Foliage Time inVermont's Northeast Kingdom
More rugged and rural than the rest of the state, the Northeast Kingdom provides early and prime leaf-viewing opportunities for hikers and walkers.
Groton State Forest, a 26,154 acre preserve, is an especially popular fall destination. Groton's 17-plus miles of hiking trails range from easy to difficult, and an additional 20 miles of roads are available for mountain bikers and horseback riding. The 7.5-mile-long Montpelier-Wells River railroad bed provides an excellent walking route, and will be part of the future Cross-Vermont Trail, a multi-purpose trail under development. Owl's Head Mountain in the Forest is especially appropriate for hiking with small children; a 20-minute climb is rewarded by sweeping views. And the well-known Peacham Bog, an unusual raised bog with specialized flora and fauna, glows with color this time of year.
In Plainfield, the L. R. Jones State Forest offers spectacular views from the Spruce Mountain fire tower. The first mile of the forest trail traverses the main truck road in the Forest, then it continues moderately for 1.2 miles to the summit. Views of Noyes Pond, Mt. Mansfield, and even Mt. Washington in New Hampshire can be had from the summit of Spruce Mountain and from the fire tower.
Mount Pisgah, overlooking the clear waters of Lake Willoughby, offers great foliage-viewing opportunities and stunning vistas from its glacier-carved cliffs. Five and a half miles of graveled roads wind through the Willoughby State Forest, and another nine miles of hiking trails climb to the summits of Mt. Pisgah, and to Mt. Hor, a less spectacular and therefore less crowded hike on the other side of Lake Willoughby. Hiking trails range from moderate to difficult. The area is thickly forested. You will probably see at least one moose, and you should keep an eye out for hawks and peregrine falcons as well.
Victory State Forest and Victory Basin Wildlife Management Area (with dirt road access from the town of Victory or the hamlet of Gallup Mills) and Darling State Park are three state land parks within the northern towns of Victory and Burke. Turn left onto River Road to Victory Bog and the Victory Basin Wildlife Management Area, a diverse, glacially-formed northern ecosystem. There are hiking trails and logging roads where you might see river otter, moose, great-horned owls, and ruffed grouse. More than 10 miles of graveland more than 16 miles of unimproved roads and trails exist here. A fire tower sits atop the summit of Burke Mountain. Most trails are easy, but many are usually quite wet.
Speaking of wet, the Kingdom is full of fresh water lakes Lake Willoughby, Great Averill Pond, Ricker Pond, Maidstone Lake, and Lake Elmore among them. Many have camping sites and trails. All are lovely, quiet, and so dark at night that you'll see billions of stars sparkling above you.
For those who are not avid hikers, but, rather, leisurely walkers, in nearby Stowe, not in the Kingdom but just due west of Hardwick and Woodbury, is a 5.5-mile recreation path designed for strollers, inline skaters and cyclists. It meanders by streams and fields filled with Holsteins and great views of Mt. Mansfield.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication