At Salisbury, Ct.
The hike to Lions Head on the section of the Appalachian Trail that passes through Salisbury is high on my list of the best half-day hikes in Connecticut. If you like to hike and haven’t done this one, well, it is a must-do. From the little dirt parking area off Route 41 to the Lions Head lookout is 2.7 miles, 5.4 miles round trip. For many people, I’ve found, myself included, a hike of 4 to 6 miles is just right most days – not too long and tiring, but just long enough to make it worth while and get some real exercise. Lions Head is a moderately steep climb that reasonably fit adults and most children can do in a few hours. Hiking the trail one day we came upon a conga-line of middle-school students with their teacher. They seemed happy. Of course, who wouldn’t be happy to be hiking the Appalachian Trail on a 70-degree sunny day in May – and not in a classroom?
This hike packs a lot in a comparatively short distance; a forest with a rich mix of species and some wonderful old trees; a couple of brooks to treat the eye; woodland wildflowers and birds, a terrific view from the top. Watch for some nice American beeches, old hemlocks, a big white birch and several massive oaks. Wild geranium and starflower bloomed along the edges of the trail today, and deep-pink sheep laurel blossoms brushed our shoulders in places. Our bird of the day was the veery, that cousin of the American robin, with its pleasing combination of cinnamon back and gray-white belly. I thought I heard a raven croak several times, but never got a look. Can’t count that one.
A big part of the appeal of this trail of course is the view from Lions Head lookout, elevation 1,738-feet. The view northeast to southeast is miles of rolling Litchfield Hills, Prospect Mountain and Canaan Mountain among them. You’ll see farms, country estates, and several of the state’s nicest lakes – Wononscopomuc and the Twin Lakes. You could spend an hour with binoculars identifying this or that in the distance. Yes, that’s the private Salisbury School on the hilltop off in the distance to the east. Add to that views north to the Berkshires and west to the Taconics, and for sure it is a very special vantage point.
As for the name Lions Head, I read somewhere that the exposed rock outlook in fact is supposed to resemble a lion’s head. I’ve not been able to discern the resemblance myself, but maybe I haven’t found the right vantage point. Guess that is another reason to keep hiking.