trails Day.

General Description: There are over 700 miles of “Blue-Blazed” hiking trails in Connecticut maintained by volunteers of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, a private, non-profit conservation organization. Founded in 1895, CFPA has been managing popular trails throughout the state with names like the Mattatuck, Tunxis, and Paugussett.

The Paugussett Trail of today is a mere remnant of what it once was. In 1946, the Paugussett traversed the entire length of Shelton, entering in the north along the Housatonic River, passing near Trap Falls Reservoir, and ending at Roosevelt Forest in Stratford. But much of the trail was lost when developments such as Aspetuck Village went in. Hiking was not so popular as it is today, and there was little interest in preserving trails. Blue-blazed trails are often located on private property and may be closed at any time if the landowner so chooses.

Today the Paugussett Trail runs a total of 8.7 miles from Indian Well State Park to East Village, Monroe. Along the way hikers take in hilltop views of Lake Zoar and the Stevenson Dam. It’s a bit of work to get to these views. While most of the trail is gentle, a couple of rock scrambles have to be negotiated, as well as a few hills. And Blue-Blazed trails can be more difficult to follow than some other trails, so it helps to have the CFPA’s map and description of the trail to keep from getting lost. This is certainly the most challenging of all the trails in Shelton.

Note: There are plans to extend the Paugussett Trail south to the Shelton Lakes Greenway, where it would probably take the route of Dominick Trail. As of May 2007, these plans have been put on hold due to opposition from the residents of Mayflower Lane, who do not want a trail in their neighborhood.  The City of Shelton owns a contiguous corridor of open space between Indian Well State Park and Shelton Lakes, which was assemble for the purpose of extending the trail.

Parking for the trailhead at Indian Well is located just inside the park entrance. Hikers cross the park road and head immediately up the riverbank towards the waterfall known as “Indian Well.” According to legend, the waterfall was the secret meeting place for two lovers from enemy tribes. When their tryst was discovered, the father of the Princess, a Paugussett chief, ordered a raid upon the Pootatuck village where the brave lived. The Princess believed her lover was dead, and in despair dove off the waterfall. Her brave, who had survived and was sleeping nearby, awoke to the sound of her suicide. Then he too jumped off the waterfall to join her in eternity. The pool was once much deeper than it is today and was believed to be bottomless.

For several miles the Paugussett follows the forested bank of the Housatonic River. The first few miles are easy to follow and appropriate for novices, even without a trail map. Much of the surrounding terrain has been preserved as state park or city open space. At about 2.5 miles the trail is briefly interrupted by housing developments along Okenuck Way and Princess Winona Way and it helps to have CFPA’s trail description to find your way through. Near the Monroe line the trail is again interrupted and routed onto Thoreau Drive.

After four miles hikers cross the Monroe town line and enter Webb Mountain Park, where there is a campground and a network of other trails. The trail then climbs up a 100-foot rock face and continues up a hill overlooking Lake Zoar before descending to East Village. A side-trail leads to the Stevenson Dam, and with proper planning it’s possible to take a canoe back down the Housatonic River to the trailhead at Indian Well State Park.

All of the Blue-Blazed trails are described in CFPA’s “Connecticut Walk Book” which can be obtained by joining the association. For more information call CFPA at 860-346-8733 or visit their website at www.ctwoodlands.org.

Recommended short hike: Start at Webb Mountain Park in Monroe (see Webb Mountain Park Map) and head north on the Paugussett for a mile or so to the view of Lake Zoar. You’ll need to scramble up a rock outcrop towards the beginning of the hike, but the rest of the terrain is moderate. Hiking time is 1 to 3 hours depending on your pace.

Recommended hike/canoe trip: Start at Indian Well State Park in Shelton, hike up to the Stevenson Dam in Monroe, and take your canoe back down the Housatonic River to where you started. See Adventure on the Paugussett Trail.

Access Points & Directions:

1. Indian Well State Park off of Route 110, north of downtown Shelton (exit 14 on Route 8). From the main park entrance, cross the stone bridge and look for a small parking area on your right. The trail is across the park road on the left and is blazed blue. You will hike immediately up the river bank and then continue along the crest (or just below it) heading towards Monroe.

2. Webb Mountain Park (Monroe – see park map). The trail crosses the main park road. From Shelton White Hills Shopping Center: Drive north on East Village Road all the way to the Monroe town line. Take a right onto Webb Circle (there will be a small sign pointing to the park). Follow the road to the park (see my note on the attack chicken below). Park at the gate if closed, or proceed into the park and find a spot in the small parking lot on the right. The Blue Dot trail is further up the park road, about 1/4 mile.

From Route 34/Stevenson Dam: Stay on 34 towards Newtown. Take second or third left after the dam, onto Route 111/Zoar Rd and cross the railroad tracks. Take an immediate left onto Cottage St. Stay to the left. Cottage becomes Webb Circle. Take a sharp left onto very narrow “Old Fish House Road.” There will be a park sign. Follow this road to the park.

Please don’t run over the attack chicken (even if it’s tempting)!! Just before the entrance to Webb Mountain Park there is a farm which sells eggs. One day I stopped to allow the nice farm chickens to cross the road, when one maliciously turned towards my car and strutted right up under the front grill. I could no longer see the chicken and wondered if some chickens could be more stupid than others. Thinking quickly, I backed up my vehicle, but the chicken pursued. It was a race! I finally outdistanced the chicken in reverse, shifted gears, and sped around the chicken on the left. I just barely made it, for the chicken anticipated my move and began running to intercept. A lead foot on my part was effective. Fortunately, there was no oncoming traffic.

3. East Village (in Monroe): The Monroe trailhead is on East Village Road, 0.4 mile east of Route 111.

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