Summer is here in the Green Mountain State, which means (mostly) cooperative weather that allows for opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. This gives me the perfect chance to share my favorite recreation spots in VT, and why they should be yours too.
1. Mountain Biking at Cady Hill in Stowe
If you’ve ever been to Stowe, you know that Cady Hill is the place to mountain bike in the area. If you haven’t been, you’ll quickly learn why that’s true. Cady Hill trails have, you guessed it, lots of hills! But what’s great is that the hard work you put in on the gradual, winding uphill makes for a fantastically-smooth, flowing downhill that makes even the manliest of men giggle while riding. The trail is not very long, but connects to other surrounding trails and offers a great, quick way to get out and enjoy the woods. And a bonus: there are great pubs within easy walking (or biking) distance of the trailheads, making the post-ride beer taste that much sweeter. For a full trail map and directions, click here.
2. SUPing on Lake Champlain
If mountain biking is not quite your thing, why not get out on the water instead? Stand-up paddleboarding, or ‘SUPing,’ is quickly becoming the next big sport for water fanatics. It allows ‘SUPers’ to quickly move across the body of water in a fun, aerobic means. And with Lake Champlain covering more than 490 square miles all along the states of Vermont, New York and even into Canada, there are plenty of areas to explore on a SUP.
A great trip is to start at North End Campground and end at Red Rocks Beach, slowly meandering along Burlington’s shoreline. If you don’t have your own equipment, then you could rent them or even go on a guided tour with Kite N’ Paddle.
3. Trail Running along the Saxon Hills Trails
This is, admittedly, one of my favorite lunch-break trail runs of all time. Although not required to be enjoyed over lunch-break, these trails are well-packed and has some slow, but steady climbs and fast descents. One of my favorite routes is to head from the parking lot to the main trailhead, sticking to the left on the old logging road, heading towards the top of the hill. The long climb to the top of the hill will leave you rewarded with the epically-fast Flo downhill section. Running at Saxon Hills is fantastic for those looking for a plenty of options to get a short lap in, or head out on a great 12 mile loop.
*Do take caution though, mountain bikers are the primary users of the trails and can come around corners a lot faster than runners do. Not that I’ve learned this from experience….
More info and maps for Saxon Hills can be found here.
4. Hike the Sunset Ridge Trail
The Sunset Ridge Trail on Mounts Mansfield is arguably the most beautiful hike in the State of Vermont. The trails is about 3 miles long from trailhead to summit and features some fairly rocky, technical and sometimes steep terrain. Mount Mansfield is, after all, the tallest mountain in Vermont. But what the trail boasts in difficulty, it makes it up with the views. Hiking from the summit down the Sunset Ridge Trail will offer the best views, though both directions are quite enjoyable. You’ll want to leave yourself at least 3 hours to enjoy the hike (one way) as you’ll often find yourself stopping and enjoying the views. This hike, up and back, makes for an excellent day-hike! Though do be warned, this is the most well-traveled trail on Mount Mansfield. If you want to get away from the crowds, either go early in the morning or, as one would suspect, later in the afternoon.
More info and maps about Sunset Ridge Trail can be found here.
5. Stay at the Merck Forest Cabins
One of our favorite activities in the summer, for obvious reasons, is a visit to Merck Forest. While there might not be mountain biking or ‘SUPing’ around, there are certainly quite a few hiking trails to enjoy throughout the forest. And with all sorts of nature walks, farm tours and other events happening, it’s an easy way to get the whole family outside. Merck Forest is most well-known for it’s range of cabins scattered throughout the forest area. These cabins & shelters are just as you’d expect for Vermont; prominently rustic with a wood-stove for heat, sleeping lofts, and detached outhouses. Many of these have water on-site, but do need to be either boiled or filtered before drinking. If you’re looking for a way to immerse yourself in the woods of Vermont, then this is the place to be. These cabins can are rented on a nightly basis and are first-come, first serve. Visit the Merck Forest website to learn more.