Although Chester, Connecticut, is a small town with less than 3,800 residents, you'll find plenty of outdoor activities within its borders. For starters, there's much to do on the Connecticut River, east of downtown, thanks to the abundance of marinas and other waterfront spaces.
In addition, the western side of town is home to Cockaponset State Forest, a 17,000-acre plot of land with numerous hiking trails, ponds, and parks, including the Pattaconk Recreation Area.
This particular park sits on the Pattaconk Reservoir's shores and provides an excellent place to spend a day enjoying nature in a secluded, yet easily accessible, environment.
Here's what you should know about the Pattaconk Recreation Area in Cockaponset State Forest.
A Short History
Although Cockaponset State Forest wasn't established until 1926, its history in this area goes back for centuries. Several Native American tribes made their home in the forest over the years, including the Quinnipiacs, Manunkatucks, and Mattabessets, as the thick forests and various ponds made it a safe, sheltered place to live and provided drinking water.
Cockaponset State Forest, as a whole, gets its name from an Algonquin chief who is buried in the park's Ponset section, which is north of Pattaconk in the neighboring community of Haddam.
The Pattaconk section of the forest takes its name from a Native American word used to describe a round hill in Chester.
Reaching the Pattaconk Recreation Area is relatively easy, depending on your point of origin.
From downtown Chester, CT, get onto Water Street, which later becomes West Main Street. This street is also known as Route 148.
You'll follow West Main Street under the Chester Bowles Highway until you reach Cedar Lake, a beautiful place to visit in its own right. Take a right after Cedar Lake and follow Cedar Lake Road to the Pattaconk Lake sign, which directs you to the parking lot.
If you're coming from the north or south, take Exit 6 from the Chester Bowles Highway and head west on Route 148 until you reach Cedar Lake Road.
There's an average-sized parking lot at the lake, which can fill up on weekends. If the main parking lot is full, there's an overflow parking area just past the beach.
Activities and Amenities
Now that you know how to get to the Pattaconk Recreation Area, you'll want to learn a bit about the park's activities.
One of the main reasons to visit Pattaconk is hiking, as the park has 20 miles of maintained trails and paths around the reservoir. Some of these trails are reserved for hiking, while others allow mountain biking and horseback riding, as well. Once you get on the trails, you can head out and find yourself a secluded spot for lunch or continue all the way around the water.
There's a beach at the Pattaconk Recreation Area where you can swim, lounge in the sun, or enjoy the picnic area. There's also a large field near the beach that's perfect for letting the kids run off some energy if you're spending the entire day in the park.
Swimming isn't the only activity at the beach, as there's a boat ramp where you can put a small vessel in the water to do some fishing. The pond is stocked with perch, largemouth bass, pickerel, and sunfish annually, so it has some pretty good angling opportunities. Keep in mind that the park prohibits waterskiing and other water sports on the lake and that boats are only permitted to travel at a maximum of eight miles per hour.
And in the winter, the fun doesn't stop at Pattaconk, as the trails make great crossing-country skiing and snowmobiling locations. You can use the same parking lot as in the summer to embark on the forest paths while enjoying the lake's scenic winter views.
As far as amenities go, you won't find much here because it's a pretty rustic location. However, there are pit toilets so you won't have to find a place to relieve yourself.
A Great Day in Chester, CT
When you live in Chester, Connecticut, you'll have plenty of outdoor recreation options, but the Pattaconk Recreation Area is sure to be high on your list of places to visit. This park gives you an excellent opportunity to escape the crowds of the Connecticut Shoreline and enjoy a slower pace of life in a secluded forest.
Parking at the park is free for residents and $15 for non-residents on weekends, and there is no charge for anyone on weekdays.
There are many ways to spend a day outdoors in Chester, CT, which is why it's one of the more desirable placed to buy a home in Middlesex County.