The Mine Hill Preserve

Old Mine Road, Roxbury Township, Litchfield County, Connecticut

360 acres


Saw Mill River Parkway north to its end (at mile marker 29); get onto US 684 and go about 11 miles (to mile marker 28) to exit 9E for US 684 east; drive about 10.2 miles to get off at Exit 7 for Route 7 north; drive a mile to get off at Exit 1 for Federal Road; at the light make a left turn; drive down to the next light and turn right onto Federal Road north; drive about 1.6 miles to make a right turn onto Route 133; at 3.5 miles you cross the bridge over the Housatonic River (and you are in Bridgewater); keep going until you reach a T-intersection, the intersection with Route 67; drive into the town of Roxbury. 

From the intersection with Wellers Bridge Road, drive 0.5 of a mile to make a left turn onto Mine Hill Road.  Drive 0.3 of a mile (going onto a dirt road and then going uphill) and turn right into the parking area.


1979  -- the land was purchased by the Roxbury Land Trust.

1994  -- a gift of 4 acres given by Mabel Bernhardt Smith.

1995  --  28.5 acres purchased by Roxbury Land Trust and given to Mine Hill Preserve.


The moderately difficult Main Loop (blazed in Blue) is 3.5 miles long.

The easy Nature Trail (blazed in Yellow) is a 0.3 of a mile loop.

1. The Main Loop begins at the Parking area. Follow a narrow forest path into the woods, and proceed over the footbridge.

2. Just beyond the information board, turn left following the blue blazes to Donkey Trail, an easy 1 mi. walk. In a few minutes you will pass the back of two fieldstone roasting ovens on the right. The first mining operations began here in the mid-18th century in the hope of finding silver. Operations were implemented in 1751 and again in 1764. Under a succession of owners there was some construction and mining activity, culminating in 1865 with the purchase of Mine Hill by the Shepaug Spathic Iron & Steel Company. Between 1865 and 1868, the firm expanded the tunnels; built a rail to convey ore and dammed Mineral Spring Brook. The granite quarries of Mine Hill provided building material for two ore roasters, a blast furnace, and a rolling mill. By the late 1870's, the mine ceased to operate due to internal financial problems and increased competition from large pit furnaces newly opened in Minnesota and Pittsburgh.

3. Stroll along Donkey Trail, which is elevated 5 feet or so above the ground, giving you a birds-eye view of the forest. The trail got its name because donkeys would haul carts filled with ore from the mines to the furnaces along iron rails that once lined this path. The rails were removed for scrap during World War II.

4. Soon, you will come to a small pond formed by damming Mineral Brook to create a reliable water supply for the ironworks. Underground pipes connected the pond to at least three hydrants placed at strategic points throughout the complex. Here, you can take an optional 3/4 mi. loop on a yellow-blazed Nature Trail.

5. Continue following the blue blazes to the first tunnel, on the left. Standing in front of the tunnel on a hot summer day is especially exhilarating, as a rush of cool air from the depths of the earth swirls around you. Mine Hill is honeycombed with 850 meters of tunnels. Today, the tunnels are too unstable to enter. Just past the first tunnel, the trail begins a steep ascent to the second tunnel where the trail bears to the right and evens out.

6. Ten minutes beyond the second tunnel, the elevated trail ends. Continue following the blue-blazed trail past old foundations and a series of four mine shafts, easily identified by their protective cage coverings.

7. Five mintues beyond the third shaft, turn right and continue on the blue trail, walk about 500 feet, and take your first left, following the blue blazes back into the woods to a boulder-strewn path, carpeted by mosses and lichens.

8. Look for the fourth mine shaft, on the left, as the trail begins to narrow into a rugged footpath that winds through a hardwood forest dominated by hemlocks and mountain laurel to Quarry Bridge. Before corssing the bridge, take time to explore the abandoned granite quarry on the left. This is one of eight light grey granite quarries located throughout Mine Hill. The quarries of Mine Hill began to operate in 1850 and were worked until 1961. If you look carefully at the blocks on the side of the trail, you will see drill cores where the stone was split against the grain. Granite from the quarries of Mine Hill was used in the construction of New York's Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Terminal, and East River Drive (FDR).

9. At Quarry Bridge, turn right onto a descending blue-blazed forest path that follows mineral spring brook.

10. At the intersection in the trail (10 minutes from Quarry Bridge) turn left; follow the blue blazes through the gate and continue walking along a dirt road punctuated with corn fields on the left and gray granite ledges on the right.

To take a short side trip to the Preserve's largest Quarry proceed 1500 ft. beyond the left turn. The Quarry with hundreds of granite blocks piled at its base is on the right. Retrace your steps and follow the blue blazes to the dirt road.

11. At the junction of the dirt road and the footpath take a sharp right, following the blue blazes, to the furnace site. Take some time to explore these fascinating ruins, the most extensive and the best preserved in the state.

The 19th century iron operation at Mine Hill began with the transportation of ore from the mines down Donkey Trail to the roasting ovens. Here the ore was heated then sorted to remove impurities. Next, the ore was mixed with charcoal and marble and loaded into the blast furnace to be smelted. The chimney located southeast of the blast furnace was part of the blowing engine that provided the blast. The molten ore was removed from the furnace by being allowed to run into channels dug into the sand in front of the blast furnace. Here the ore cooled and formed iron bars known as "pigs." The remaining impurities in the ore was drawn off as slag. As you walk around the blast furnace and climb the four terraces to the roasting ovens, to a commanding view of the site, try to imagine this peaceful haven as a busy, noisy and smoky industrial center.

12. Continue following the blue blazes for five minutes passing the ruins of a puddling furnace and steel mill to the parking area where this loop began

Mine Hill located in Roxbury near the Shepaug River is part of the Roxbury Land Trust as well as a national historic landmark. Mine Hill at one time was a fully functioning iron mine and it's not hard to visualize the old mill in action as you hike along a well maintained trail system. The trail system presents varying degrees of difficulties. You can park your car and take a short walk right up to the old giant furnaces and explore this fascinating part of Mine Hill. Or venture out on the challenging 4-mile round trip blue trail, which loops around Mine Hill preserve. Along way the blue trail takes you through dense woodlands, up rocky terrain, over an old mule trail, traverses a small marble bridge, takes you past mine tunnels with cave like structures, along a long dirt utility road that abuts farmland, and back to the old furnaces and historical part of Mine Hill. There's also a nice short nature trail off the blue trail that isn't too far from the main entrance area (go left at the start of the blue trial). The trail gives a hiker all the natural beauty you'd want along with an historic journey to the past. Mine Hill is a fascinating place.

This is a great place to bring kids as they are sure to be fascinated by the giant furnaces and some of the cave like structures. But because of all the mining activity that took place here years ago, there are some potentially dangerous spots. The Land Trust has done a great job of blocking off nearly all tunnels entrances and preventing people from venturing into places that are extremely dangerous to explore. You'll notice steel gated covers over quite a few of the tunnels entrances. On one hand it's a shame these gates exist because it's hard to see the cave like structures. On the other hand, it obviously makes sense to do this for safety reasons and doing this has saved numerous lives. If you're in good shape and you take on the 4 mile loop, you'll see some great scenery and find some unique treasures along the way.

Main Attractions: National historic landmark, old iron mill remnants, woodlands, cascading waters, farmland.

8/02/2005.  On a very warm, humid day, dog Sonar and I parked in the preserve parking lot.  At this point, I was just wasting time until I had to drive all the way down to the Bronx to pick my brother-in-law up from the Veterans Administration Hospital.  So I made a plant list from around the parking lot, the kiosk, and the dirt road up to the parking area.  It was a brief stop.  Dr. Patrick L. Cooney.

Dr. Patrick L. Cooney

* =  plant(s) blooming on date of field trip, 8/02/2005

Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Betula lenta (black birch)
Betula papyrifera (white birch)
Carya cordiformis (bitternut hickory)
Carya ovata (shagbark hickory)
Castanea dentata (American chestnut)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus prinus (chestnut oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)
Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock)
Ulmus americana (American elm)

Shrubs and Subshrubs:
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Corylus sp. (hazel)
Euonymus alatus (winged euonymus)
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel)
Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel)
Lindera benzoin (spicebush)
Pachysandra terminalis (pachysandra)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)  
Rubus occidentalis (black raspberry)
Viburnum acerifolium (maple-leaf viburnum)

Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Vitis sp. (grape)

Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)    *
Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed)
Amphicarpaea bracteata (hog peanut)
Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla)
Arctium sp. (burdock)     
Arisaema triphyllum (Jack in the pulpit)
Aster divaricatus (white wood aster)
Cardamine impatiens (narrow-leaved bittercress)
Circaea lutetiana (enchanter's nightshade)
Collinsonia canadensis (horse balm)
Desmodium nudiflorum (naked-flowered tick trefoil)    *
Epipactis helleborine (helleborine orchid)
Erigeron annuus (daisy fleabane)       *
Impatiens sp. (jewelweed)     
Lactuca canadensis (wild lettuce)
Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower)
Melilotus alba (white sweet clover)     *
Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe)
Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose)     *
Oxalis sp. (yellow wood sorrel)    *
Plantago major (common plantain)
Polygonum cespitosum (cespitose smartweed)     *
Prunella vulgaris (self-heal)      *
Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion)  
Trifolium pratense (red clover)  
Verbena urticifolia (white vervain)     *
Viola spp. (violet)

Agrostis hyemalis (tickle grass)
Leersia oryzoides (rice cut grass)

Ferns and Fern Allies:
Lycopodium lucidulum (shining clubmoss)
Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern)
Athyrium thelypteroides (silvery glade fern)
Dennstaedtia punctilobula (hay-scented fern)
Dryopteris marginalis (marginal woodfern)
Osmunda claytoniana (interrupted fern)
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)
Thelypteris noveboracensis (New York fern)

Source and map:

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