Chapman Falls was the first waterfall that we saw on our New England trip in 2013. We managed to see it as part of a long drive from Cape Cod in the far southeastern end of Massachusetts towards Kent in the far western end of Connecticut. So the waterfall was a welcome break from all the driving on the interstates.
We had read in the literature that this waterfall tended to be one of the most powerful in Connecticut, but as you can see from the photo at the top of this page, we happened to see it in pretty low flow. Apparently, this waterfall would typically have a wide and block-shaped appearance under more nominal flow, and we sensed this was the case given the overall width of the exposed bedrock compared to the width of the waterflow itself. We suspect that Autumn was probably towards the tail end of the waterfall’s flow for the year, but the flip side to visiting at this time of year was the ability to see Fall colors. So it was kind of like a catch-22 where you can’t always have it both ways (i.e. the high flow and the beautiful Autumn colors) unless you were really lucky with the timing and circumstances.
Chapman Falls was said to have a cumulative drop of around 60ft in a series of smaller sloping tiers over exposed rocks smoothed by the erosion action of the flow of the Eight Mile River. We took a short trail from a car park above the top of the falls (see directions below), which followed alongside the river offering us views over the lip of the uppermost tier of the falls. As we walked a little further along the well-established path, we saw a steeper trail that left the main trail and took us to a rocky outcrop where we got the frontal views that you see in the photo at the top of this page.
Julie and our two-year-old daughter were able to handle this short walk without too much difficulty. We carried her where some of the footing might have been a bit too overwhelming for a two-year-old. However, they were able to do the out-and-back excursion to this overlook in about 20 minutes or so, including all the picture taking. So we’d imagine it really would be a very short visit if the goal was just to see Chapman Falls.
While I was solo, I returned to the main trail and continued down the hill to see where it went. It turned out that this trail eventually linked up with what appeared to be the main car park and picnic area with some bathrooms as well. From this main area, there was a small covered bridge where I saw there was a different trail that went to Chapman Falls.
Upon following this alternate trail, which followed along the opposite side of the Eight Mile River, I eventually ended up at a short rocky scramble that took me right to the base of the waterfall. I’d imagine that this trail would offer some opportunities for cooling off on a hot Summer’s day provided the river’s flow wouldn’t be too turbulent.
A few exposed rocks allowed me to cross the river without getting wet, and then I was able to scramble right back up to the overlook we were at earlier, thus completing a loop hike that I hadn’t anticipated on doing. In total, I spent about 50 minutes to do the entire hike around the falls. If there was more time to spend here, we probably could’ve continued walking on some of the other trails in the Devil’s Hopyard State Park to see some of the pothole formations on the banks of the Eight Mile River. It was said that these pothole formations were apparently places where the Devil himself stomped his hoof in a fit of rage after getting his tail wet (at least according to Puritan legends).
As mentioned earlier, we drove out to Devil’s Hopyard State Park as part of a long interstate drive that went from Cape Cod in southeastern Massachusetts through Rhode Island then finally into Connecticut. Thus, we didn’t really have a base to start from that would be in the vicinity of the car park and trailhead. So I’m sure there would be many ways to get here, but we’ll only break down how we were able to drive to and from here.
Coming west from Rhode Island on the I-95 eventually passing through the city of New London, CT, we then took the exit for Route 85 at exit 82. Turning right onto Route 85, we followed it north for a little over 10 miles until Route 85 junctioned with Route 82. Heading west (left at the Route 85/82 junction), the straightforward way would be to take Route 82 for just under 5 miles to Hopyard Road, then turning right onto Hopyard Road and following it for roughly 3 miles to the main entrance for the Devil’s Hopyard State Park on the right. This entrance would bring you to the main car park and picnic area downstream from the falls.
It turned out that the GPS had us deviate from the straightforward way about 2.2 miles west of the Route 85/82 junction on Route 82. At that deviation, we turned right onto Woodbridge Rd, then turned right onto West Rd (0.5 miles later), then turned left onto Baker Rd (1 mile later), and another left onto Foxtown Rd (0.5 miles later). Eventually, Foxtown Road brought us to the upper car park (which was not the main entrance) upstream from the top of Chapman Falls (1.4 miles later).
Coming in the other direction to get to Devil’s Hopyard State Park, the most straightforward way would be to head south on Route 9 from Middletown (perhaps the largest town in the vicinity) towards Route 82 at exit 7 (about 12.5 miles south of where Route 9 and Route 17 meet in Middletown). Then, follow Route 82 east for about 19 miles (passing through East Haddam along the way) to Hopyard Road. Turn left onto Hopyard Road and follow it for roughly 3 miles to the main entrance for Devil’s Hopyard State Park on the right (which would be below Chapman Falls), or continue another 0.4 miles to Foxtown Road, where you’d turn right onto the road and hang a left immediately thereafter to enter the upper car park above Chapman Falls.
Finally, to give you a sense of context, Middletown was 17 miles south of Hartford, 27 miles northeast of New Haven, 94 miles (90 minutes drive) west of Providence, Rhode Island, 105 miles (2 hours drive) northeast of New York City, 116 miles (2 hours drive) southwest of Boston, Massachusetts, and 185 miles (over 3 hours drive) west of Chatham, Massachusetts (on the Cape Cod peninsula).
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