National & State Parks - 15 min read

10 Best State and National Parks in Connecticut (with Campsites)

Town and Tourist

Town and Tourist, Updated September 28, 2022

Connecticut is one of the smallest states in the United States. In such a small area, this New England state packs an amazing amount of diversity in the places to visit. Connecticut boasts two National Park and 139 State Parks or Wilderness areas. No matter where you want to roam in Connecticut, you are never far from an opportunity to explore, hike, or camp.

You can find seashores, mountains, woodlands, and historical places in Connecticut. Many of Connecticut’s state parks offer a variety of recreational, opportunities. Don’t overlook the winter opportunities as well. These parks offer cross-country and downhill skiing, ice skating, snowmobiling and ice fishing.

So many choices may leave you feeling overwhelmed. To help you, we have selected our best picks of state and national parks in Connecticut for this list. You should have no trouble finding something new and interesting in Connecticut.

Top 10 State and National Parks in Connecticut

We start our list with the two national parks in Connecticut. Following that are our choices of the premier state parks that deserve a stay or at least a visit. We can’t cover all 139 Connecticut state parks, so we have cherry-picked the best of the best.

1. Appalachian National Scenic Trail

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is part of the National Park system. The trail stretches from Springer Mountain, Georgia, 2181 miles to Katahdin, Maine. This is the longest National Park in the country and the world. The part of the Appalachian Trail that stretches through Connecticut is 51.6 miles.

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Activities and Features

The Appalachian Trail is a walker’s by-way across some of the most spectacular parts of the United States. As you walk the Appalachian trail, you will find unparalleled wildlife viewing opportunities. You can also find some of the most spectacular views you may ever experience.

Accommodations and Entry Points

You can enter the Appalachian trail at thousands of points along its length. Connecticut Appalachian MTN Club publishes a great guide to exploring the Appalachian Trail

Many shelters and campgrounds lie along the trail. The trail is accessible for short day hikes or longer overnight excursions. If you are an intrepid hiker, you can attempt to hike the entire length of the trail. That is quite an accomplishment.

Costs and Fees

There is no fee to access or use the Appalachian Trail. There are sections of the trail that pass-through state parks and public lands. These sections of the trail that may charge a small fee to access the trail. Local rules and regulations on campfires and other uses will apply.

Click here to go to the Appalachian Trail Website

Related Read: 20 Best Hiking Trails in Connecticut

2. Weir Farm National Historical Park

The original owner of the farm was Julian Alden Weir. Weir was an American Impressionist painter in the late 1800s. The Weir family used the farm as a rural retreat during his life. The National Park Service acquired the site in 1990. The farm became a dedicated visual arts location. The farm is still a working artists’ studio. In-residence artists work there daily.

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Activities and Features

You can take part in the summer “Take Part in the Arts” program. This program encourages visitors to try their hand at creating art of their own. Art supplies are available to borrow from the visitor’s center. You can choose from colored pencils, chalk, pastels, and paper.

You can visit the Weir house and various traveling exhibits by various artists. Several different tours occur throughout the week at the farm. Check the part calendar for upcoming events.

Accommodations and Location

There are no accommodations on-site and no facilities for camping. The park is accessible by car from several nearby towns. These local villages offer lodging and eating facilities. The nearest town is Branchville, Connecticut.

Costs And Fees

There are no entry charges to visit the Weir Farm National Park. Activities have a nominal fee to cover the cost of supplies. Parking is limited at the farm. The Park Service asks that you limit your party to two vehicles. If your party is larger please make prior arrangements for a larger group.

Visit the official website for more detailed information by clicking here.

3. Hammonasset Beach State Park

Connecticut is not well known as a beach destination. Yet, Hammonasset Beach State Park could give you a different idea. This state park is amazing and offers families many activities and opportunities. Connecticut’s largest beach state park also has top-notch facilities.

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Activities and Features

There are so many activities and opportunities it is almost impossible to get them into a list, but I will try, and you can choose your favorite.

  • Biking and hiking
  • Picnicking at one of the many picnic spots with tables, covers and grills
  • Visiting the Boardwalk where you will find restrooms, concessions, a nature center, and showers
  • Saltwater swimming
  • Boating
  • Saltwater Fishing
  • Camping
  • Exploring the Nature Center and learning about its programs and exhibits

Of course, my favorite is walking on the beach. Yours may be different, and this park can keep anyone satisfied.

Accommodations and Locations

Hammonasset Beach State Park sits a few miles from Harford, Connecticut. The park is accessible from the north and south. There are spaces for primitive camping, or you can bring your RV or travel trailer. A large, improved RV park is available with hookups, electricity, and water.

Costs and Fees

Non-Connecticut visitors must pay a parking fee. Camping fees range from $20 per night to $80 per night, depending on the accommodation. Several rustic cabins are available for rent. Check with the park administration for availability.

Check out the Hammonasset State Park website at this link.

Related Read: 19 Best East Coast Beaches For Families

4. Dinosaur State Park

Take a trip back in time and experience dinosaurs up close and personal. Well, not dinosaurs but their footprints frozen in time. You can see where these historic animals walked. More than 2,000 dinosaur footprints on the trackway. The park service reburied most of these prints for protection.

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Activities and Features

Dinosaur State Park is home to a magnificent arboretum. The collection has more than 250 species of conifers. Two miles of walking trails through the arboretum and surrounding park areas. A museum and visitor center offers a unique look at dinosaurs and the area’s history. Geocaching in the park has become a popular pastime, so bring your GPS along on your trip. During the summer months, you can mine gems or fossils to create a historical souvenir of your visit to the park.

Accommodations and Locations

Dinosaur State Park is outside Rocky Hill, Connecticut. Use Exit 93 off I-91. There are no onsite lodging facilities, and camping is not allowed in the park. Nearby Rocky Hill offers lodging and eating to enjoy during your visit.

Costs and Fees

Daily admission fees to Dinosaur State Park range from $6 for adults to $2 for children ages 6 – 12. Children under 6 are free. The park accepts Visa, MC, and Discover for admission fees. American Express and bank debit cards are not accepted. Cash and checks are always welcome.

Click here to visit the Dinosaur State Park website to learn about events and activities.

5. Devil’s Hopyard State Park

Take a chance to play in the devil’s playground. It may not seem appealing, but you should rethink the chance. Devil’s Hopyard State Park is one of Connecticut’s most popular destinations. The park is a wonder, with natural potholes near the waterfalls. These holes are the source of the park’s name.

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Activities and Features

Devil’s Hopyard State Park offers a beautiful setting to enjoy various activities. Biking, hiking, and picnicking are among some of the most popular. There are plenty of campsites and nature opportunities such as stream fishing. This park is one of the finest birdwatching locations in the state.

Accommodations and Locations

Camping is the main way to enjoy the park for several days. The park has 21 wooded campsites near the waterfall. Campsites range from $14 per night to $24 per night, depending on your state residency status. Make your reservations early because this is a popular destination.

The park is outside East Haddam, Connecticut. Access the park from Interstate 395 using Exit 80 West. There are no RV or travel trailer sites, and tent camping is the only alternative.

Costs and Fees

There are no entry fees or parking costs at Devils Hopyard State Park. This makes this one of the most popular parks in Connecticut. The park often gets crowded, and tent camping spaces fill up quickly. Make your reservations early if you want to camp.

To make your camping reservations, visit the website here.

6. Sherwood Island State Park

Many call Sherwood Island State Park Connecticut’s first state park. The State received the first parcels of land in 1914. The state has continued to add land and facilities to this state park. This park is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.

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Activities and Features

As a shoreline park, Sherwood Island offers a wide range of activities and features. The visitors center presents interpretive programs throughout the year. The Nature Center is a great stop to learn more about the wildlife and the marshlands on the island. Saltwater fishing and swimming in the Long Island Sound are always popular activities.

Accommodations and Locations

Sherwood Island State Park boasts some of the best facilities in the Connecticut system. There are food concessions, picnic shelters with tables, and public showers. Some vendors offer beach rentals.

There are no RV or camping sites at Sherwood Island State Park. The island is open from 8 AM until sunset year-round. You can reach Sherwood Island from various routes, including I-95, using Exit 18. Connecticut Routes 1 and 15 also offer easy access to the park.

Costs and Fees

If you are a Connecticut resident, there are no fees to enter the park. Non-Connecticut residents must pay a small fee to park. Food service at the park is available, and you can rent some beach equipment.

For more information about events and schedules, visit the website.

Related Read: 50 Most Beautiful Places in the US

7. Gillette Castle State Park

For something completely different put Gillette Castle State Park on your itinerary. A visit to this unique former house will leave you with wonder and delight. The mansion was the inspiration of actor, entrepreneur, and artist William Hooker Gillette. The grounds around the home are no less impressive. You can visit trails, trestles, and tunnels to explore. The estate even had a railroad station.

Credit: Shutterstock

Activities and Features

Be ready to spend a full day exploring the Gillette Castle State Parks features. You will want to schedule a tour of the mansion. Be sure to leave plenty of time to walk the trails and explore the park’s other attractions. You will find many interesting spots and attractions throughout the park

Accommodations and Location

Three campgrounds are available near Gillette Castle State Park. The campgrounds lay along the Connecticut River. The parks at Hurd, Gillette Castle, and Selden Neck State Parks offer camping. Each campground has fees for using the facilities. Information is available through the reservation system at this site.

To find Gillette Castle State Park take Exit 22 on I-91 or use Exit 69 if traveling on I-95N. There is a ferry ride that may have fees associated with this route.

Costs and Fees

Tickets for a mansion tour cost $6 for adults over age 13 and $2 for youth ages 6-12. We recommend purchasing your tickets for the mansion tour in advance. This popular attraction often sells out. No more than 12 persons go on each tour of the property.

To find more information, follow this link to the website.

8. Lovers Leap State Park

Consider a day trip to Lovers Leap State Park if you want a more romantic interlude. This is not a huge park and compromises only 160 acres. Those 160 acres are home to the most spectacular scenery and geology in Connecticut. The park has many trails to enjoy. The most interesting is the Lovers Leap Trail which utilizes the 1895 Berlin Iron Bridge.

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Activities And Features

Follow the trail to the upper rock formation on the trail. This is where folklore says Pootatuck Princess Lillinonah and her lover leaped to their deaths. The ruins of several industrial age factories around the park are of interest. The Housatonic River is always an attraction. The steep rocky gorge is a geologist’s dream. Birdwatching in season can yield some spectacular sightings.

Accommodations and Lodging

Lovers Leap State Park is a day only facility open from 8 AM until sunset. There are no camping or other facilities in the park. Nearby New Milford, Connecticut, offers a variety of lodging and eating opportunities.

Costs and Fees

Like most Connecticut State Parks, residents don’t pay day use or parking fees. Non-residents may pay a small day use or parking fee while visiting the park. There are no other fees at this park.

For more information, visit the park website.

9. Bigelow Hollow State Park & Nipmuck State Forest

We go from one of the smallest state parks in Connecticut to one of the largest. Bigelow Hollow State Park adjoins the Nipmuck State Forest. Together there are over 9,000 acres of forest land, lakes, and ponds for you to explore. You can enjoy this park and forest year-round for many activities.

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Activities and Features

It is hard to describe Bigelow State Park and Nipmuck State Forest in a few sentences. Here you can enjoy hiking, bird watching, camping, and fishing during the warmer months. Winter brings new opportunities with ice fishing, cross country skiing.

You will find Picnic tables, campsites, and pit toilets around the Bigelow State Park. Camping requires reservations made through the Eastern District Headquarters office. You can contact them on this website. Don’t forget boating on the 300-acre Mashapaug Pond.

Accommodations and Locations

Limited numbers of campsites are available in the Nipmuck State Forest area. You must make reservations before using the campsites. Bigelow State Park is a day only facility and is open from 8 AM to sunset. Campers using the remote primitive campsites must make reservations for overnight use.

Bigelow Hollow State Park is near Union, Connecticut and can is accessible from Route 171 via I-84. Take Exit 73 or 74 and follow Route 171 to the park entrance. The access to Nipmuck State Forest is off I-84 using Exit 72.

Costs and Fees

There is no cost for Connecticut residents to visit Bigelow Hollow State Park or the Nipmuck State Forest. Non-Connecticut residents must pay a $15 per day use and parking fee. There are no other fees or costs associated with visiting these areas.

You can learn more about Bigelow Hollow State Park and the Nipmuck State Forest at this link.

Related Read: 25 Best Romantic Winter Getaways in the Northeast

10. Gay City State Park

If history is your thing, get up close and personal with Connecticut’s industrial past. and visit Gay City State Park. At the heart of this park are industrial ruins. These ruins show the growth and demise of a factory town established in 1796.

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Activities and Features

Hiking the trails to visit the historic ruins is the most popular activity. Many people also enjoy pond fishing, swimming, and picnicking in the park. The park has many picnic tables and bathrooms throughout the park. A youth group camping area is available for qualifying groups and organizations.

Accommodations and Locations

No other camping or lodging facilities are available at this park. Nearby Hebron, Connecticut, offers a rich assortment of lodging and eating choices. This makes a great place to visit while you are at Gay City State Park.

From South/New London, route 85 north will lead you to the park entrance. If you are coming from the north, I384 Exit 5 will get you to the park entrance.

Costs and Fees

Non-Connecticut residents pay a parking fee to visit Gay City State Park. This fee is usually only required on weekends and holidays. Costs to use the Youth Camping Area are dependent on group size and length of stay. Contact the Park headquarters for more information.

Learn more about the possibilities to explore the Gay City State Park on their website at this link.

More Connecticut State Parks

If you are planning a visit to Connecticut check out all the state park possibilities. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection oversees these parks. The CDEEP hosts a wonderful website where you can learn more.

Before you plan your visit to Connecticut, take a few minutes to browse the state park website. You can plan your trip and see the exciting opportunities the parks hold.

Click here to visit the Connecticut State Parks website.

Connecticut National and State Park Possibilities

These are our top ten choices for the best National and State Parks in Connecticut. They represent only a smattering of what you can experience. From large to small, the Connecticut state park system has few rivals.

Connecticut offers 139 state parks in total. These parks offer a wide array of events, facilities, and interesting opportunities. You owe it to yourself to explore Connecticut’s beauty and unique character.

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