Sleeping Giant State Park is one of Connecticut's best hidden gems. Nestled away outside the small town of Hamden and a favourite weekend escape for the students at Quinnipiac College across the street, Sleeping Giant State Park is renowned for its namesake landmark - the Sleeping Giant. This mound structure, from a distance, resembles a man laying down, a giant man. Of course, it is also up to the viewer's interpretation, some see a giant octopus and its many tentacles while see a giant hill, but that is neither here nor there. While there a number of trails that head up or overlook the giant sleeping man, Sleeping Giant State Park itself is crisscrossed with an abundance of foot trails that lead all over the park, enough to keep even the most active hiker busy for awhile. Those looking to explore the Sleeping Giant will find more than its most pictured landmarks along its trails, but a place of vibrant natural beauty that makes this one of the best state parks in Connecticut.
The most popular trail in the park is the Tower Trail. Instead of climbing the sleeping giant himself, the Tower Trail winds up Mount Caramel in a short, but steep three mile path. The Tower Trail utilizes a number of switchbacks to stave off the steepness, but it can quickly whittle away the energy of those who approach it with too much enthusiasm. What makes the Tower Trail so beloved in Sleeping Giant State Park is the final destination. The trail ends at a massive stone castle-like tower that provides a vantage point over the trees in order to give a stunning 360 degree view of the surrounding area. From this viewpoint not only can hikers catch great distance views of the sleeping giant in order to try and decipher what they think it actually looks like, but nearby large town of New Haven can also be seen in all its peaceful serenity as well.
The downside of the Tower Trail being so renowned is that it is the first place everyone goes when they head to Sleeping Giant State Park. For those that find their trip to the Sleeping Giant potentially marred by the presences of hundreds of cars in the parking lot, the Tower Trail has tons of little side trails that lead to the same place. These side trails will all take longer, but they will all host some equally beautiful scenery all their own. The White Trail splits from the Tower Trail near the half way point and winds its way around Mount Caramel, cresting it and eventually ending up at the Tower itself. It's longer and harder, but those that want an up close and personal view of the mountain will love it. Alternatively, the Violet Trail starts down near the Mill River and straddles a ridge that used to be an old quarry named Giant's Head. It eventually takes a brief detour right up to the scalp of the Sleeping Giant before curving back into the Tower Trail.
Those looking to trek across the namesake of the Sleeping Giant State Park will want to follow the Quinnipiac Trail. This trail is part of the famous Blue Blazed Trail System that marks Connecticut's best hiking trails, but more importantly, it leads up and over the Sleeping Giant mound formation, showcasing great views of the surrounding area as well as some interesting rock formations that were left behind after the park's volcanic past. At 24 miles long, the Quinnipiac Trail is the longest trail in the park running almost from one end of Sleeping Giant State Park to the other. The length and rolling terrain make this nothing to scoff at for even the most seasoned hiker, but does present an excellent and often unexpected challenge.
For a park that is so close to one of Connecticut's major cities as well as right across the street from a major university, Sleeping Giant State Park is an unexpected gem of sprawling wilderness. The trails are almost all connected to each other making it difficult to get lost, especially with maps that are so readily available. It's a great place to escape to for the local New Englander, but also a surprising adventure for those that find themselves in the New Haven area.