Connecticut has bragging rights when it comes to some of the finest parks and hiking trails on the eastern coast. As an avid hiker, this writer knows all the most desirable local trails, many of which are very close to our inn.
In fact, Montgomery Pinetum is just a six-minute drive from our door.
Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, a 40-minute walk.
A fact learned from an abundance of spare time during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
If you are planning a stay in Greenwich, this is the idyllic spot to experience the stunning natural beauty of the area in hand with a good dose of CT history.
Montgomery Pinetum Began as Wild Acres Estate
Back in 1880, prominent businessman Fred Gotthold bought 55-acres of land on Bible Street in Cos Cob. With his wife Florence at his side, the well-off couple built the “Wild Acres” estate.
Their 18-room Mansard-roofed mansion sat in the middle of:
- A 2-acre lawn
- Stunning gardens
- And productive orchards
Their property soon became a flourishing self-sufficient estate. Later additions included:
- A private cottage for guests
- A private water tower
- A laundry building
- An icehouse
- Barns and shelter for cows and chickens
The couple sold their estate to Colonel Robert H. Montgomery and his wife in 1928.
The Creation of Montgomery Pinetum
The Colonel had a great appreciation of nature. In need of a hobby, he decided to create a location where he could share his appreciation for nature with the public. This was the inspiration for his “pinetum,” a collection of pine trees he planted on the property. His educational project provided a study of pines while enhancing the landscape.
In just two and a half years the Colonel collected 850 species of conifers. Each species was carefully inventoried and photographed. His artist wife, Nell, constructed a field studio perfectly situated to capture the stunning landscape.
The couple worked with the landscape to create the impressive estate,
They incorporated the brook running through the estate into varied plantings.
Ongoing and expanding gardens and scenery complemented the natural features.
Nell donated the estate to the town as a public park when her husband died in 1952. She requested that visitors stick to walking trails to protect the landscape. She also wanted the park to cultivate arts and horticulture. The town initially hesitated due to concerns of the expense of honoring Nell’s wishes.
After all, they had just dropped a sizeable chunk of change on Greenwich Point Park.
They did eventually recognize the value of the land and accepted her donation.
Montgomery Pinetum Today
Today Montgomery Pinetum covers 62-acres where visitors can hike the entire area of lovely woodlands.
The original buildings of the estate have long been torn down. That said, the main building features a flagstone terrace along with perfectly manicured lawns. The reflecting pool is a major feature of the park. The stunning display of tulips, daffodils, and azaleas throughout the grounds is another major draw.
To honor Nell’s contribution to town, the Greenwich Botanical Center focuses on:
- And the arts
A major focus of their purpose is through educational programs and special events.
A short tree identification walk allows you to explore the trees the Colonel planted. It also allows you to take in the unrivaled views from vantage points along the trails.
The best part about Montgomery Pinetum is its connection to other protected areas.
More nearby Greenwich parks to explore
Follow different paths from Montgomery Pinetum to reach:
Mildred Bedard Caldwell Wildlife Sanctuary
The Greenwich Auduon manages this 22-acre woodland sanctuary, which features:
- A boardwalk
- Lovely woodlands
- And two “erratics” — large boulders deposited by the glaciers 12,000 years ago
You can reach the Mildred Bedard Caldwell Wildlife Sanctuary via a trail from Montgomery Pinetum.
Greenwich acquired this town park in 2003, adding an expansive 75 acres to this contiguous woodland space.
This former estate, called Wyndygoul, is the birthplace of the Boy Scouts of America.
It’s also where a famous historian wrote a review of World War I. It was so influential in its time that it made an impression on President JFK.
Mianus River State Park
This park is not within a reasonable walking distance. That said, Mianus River State Park is only a 7-minute drive from Montgomery Pinetum.
These 527-acres of park, straddling the Mianus River, are easy to get lost in on a warm day.
It’s also a unique pleasure to do so.
There are plenty more top CT hiking trails only a short distance from downtown Greenwich and Cos Cob.