A town in beautiful countryside on the Massachusetts, Granby is on the sundown side of the Connecticut River Valley.
Although Granby can feel far from the big city, Hartford is just over 13 miles to the south, and a comfortable drive via Route 202. There’s a rural theme when it comes to activities in Granby, and you can taste award-winning wines at vineyards, hike portions of long-distance trails and pick your own apples at orchards.
If there’s one thing you have to see, it’s Enders Falls, a string of five waterfalls with shimmering pools in Enders State Forest.
Let’s explore the best things to do in and around Granby:
1. Enders State Forest
Mostly in Granby, Enders State Forest is a natural space treasured for its many streams, wetlands, woodland and waterfalls.
We’ll talk about the most important, Enders Falls next.
The forest, established in 1970, was a gift to the people of Connecticut by the children of banker John Enders and his wife Harriet.
On 1,500 acres there’s a change in elevation of more than 60 meters, and the streams flow eastward from wetlands through boulder-strewn forest.
The trails are under a thick leafy canopy, creating a damp environment, that can leave the rocks slippery, so it’s important to hike with care.
2. Enders Falls
A purple-blazed trail in the forest runs for three quarters of a mile to a viewpoint of the glorious Enders Falls.
For those in the know these are up there with the most beautiful waterfalls in the state.
Enders Brook spills over a sequence of cascades, plunges, horsetails and slides, the tallest of which is around 10 meters high.
There are five distinct waterfalls, separated by pools that are loved by anglers and bathers alike.
Swimming is permitted, but not officially recommended: The high drops, slippery rocks and fast-flowing waters are amazing to behold, but pose plenty of hazards.
3. Lost Acres Vineyard
In Granby’s remote north is a picturesque vineyard, with a winery and tasting room in a rustic barn topped with photovoltaic cells.
Lost Acres cultivates grapes like Riesling, Chardonnay and Traminette for single varietal and blended wines, like the crisp and refreshing Wedge White (Riesling, Vidal Blanc, Cayuga White, Traminette and Seyval Blanc). Wine tastings are $7, with your choice of five wines and complimentary wine glass to take home.
There’s a farm kitchen for antipasto platters and cheeseboards, but you’re also free to bring your own picnic.
Have a look at the website’s calendar if you’re planning a visit, as there’s a menu of live music, comedy art events and an indoor farmers’ market during spring.
4. McLean Game Refuge
This 1,700-acre tract of land is open to the public and lies in the south of Granby, bleeding into Canton and Simsbury.
It was all bought in pieces at a time by the senator and Governor of Connecticut George P. McLean (1857-1932) over the course of his life.
After he died the land was left to a fund in his name and invites visitors to travel more than 20 miles of walking trails and two bridleways, in wonderfully varied scenery.
In the east are Triassic basalt ridges, including the curiously shaped Barndoor Hills, while in the west is a Paleozoic metamorphic landscape, while there’s a mix of esker, sandy fields and kettle ponds in between.
Hemlocks, maples, birches, beeches, oaks and chestnuts grow in the refuge’s woodland, and among the profusion of bird species spotted here are winter wrens, pileated woodpeckers, Blackburnian warblers and hermit thrushes.
5. Old New-Gate Prison and Copper Mine
This compelling archaeological site has recently been opened to the public once more after ten years of renovations.
Copper was discovered at this spot in the early-18th century, and this metal was mined here until 1745. Some 30 years after, the tunnels found a new role as an underground prison, first for conventional criminals and then for Loyalists and British prisoners during the Revolutionary War.
After the war, the New Gate prison became Connecticut’s first state confinement institution, and the buildings on the surface, in different states of ruin, are all from the turn of the 19th century.
There’s a visitor center in the Old Guardhouse, and tours are given of the tunnels below, once known as “Hell” to its prisoners.
6. Saville Dam
Impounding the eastern branch of the Farmington River at the south end of the Barkhamsted Reservoir is the nearby Saville Dam, constructed in the 1930s.
From the CT-318 the entire scene is extremely picturesque, looking up along the reservoir or back over the Farmington Valley.
Tying everything together is the dam’s Upper Gatehouse Tower, which is joined to the roadside by a bridge and has Medieval-inspired elements in its round arched windows, buttresses, rusticated stone and conical roof.
After savoring the scenery you can make use of nearby picnic areas also dating the 1930s and laid out by the Works Progress Administration.
7. Brignole Vineyards
The centerpiece of this award-winning vineyard is the grand building for the tasting room, with hints of New England’s Greek Revival architecture in its Doric columns and pediments.
There’s a pergola on the top floor, and you can contemplate the vines over a glass from the decks below.
Brignole makes wines with grapes that can handle the extremes of Connecticut’s climate, as well as California grown (mostly red) varieties, to bring a dash of the Napa valley to Granby.
These blends vary from sweet whites to potent and full-bodied reds.
The tasting room opens Wednesday through Sunday, for samples, wine by the glass, sangria and even wine slushies.
In summer, Brignole is visited by various food trucks and puts on trivia nights, live music and lots of other fun.
8. Clark Farms at Bushy Hill Orchard
This farm in Granby has roughly 15,000 apple trees, but also grows peaches, nectarines, Asian pears and blueberries.
Clark Farms uses Integrated Pest Management, to limit the use of chemical pesticides, and no apple tree is taller than two meters, so pick-your-own can be a true family activity here.
The farm offers a CSA Farm Share for residents, but also has a creamery open spring through fall, and a bakery making muffins, pies, apple turnovers and delicious apple cider donuts.
What’s more there’s a farm-to-table cafe, open for breakfast/brunch on weekends from 08:00 to 13:00.
9. The Garlic Farm
This genuine organic farm is of course known for its garlic (including scapes), but also grows a host of other produce including carrots, chard, beets, cucumbers, leeks, peppers, tomatoes, winter squash and tons of herbs.
One of the joys of the Garlic Farm is that the farm market is housed in a historic barn.
All the produce is freshly harvested and grown without pesticides.
This opens in mid-July and has a selection that changes through the summer, until closing sometime in July.
The farm sends out a regular newsletter letting you know when your favorite vegetables or herbs are ready.
10. Old Mill Pond Village
The sort of place where you’ll be pleased to get completely lost for an hour or two, the Old Mill Pond Village is a quaint shopping destination in a series of old barns and outbuildings around a cute old pond.
It would be impossible to squeeze everything on offer into one paragraph, but for a short summary there’s women’s jewelry and accessories, furniture, kitchenware, pottery, outdoor furniture, yard decorations, textiles and a great deal more.
Some of the well-known brands stocked at the Red Barn Gift Shop for instance include Yankee Candle, Vera Bradley and Alex and Ani.
The Christmas Shop is a seasonal go-to, for famous Christmas-themed collectibles, decorations, cards and candles.
11. Salmon Brook Park
Not far south of Granby Center is the main place in town for activities like basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis, volleyball, lacrosse and field hockey.
Salmon Brook Park also has hiking areas and a generous playground, with equipment for kids of different ages.
Added to that are two picnic and a large park house, all of which can be rented by residents between May and November.
Beyond that you’ve got the Salmon Brook Pond, which has remarkably clear waters, fed by a springs and deep well.
The pond has a sandy beach that shelves very gradually, and opens for swimming seven days a week during the school summer break.
12. Farmington Canal Heritage Trail
A long-distance mixed-use trail with an exciting past grazes Granby at Floydville Road on its 80-mile journey through Connecticut and some of Massachusetts.
Walking this route, you’ll be on the New Haven and Northampton Company railbed, dating to the 1840s.
But before the advent of railroads this was a canal, built by a consortium of businessmen in the 1820s to accelerate waterborne trade between New Haven and Northampton.
In 2019 around 85% of the original railbed was walkable, and Granby is on the longest uninterrupted stretch between Northern Plainville and the Massachusetts state line.
Interpretive signs point out interesting historical fragments, and as this was the course of a canal and railroad, the paved trail is smooth, wide and easy to walk or cycle on.
13. Penwood State Park
Five miles south of Granby Center at the end of Wintonbury Road there’s an access point for the Metacomet Trail.
This 63-mile Blue-Blazed trail follows the Metacomet Ridge, a 200-million-year-old basalt fault between Long Island Sound and the Massachusetts-Vermont border.
Going south from the parking lot you’ll soon be rewarded with staggering panoramas, high on the west side of the Connecticut Valley on the northern section of the ridge’s Talcott Mountain range.
Keep hiking south, and you’ll eventually be in the Talcott Mountain State Park, famed for the Heublein Tower, one of Connecticut’s signature landmarks, constructed for a German soft drinks magnate in the early 20th century.
14. Tunxis State Forest
Mostly on and near the shores of the Barkhamsted Reservoir, this state forest is in parcels dotted around Granby, Barkhamsted and Hartland.
You can come for hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, fishing and letterboxing.
Most of these activities are available close to routes 20 and 179 in Hartland.
One of the trails crossing the forest is the northernmost stretch of the Blue-Blazed Tunxis Trail, which winds down the western ridge of Connecticut Valley for almost 80 miles.
The northern terminus can be found in Hartland, at the beautiful Hurricane Brook.
You can get into the cross-country ski area, plotted in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, via Balance Rock Road which pulls off Route 20 in East Hartland.
15. Ski Sundown
Past Granby’s south-west corner in New Hartford is Ski Sundown, boasting 16 ski runs, 100% snowmaking facilities and night-time skiing at all but one of its trails.
As with any winter resort in Connecticut, Ski Sundown favors novice skiers, but although nine of the 16 runs are green circle, there are four black diamond runs for a real test of technique.
Ski Sundown also has terrain parks on the mile-long Tom’s Treat, the easiest trail at the mountain, and a set of rails and barrels on the black diamond Stinger.
As you would hope, there are designated programs and private lessons for all ages, but also walk-in group lessons if you need to polish your skills.
Lift tickets in 2019 were $62 for eight hours, and $38 from 18:00 to 22:00.