Thursday, April 23, 2015

Wilgus State Park Itinerary - Opening April 27th!

In honor of our first Park Opening of the 2015 Season, we’ve prepared a Wilgus State Park Itinerary for everybody who just can’t wait to take advantage of the parks! 

Weekend Itinerary:

Friday evening: arrive, unpack, and unwind in the natural peace and quiet of Wilgus State Park.

Saturday morning: Early breakfast! You’ll need to fuel up for your day.

Adventure by land: Hike to the Mt. Ascutney Observation Tower! The 24.5 foot tower provides hikers with a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside and is located near the summit on the Windsor and Brownsville Trails. The tower was constructed from sections of the original Mt. Ascutney fire tower, which was used for fire surveillance until 1952. 

How to get there: from the upper parking lot on the Mt. Ascutney Parkway, visitors can hike to the summit of Mt. Ascutney via the Slot (.64 miles) or Slab (.55 miles) Trails. If you’re looking for a longer day, these trails do connect with the Windsor (2.7 mi), Weathersfield (2.9 mi) and Brownsville Trails (3.2 mi). Excellent views are enjoyed from Brownsville Rock, Castle Rock, West Peak, and the observation tower. The Slab trail is recommended for hikers seeking the least strenuous route and is marked with yellow diamond blazes. (Although this is the easiest route to the top, sturdy shoes and water are still necessary, as hikers will gain nearly 350 feet in elevation on this short trail.) If you follow this route to the summit, return the same way.

**A picnic lunch at any of the scenic destinations around Mt. Ascutney is a great option if you plan to hike any of the longer summit trails!**

Adventure by sea: Ok, it’s not exactly the sea, but it’s the Connecticut River! In partnership with North Star Canoe Outfitters, you can rent a canoe or kayak and spend a whole or half day on the pristine waters of the Connecticut River. 

How it works: Sign up in person or by phone by 6pm the day before your trip. Meet at the Pavilion in Wilgus at your scheduled time (either 9:15am or 1pm) and take a shuttle up river to begin your trek! Visit the site for pricing and details.

Back at the Park: Enjoy a relaxing picnic lunch on the river bank, and maybe some fishing…

If you are an adult party and didn’t spend the whole day out at the mountain or on the river, you might think about visiting Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, just a fifteen minute drive north of Wilgus State Park. Whether it’s just for dinner at The Riverbend Taps & Beer Garden or you take a brewery tour, it’s a great place to unwind after a day spent outside in the sun! Visit the site for menus and tour schedules.


Because we know you didn’t get enough, why not end your trip with the Pinnacle Trail: an easy, one-mile loop located across from the campground. The hike provides a scenic view of the Connecticut River Valley.

Back at camp, enjoy some riverside lounging, fishing, and lunching, or break camp and check out some historic sites located in Windsor on your way home: 

The Constitution House State Historic Site is a great place to explore Vermont history, and The Old Constitution House features period rooms that reflect its use as an early tavern. A large interpretive area in the early 20th century tea room examines the events surrounding the signing of the Vermont Constitution. 

The American Precision Museum is an amazing place for anyone interested in engineering—The Museum preserves the heritage of the mechanical arts, celebrates the ingenuity of our mechanical forebears, and explores the effects of their work on our everyday lives. Housed in the original Robbins & Lawrence Armory, the American Precision Museum now holds the largest collection of historically significant machine tools in the nation.

Lastly (for those of you are interested) here's a bit of history about the park: the land that makes up Wilgus State Park was given to the state of Vermont in 1933 by Colonel and Mrs. William Wilgus. Colonel Wilgus, born in 1865, was an internationally famous civil engineer whose career paralleled the development of modern transportation. Colonel Wilgus received the Distinguished Service Medal for his work as Deputy Director of General Transportation, and his ideas helped create the Detroit River Tunnel. The original park, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, consisted of a picnic area with large flue-type stone fireplaces, picnic tables, and the ranger's quarters.
Around 1960, expansion of the campground began, paving the way for Wilgus State Park to become a popular destination for canoers, kayakers, and hikers alike.

Today, there are 4 cabins with wifi connection, 17 tent/RV sites, and 6 lean-to sites which are located along the river bank. The park also features a picnic area and shelter (no charge for small group reservations!), 3 lean-tos in the group area, canoe and kayak rental, one rest room with running water, and hot showers. 

All in all, Wilgus State Park offers an awesome range of activities sure to please everyone in your party. We hope to see you out there this weekend, whether on the river, at the summit of Mt. Ascutney, or winding down at your campsite!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Getting Outside During Mud Season

Mud Season Hiking: Q&A

The season we love so much has again returned…you called it: Mud Season! With the warmer weather upon us, it’s easy to get excited and dash out to the parks the second you have a free afternoon—and we want you to! But we need to remind everybody about some precautions to take during these slippery times and how to safely make the most of your outdoor adventures. Here are a few common questions the Vermont State Parks get about hiking during Mud Season!

When is Mud Season, exactly? Early spring through the Saturday of Memorial Weekend (ish)

What does it mean for the trails? When snow melts and we get rain at high elevations, it keeps a lot of trails wet and muddy. When hikers walk on them, it causes irreversible erosion. The trails, as well as surrounding vegetation, are permanently damaged, not to mention your new hiking boots.

Where should I go? Trails at lower elevations, dirt roads, and recreation paths are great options for getting outside for a hike during Mud Season. Lower trails, particularly those that are south-facing and in hardwood forests, will be your best bets!

What should I avoid? Trails at high elevations, conifer forests, and north faces should be avoided.

What should I be on the lookout for? If you need to step on surrounding vegetation in order to cross parts of a trail, please turn around. Also, be attentive to changes in trail consistency—some trails will start off dry, but start to get increasingly muddy. In these instances, please play it safe and find a different trail to hike!

Any changes in the parks during Mud Season? Yes! Camel's Hump and Mount Mansfield are "closed" from mid-April until May 22nd. These are very fragile areas and we appreciate your cooperation in staying off the trails.

Any other areas to avoid? YES: Stratton Mountain, Killington Peak, Lincoln Ridge (Mount Ellen to Appalachian Gap), and Jay Peak have all reported delicate conditions in the past. Please play it safe!

Ok then…where should I hike?
We’re so glad you asked!! Some recommended places to hike this spring are: 

Northeast Vermont:
• The Cross VT Trail - runs west to east across VT 
• Thresher Hill; Pine Brook Trails
• Liberty Hill; Contest Trails
• Lefferts Pond
• Robert Frost Interpretive Trail 
• Stowe Bike Path

Happy trails!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The First Five...It's Almost Time!

Summer is fast approaching, and we can’t wait to see everyone out at the parks. Here’s a quick look at the five parks that open first, starting in just a few weeks!

April 27 - Wilgus

 Located in Weathersfield, this park provides day use access to the Connecticut River and the Pinnacle Trail hike provides a scenic vista of the Connecticut River Valley. The original park, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, consisted of a picnic area with large flue-type stone fireplaces and picnic tables, and the ranger's quarters. It now boasts 4 cabins with wifi connection, 17 tent/RV sites, and 6 lean-to sites which are located along the Connecticut River bank. There is one rest room with running water and hot showers, a picnic area, and 3 lean-tos in the group area. There is also a small picnic shelter that can be reserved at no charge for small groups, and canoes and kayaks are available!

Nearby Things to Do: Mt. Ascutney State Park (great hiking!), Windsor Covered Bridge, American Precision Museum, Quechee Gorge, VINS Nature Center, St. Gaudens National Historic Site.

Wilgus State Park
3985 Route 5
Weathersfield, Vermont 05156

 May 8 - Jamaica

 Located on a beautiful bend of the West River, Jamaica State Park is a favorite spot for many fishermen. The combination of deep slow running water and shallow fast ripples makes for the perfect conditions to get some bites!There are 41 tent/RV sites and 18 lean-to sites that are spread out through the campground. Two rest rooms, complete with hot showers, are located in the campground. A picnic shelter and nature center are located near the picnic area and swimming hole. A hiking trail follows the West River and branches off toward Hamilton Falls. Don’t forget to bring Fido! Pets are permitted throughout the park.
Nearby Things to Do: Hamilton Falls, Hildene - Robert Todd Lincoln's home, Manchester. A theater and shops, Weston; Art Center, Manchester; Alpine Slide, Bromley; Townshend Dam Recreation Area.

Jamaica State Park
48 Salmon Hole Ln.
Jamaica, Vermont 05343

May 8 - Grand Isle 

Looking for weekend plans? Grand Isle State Park is the most-visited campground in the state park system, located on South Hero Island in Lake Champlain. With 4,150 feet of Lake Champlain shoreline, Grand Isle is popular with many destination campers who spend their entire vacation here!
The Island (Grand Isle) is 14 miles long and over 3 miles wide, making it the largest in Lake Champlain. It contains the towns Grand Isle (on the northern half) and South Hero (on the southern half). The North and South Hero Islands are named in honor of early pioneering Vermonters who served in the American Revolution.

There are 117 tent/RV sites, 36 lean-to sites, and 4 cabin sites that make this Vermont's second-largest state campground. Rest rooms have running water and hot showers. There is a trailer sanitary station but please be aware there are no hookups. Many of the sites are large enough to accommodate self-contained RVs, and lakeshore areas permit water access for swimming and shore fishing. There is a boat launching ramp for registered campers, and you can rent kayaks and rowboats through the park office! Also within the park is a sand-court volleyball, horseshoes, a play area and a nature walk. Campers are also allowed free entry to the sand beach at Knight Point State Park seven miles north and Alburgh Dunes State Park nineteen miles north. Don’t forget to check the Nature Center for interpretive programs, games, or entertainment!

Nearby Things to Do:Hacketts' Orchard, South Hero; Chazy Reef (world's oldest fossil reef), Isle LaMotte; St. Anne's Shrine, Isle LaMotte; Hyde Log Cabin (nation's oldest), Grand Isle; Ed Weed State Fish Hatchery, Grand Isle; Snowfarm Vineyard, South Hero; Lake Champlain Ferries, Grand Isle; Shelburne Museum, Shelburne; Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, Shelburne; Church Street Marketplace, Burlington; ECHO: Lake Aquarium & Science Center, Burlington; Niquette Bay State Park, Colchester, North Hero State Park, North Hero; Alburgh Dunes State Park, Alburgh; Sand Bar State Park, Milton.

NOTE: Access to the campground is limited to campers via an electronic security gate, and campers will need to obtain a pass card with a $20 refundable deposit at the park office.

Grand Isle State Park
36 East Shore South
Grand Isle, Vermont 05458

May 9 – Niquette Bay

 Our strategy at Niquette Bay is to support an oasis for appreciating nature. Although camping is not permitted, there is a beautiful park trail system, comprised of three interlocking “loops” along which a variety of great hiking combinations can occur. Two long ridges with summits rising to over 400’ elevation run parallel along a sandy terrace that splits the park into two sections. Limestone cliffs form the headwall of the western of the two ridges, and the park’s trail system accesses high points along each of these ridges, from which impressive vistas overlook Malletts Bay to the south, the Green Mountain ridge line to the east, and the Lake Champlain Islands to the west. The complete loop around the Ledges, Muhley, and Island View trails is 3.5 miles. The shortest distance to the lakeshore is 0.6 miles, via the Allen trail.

Day use hours are from 10 a.m. to sunset, to give you as much time as possible to enjoy the natural beauty that pervades Niquette Bay’s 553 acres. Niquette Bay is pet-friendly, although proof of rabies vaccination is required and pets must remain on-leash at all times.

NOTE: Public drinking water is not supplied at Niquette Bay. Please come prepared!

Niquette Bay State Park
274 Raymond Road
Colchester, Vermont 05446

May 15 – Lake Carmi

The largest of the state’s campgrounds, Lake Carmi State Park includes over two miles of frontage on the southern and eastern shores of Lake Carmi, which is the fourth largest natural lake entirely within Vermont! The lake used to be much bigger, but after thousands of years much of it has become a beautifully undisturbed peat bog characterized by spindly black spruce, tamaracks, mountain holly, and pitcher plants. Most of the 140-acre bog lies within Lake Carmi State Park and is a designated State Natural Area, which means it’s been set aside for the preservation and protection of its unique ecological, geological, or scenic and contemplative values.

There are 140 tent/RV sites, 35 lean-to sites, and 2 cabins in the campground. Rest rooms have running water and hot showers, and most sites are large enough to accommodate self-contained RVs. You can entertain yourself at the swimming beaches, nature center, or even rent a boat! Your pet can come camping with you but is not invited to the day use areas.

Nearby Things to Do: Missisquoi Rail Trail, Franklin Town Museum, 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Sundays; Franklin County Historical Society, St. Albans; Jay Peak Ski Area; Smugglers' Notch and Stowe ski areas (gondola and alpine slide); Missisquoi National Wildlife Rufuge, Swanton; Granby Zoo, Granby, Quebec.

Lake Carmi State Park
460 Marsh Farm Rd.
Enosburg Falls, VT 054850

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Don't Be Made a Fool! Fun Camping Pranks from VSP

In honor of April Fool’s Day, Vermont State Parks has compiled a list of some fun, harmless pranks our many campers might consider when they visit this summer. Camping is a great escape from the concerns and techno-babble of daily life, and can also serve as a wonderful excuse to have some creative fun. Here are some ideas to get you started, and never forget: these aren't just for April…pranks are good year round! 

Beginner Level Shenanigans: 

1. Oh You Didn't Want Your Nails Painted?

This is a classic…wait for someone in your camp to fall asleep and give them a little makeover. Some nail polish is always a hit, and eye shadow if you can pull it off without them waking up. Hopefully you remembered to pack the hot pink nail polish for dad and the black polish for your sister!

2. No Escape

Did you remember a paper clip? Got a piece of string? When your fellow campers head to bed, just tie the outside zippers to their tent door closed and wait for their attempt to leave in the morning. NOTE: This prank is only as funny for as long as it’s funny—let your poor family and friends out of the tent before it puts a damper on things!

3. Those Aren't My Feet in this Sleeping Bag…

A great way to give someone a brief scare is to slip a pine cone into the bottom of their sleeping bag and wait for the hilarity to ensue. Nobody wants dirt in their sleeping, or a leaky water bottle…a pine cone is an easy way to get the fun without the hassle of having to clean out someone else’s stuff! Just get ready to have a pine cone beaned at your tent.

Intermediate Mischief:  

1. Why are You Panting?

If your crew is planning a day of hiking, this is always a winner. Sneak as many rocks as you can into someone’s backpack at the beginning of the day, and pack things on top. Make up a reason as to why the pack is so heavy—you have the water bottles! You have the food! You said you could carry the first aid kit! This works particularly well for hikers who fancy themselves in incredibly good shape. (Whoever is bragging the most about their outdoors experience should get the rocks.) Wait until you reach your destination and ask why they seem so exhausted. Then “find” the rocks in their pack…Oh that’s where I put those!

2. This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Tents

Another classic that just never gets old…in the middle of the night, uproot the poles of someone’s tent and either change the shape of the tent by bringing the corners in or out, or collapse the tent entirely by unhooking the poles. Bonus points for doing this on the windiest night possible. 

Advanced Prankers Only:

1. Attack of the Knids

This one takes a bit of prep, but is highly effective when done properly. You’ll need to bring old toilet paper tubes and some glow sticks with you on your trip. Take the old toilet paper tubes and cut eye shapes into them on one side. Angry eyes work best! At night, preferably just before you tell some ghost stories, activate the glow sticks and put them into the toilet paper tubes to illuminate the eyes. Hide the tubes in the bushes around your campsite and watch as your fellow campers slowly realize there are glowing eyes in the bushes all around them. Bonus points if you can convince them they are surrounded by Vermicious Knids!

2. The Lonely Camper

Another classic, this prank can be tough to pull off, but is absolutely worth the trouble. It works best on reluctant campers or those who aren't confident in their orienteering skills. Before your target gets up in the morning, get everyone else at the campsite to quietly pack up and leave. Obviously, this is usually a Last Morning type of prank. The reaction is priceless when your friend/parent/sibling/arch nemesis wakes up and discovers that they are alone in the woods, regretting their decision to accompany you on this camping trip entirely.

Now, it’s important to remind everyone that the Vermont State Parks do not condone any malicious or dangerous behavior whatsoever—these are all meant in jest, and should not in any way hurt a member of your camping party. We just hope you have a great time in our parks, and consider having a bit of fun with each other while you’re visiting. 

Merry Pranking!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Destination: Love! The Most Romantic Spots in Vermont State Parks

Snow is in the air and, during this second week in February, so is love! There are many ways to show your beloved that you care: taking a brisk stroll beneath a winter moon, gliding through some fresh powder side-by-side, or scraping ice and snow off their car. For many lovers of the outdoors, Vermont State Parks are a romantic destination. Parks become the site of several marriage proposals and lots of weddings every year.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are our picks for the Most Romantic Locations in Vermont State Parks:

One of the most popular hiking destinations in the state, Mt. Philo State Park is also a wonderful place to take a date! A quick hike to the top really delivers with beautiful views of the Lake Champlain Valley and Adirondack Mountains. Regardless of the season, Mt. Philo really captures all of the beauty and romance of the state.

Little River State Park
Take a romantic trip to Little River State Park for camping, hiking, swimming, and visits to nearby Waterbury and Stowe. The only thing more exhilarating than falling in love? Being towed up and over snowy trails by a team of Siberian Huskies.
Climb the historic rock path to the Owl’s Head summit for views of Kettle Pond, Lake Groton, and the Green Mountains. You can really feel the love as you gaze out from this iconic Vermont vista.

Allis State Park Fire Tower
Do you feel like your love keeps on lifting you higher and higher? Explore that feeling at the Allis State Park fire tower. From the top you can take in a panoramic view of the surrounding scenery that includes Killington, Mt. Mansfield, Mt. Abraham, and New Hampshire’s White Mountains. This charming and peaceful park is perfect for a quiet outing with the one you love.

Did we miss your favorite spot? Tell us your State Park love story! 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"The Scrappers" Return to Seyon Lodge

By: Seyon Lodge State Park

This weekend at Seyon Lodge State Park, we had a group of scrap-booking enthusiasts come and transform the conference room into a craft workshop for three days. The fourteen member club, who have affectionately dubbed themselves "The Scrappers," have been coming to Seyon Lodge to produce beautiful works of art every year for nine straight years!

The group says they look forward to this weekend all year long, and that leaving Seyon is always such a hard thing to do. Never fear ladies. Next year's stay is already booked!

Seyon Lodge State Park is a great place to bring your own club or organization for its next retreat. Be it quilting, knitting, beading, or scrap-booking, any kind of craft you're into, we'd love to have you!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Get the Sled Out: Where to Go Sledding in Vermont State Parks

For Vermonters, the winter landscape is like an outdoor playground! There are a lot of ways to play in the snow, but there is nothing quite like feeling the wind whipping and the snow flying as you careen down a hill on a sled. For your luging pleasure, we have put together a list of some great sledding hills in Vermont State Parks to try out this winter:   

Mt. Philo State Park:
You may have visited this popular park in the summer to take in the spectacular summit views, but have you ever had the chance to experience Mt. Philo in the winter? A short hike up the park road brings you to the top of a wide run with gentle turns that’s perfect for a fast-paced sled trip.
In the winter, this park’s favored picnic spot transforms into an ideal sledding hill. The steep, treeless slope is located near the lower parking lot and overlooks the Waterbury Reservoir so you can enjoy an expansive view as you speed down the hill.

Elmore State Park:
For younger kids or beginning sledders, Elmore offers some smaller, gentle hills found by the Hickory and Juniper lean-tos. Bring your cross-country skis to explore the park after your sled runs.

Mt. Ascutney State Park: 
For more experienced, speed-seeking sledders, the steep park roads at Mt. Ascutney are exhilarating. Take your sled for a spin on the Summit Road for some extreme runs.

The Smugglers’ Notch Pass, Stowe:
This narrow, winding road runs between Stowe and Jeffersonville on Route 108. Closed from October-May, the road is a popular sledding destination after the snow falls. The steep incline and curving road make the mile hike to the top worth it. Snowshoes are recommended.

Now is the time to get out and explore Vermont’s winter wonderland! Remember to sled safely and to take a look at our Off-Season Park Use page for information on parking and facilities in Vermont State Parks during the winter.