Hidden Valley Preserve

198 Bee Brook Road, Washington Depot, CT 06794

Northeast of Washington Depot is Hidden Valley, 700 acres of mixed forest and meadows crisscrossed by nearly 17 miles of trails that offer a variety of terrain for hiking. Wooded hillsides cascade into the River Valley below, creating breathtaking views from the Lookout and Pinnacle.

Points of Interest

Donated to the Steep Rock Association by the Van Sinderen family in 1963, Hidden Valley also includes a rocky high point and small meadows, accessible by hiking trails. View Below:

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1. The HV Lookout

The Lookout is a semi-circular terrace providing scenic views of the valley to the west. It was constructed as a lookout and rest spot along the carriage roads built by Adrian Van Sinderen. Overhung by trees in places, this is a great spot for a picnic.

From the main parking area (198 Bee Brook Road), follow the Van Sinderen Loop, blazed with yellow circles, for roughly 1 mile until you reach the semicircular stone wall that marks the Lookout.

2. The Quartz Mine

The Quartz Mine once helped support a small mining industry in the 19th Century. This surface mine was active from the 1800s until it was abandoned in 1915. The quartz, used as a filler in paint and as an abrasive, was initially transported from here to the Hudson River by wagon and, later, by train. Quartz normally forms beautiful hexagonal crystals, but the mineral developed at Hidden Valley Preserve as a massive white vein.

Today, quartz is primary ingredient in manufacturing glass. The hike is a 40-minute stroll along the banks of perhaps the wildest section of the Shepaug River. The shimmering summer waters are belied by tractor-sized boulders that dot the riverbed.

The final section of trail is a series of cool switchbacks carved deep into the hills, which loom above the narrow path. The crunch of quartz pebbles snapping with each step announces the approach to the mine. (1.34 miles one-way).

From the main parking area (198 Bee Brook Rd.), follow the President’s Trail, marked by orange square blazes, along the River until the intersection with the Van Sinderen Trail, blazed with yellow circles. Take a left on the Van Sinderen Trail and continue following it until you hear the crunch of quartz pebbles underfoot as you approach this historic site.

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3. The Thoreau Bridge

The Thoreau Bridge, located at our Hidden Valley Preserve was designed by Gray Oranschi Architecture in New Haven and funded by The Gould Family Foundation, a grant form the State of Connecticut, and a number of individual donors. The bridge design is a product of the collaborations with wetland soil and wildlife biologists and introduces innovative and sustainable construction techniques for sensitive ecological areas. 

The Thoreau footbridge is a cable stayed, mass timber suspension bridge spanning 134′ across the Shepaug River. The bridge deck rises to clear the 500 year flood level and then sweeps 90 degrees as it gently ramps down to the north side of the river. 

Quotes from Thoreau’s seminal writings, inscribed by water jet into a bench at the cliff base and along the bridge’s steel handrails, offer moments for reflection.

From the main parking area (198 Bee Brook Rd.), follow the President’s Trail, blazed with orange squares, a few hundred feet along the Shepaug River.

4. The Pinnacle

Rising to an elevation of 820 feet, the Pinnacle rewards visitors with a panorama of one of Washington’s Historic Districts. The view from the mountain’s weathered summit, which is crowned by a plaque honoring one of the Preserve’s founders, Adrian Van Sinderen, provides a 270-degree diorama of the valley, and to the north, the protected ridge of Macricostas Preserve.

From the main parking area (198 Bee Brook Rd.), follow the Van Sinderen Loop, blazed with yellow circles, up a steep incline and past a series of switch-backs. The hike is approximately 0.5-miles one-way.

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FAQS & Rules

Please help us protect the natural beauty and integrity of the preserve by not removing or destroying plants and wildlife. Click below to see how you can best help us protect the environment.

  • Leave No Trace.
  • Do not remove or destroy plants and wildlife.
  • Open sunrise to sunset, daily.
  • Park cars in designated areas.
  • Motorized vehicles are prohibited. Use of Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices is restricted. For approval, contact the SRA Office at (860) 868-9131.
  • No hunting.
  • No alcoholic beverages.
  • No loud noise or music.
  • Dogs must be leashed at all times.
  • Fires are not permitted.
  • No camping.
  • No horseback riding.
  • Do not harm trees by chopping, carving or driving nails.
  • Do not litter: please carry out what you carry in.
  • Drones are prohibited.
  • Commercial activities are prohibited without a permit issued by the Executive Director and/or Board of Trustees.
  • Groups of 15 or more people require a group use permit.
  • Cross-Country Skiers: Please set tracks on one side of the trail only.
  • Hikers, Snowshoers and dogs please respect ski tracts by keeping to the other side of the trail.
  • Stay on the designated trail and please obey seasonal postings.
  • Do not speed. Speed limit is 15 mph.
  • Dismount when approaching horses.
  • Always yield to people on foot.
  • No more than four riders in a group.

Directions to Preserve