Best State Parks to Visit in Connecticut This Summer

6 min read time

Best State Parks to Visit in Connecticut This Summer

Connecticut has so many amazing state parks that you’d have a hard time visiting all of them in a decade. It’s amazing to imagine how much you can learn and enjoy without having to leave the state. With 139 state parks and forests, it’s hard to narrow it down. Here are some of the best parks in CT, to help guide you in deciding which ones are worthy of a visit.

What Are the Best State Parks in Connecticut?


Hammonasset Beach State Park

wooden boardwalk along strip of beach at hammonasset beach state park in Connecticut - photo by pinterest

If you want to go to a beach, you might as well go to the beach. And lucky for you, Hammonasset Beach State Park has about two miles of it. It’s just one of the many reasons we consider Madison to be one of the best places to retire in CT. There is so much to do here that you could easily spend a week, from swimming and sunbathing to fishing and hiking. You can even camp right inside the park.

Gillette Castle State Park

decrepit stone castle in gillette castle state park in connecticut - photo by thedyrt

Gillette Castle is probably the closest you can come to a medieval castle in the United States, but the history is so much more interesting. William Hooker Gillette designed the home and the grounds to exacting specifications, some of which are quite odd and surprising. You can take a tour of the castle, or spend your time fishing, hiking, or camping in the park.

Campbell Falls State Park

water running between rocks in stream in campbell falls state park in connecticut - photo by Visit Connecticut (1)

Hoping to find the perfect spot to impress your followers on Instagram? You’ve got to head to Campbell Falls State Park. Do a quick image search and you’ll be rewarded with a forest right out of a fairytale. The weather in nearby Norfolk is a bit cooler than the rest of the state, which is why we rank it one of the best sites for a summer getaway, especially when you’re looking to beat the heat. There are miles of hiking trails and you can fish in the stream, both perfect activities to help keep you cool.

Silver Sands State Park

wooden boardwalk leading to beach at sunset in silver sands state park in connecticut - photo by Flickr

One look at Silver Sands State Park and you’ll know immediately why it makes the list. Take a glimpse at the calm waters and you may wonder why you don’t spend more of your time here. As one of a handful of Connecticut state parks that are great for visitors in any season, you can enjoy your time on the beach, fishing or swimming, or simply take a walk on the boardwalk. Take a tip from us and try to plan your trip around an outstanding sunset.

Bigelow Hollow State Park

lake with changing leaves surrounding in the fall in bigelow hollow state park in connecticut - photo by Visit CT (1)

Before you visit Bigelow Hollow State Park, you should know that the name’s origin might surprise you. No one with the name has an important history in the area. Instead, locals say that the area got its name because of the large hollow that created the popular Mashapaug Lake in the park. It’s one of our favorite lakes and beaches to visit in CT. Once you arrive at the park, you’ll find acres of dense woods surrounding water that’s perfect for swimming, scuba diving, boating, and fishing.

Dinosaur State Park

child in orange shirt holding dinosaurs arms in dinosaur state park in connecticut - photo by OnlyInYourState

No discussion of great parks in the state could be complete without Dinosaur State Park. Sure, it’s a wonderful place to hike or have a picnic. But we all know you’re here for the dinosaur tracks. And wow, will you ever find them here! In fact, there are more than 2,600 of them in the park. Only some of them are above-ground, but you can see them when you visit the domed exhibit center.

What State Parks Are Free in CT?

If you have a vehicle with a Connecticut license plate, you can likely get into most of the state’s parks and forests without having to pay a fee. In 2018, the state passed a “Passport to the Parks” program that eliminated fees in exchange for a slight increase in your vehicle’s annual registration fee. So if you’re looking to spend a day at Hammonasset Beach State Park or Salt Rock State Park, you won’t have to pay extra for parking.

That’s not to say that everything at the parks is free, however. If you want to go camping at the various parks with amenities, you’ll need to pay to reserve a campground or cabin. Dinosaur, Fort Trumbull and Gillette Castle don’t charge a parking fee. But if you want to see the exhibits and other activities at these parks, you’ll need to pay an additional entrance fee per person.

What Is the Biggest State Park in CT?

At a robust 4,000 acres, Mohawk Mountain State Forest State Park is the largest state park in Connecticut. It’s also a great spring getaway. As a game preserve and state forest, the park is about 100 years old. If you’re looking for a park with a unique place in the colonial and indigenous history of the region, coupled with a few geographically interesting features, you’ve come to the right place. Check out the Black Spruce Bog, a peat bog that supports all kinds of plant life.

Are State Parks Open in CT For Swimming?

During the warmer months, 22 state parks offer swimming. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection encourages visitors to remember that lifeguard services are only available at five state park beaches, and only during certain hours. Be sure to look for a lifeguard on duty. The state’s many lakes and ponds can develop an algae bloom from time to time, so it’s wise to check the water quality report before you leave for your visit.

Ready for a trip to one of Connecticut’s amazing state parks? You can use this list to help you plan. It’s even better when you have a lovely home to return to after a great holiday. To learn more about making your home into the perfect getaway you never have to leave, contact us at Fine Home Contracting.

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