Fall is the best time go for a drive and a hike in almost any part of the country, but this is especially true for Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills region. The Litchfield Hills are technically the southern tip of the Berkshires, which are in turn technically the southern half of the Green Mountains that start in Vermont. Western New England and Eastern New York are where most of the mountain ranges of the Northeast Appalachians converge, and the effect is beautiful.
New England is also 80 percent forest — the most heavily-forested region of the country — a fact that can be counted as one of the great environmental victories of the 20th century. Early settlers’ logging and farming had cut that percentage down to 30-40 percent in the mid-1800s.
So what’s there to do in the Litchfield Hills besides “leaf-peep”?
First stop: Kent Falls State Park
The drive is very nice, so you’ll want to take your time getting out there. From Hartford the route is SR 202 to Torrington, and then SR 4 to SR 7 heading south. Kent Falls is a smaller state park and includes only a couple of miles of trails, but one of those trails takes you almost straight up a 250-foot waterfall. Kent Falls also includes a replicated “covered bridge,” which I include in air quotes because it was basically a barn spanning a small brook. The covered bridges of Parke County, Indiana (covered bridge capital of the world!) would be embarrassed to share the classification.
If you’re up for some slightly longer hikes, drive north on SR 7 to the Housatonic State Forest. It’s the only state forest in Connecticut that contains a segment of the Appalachian Trail.
Second stop: Ellsworth Hill Orchard and Berry Farm
Head back north on SR 7 and west on SR 4 and you’ll hit Ellsworth Hill Orchard and Berry Farm. If you make this your one fall trip to the orchard (but why would you?) you won’t be disappointed. Pick your own pumpkin, pick your own apples, take a stroll through the corn maze, and pick up some fresh cider at the farm store. Be sure to visit an ATM before you go though — Ellsworth Hill is cash only.
Third stop: The Yankee Pedlar Inn
A fall day trip wouldn’t be complete without indulging in something spooky. On the way back through Torrington you really should make a point to stop at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, even if you don’t stay the night. The Yankee Pedlar has been rumored to be haunted since it opened in 1891. This reputation earned the inn a starring role in 2011’s The Innkeepers, a decent modern horror flick about a pair of young ghost hunters who chronicle the supernatural happenings at the hotel where they work. The economy class rooms run at $79 a night — a bit steep if all you’re interested in are ghost stories, but a bargain if you can appreciate the hotel’s finely-cultivated 19th-century ambiance and meticulously restored architecture.
Last stop: The Ritz Crystal Room at Remember When Antiques
Just down the street from the Yankee Pedlar Inn’s well-curated lobby is the Ritz Crystal Room, a combination old-time soda fountain and cocktail lounge decked out in the style of a 1920s speakeasy. If you don’t want to get lost in the aisles of glittering antiques while you’re waiting on your malteds (or something stronger), take your pick of seating: crystal chandeliers are on display at the indoor tables, and the patio is teeming with beautiful potted plants.