In addition to state parks, there are many nature centers, arboretums and beaches offering marked trails that are easy to navigate and offer plenty to keep the whole family entertained.
Kent Falls State Park in Kent features waterfalls that cascade 250 feet into the Housatonic River in the middle of a 300-acre state park.
Kids will love: Taking the stairs that climb adjacent to the falls (with plenty of landing areas to rest and take photos) and the red trail back down to the field.
After the hike: Have a picnic (barbecues and picnic tables are available) on the large field in front of the parking area.
White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield is a 4,000-acre complex that includes a museum, gift shop, 40 miles of trails, wetlands and water features.
Kids will love: The Trail of the Senses and Interpretive Nature Trail (short loops) and the Ice House Ruins Trail(1½ mile loop), with many water features.
After the hike: Check out the nature center, and go swimming, of course!
Roaring Brook Nature Center in Canton is affiliated with the Children’s Museum in West Hartford and offers a wide variety of programming throughout the year.
Kids will love: The trail in Werner’s Woods, which is the state-owned property next to the center; look for more than 150 species of birds that live on property.
After the hike: Check out the indoor diorama exhibits and live animals, and the outdoor Birds of Prey exhibit and turtle pond.
Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens in Stamford has more than a dozen gardens and 10 trails spread out over 93 acres. Some trails are uneven (not stroller friendly) with roots covering the path, but many have raised wooden planks that are great for children.
After the hike: Check out the greenhouse, butterfly garden, and the playground at the Nature Explore Classroom.
Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury offers incredible views of the greater Hartford landscape on the way to the 165-foot Heublein Tower.
Kids will love: The yellow Tower Trail (2½ miles round trip). There are two very steep parts, but it’s doable for young children if you go slow.
At the top: Check out the tower and explore the museum, open seasonally.
Putnam Memorial State Park in Redding is known as “Connecticut’s Valley Forge” and is built on the site of one of the 1778-79 encampments of Gen. Israel Putnam’s troops during the Revolutionary War.
Kids will love: The 1¼-mile gravel loop on the Putnam Park side that showcases historic sites.
After the hike: Check out the museum and visitor center (open Memorial Day through Veterans Day weekend), and the trails on the Putnam Park Pond side of the park (across Route 58), also great for picnicking.
Connecticut Audubon Society at Pomfret has four miles of trails through a forest, beaver pond, and swamps, which are part of the 168-acre space. Almost 90 species of birds have been seen in the sanctuary.
Kids will love: Bafflin Sanctuary and the Golden Hill and Bog Trail.
After the hike: Check out the Center, which includes exhibits about area wildlife and programs geared toward children.
Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center in Mystic includes almost a dozen short trails totaling more than 10 miles spread across the 300-acre complex.
Kids will love: The Meadow Loop and Forest Loop (1.4 miles total), which circles the pond with wooden boardwalks and bird feeders; both are on the Nature Center side of the complex.
After the hike: Check out the indoor animal exhibits and outdoor bird exhibit and drive (or hike) to nearby Coogan Farm, one of the area’s earliest Colonial farms.
Note: Call ahead or go online for up-to-date information on indoor facility hours and openings.