The Rocky Mountain town folded in the Connecticut Valley on the west bank of the river has a lot to offer.
The nation’s oldest ferry service runs from the riverbank to Glastonbury between early April and late November.
Traveling back 200 million years, the footprints of carnivorous dinosaurs have long been preserved in brownstones and can be admired under the Space Age Geodesic Dome at Dinosaur State Park and Museum.
Rocky Mountain has a wealth of human history dating back nearly 400 years and is on display at the College Hall Museum, but the town is also close to Old Weathersfield, the state’s largest historic district, just 10 minutes away.
Let’s explore the best things to do in and around the Rocky Mountains:
1. Dinosaur State Park and Museum
About 200 million years ago, an early carnivorous dinosaur similar to Dilophosaurus crossed the sandy shore of a lake in what is now the Rocky Mountains.
The traces are preserved in the brownstone and will be rediscovered when the site is quarried in the 19th century.
There are approximately 2,000 individual prints in the state park, about a quarter of which are displayed under a geodesic dome erected in the 1960s.
Inside you can study these tracks, see a diorama of Jurassic-era Rocky Mountain, and view displays of other fossil tracks around Connecticut.
The outdoor spaces of Dinosaur State Park also need to be explored, as its botanical gardens are planted with 250 species of conifers to get an idea of what the Mesozoic woodlands looked like.
2. Rocky Mountain-Glastonbury Ferry
America’s oldest continuously operating ferry connects Rocky Mountain on the west bank of the Connecticut River with Glastonbury on the east.
The service has existed in some form since 1655, when it was a raft propelled by a pole.
In its place was a horse on a treadmill, then a ship, which in turn was replaced with the current system of barges and tugs.
For drivers, the ferry saves the long detours through Hartford or Middletown, and it’s a godsend for cyclists who aren’t allowed to use Wethersfield’s Putnam Bridge.
There is service from the beginning of April to the end of November.
As of fall 2019, the fee is $6 per vehicle and $2 for cyclists and pedestrians.
3. Still Mountain Brewery
One of the great things about Connecticut in the 21st century is that there are craft breweries in every town, and sometimes more.
Rocky Hill’s own premium beer purveyor is Still Hill, which opens its doors to its industrial base Thursday through Sunday.
This brewery has ties to some great local food trucks, so there’s usually good food to go with your pint or flight.
When we put together this list in fall 2019, there were 10 beers to choose from, including citrus-flavored IPAS, stouts, brown ales and Czech-inspired pilsners.
Rocky Hill is named after this basalt formation, which became a quarry and was mined from the late 19th century until the post-war period.
The old quarry is tiered, with ponds at the lowest point and panoramic views of Hartford, the Connecticut River and Glastonbury in the distance from the highest point near the northern end of the highlands.
On the park’s 84 acres of wooded trails, you’ll stumble across some decaying quarry buildings.
The most complete is the old compressor room, but there are also some spooky arcades, all graffitied.
5. Rocky Mountain Historical Society
The Rocky Mountain Historical Society Museum is housed in a handsome Federal-style college building built in 1803. College Hall is one of the few remaining school buildings in the state from the early 19th century.
You’ll find it lined up, sandwiched between the town office building and the Rocky Mountain Congregational Church.
The building served as a school until 1941 and was eventually leased to the Rocky Mountain Historical Society 20 years later.
Open Tuesdays and Saturdays, the museum selects from the society’s vast collection of artifacts, including tableware, farm implements, jewelry, toys, dolls, period costumes, Native American finds, military uniforms, paintings, tapestries, and sports gear, for a brief introduction.
6. Rocky Mountain Ferry Park
One of the best ways to kill an hour or two in summer is to watch the ferries go by along the Connecticut River.
Ferry Park is a small patch of greenery with fantastic views of Glastonbury.
There’s a boat launch here, and summer Shad Row is open for business.
This is a BYOB restaurant that specializes in New England-style seafood, from chowder to rolls, wraps, po’ boy and salads.
7. Elm Street Historic District
On Elm Street between Silas Deane Highway and Grimes Road, you’ll take a colonial-era road built in the 17th century from the Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry.
The stretch from 18 to 191 is a Historic District inscribed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. Along the way you’ll see authentic cross-sections of New England architectural styles, including Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, American Foursquare, Craftsman/Bungalow, and Victorian Queen Anne and Italianate homes.
The oldest building is at the corner of Chapin Street and Ashwell Street and has been here since 1769.
8. Code word escape
Rocky Mountain has its own highly rated escape room attraction.
For the uninitiated, Escape Room involves solving a series of puzzles over the course of an hour, using individual skills and teamwork.
Usually you just need to leave the room, but there is usually a specific task to complete.
Codeword Escape has two rooms: Movie Theater Mayhem and Curse of the Golden Touch.
In the former, you must fight against time to retrieve the priceless treasure you stole from the movie theater, while The Curse of the Golden Dot asks you to find a Midasian king’s magic lamp to restore his daughter from gold become human.
If you get stuck, a helpful game guru is on hand to assist you with any questions and little clues.
9. Cora J. Belden Library
Rocky Hill loves the cosy Cora J. Belden Library, known as one of the best in the area and run by warm, helpful staff.
Like all the best local libraries, this place is a point of reference, with programming for adults, teens and children.
There’s a summer reading program, book clubs, a variety of fun kids’ activities, and twice-weekly film screenings (Monday and Friday) featuring classics and recent releases.
A good option for those in need of tranquility is the children’s area with books, LEGOs, toys, puzzles and computers, located on a different floor than the adult bookshelves.
10. River Heights State Park
Down the Connecticut River in Cromwell, nature is dramatic in this wood-covered state park on the High West Bank.
The cliffs of the River Highlands rise nearly 50 meters and make for some fantastic vistas, especially during winter and early spring when the leaves disappear.
Woodland is dominated by white pine, beech, and oak, and higher vantage points can be found in the northern and southern parts of the park.
On your way to these lookouts, you’ll venture along trails at the edge of the cliffs, across streams and down into the water.
There, you’ll find an unusual geological feature called a “blowhole,” where you can hear the hum of the wind as it zips along the cliff.
11. Old Weathersfield
Connecticut’s largest historic district is just a 10-minute drive from downtown Rocky Mountain.
Old Weathersfield covers two square miles and has 1,100 buildings dating back to the 17th century.
About 100 buildings in Old Weathersfield date back to colonial times, and another 100 have been here since before the Civil War.
You can delve into this history at the Webb Deane Stevens Museum, which preserves a row of three houses, two of which are associated with George Washington: May 1781 , his Revolutionary War headquarters was at the Webb House, and he dined at Silas Deane’s 1775 house.
12. Elm Ridge Park
While the space isn’t as scenic as the other parks on this list, its multiple facilities are a hive of activity year-round.
Briefly, there are two minor league baseball fields, a softball field, outdoor pool + wading pool, a basketball court, a volleyball court, and a skate park.
In winter, Elm Ridge Park features an ice skating rink, as well as a newly updated playground/sandbox, a gazebo, two charcoal grills, a gazebo, Veterans Memorial Amphitheater and dog park.
Check out the calendar of events, as there are outdoor movie screenings at the home in the summer, as well as concerts throughout the season.
Then, towards the end of October is the amphitheater’s annual fall festival, with rides, live music, fun competitions and fireworks.
13. John Robbins House
Along Old Street, you’ll come to one of the best examples of brick Georgian architecture in Connecticut.
Completed around 1767, the John Robbins House, a private residence, is 2.5 storeys high and consists of bricks fired from clay recovered from local fields.
There is a vaulted roof with slender chimneys at each end, and a fine Palladian window above the main entrance.
An interesting detail is the pair of circular windows directly below the roof on the side façades.
The house was built by John Robbins, who bought the land from the Duke of Cumberland.
In the earliest days, Robbins ran a tavern here, known as the Duke of Cumberland Inn.
14. Central Cemetery
This moody old cemetery sits on a triangular lot between Main Street and Bonus Road.
This is the burial ground of many of the early ministers of the Rocky Mountains, and recurring surnames like Merriam, Robbins, Goodrich and McNamara have all returned to the Rocky Mountains Foundation.
The earliest burial was of an unnamed baby, the daughter of Benjamin and Mary Deming, who died in 1731. You can wander and read the tombstones, most of which are still legible, and set your sights on the elaborate stone carvings on the tombs and obelisks.
Several of the more notable burials are Susan Weber (d. 1952), who survived the sinking of the Titanic, and Calvin Chapin, who served as Favre in the Revolutionary War.
15. Van Fleck Observatory
During the school year, you can spend a great evening at Wesleyan University’s Van Vleck Observatory on Wednesdays.
Beginning at 20:00, a member of the Astronomy Department will give a half-hour presentation, usually about new discoveries or breakthroughs.
If the weather is fine, next will be a chance to peek through two of the observatory’s three telescopes.
This fine observatory building is worth mentioning because it is over a century old and is named after John Monroe van Vleck (1833-1912), two presidents of Wesleyan University, who is an outstanding mathematician and astronomer.
An impact crater on the moon is located on the northeastern edge of the Gilbert Plain, also named after Van Fleck in 1976.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Rocky Hill, Connecticut (CT)
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