Sleeping Giant has over 30 miles of well blazed trails of all levels of difficulty crisscrossing the park. For our first time out we decided to take the two that are rated the most challenging - the blue and white loop. As we would find out during the day, Sleeping Giant is very similar to Blue Hills Reservation in MA in the number of trails and their character. This is a good thing - Blue Hills is another unexpected gem on Rt 128 south of Boston. The blue/white loop on the Giant is much like the Skyline loop in Blue Hills.
We started the day off on the blue trail from the parking area across from Quinnipac College. This is part of the 24 mile Quinnipac Trail that is in turn part of the 825 mile blue blazed trail system managed by the Connecticut Forrest and Park Association around the state. Starting on this trail provides no warm up opportunity. Immediately on leaving the parking lot the trail drops down into a ravine and then makes a really steep climb up to the giant's chin.
Starting into the ravine from the trailhead
Nat scrambles down a steep chimney
Giant's chin ahead
The Giant's chin is a steep knob that rises about 500' above the ravine. The climb up the chin is amazingly steep and rivals anything we've done in the White Mountains. It's a great way to get the heart pumping at the beginning of the hike.
Cliffs on the chin
Not much left for this poor guy to hang on to
Nat starting up the chin
And it gets even steeper!
The views from the chin and from the many cliffs all along the route are great. To the south they stretch to Long Island Sound beyond New Haven and the many other hills and crags in this part of Connecticut are visible in all other directions.
First views down from the top of the chin
Quinnipac College over the cliffs on the chin
Long way down!
Mt Carmel ahead
This hike is pretty much a continuous series of ups and downs - there are very few flat stretches (although those can be found on many of the other trail systems in the park). This was exactly what we were hoping for from this hike since we needed to get our trail legs back in shape for a trip north on Saturday. From the chin we dropped back down, crossed the tower path and headed up the side of Mt Carmel to the tower at the top.
Path traverses the cliffs
Tower on Mt Carmel
Views to Long Island Sound from the tower
From Mt Carmel we continued the blue trail across the park, winding up and down the many ridges and knobs along the way. Our turn-around point was Hezekiah's Knob where the blue and white trails intersect near the east side of the park.
Typical stretch of trail
Lots of ledges
Uh, which way???
Cliffs on Hezekiah's Knob
Nat doing some cliff gazing
Heading back on the white trail we were treated to more of the same up and down scrambling that we had on the blue trail. The white trail skirts the southern summit ridge of Mt Carmel all the way across and then drops back down to the valley at the very end.
Descending from Hezekiah's Knob
Heading back up Mt Carmel
Rock ledge sidewalk
Mt Carmel summit Cairn
It was just an amazing December day! We even found wildflowers that we're clearly confused about the season. There were also many others out enjoying the day and we met several happy passers-by on the trail.
Confused flower. Isn't it time to go to sleep for the winter?
He wasn't alone. There were lots of them
Happy trail dogs stops to say hello
We're definitely glad that we finally took a walk on the Giant! It's great to have options like this for the days that a drive to New Hampshire is just too much. And it's a great warm up when that drive to the Whites is just a day away...
Here are a few views of the route. There are also more pictures here: http://bit.ly/rCnl2C
Map of the park with route highlighted
Topo of the route
Elevation profile - not much flat walking here
Aerial view of route