Geology of the New York City Region

47. The Hanging Hills

The Hanging Hills are a 1,000 foot high broken escarpment of traprock where Metacomet Ridge bends eastward across the Central Valley just north of Meriden, Connecticut (Figure 108). Scour by moving glacial ice has plucked away the basalt from the steep southern end of the crest of the broken ridge, creating the overhanging cliffs. These scenic mountainsides north of Meriden are a nature preserve, watershed area, and parkland (Hubbard Park). Castle Craig is a small stone tower built in 1900 on the mountain top overlook on East Peak (Figure 109). The tower is a popular destination of a two-mile hike to the ridge top. During the summer it is sometimes possible to drive to the top of the ridge when the gate is not locked. Perhaps an even better view is possible from a slightly higher higher overlook at the southern tip of West Peak. (This overlook area is along the trail just east of a radio tower parking area). The views from either of the overlooks are extraordinary. From the top of the ridge on a clear day it is possible to see most of the Central Valley region, Long Island Sound, and the distant higher peaks of the highlands throughout southern New England (Figure 110).

Geologic map of The Hanging Hills, Connecticut
Figure 108. Geologic Map of the Hanging Hills area near Meridan, Connecticut showing the location of West Peak and Castle Craig overlooks (modified after Drake, 1985).

Castle Craig Tower, Hanging Hills near Meridan, Connecticut
Figure 109. Castle Craig Tower overlook in the Hanging Hills near Meridan, Connecticut.

Trap rock basalt escarpment, Connecticut River Basin
Figure 110. Eastward view of the Merimere Reservoir and the escarpments of the trap rock basalts of the Connecticut River Basin in the Meriden, Connecticut area.

Hubbard Park is a city park of Meridan that encompasses part of the Hanging Hills. From Interstate 691 take Exits 5 or 6 and follow the signs for CT Route 71 north. A little more than a mile north of the interstate, Butler Street branches to the left. Follow Butler Street about a few hundred yards and turn left onto Park Road. Park Road dead ends in about a mile at a barricade at Merimere Reservoir. Park here and walk westward across the bridge, then follow the road up hill. The walk up the mountain is challenging climb over 500 feet.The road splits near the top of the hill. The less traveled road to the right leads to the radio towers and overlook area on West Peak. The road to the left leads to Castle Craig and the picnic area by the tower on East Peak. The Metacomet Ridge Trail circles the southern crest of the Hanging Hills. When the trail is dry it is a scenic alternative route to return to the parking area. From Castle Craig the trail descends steeply eastward from East Peak to the western shore of Merimere Reservoir.

The cap rock of the Hanging Hills escarpment is the massive Early Jurassic Holyoke Basalt; it is nearly 700 feet thick. The exposures along the ridge tops display an irregular polygonal columnar jointing pattern that formed as the massive volcanic surface flows gradually cooled. Most of these fractures are tightly cemented by minerals that formed long after the flows were buried by younger sediments. The tell-tale grooves and scratches from rocks embedded in the bottom of the glacier are still visible in patches on the barren bedrock along the cliff tops. The Early Jurassic Shuttle Mountain Formation (red beds) and the Talcott Basalt crops out along the forested hillsides at the base of the ridge. In the Meriden region, numerous northeast-trending normal faults offset the volcanic flows and intervening sedimentary rocks. Several of these faults break the Metacomet Ridge north of Meriden. Stream erosion and glacial ice carved canyons along these faults, dividing the ridge into the finger-like promontories of the Hanging Hills (West Peak, East Peak, South Mountain, and Cathole Mountain, west-to-east respectively.). Merimere Reservoir was built in the fault-controlled valley between East Peak and South Mountain.

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Last modified: 3/11/2019