The Chatfield Trail is a challenging hiking path, approximately 4 miles long, that traverses the Forster Pond State Park. Located in the town of Killingworth, this path offers a magnificent variation from the developed Chatfield Hollow State Park just across Route 80 (North Bandford Road). The trail meanders through thick forest, over burbling brooks, and between glacial rock scrambles on a route that is entertaining and somewhat physically challenging.
There are two locations at which you can begin your journey. Park in the Chatfield Hollow parking lot and the trail entrance will be directly across the road designated by a bright blue Connecticut trail sign. (There is a fee during the summer season only.) Cross over a short bridge and continue west past an abandoned farm building and field until you reach the southern point of Forster Pond. This is the most you will see of the pond as long as there are leaves on the trees.
Take note of the hiker signs and continue up the hill over a series of large rocks that feels like a giant’s staircase. The second parking area is much smaller and about a half-mile west on Route 80. It only fits about eight cars, but it is an alternate option that will allow you to do the same hike and also complete a loop path. From this point, the white trail is a short trek to the blue-marked Chatfield Trail and meets at the "giant’s staircase" mentioned above.
You’ll immediately realize that this trail was designed to explore large rock outcroppings and the area’s physical geology. After passing through diminishing pines and descending over a rocky hill, you will turn south and travel adjacent to a large wall of rock that extends almost 40 feet up. There are cool inlets, old tree routes, and green mosses that line your path.
Perhaps the most exciting features are the natural rock overhangs and small caves that the markers will lead you through. Glacial erratic, rocks or boulders deposited by glacial activity create peculiar rock scrambles and boulder layouts to climb over and meander about. Of course, you can choose to avoid these intricacies on a worn path adjacent to main one. Follow the trail down a small valley and up to the next rock ledge, where you will see a sign for the old road that will complete the loop back to the parking area.
If you would like to extend your journey, follow the path up the hill and look for the next sign that shows the Alternate Trail to the right. You’ll cross a stream and pass along more rock faces until you reach a wide gravel road. Follow the road east and look for the blue markers that will be on your left. Be sure to take this trail if you are ready to make your return and complete this loop extension. Blue markers also lead to the right and will take you to Fat Man’s Pass, which is not a loop trail.
On your return you will climb up and over many more boulders and pass a stone wall before you reach the recognizable old road intersection. Follow the signs for a half-mile to the parking area and the white trail, which will lead back to the Chatfield Hollow parking area.
Forster Pond State Park was originally owned by Frank Forster, a New York architect known for his stone and timber mansions he built throughout Fairfield County, Long Island's north shore, and along the Hudson River Valley. The majority of the land was acquired by that state in the 1960s and 1970s, and additional purchases added the 3.6-acre Mitchell and 10-acre Fox properties in the 1990s, bringing the total area to 148 acres. There are several buildings and an old mill on the property that have deteriorated greatly with the exception of the Tackleson House and the Forster Pond House, which are currently used by the state. Today the property is maintained by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association.