Dennis Hill State Park, Norfolk, where the summit road takes you to gorgeous panoramic views.
Photo Credit : Julie Bidwell
CONNECTICUT FOLIAGE DRIVE
Distance: about 55 miles one way
Historic structures, colorful characters, and the abundance of an agrarian landscape await us as we navigate a winding, climbing route through this corner of Connecticut, boosting our odds of seeing some spectacular leaves. Mother Nature isn’t always an accommodating artist—but our journey promises a bounty of enjoyment, even if the foliage fails to cooperate.
About 20 miles northwest of the state capital, Hartford, let’s begin our journey in Granby, heading west on Route 20. First stop: Avis Cherichetti’s Honey Hill Pottery, off Barndoor Hill Road. In the bright studio built onto the home where she once raised vegetables, farm animals, and a family, Cherichetti continually experiments with the medium she’s been drawn to for more than 50 years. Her shop is open daily, and when she isn’t preparing for holiday shows and the October 18–19 Granby Artists Association Open Studio Tour, her whimsical works and functional stoneware are for sale on the honor system.
On to West Granby, where you’ll find 13 miles of walking trails traversing the still-productive acreage at historic Holcomb Farm, established in 1756. If you’re an avid cook (or vampire averse), stop up the road at The Garlic Farm, where Gary Cirullo uses ingenuity and effort—not pesticides—to grow colossal ‘German White’ bulbs that flavor top restaurants’ dishes. From 3.5 of his 20 acres, Cirullo coaxes up to 100,000 heads of this potent hardneck variety each year; they cascade from every rafter of the two-story farmstand barn once harvesting begins. Cured garlic, available through mid-October, can last about six months.
Beyond West Granby on Route 20, bear left onto Route 219, Barkhamsted Road. At Barkhamsted Reservoir’s southern edge, Saville Dam’s regal stone gatehouse punctuates a dense treescape of sugar maples, oaks, and pines.
North along West River Road, trace the Farmington River through state-preserved forestlands to Riverton, an 18th-century stagecoach stop largely forgotten since the Hitchcock Chair Company shuttered—temporarily, as it turned out—in 2006. On Riverton Road, the legendary furniture brand has been resuscitated by Rick Swenson and Gary Hath, who acquired original plans and reemployed the firm’s craftsmen. Their showroom delights longtime and new fans of Hitchcock’s stenciled designs.
Inside an 1829 church around the corner, Peter Greenwood keeps an Old World glassblowing tradition evolving. His latest innovation: mixing a rare photoluminescent mineral with molten glass to create pieces that glow Caribbean blue in the dark. You can often observe Greenwood from the balcony, but he’d rather show you his craft up close. Beginning glassblowers as young as 7 can create paperweights or flowers during 15-minute workshops (reserve in advance).
Now take a break for lunch—savor generous sandwiches from the Riverton General Store at Hogback Dam, north of town. This lovely hidden picnic spot by itself could fulfill your daytrip wish list.
But there’s more still to come. Turn around and head southeast to pick up Route 182 (following your online directions) and head west to Norfolk. Infinity Music Hall has transformed this town into a music lover’s hot spot, but its chilling elevation still makes Connecticut’s “icebox” a place where leaves perform autumn’s opening act. Take time to make the half-mile hike to the cut-granite tower atop Haystack Mountain. For another great vista, head south from Norfolk on Route 272; at Dennis Hill State Park, you can drive to the summit pavilion for exhilarating views with zero exertion.
Continue south on 272 to Route 4; bear right and head west to Goshen. This town’s entrepreneurial farms offer perfect endings to your ramblings. Mohawk Bison sells lean burgers and steaks; West Street Farm offers honey fresh from its hives.
The most irresistible crop here in Goshen, though, is chocolate. At Thorncrest Farm, cows are meticulously bred and fed to supply sweet milk for individual caramels and truffles for the Milk House Chocolates line of artisanal confections. Once you’ve made your selection, ask the names of the individual cows responsible for the “mmms” you’re about to utter. Then stop by the dairy barn to pat their heads.
Toast a memorable journey at Miranda Vineyards, where Maria and Manny Miranda toil as arduously in retirement as when he was a builder and she was a principal. “This was his dream,” she says, since boyhood days assisting family winemakers in Portugal. Their tasting room is Earth’s only place to purchase autographed bottles of Vinho Fino, a white port-style wine that’s won international gold-medal honors. Manny’s secret? Since the first planting in 2001, “the land adapted to the vines, and the vines adapted to the land.” For lovingly nurtured dreams, perhaps Mother Nature can bend.
Connecticut Fall Foliage Drive Directions
From Granby, follow CT 20 West, watching for left turns: onto Barndoor Hills Road to visit Honey Hill Pottery, or Simsbury Road to find Holcomb Farm and Garlic Farm. Continue along CT 20; bear left on CT 219/Barkhamsted Road. At the intersection with CT 179, bear left; then stay right to continue on CT 219 South. Bear right on CT 318/Saville Dam Road. In Pleasant Valley, bear right on West River Road and head north through American Legion State Forest. Bear right on Riverton Road to reach Hitchcock Chair Company. Then bear left on Robertsville Road, and Greenwood Glass is immediately on the left. Continue on Robertsville Road; bear right on Eno Hill Road, then right on Durst Road to find Hogback Dam. Turn around, descend, and cross Robertsville Road onto Old Forge Road. Stay right at the fork; then cross CT 8 at a stop sign and follow Deer Hill Road. At the hilltop stop sign, continue straight onto Old North Road, which becomes CT 182. When it ends, bear right on CT 44 West. Past Infinity Hall in Norfolk, bear right on CT 272; the entrance to Haystack Mountain State Park is on the left. Reverse and proceed south on CT 272 about 14 miles; bear right on CT 4 to Goshen, where you’ll find Mohawk Bison (47 Allyn Road), West Street Farm (103 West Street), Thorncrest Farm (280 Town Hill Road), and Miranda Vineyard (42 Ives Road).
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