Imagine a place where you can hike, mountain bike or cross-country ski for miles across hundreds of acres and climb a high wooden tower with amazing views. Still not enough outdoor fun? How about playing a round of Frisbee golf and then topping it off with a selection of craft beer hanging out by a fire pit. Now how about all that in the same place?
Welcome to Norbrook Farm Brewery right on the border of Norfolk and Colebrook (hence the name) in the northwest corner of the state. The brewery is home to miles and miles — and counting — of trails across 450 acres of deep forests, challenging hills and open fields. “Right now, our 450 acres are at the frontier stage,” according to the farm’s website, “perfect for walking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, disc golfing — with the finishing touches yet to come. That only adds to the adventure.”
And in every good adventure story there is a tower to climb. The northwest hills are filled with towers — all of them stone — including Cunningham Tower in the Mohawk State Forest, as well as in Camp Columbia, Mount Tom and Haystack Mountain state parks. From the tops of their towers, both Mount Tom and Haystack have gorgeous panoramic views, some of the best in the state.
While the Norbrook Farm tower is made of wood, the views are a close third to those at Mount Tom and Haystack. And the trip up the farm’s tower is a little more exciting, as visitors navigate several flights of a narrow staircase nearly to the top followed by a hand-over-hand final ladder ascent to the overlook.
The path to the tower is the first “official” trail at the farm. Visitors park at the brewery and make their way along a trail next to the 18th hole of an outstanding disc golf course. The trail — known as Route 66 — passes through a work equipment storage area and then into the woods connecting with “Dan’s Trail” or “Mountain View” to the tower.
The tower is perfectly situated at the edge of a field and along the fairway of the 10th disc golf hole. There are views of forested hills and valleys across the scenic Phelps Pond, and I dare you to find a more picturesque disc golf hole in Connecticut. Except for a lonely house at the edge of the pond, there are few signs of civilization, an important attribute of a perfect view.
From the tower, visitors can take trails and explore the edges of Phelps Pond to the southeast or travel to the hills to the northeast. The trails are a mix of hiking paths, mountain bike trails and woods roads. The mountain bike trails feature beginner, intermediate and expert paths with catchy names like “creek slide,” “dirt session” and “I-95.”
The trails to the farm’s highest point parallel the marshes of Phelps Pond with seasonal views to the nearby hills of Colebrook and Norfolk. The trail eventually reaches the farm’s high point along a path known as “Old Oak Climb.”
I’ve been to a few of the state’s disc courses and this is by far the most scenic. Holes include the 10th one at the tower, but also the 16th with a pair of nearly 700-foot-high wind turbines in the distance as a backdrop. Again, not your typical disc course. The course at the farm will make you want to become an avid disc golfer. The holes are imaginative and a lot of fun. There’s even a hole with an imposing water hazard, and brooms are included at each tee to sweep away any debris.
After the outdoor fun is over, visitors can head to the brewery and pick up a Dennis Hill estate saison, named after a nearby state park with more amazing views, or a Beckley Furnace ale, named after a restored industrial state park in Norfolk.
Norbrook Farm Brewery trails
Norfolk and Colebrook
The bottom line:The brewery is home to miles of trails across 450 acres of deep forests, challenging hills, open fields and a new addition to the tower realm of northwest Connecticut.
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate to difficult. Depending on the activity you want to do at the farm, there are some nice, easy level hikes and taxing, rugged climbs.
Total mileage: Although still a work in progress, there are at least a dozen miles of trails so far.
Directions: Norbrook Farm is located at 204 Stillman Hill Road in Colebrook. Take Route 44 north from Winsted to Route 183 or Colebrook Road. Follow for several miles and take a left on Route 182 or Stillman Hill Road. Go to norbrookfarm.com/norbrook-farm-trail/ for a map of the trails.
Pet-friendly? Leashed dogs are allowed.
THINGS TO DO NEARBY
Beckley Furnace Industrial Monument: The lone survivor of iron blast furnaces that once numbered 43 in the Northwest Corner. The Beckley Furnace produced tons of “pig iron” for use in guns, anchors, cannonballs and train wheels. Informational boards placed around the site include photos and descriptions of how the iron operation worked. Visitors can also take a side trail down to the river and explore the limestone banks and hike the Connecticut Forest and Park Association’s 3-mile “Iron Trail.” Lower Road, Norfolk, beckleyfurnace.org
Hitchcock Chair Company: The world-famous Hitchcock Chair Company began its historic roots in this tiny town along the Farmington River in 1818, producing thousands of pieces of hand-stenciled furniture. The company shut down in 2006 only to be reborn in 2010 by Rick Swenson and Gary Hath who purchased the Hitchcock name, plans and artwork. According to their website, their goal is to “continue the Hitchcock legacy, bringing Hitchcock furniture into the 21st century while maintaining the quality and integrity of Lambert Hitchcock’s original dream.” 2 School St., Riverton, 860-503-8320, hitchcockchair.com
Wood Creek Bar & Grill: Described as having a “regionally sourced cuisine with pub style classics,” the restaurant includes menu items like wings, calamari, an assortment of burgers and shrimp and mussels fra diavolo, which can be capped off with a slice of pecan pie served warm or a cool Key lime pie. 3 Station Place, Norfolk, 860-542-1200, woodcreekbarandgrill.com