Students dare to wake the Sleeping Giant

Marina McGowan

Located on Mount Carmel Avenue, Sleeping Giant Mountain is not too difficult to bypass.
The two-mile long stone formation, that resembles that of a resting person, has over thirty-two miles that make up the trail system. These trails wind around the body of the mountain.
The way the Sleeping Giant is situated is with his feet to the East, his head to the West and his “chin” up to the sky.
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection operates Sleeping Giant State Park. The Sleeping Giant Park Association (SGPA) is a nonprofit volunteer organization dedicated to the preservation, maintenance and expansion of the park.
The SGPA, which has acquired approximately 1,500 acres of land on Sleeping Giant since 1924, has a membership of over 2,000 hikers.
“From buying all the land, our goal is to protect the park,” said Irwin Beitch, chairman of the hiking committee and professor of biology. “We do not want to lose any of the park, including the character and the quality.”
Other than purchasing the land, the organization continues to expand recreational opportunities on the mountain.
Beitch and his wife Barbara have been apart of the association for 25 years. According to Beitch, the SGPA hiking committee sponsors sixteen hikes per year.
A 1.6-mile trail leads to a stone observation tower on the Giant’s left hip. The Tower Trail is the only trail maintained by the state, while the rest are maintained by the SGPA. The four-story Lookout Tower was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937 and was renovated in 1996.
“I want people to learn to use the park well,” Beitch said. “Students who want to hike the mountain should go up to the lookout tower first. On a clear day you can see Long Island and New Haven.”
There are “trails people” who color coat, or blaze, the trails. The shape (circle, square, hexagon, etc.) of the sign distinguishes the trails. All of the trails run east to west, except the five red ones, which run north to south across the ridge of the mountain.
Other trails maintained by the association lead to ponds, through gorges and woods, and to other scenic vistas. The Mill River, which flows through the park, is filled with trout.
The SGPA publishes the Giant News, a quarterly newsletter about the Giant. The newsletter contains a self-guided nature trail with printed guide and a list of the events happening in the park.
To be a member of the SGPA, there is a five-dollar fee. However, membership is not mandatory to join in on the hikes.
Nonetheless, the money collected is used to buy equipment that is necessary to maintain the park itself.
A life membership fee is one hundred dollars. This money goes toward special funds used to buy land, said Beitch.
“We want people to use the park well,” said Beitch. “That means enjoying it and taking care of it. We want them to use it and keep it clean, as opposed to smashing bottles on the rocks.”
Some of the hikes that are scheduled include the Geology-of-the-Giant Hike (Sept. 8) and Fall Wildflower Hike (Sept. 29). Those who attend these specific hikes have the option of looking at various kinds of rocks and formations and sightseeing for birds with binoculars.
In June, the SGPA sponsored the Hike-A-Giant, which included three different hikes. The SGPA rented a bus and drove the hikers to the east end of the park, leaving them to hike only one way on the blue trail.
“As many as one hundred people took part in this hike,” said Beitch. “The blue trail is the toughest because you hike up the face of the mountain.”
Other than hiking, there are picnic areas for general use located on the park grounds. There is also a primitive camping area that can only be used with permission from the park manager.
For further information, contact Barbara or Irwin Beitch at (203) 272-7841, email them at [email protected] or visit the Sleeping Giant Park Association at