This winter has left all of us feeling rather stir-crazy. So when we had a rare warm day (in between the snow and cold rainy days), we took advantage of it and found ourselves checking out a location that our readers have been recommending to us for over a year now! And now, spring has arrived! So if you have never been to Northwest Park in Windsor, Connecticut, after reading about our experience, you’re going to be ready to pack up a picnic lunch and head over as soon as you can!
If you are unfamiliar with Northwest Park, you may be surprised to find out that hidden in the middle of the northwest corner of Windsor is a 473-acre park with hiking trails, recreational fields, views of the Farmington River, a playground, a nature center, a sugarhouse, barnyard animals and more. They hold special events all year long including concerts, kid-friendly activities, seasonal events, and hikes to name a few. The park is run by the Town of Windsor and is completely free to use by the public.
The park is tucked behind a residential neighborhood, about 1.5 miles from the main road (Rte. 75). It really is a hidden gem – and it can be tricky to find! You can follow the directions they provide on their website here; or just plug 145 Lang Road, Windsor into your GPS.
You’ll find a sign marking the entrance to Northwest Park.
No cars are allowed in the park, but there is a large parking lot at the entrance. You’ll find recreational fields and the dog park right near the parking lot as well.
At the entrance, you’ll find Park Use Guidelines and the Park Mission, as well as information about their program and special events.
Northwest Park is open daily, from dawn to dusk.
As mentioned above, Northwest Park is only accessible by foot. Make sure to wear your comfortable shoes because you will be walking around a bit!
The first thing you’ll pass by when you enter is the a small pond which does have fish! You can see them from the bridge just over the side of the pond, or you can get close along the water’s edge. Just don’t fall in! There are a few benches located on the grassy side of the pond, so you can sit and enjoy the view. There is really no bad spot to sit and relax here at the park. Everywhere offers a quiet, serene piece of nature.
Just past the pond is what I guess you could call the courtyard of the park.
He was thoroughly engrossed in this stone wall. We spent a lot of time chasing him around and around (and I was panicking that he would fall onto the ground)!
At this spot, you’ll find a sign directing you around the park. From this point, you’ll spot the Nature Center, the Animal Barns, the Sugar House, the warming shed and the Tobacco Museum.
We started our visit at the Animal Barn!
Northwest Park is home to several animals including chickens, ducks and a turkey, a cow and a horse, some sheep and mules. You’ll spot animals inside the barn, and outside. There is even a field across from the barn with animals. Here are some of the photogenic ones I captured!
Right next to the animal barn is the Sugar House. Since maple season is officially over, the sugar house was closed. However, during maple season you can visit the sugar house for boiling demonstrations. They also have a pancake breakfast every year at Northwest Park.
Just past the animal barns, you will see a farm road that will lead you towards a number of trails at the park. Since we had our three year old in tow, we opted to not travel in that direction. The farm roads are pressed gravel and are easy to walk on. You can also take bikes on the farm roads. They do not allow bikes on most of the trails (Softwood Forest Trail only) so if you are visiting with a bike, you’ll want to stick to the roads that look like this!
The Nature Center is located back towards the center of the park. The Nature Center is open Monday through Saturday, 8:30-4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 1-4 p.m.
Inside you will find a small children’s reading area, animals (including turtles and a snake), a children’s play area and other natural history, geology and meteorology exhibits. The Nature Center also has additional park information about summer camps, classes and special events.
In the back you’ll find a small play area with activities both under the stairs and at the top of the stairs. There is also a secret tunnel right behind the animal tanks!
You’ll find restrooms in the Nature Center. These are located just past the exhibit area. You can get to the bathrooms from the inside during open hours. When the Nature Center is closed, it is my understand that you can still use the bathrooms by accessing them from the outside door near the back. I also spotted restrooms just outside the Tobacco Museum; these were locked when we visited.
Inside the Nature Center you will also find a small gift shop.
After some playing and visiting with the animals, we went back outside to enjoy the beautiful April day. Just outside the Nature Center, you will spot the hiking trail map for Northwest Park. You can also plan ahead and download their trail map here. There are a number of trails to choose from, all with different levels of difficulty, various lengths (some as short as 15 minutes and some over an hour) and all with special features and views. According to the park’s website, the most challenging trails are the Hemlock and Pond Trails. The Wetland Forest Trail is considered the most scenic. If you are trying to get to the Farmington River, your best path is to take the north farm road past the Softwood Forest Trail on your left and past the Woody Succession Trail on your right. Of course, I opted to find the easiest trail for my novice self (my high school hiking club instructor would be shaking his head in shame if he heard me say that). The easiest trail is the Bog Loop.
You will find they have plenty of markers that indicate where you’ll find the trails.
As I mentioned, I decided to try out the Bog Loop. I ended up dropping my husband and son off at the playground while I became one with nature.
It actually went more like this: I walked up the path. I realized it was too quiet except for weird rustling sounds in the leaves. This meant one of two things: either a big snake was about to come get me (there are no poisonous snakes at Northwest Park, just fyi) or the boogeyman was watching me. At which point, I shot a few pictures and hightailed it back to the point where I could actually see more than just trees in front of me.
But for you, my readers, I braved it for a total of 6 minutes so I could bring you these wonderful photographs. That’s love.
Once I realized I could see my husband again, and I was safe, I was happy to enjoy more of the beautiful sights of Northwest Park! It is truly a beautiful place! I can only imagine how wonderful it looks with the trees in bloom. Or how pretty the colors are when the leaves change. Even a fresh blanket of snow would be magical here!
I headed to the playground to find my child completely engrossed in the slides and different things to climb! This is a great little playground that they offer here at the park! The play area is set on a mulch ground cover so it makes for softer tumbles and falls. One thing I did notice was missing at the play area are benches for the adults. So if you are planning to take a long walk, you may want to do that AFTER you play at the playground!
There are two separate playscapes. As you’ll find with most parks, there is a play area for the big kids and another for the little ones. All of the children were playing really well together on both sets, regardless of age. The big kids playscape had a bridge, several slides, a rock wall, monkey bars and other structures to climb. The little kids playscape featured a huge climbing tunnel, slides and easier to climb stairs.
There are also several swings including baby swings.
Just to the side of the play area is a picnic pavilion. The pavilion can be rented out for events. They also have a warming shed located near the Nature Center which is also available to rent.
Also located near the Playground is the Luddy/Taylor Connecticut Valley Tobacco Museum. The museum was closed on the day of our visit, so if you are interested in stopping by you will want to confirm they are open by calling ahead!
We spent a couple hours at Northwest Park. However, during a warm spring or summer day, you could easily spend the day here! Pack a picnic, take in a hike, do a scavenger hunt. There are so many things you could fill your day with!
A lot of my readers have been to this park – so they know just how wonderful it is. But I do know there are many (like me) who have been intending to visit and never know if they should take the kids. Let me just say this, take the kids! Make it a point to check out this great park this summer! It’s free and it offers everything you could ask for: nature, hiking, animals, a playground, indoor educational activities. You really cannot go wrong here.
And a big thank you to everyone that has been suggesting we check out Northwest Park!
This about sums it up…
Northwest Park – 145 Lang Road – Windsor, Connecticut
Hours: Park is daily from dawn to dusk
The hours of the individual activities vary, please check websitefor the more details.
- Stroller accessible for the most part (some terrain can be tricky, and some trails will be impassable)
- Animal Barns
- Maple Sugarhouse (seasonal)
- Nature Center
- Tobacco Museum & Archives (limited hours)
- Hiking Trails
- Bikes allowed on farm roads
- Recreational fields
- Dog Park
- Benches found throughout park
- Picnic areas and pavilions available for rent
- Special Events held throughout the year; summer camp programs
- Cars not Allowed in Park – parking available at entrance to park
- Bathrooms located in Nature Center
- Open sunny areas throughout park, bring lots of sunblock! There are also many covered, shady areas.
- Plenty of spots to have a picnic!