SALISBURY — Growing up in Portland, I once thought the view from the top of Great Hill Mountain was the best Connecticut had to offer. You would stand on the rock face and with your child eyes looking over what you once thought was a vast Great Pond. Turn another direction and on a clear day over the tops of trees you could see forever all the way to a sliver of blue — Long Island Sound.
What could be better?
The view from Castle Craig. The top of Mohawk Mountain. Waramaug's Rock at Macricostas Preserve. East Rock Park. And West Rock Park. Talcott Mountain. Mountain View Preserve. Bartholomew's Cobble. Soapstone Mountain. The Peoples State Forest's Grand Vista and Chaugham Lookout.
OK, so my world was a little smaller as a child. And now after exploring many of the state’s peaks and overlooks and writing about them I have come to a conclusion: I crowned too many of them as the best view in the state.
So all the overlooks need to return their crowns so I can melt them down for a new coronation — Lions Head in Salisbury. The view from the top of the rocky precipice is amazing. When people arrive for the first time, they aren’t afraid to exclaim “Ooh!” and “Ahh!” out loud with fellow hikers and Lionheaders next to them. They know they’ve found a place that is that special.
The trip to the top of the 1,738-foot-high peak is along the 52.3-mile Connecticut portion of the Appalachian Trail near the Massachusetts line. The most popular spot to access Lions Head is from a parking area at the end of Bunker Hill (no, not the one in Boston). Your car will do most of the ascending for you and there are plenty of views on the drive up. From the parking area, the trek to Lions Head is relatively easy.
The half-mile hike to the Appalachian Trial is beautiful with the path from the parking area winding through a field filled with wildflowers. both on the drive up and walk through the field. Hikers will eventually have to make a climb up, but the trail is only moderately difficult at points. My trail difficulty indicator? On my journey up, I passed two moms and their five young children coming down and they were still smiling and laughing.
The trail merges into the AT and north you are on your way to Maine’s Mount Katahdin and south you can travel to Georgia’s Springer Mountain. As always, you now have bragging rights to say you traveled along the 2,175 Appalachian Trail. You just don’t have to mention it was only a mile or so.
There are two overlooks from Lions Head. The main overlook is the more spectacular of the two, looking southeast across Salisbury Twin Lakes and Washinee; northeast to Lake Riga and South Pond and into New York; and south with Prospect Mountain and Canaan Mountain. And everywhere in between either forest or field.
There are a few farms and silos and homes tucked into the trees and around the lakes. Huge white pines grow high above the tree canopy. And no telecommunications towers — a beautiful thing. During my visit, dozens of dragonflies buzzed through the air around the summit.
A bit farther north along the AT is a second overlook. The views aren’t as vast, but it’s a bit mystical to look out over Bear Mountain to the north and see the distant purple mountain majesty of Mount Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts, looming in the distance.
Don’t be embarrassed if you find yourself “Ohhing” and “Ahhing” when you reach Lions Head. It’s kind of a rite of passage for those passing through on their way to Georgia or Maine, or for hikers looking to see the best overlook in the state. And I won’t be asking Lions Head to return that crown.
Well, there is Bear Mountain farther to the north ...
Route 44 into Salisbury center. Take Route 41 and take a left on Cobble Road. Take a right on Factory Street, which merges into Bunker Hill Road. Look for the parking area on the right at the end of the road.