As the days become warmer and spring saunters in fashionably late, you may be desperate to enjoy some fresh air before you settle down to study for finals (or at least watch Netflix with your notes open beside you). Luckily, the UConn campus and surrounding area is filled to the brim with nature preserves and parks, just waiting to be explored. Each of these areas offers a respite from your grueling schedule, a place to regroup and steady yourself for what’s coming next. We’ll first take a look at the smaller nature preserves that will offer a shorter, but nonetheless rewarding, walk in the woods.
Albert E. Moss Sanctuary:
This tucked-away preserve is great for those who seek quick places of interest. A brisk walk from the entrance of the park (behind the Mansfield Apartments across the street from the Mansfield Community Center) will lead you directly to a stunning view of a pond that seems more like a desert oasis, as it appears suddenly and is almost hidden by the trees which seem to reach out around it, attempting to shield its delicately shimmering surface from the peering eyes of the burning sun. There are benches placed by the shore for those who wish to stay a bit longer, but the trail does continue on around the pond and winds throughout the surrounding forest. The terrain never becomes too demanding and continuing on the loop trail will bring you right back to where you started.
Hillside Environmental Education Park:
This rarely-traveled park can be accessed from both Discovery Drive and Hunting Lodge Road; it traverses the swampy area behind C-Lot. The unpretentious preserve offers peaceful views of wetlands, and there are signs that explain how the area was converted from a former landfill. There is a wooden platform that serves as an overlook point; from here you can view the sparse swamp, which is punctuated by the rare barren tree trunk or telephone pole. It is a truly unique landscape.
Whetten Woods Preserve:
Joshua’s Trust has provided yet another hiking area which offers a relatively straightforward hike. This one is located down Dog Lane, starting behind the parking lot of the Lutheran Church. The trail makes its way over several bubbling creeks and passes many stone walls; curiously, the beginning is populated by basic exercise stations such as pull up bars and balance beams. If you ever wanted to work out while hiking, this trail is for you! Walking this trail before the leaves bloom is a great experience, as there are several short evergreens that stand out like the bright red cherry on top of a Mooyah’s shake. Be warned, this trail is a bit more hilly than the others.
If you would like hiking areas with a bit more to uncover than a simple loop trail, UConn has you covered as well.
UConn Forest Trails:
Everyone with a picnic towel and a ukulele knows about Horsebarn Hill of course, but don’t forget about the trails in the forest behind it. This trail system is surprisingly extensive, and the trail splits in multiple directions as you continue onwards. There are numerous places of interest in these woods: a dammed swamp, a particularly thick, gnarled tree with nearby benches that reminds one of the Weirwoods from Game of Thrones, and if you are lucky, you may stumble upon the Fenton River. Walking along the riverbank (surprisingly steep at points) will lead you to a plain that appears out of nowhere; the trees open up and suddenly you find yourself in a mysterious wetland. The UConn Forest is a place for those who love uncovering the grisly secrets of an unknown land.
Whether you need a breath of fresh air, a place far away from your friends who keep telling you to finish that paper or if you’ve always wanted to pretend to be the next Lewis & Clark, the trails around UConn offer a place of escape and quiet reflection. Hopefully they will serve you well as you take that well-deserved study break.
Ben Crnic is a contributor for the The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.