Panoramic View of Mashapaug Lake from the picnic area at Bigelow Hollow State Park

Bigelow Hollow State Park & Nipmuck State Forest; Union, CT

Last Visited:  Sunday; July 1, 2012

What to do here: Bigelow Hollow State Park is part of Nipmuck State Forest in Northeastern Connecticut.  The trails and areas at this park are available for both motorized and non-motorized activities including the following:

  • Hiking:  There is a network of hiking trails around Breakheart Pond and the shortest loop is, according to the state website, is 6 miles.  I would recommend going to the following link and printing off a copy of their trail map as every single box was empty the last time I was there (and I checked every single one I saw).
  • Boating:  There is a public boat launch in the park on Mashapaug Pond.
Mashapoag Pond Boat Launch
Mashapoag Pond Boat Launch at Bigelow Hollow State Park in Union, CT.


  • Swimming:  Bigelow Hollow State Park is probably most popular for its swimming area.  There are aren’t lifeguards on duty and the water quality isn’t tested though in years worth of visits I’ve never encountered any water quality problems.  Near the Rock Point area there are also some ledges that you can spread out and catch some sun on and a rock outcrop in the water that you can lounge on and jump off of.  The ledges on the side of the lake opposite Rock Point are private property and the rangers patrol on occasion to make sure that people to do not attempt to climb and jump off of them.

  • Cross-country skiing & snowshoeing:  With enough snow in the winter many of the trails here are ideal for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in this very lovely corner of Connecticut.
  • Fishing:  Fishing is permitted in non-swimming areas on both Mashapoag and Breakheart Ponds with a CT state permit.
  • Hunting:  Hunting is permitted in the forest areas in season with the appropriate state permits.
  • Picnicking and Grilling Areas:  There are picnic areas and grill pits along with a water spigot if you want to bring charcoal and grill lunch or have a picnic.
  • Snowmobiling:  Snowmobiling is permitted on a limited amount of the trails in Nipmuck State Forest.  Check the park website for more information.
  • Scuba Diving:  The water here is really clear and SCUBA diving is permitted and I’ve seen the flags from a diver out on the lake on occasion.
  • Dog Friendly:  Dogs are permitted at Bigelow Hollow as long as they are kept on a leash at all times and I’ve seen several pooches taking swims with their owners.

Favorite Activities:  My personal favorite activity is to head over there for an afternoon swimming as it is a lovely area that has some of the cleaner fresh water I’ve swum in and with picnic tables and a grill pits you can enjoy a picnic and bring a group of friends for an awesome afternoon.

Directions:  Bigelow Hollow State park is about an hour and a half from most of the Boston area.  To get there take I-90 (Massachusetts Turnpike) to exit 9 for I-84.  Take I-84 West into Connecticut and take exit 73 for Route 190.  Turn off the ramp onto Route 190 West and take a right onto Route 171.  After you go down a long hill and pass a pond on your left the entrance to the park will be immediately on your left.  There will be signs for the park after you get into Union as well.  For those of you using a GPS device the following address should get you on the road that takes you to the park (this is NOT an exact address):

288 Bigelow Hollow Road
Union, CT

Facilites, Fees and other information:  There is a parking fee to park on a summer weekend or holiday day that, at present, $9 for CT residents and $15 for those who aren’t CT residents.  As mentioned previously, there are picnic tables and grills pits along with pit latrines and a boat ramp.  There aren’t any flush toilets, electric outlets, lifeguards or other facilities you’d expect in more developed parks.  You will also need to haul out any trash that you bring in as there aren’t any trash cans either.  Permits for additional activities like hunting and fishing require extra fees to purchase a license through the state.

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