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The Camp Aya-Po Loop (CT)

Travelnitch Hikes: Connecticut

Camp Aya-Po

Camp Aya-Po

A Brief History

My husband and I are both wildly enthusiastic about the great outdoors. Pat has been hunting and fishing all over the Northeast from the time he was a small boy. I came to appreciate nature’s bounty a little later in life, as a young professional living in San Diego—there’s no way you can live in southern California and not gain an appreciation for outdoor living.

These days, as parents, we try to instill in our girls that same appreciation for the wonder that is Mother nature. The more we get them out there — fishing, hiking, camping — the more they, too, grow to love it. It keeps them active and gives them much-needed time away from those glowing screens.

Back to the Here and Now

Every other Monday, my husband gets a day off of work so we take advantage of those opportunities, while the kids are in school, to explore new hiking trails. I’ve come to learn it’s wise to test out a trail 🌿 before bringing them along, in case the climb is a bit more intense than their little legs can handle.

Living in New England we are fortunate to have so many amazing state forests, it can often be hard to decide where to hike next. On this particular day we stayed pretty close to home, driving only twenty minutes across the state line into Somers, Connecticut.

Shenipsit State Forest

The Camp Aya-Po Loop is one of many trails in Shenipsit State Forest. Located in northeastern Connecticut, this dense forest stretches across three towns — Somers, Ellington, and Stafford. Formerly a 178-acre camp, this plot of land was purchased by the town of Somers in 2014 and is now accessible to all.

For eighty years, the YWCA ran this summer camp at the base of Perkin’s Mountain, some remains of which can still be seen today. Perkins Mountain Trail gives hikers an opportunity to go back in time, signs of a once-thriving campground scattered all around the summit.

Camp Aya-Po
Camp Aya-Po

Plenty of fun for kids who love to climb and explore!

According to All Trails, it is rated moderate — I’m guessing because of the elevation gain. While it is only 275 feet, I warn you, much of this gain takes place all at once, making it a tough uphill climb for at least one-quarter mile. I am confident my husband would have been piggy-backing our five-year old at this point.

That being said, if you were smarter than us, and you began your hike moving clockwise around the trail (the opposite of what we did 🙄) you would likely find it to be a delightful walk through the woods. Just be careful coming down the other side.

The trail is only 1.6 miles, looping right back to the parking lot and we finished in about 30 minutes. With kids in tow, I would allow more time for exploring. Plus, you could tack on the Old Shenipsit or Lakeside Trails, making it a slightly longer adventure.

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Camp Aya-Po
Camp Aya-Po

Images courtesy of All Trails and the Town of Somers

All in all, the Camp Aya-Po Loop is fun for the whole family, including our furry friends. We saw several hikers with dogs and there are long stretches where you could easily keep tabs on an off-leash pup. However, there have been bobcats spotted in this area so a leash may not be the worst plan.

Whether you are looking for a brisk winter hike or a slower walk in the woods, I urge you to check out this trail. We will definitely be returning with our kids before the spring thaw.

Camp Aya-Po

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