Known for it's distinct rural scenery, Connecticut's Litchfield hill's region is a popular retreat for many folks who live in the greater New York City vicinity. The Litchfield Hill's are tucked neatly into the northwest corner of the Nutmeg state and offer a wide variety of things to see and do whether you're a resident or just visiting. Connecticut's western hills are actually the southernmost portion of the Berkshire's. The obvious attractions are the gently sloping wooded mountains, it's rich and storied history, and the charming villages and small rural towns that make up this relatively uncrowded corner of Connecticut. The combined attributes easily make it one of New England's prettiest hidden nooks to explore, and it's barely a 90 minutes drive from Central Park to arrive at the southernmost boundary of the region.
Connecticut is not a very big state, in fact, only Delaware and Rhode Island are smaller. Connecticut is just 4,845 square miles, and I've never been shy to tell anyone that it can neatly fit into the state of Montana (my second home) 31 times! New England's northern tier states, like Maine and Vermont, get all the attention they deserve. Maine's Acadia National Park is no doubt the most beautiful and awe-inspiring location of the New England states. But what western Connecticut's Litchfield Hill's lack in size, it makes up for it in very subtle ways. In fact, during an interview with the Houston Chronical back in 2010 they quoted me as describing "Connecticut's Litchfield Hills are the Crown Jewell of the state."
My primary home base has been here in Litchfield County for a very long time. I've led outdoors nature photography workshops to some of it's most scenic (and super secret) locations for over 15 years and counting. From the time I first began to photograph and explore my corner of the state I can say with very few exceptions, my Connecticut portfolio is probably one of the most published by major nationally distributed magazines, calendars and media outlets. Over that same period of time, many of my Connecticut images have become some of the most popular selling prints in my entire portfolio.
Connecticut displays it true colors every autumn when those leaves begin to change. The Litchfield Hills and the surrounding towns & villages are the states primary draw for leaf peepers and weekend adventurers. Some of the regions visitors drive as far away as Philadelphia, D.C., New Jersey and New York to spend the weekend. Connecticut's lower counties and neighboring Rhode Island make up the majority of Litchfield Counties tourist.
What most tourist never really do is take a moment to stop the car and really get out there and explore. They'll hit all the trendy little shops in the villages of Kent and New Preston, circle the downtown Green of New Milford, slowly drive through Washington Depot (the inspirations for the Gilmore Girls TV show) and take a few pics of the historic courthouse in Litchfield.
Unbeknown to them, mother nature has quite a few surprises in store for those that have the knack to get off the beaten track. That is exactly where I thrive. Connecticut has a nice diversity of bucolic rural countryside, quiet back-country roads (often unpaved) that can bring you to places seen by just a few folks daily. Getting lost and exploring out here is a favorite pastime of mine. That has been my secret recipe for capturing the imagery I make and have successfully licensed or sold as prints over the years.
The northwestern corner of Connecticut is a prime destination for more than a few stunning waterfalls. Places like Kent Falls and Southford Falls are most obvious since they are roadside attractions and require very little effort to view. Sure, I've been there and done that many times over - especially at nearby Kent Falls, but due to their popularity, it requires being there "well before or after" the average person tends to visit these locations. For tourist and visitors, it's about convenience. Speaking for myself, I prefer the solitude the Litchfield Hills provide for me at inconvenient hours - and I'd rather be present for the best quality photographic lighting experience.
Tucked away right on the border with Massachusetts, Campbell falls is without a doubt one of the regions most picturesque waterfalls. The Whiting River flows southward from the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts to this high cliff. Here is where the Whiting drops 50' and becomes the Campbell falls. Norfolk is the closest village to Campbell Falls State park, and happens to be prime Black Bear country.
Black bears are native to the state and their population has thrived over the last decade. Large scale construction has slowed, and the forest have regenerated, overtaking empty fields once used for corn, hay & tobacco. Connecticut has no "true" wilderness like we do in our western states, or as the Adirondacks and northern Maine does. However, the western hills of Connecticut are 80% forested and it is home to the largest roadless area in the entire state.
The highest named elevations in the state are all encompassed in Litchfield County. Bear Mountain, Mt Riga, Caanan Mountain, and Mt Frissell immediately come to mind, and I've hiked all of them. Mt Frissell is technically part of the Taconic Range which runs north to south parallel to the southern Berkshires. Although the forest are overtaking abandoned meadows and fields once used for commercial use, the gently sloping topography of the region still is home to many active Dairy farms & Apple orchards.
To keep Connecticut's rural and pastoral identity intact, the state established a land conservation act called the Connecticut Farmland Preservation Program. Farms sell their local government a conservation easement to their property, providing cash to the farm and control for the town to ensure the land can be withheld from future development
Back in 2001, the state of Ohio began a movement by developing a scenic "Quilt Barn Trail". Starting with the Adams County Quilt Sampler, the trail has grown to include over a dozen Ohio counties. 39 more states would follow suite. The town of New Milford would become the first Connecticut town to establish a quilt barn trail. The Quilt Trail consists of 19 colorful hand painted quilt patterns. They were hung on antique and vintage barns and historical buildings throughout this popular Litchfield Hill's town. On their website they are quoted as "It honors the regions rich agricultural history, the exciting resurgence of family farms in New Milford today and the American tradition of quilt-making".
I'll complete my "quad-pack" of lovely old barn photographs in Connecticut's hills region with a scene I've titled "Kent Hollow". Somehow I've been blessed (back in 2010) that this simple & idyllic landscape image had cast so much positive attention my way. Yankee Magazine chose my little corner of the world to be New England's TOP fall foliage destination in their Autumn Edition that year, and featured this same image in their online subscribers webzine. The Kent Hollow prints I've sold steadily ever since.
Each of the images featured in this article are available as prints right here on my website in the Connecticut Country collection. I hope the region as I've describe above and the featured imagery inspires you to plan a visit to our Litchfield Hills region.