Visit The Tankerhoosen Valley
The Tankerhoosen Valley, roughly the southern half of Vernon, is a hidden gem for outdoor exploration, biking and hiking. Here are a dozen places to visit along the 6-mile valley beginning near the headwaters in Tolland and following the valley west to where Tankerhoosen River joins the Hockanum River. Side excursions take you up Railroad Brook to Bolton Notch and to ancient cemeteries.
1. Tolland County Agricultural Center
TCAC is home to a number of agriculturally related organizations and hosts throughout the year many outdoor activities including the 4-H fair each August. On its 55-acre property are experimental gardens, a flower labyrinth, the historic Gunther farm, a variety of trails including a portion of the Blue Blazed Shenipsit Trail.
Under appreciated by those looking for an outdoor experience the property is open to the public and can be explored for hours with new surprises in all corners.
» Visit the TCAC website.
2. Tankerhoosen Wildlife Management Area
The Tankerhoosen WMA is a 450-acre parcel purchased by the state from the Bissell family in 2012. At the eastern end are the Walker Reservoirs and the dam that marks the formal beginning of the Tankerhoosen River. This area is one of the two Class 1 trout streams in Eastern CT. The WMA is popular for fishing and also permits hunting during the seasons.
The Shenipsit Blue Blaze Trail follows the northern edge of the property. There is no formal trail along the river in this area preserving its beauty, but old mill sites, pine forests and cascading falls can be explored.
» Learn more about the Tankerhoosen WMA.
3. Belding Wildlife Management Area
Downstream and adjacent to the Tankerhoosen WMA is the 300-acre Belding WMA. This parcel was donated to the state by the Belding family in 2005. Many hiking trails are marked including the Shenipsit Blue Blazed Trail.
This WMA includes three dams, a pond and two small streams tumbling down the mountain into the Tankerhoosen. There is no hunting in this area so it is safe to enjoy the pine forests, river and butterfly garden year round.
» Visit the Belding WMA website.
4. Old Burial Ground Of North Bolton
Adjacent to the Belding WMA is Vernon's oldest cemetery, the Old Burial Ground of North Bolton. The first burial was in 1751 and last in 1851. Today its a picturesque site where our earliest settlers, including many Revolutionary War soldiers, are buried.
According to legend the cemetery was established at this place when one of Captain Moses Thrall's sons died at this spot after falling from a wagon. This is a beautiful spot to visit and just sit on the stone wall on a cool evening and enjoy the tranquility.
» Learn about the Old North Bolton Burial Ground.
5. Valley Falls Park & Farm
Town owned Valley Falls Park is 193-acres which includes a pond for fishing, skating, picnicking and swimming in season. Extending along Railroad Brook to Bolton are over 8 miles of trails. Shenipsit Trail and the Hop River Rail Trail also pass through here.
From Valley Falls you can follow north-south or east west trails that cover the whole of the Tankerhoosen Valley. The park is at the junction of the Belding WMA, Webster Knapp Preserve and Bolton's Notch preserves and trails.
Also on the property are remnants of Vernon's first mill, the historic Sharps Trout Farm and a Braille Trail.
Just up the hill from Valley Falls Park is Valley Falls Farm owned by the Friends of Valley Falls. This picturesque gentlemen's farm has been owned a number of colorful men and is open for tours during summer months.
» Learn more about activities at Valley Falls Park.
» Visit Valley Falls Farm website.
6. Webster Preserve
Northern Connecticut Land Trust’s 30-acre Andrew Webster property is located above the Rail Trail at Valley Falls. The ridge overlooks Valley Falls Park and Railroad Brook for some beautiful scenery.
Besides the view, which is shared with the Shenipsit Trail, the site includes rock outcroppings and several vernal pools. It's somewhat remote location results in a quiet hike once you get beyond the cliffs.
» Go to the Webster Preserve guide.
7. Shenipsit Trail
The Connecticut Forest and Park Association's Shenipsit Trail extends from Case Mountain and Bolton Notch in the south, through Vernon and on to Soapstone Mountain and Somers in the north. As it passes through Vernon it connects many areas listed here - Bolton Notch trails, Webster Preserve, Valley Falls Park, the Belding and Tankerhoosen Wildlife Management Areas and the Tolland County Agricultural Center.
Hiking the Shenipsit is one way to explore the eastern portion of the Tankerhoosen Valley. The southern section on and above the Hop River Rail Trail has nice views of the Railroad Brook valley. The northern section near I-84 on the Tankerhoosen WMA is not as interesting and there is unfortunately a gap in the trail between Walker Reservoir and TCAC requiring the use of the road to cross I-84. As there are several restaurants in this area its a good place for lunch.
» Learn about the Old North Bolton Burial Ground.
8. Bolton Parks & Pond
Railroad Brook originates in a pond near Bolton Notch and flows north to join the Tankerhoosen in the Belding WMA. The railroad from Hartford to Providence followed this brook and later became the Hop River Rail-Trail. The Shenipsit Trail also follows this small river cut - sometimes on the Rail-Trail and sometimes above it. The west side of the valley is a rocky cliff and the east side a more gentle slope.
Within the town of Bolton and part of the Tankerhoosen Valley are several trails and parks worth exploring. These include the Tulip Tree Trail on the east bank of the valley, the Mohegan Trail to the top of Bolton Notch, Bolton Notch State Park and Freya Park around the pond.
Bikers can also connect with the East Coast Greenway at Bolton Notch.
» Learn about Tulip Tree Trail.
9. Hop River Rail-Trail
The Hop River Rail-Trail follows the bed of the Hartford Providence rail line from Manchester through Vernon and Bolton to Willimantic and beyond. The trail was constructed by the ???? and is a favorite for hikers, joggers and bikers being about six miles from Talcottville to Bolton Notch.
Vernon Depot on Church Street is a favorite place to park and access the trail. Other parking spots are on Tunnel Road, Valley Falls Park and at Bolton Notch. The trail winds through Talcott Ravine, the Belding WMA, Valley Falls Park, the Webster Knapp Preserve and Bolton Notch State Park. Beautiful scenary with rock outcroppings much of the way.
A spur off the main trail at Vernon Depot takes you to Rockville past Tankerhoosen Lake and the Rail Trail Mural.
» Learn about Tulip Tree Trail.
10. Vernon Depot Outdoor Museum
When the railroad was constructed in 1848 Vernon Depot was an important station as it serviced the mills at Dobsonville and Rockville. Later a spur was constructed to allow trains to enter Rockville. Two lines from Hartford to Vernon and one beyond. A small village grew up around the station which also became Vernon's first post office.
Railroad enthusiasts have researched the area in detail and created an outdoor museum with interpretive signs. The site of main buildings and turntable are laid out and photos show trains, structures, events and people from the time.
Parking is at the Church Street Rail-Trail entrance and signs are along the trail and overlooking the Dobsonville Mills and Talcott Ravine.
» Visit the Vernon Depot website.
11. Talcott Ravine
Talcott Ravine was home to the two Dobson Mills where the Tankerhoosen River cut a gorge through the hillside. Remnants of both mills can still be explored. Beyond the ravine the river flows west first to the Talcottville Pond and beyond to join the Hockanum River.
Talcottville Pond once stored water for the mills but today is home to a variety of wildlife.
The 20-acre preserve is now owned by the Northern CT Land Trust and is part of a loop hike that includes a section of the Hop River Rail Trail and Talcottville's Main Street.
» Learn more about Talcott Ravine.
» Learn about Talcott Ravine Loop Hike.
» Learn more NCLT and its Tankerhoosen Valley properties.
12. Talcottville Outdoor Museum
The village of Talcottville is on the National Historic Register. Site of the earliest cloth mill in Vernon the town grew around the mills and became a village owned by the Talcott Family who built housing, a store, library, school, church and a cemetery for their employees. Its main street was cut off by the highway and it remains much as it was in the 1800's.
Signs have been created describing buildings and locations with photos of missing buildings. A walk through town is a step back in time.
» Visit the Talcottville website.