Mount Misery via the Blue Trail

Mountain:  Mt. Misery (441')
Trails:  Nehantic/Pachaug Crossover, Blue Trail
Region:  CT - Southeast  
Location:  Voluntown, CT
Rating:  Easy/Moderate  
Features:  Summit, views, ledges
Distance:  1.2 miles  
Elevation Gain:  Approximately 140 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 0:47   Typical: 0:45  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 1:30   Typical: 1:30  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  09/07/2007 (Friday)  
Last Updated:  01/24/2008  
Weather:  85 degrees
Author:  Webmaster

Route Summary   

Start on Cutoff Road and follow the blue blazes up to the summit ledges of Mount Misery. Return via the same route.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
     Split
Time
     Total
Time
    
Trailhead on Cutoff Road 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
Mt. Misery (441') 0.6 0.6 0:25 0:25
Trailhead on Cutoff Road 0.6 1.2 0:22 0:47
 



Towering white pines on the "blue trail" (photo by Webmaster)


Golden-leaved maple on Mt. Misery summit (photo by Webmaster)

Cone on pitch pine tree (photo by Webmaster)
 

Map of hike route on Mt. Misery (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

This was a delightful and popular jaunt through pine woods to the ledgy summit of Mount Misery which offers impressive easterly views of the surrounding forest. There used to be a fire tower at the peak but unfortunately, that's no longer there. Mount Misery is located in Pachaug State Forest.

Wintergreen (left) and partridgeberry (right) (photo by Webmaster) Starting from Cutoff Road, I followed the blue-blazed trail (at this point called the Nehantic/Pachaug Crossover) through a forest full of majestic, towering pines. Close to the ground wintergreen, partridgeberry, and ferns provided pleasing splashes of green atop the rusty-colored needle-strewn ground.

The path started out level and then shortly met up with a daunting-looking hill, which it climbed by steeply zigzagging switchbacks. After the last zag, the trail ascended gently to a small ledgy opening. This point was reached in less than 10 minutes from the trailhead so although the hill looked steep, the climb was quickly behind me.

The ledgy area is surrounded by trees so it doesn't really provide any views of note but it is a pleasant place nevertheless... a good excuse to stop and drink some water, listen to the Ferns along the Nehantic/Pachaug Cros path (photo by Webmaster) chickadees, and enjoy the switch from a mostly pine forest to one that now includes some hardwoods, notably oak. And in the middle of the slab, is a thin layer of soil that is supporting a small (3-6 feet) white pine and oak tree. The cliff drops off steeply with the mature trees rooted at the bottom of ledge, giving you an unusual close-up view of the oak and maple treetops. The maple leaves had already turned to a golden orange although those of the oaks in this spot were still a deep green.

Leaving the ledge, the trail descends on a gentle incline for a while and also has some flat sections. There were a few downed trees but it was easy to divert over or around them.

Soon the trail starts to climb again (but not as steeply as before) and before you know it, you will come upon an open ledge with views of the forest as far as the eye can see. This sea of green contains mostly white pines although other trees are also mixed in. If you look closely you can pick out individual trees from this emerald expanse. It's interesting to note that some of them stand "head-and-shoulders" above their fellow trees making these mature specimens look like mere shrubs.

Forested expanse viewed from Mt. Misery's summit ledge (photo by Webmaster)


Just beyond this ledge is another one (but closed in) which has the "Misery Hill" geographic marker embedded in the ground nearby. And just beyond this Mount Misery summit marker, is one more ledge worth checking out. This third hilltop slab offers limited views but is populated with beautiful, writhing pitch pines. These pitch pines, rather than growing straight up, developed in segmented arcs, seeming to defy gravity with the amount that they can arch overhead without collapsing to the ground. You will often see oddly shaped trees on mountain summits and ledges due to them being exposed to wind and other harsh elements.

Pitch pines arcing over Misery Hill's slabs (photo by Webmaster)


Pitch pines and white pines can usually be identified at a glance due to their differing overall aspect or silhouette. Looking more closely at the needles, pitch pine's will be in clusters of three while white pine's will be in clusters of five. Pitch pines have short, squat cones, whereas white pine's are long and graceful looking. If you can't spot any cones on the trees, look around on the ground for them.

At this point you can turn around and retrace your steps back to Cutoff Road.

However the trail does continue, descending steeply down ledges to reach a forest road in only 0.1 mile. It is possible to make a small or large loop with adjoining forest roads and/or trails. A free map is available at park headquarters.
 
Blue Trail near the summit of Mt. Misery (photo by Webmaster)


Small ledgy opening (photo by Webmaster)

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Nehantic/Pachaug Crossover trail through White Pine Forest (photo by Webmaster)
  Driving Directions   

Mt. Misery summit ledge (photo by Webmaster) The main entrance to Pachaug State Forest is Headquarters Road, located on the west side of Rt. 49 in Voluntown. It is 0.6 mile north of the junction of Rt. 138 and Rt. 49; or 7.9 miles south of the junction of Rt. 14A and Rt. 49.

I didn't see an actual "Headquarters Road" street sign, but near the park entrance, there is an easy-to-spot forest service sign indicating: "Pachaug - A Connecticut State Park - Forest Headquarters".

To reach the trailhead (via car):
  • From the park entrance, follow Headquarters Road for 0.8 mile.
  • Bear left at a fork, going over a bridge.
  • Drive another 0.1 mile to a field, and then bear right on the dirt Cutoff Road (again I didn't see a street sign so just have faith and bear right).
  • Go another 0.2 mile where there will be a one-car pull-off on the right, about 125 feet beyond a left turn for the campground and about 30 feet before a forest service sign also on the left.
  • Optionally, you could continue another 0.1 mile to another turnout large enough for about 3 cars.
  • Another option, if you want to climb the summit via the steep 0.1 mile trail, is to continue along Cutoff Road about 0.2 past the road for the campground, and then take your first left onto Firetower Road. Follow Firetower for 0.5 mile, turn left, and then follow that short road to its end. Park your vehicle, and then follow the steep, ledgy, blue-blazed path up to the summit.

Finding the trailhead (via foot):
  • Neither of the trailheads are signed.
  • For the main trailhead described, look for a blue-blazed path leaving Cutoff Road on the left; it's about 60 yards beyond the road for the campground and there's a tree on the left with two blue blazes on it that's easy to see from the road. This is about 20 feet after a forestry sign, also on the left. (The sign says "Hikers Be Careful"... seems like it would be better to say "Mt. Misery trailhead just ahead".) After the double-blazed tree, turn left and follow the obvious footpath and blue blazes. Once you find the start of the trail, it is very easy to follow.
  • To find the trailhead for the quick 0.1 mile climb at the end of the dead-end road, just look for the blue-blazed, ledge-filled trail heading steeply uphill; note that there are other blue-blazed trails that also leave from this area.

To reach forest headquarters:
  • From the park entrance, follow Headquarters Road for 0.3 mile.
  • Turn right and continue another 0.1 mile to the office on the left.
  • There are free maps (two different ones) in the box attached to the front of the building.

Other Notes   

No fee. Pachaug State Forest is open from dawn to dusk.

For more information on the blue trail network and conservation efforts in Connecticut, visit The Connecticut Forest and Park Association.

About Pachaug State Forest   

Forested view of Pachaug State Forest from atop Mt. Misery (photo by Webmaster) Pachaug State Forest, named after the Pachaug River which flows through the area, is located in southeastern Connecticut and consists of 28,500 acres of woodland, field and wetlands. The park is predominately located in Voluntown and also encompasses parts of Plainfield, Sterling, Griswold and North Stonington.

The forest offers many options for outdoor recreation: hiking the "blue trail" network as well as other park paths, bicycling on the forest roads, kayaking, camping, and fishing.

One of its famous "attractions" is a rare and impressive colony of native giant rhododendrons within an Atlantic White Cedar swamp, itself most uncommon today.

The area has sandy soils in some places, rock outcrops in others, and plenty of oak, mountain laurel and white pine in the forest.

There are abundant hiking and walking trails. The "blue" trails that run through (and in several cases beyond) Pachaug State Forest include the Nehantic, Pachaug, Narragansett and Quinebaug Trails and the Nehantic/Pachaug Crossover. Between the footpaths and the forest roads, there are endless options for excursions of all lengths.

A short trail (less than 0.5 mile round trip) will take you into the Rhododendron Sanctuary. The large flowers of the giant rhododendron are likely to be in bloom about the second week of July.
 
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