Outdoors at Hill-Stead

With gardens, walking trails, and even a historic farm, Hill-Stead’s 152-acre historic landscape invites visitors to gather, explore, find inspiration, or simply linger to take in nature’s sights and sounds.

Hill-Stead’s Gardens


Photo by Deborah Key.

From the Sunken Garden to the rustic and now overgrown Walking Garden, Theodate Pope Riddle’s gardens were an important feature of the original Hill-Stead landscape and provided an outdoor space for the family to gather. The gardens remain a place to gather and continue to be essential to life at Hill-Stead, offering seasonal beauty, a home for butterflies, birds, and other creatures, and a spot for quiet contemplation.

Walking Trails

From apple blossoms to grand vistas and fiery fall foliage, Hill-Stead’s three miles of trails are exquisite in any season. With a pond habitat, meadows, lowland, lowbush, and forests, the trails are a nature enthusiast’s and bird watcher’s paradise.

Photo by Deborah Key.

Photo by Deborah Key.

Hill-Stead’s trails represent the rich historical legacy of the estate. Originating, most likely, with Native American walking paths, the trails encompass 18th- and 19th-century farmstead lands. Early 20th-century carriages and sleighs coursed through the grounds, later joined by mechanized farm vehicles and flocks of herded sheep. The trails have been enjoyed by such guests as Eleanor Roosevelt and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis during her days as a Miss Porter’s School student in the late 1940s.

Today the trails are walked by neighbors and visitors from around the world. Children and families can enjoy a leisurely stroll. Hikers looking for strenuous exercise can explore the Blue-Blazed Metacomet Trail, which runs along the eastern ridgeline of the estate. stroll.

A Natural Parterre: A site-specific art-work by Bob Chaplin

In the fall of 2018, Bob Chapin installed this unique, site-specific work of art.  Through it, he hopes to initiate a dialogue about the apparent chaos of nature and man’s preoccupation with trying to structure and tame the natural world.

This installation is a part of Hill-Stead’s established, walking-path system. While beautiful and intriguing when viewed from the museum’s west terrace, the parterre is designed to be experienced up-close. Visitors are encouraged to walk into and through the parterre.

About Hill-Stead’s Walking Trails

The trails are maintained through the generous efforts of faithful volunteers. If you would like to join this dedicated group of volunteers, visit our Volunteer page or contact Melanie da Costa (dacostam@hillstead.org).

First Sunday Estate Walk

Held at 2 p.m. the first Sunday of each month, May through October.