Short Hikes, Big Rewards

With this year’s gorgeous foliage colors and pleasant outdoor temperatures, fall in Vermont is off to a great start. There is no better time to get outside and enjoy the beauty of our state. Play outside and get a bird eye’s view of the changing season by taking a scenic fall hike or walk. We have put together a list of a few shorter, family-friendly hikes that offer big rewards in the way of views and scenery.

Owl’s Head Trail, Groton State Forest
The Owl’s Head Trail, located in the Groton State Forest, is a short hike that leads to the summit of Owls Head Mountain. This 1.5 mile long moderate trail is accessible from the New Discovery State Park road. From there, you ascend to a parking area and climb stone steps constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s to the summit. Alternatively, hikers can take the seasonal road to the parking area and trek up just the last leg of the trail via the stone steps to reach the summit. At the top, take in stunning views of Kettle Pond, Lake Groton, and the Green Mountains, a particularly beautiful view during peak fall foliage.

Mt. Philo State Park
Mt. Philo State Park in Ferrisburgh is one of the most iconic sites in the state. Views of the Lake Champlain Valley and Adirondack Mountains are dazzling, and attract both residents and visitors to the area. To get to the top, take the Summit Trail, a ¾ mile long easy to moderate hike. Another option for visitors is to take the steep park road (not recommended for trailers) to the top. During the fall, the valley below is lit up with fall foliage and the views are incomparable. 

Allis State Park Fire Tower 
Climbing one of Vermont’s remaining fire towers is a fast and adventurous way to experience some amazing views. Allis State Park in Randolph is a peaceful and remote park located on the summit of Bear Hill. For those willing to climb to the top, the park’s fire tower is one of its most popular features and the ideal spot to enjoy panoramic fall foliage views. Mt. Mansfield and Camel’s Hump can be seen to the north, Killington and Mt. Ascutney to the south, Mt. Ellen to the west, and New Hampshire’s White Mountains to the east.

Brighton State Park, Northeast Kingdom Nature Trail System
If you’re interested in exploring Vermont’s famed Northeast Kingdom, take a visit to Brighton State Park in Island Pond. This wild and remote park is situated on the shores of Spectacle Pond, a warm and shallow body of water that is home to yellow perch, great blue heron, and osprey. Great hiking is found in the Northeast Kingdom Nature Trail system.  The Loggers’ Loop, Main, Red Pine, and Shore Trails all connect in a loop along the Pond and provide lots of opportunities to spot wildlife and brilliant fall colors. Look for signs of ruffed grouse and wild turkey habitat along the trail and keep your eyes open for the red fox and deer that call Brighton home.

Jamaica State Park, West River Trail
The 2-mile long West River Trail in Jamaica State Park is universally accessible is great for strollers and is  a favorite trail among bikers, joggers, and walkers. The trail was converted from an old rail bed and follows the former route of the old West River Railroad an. As you walk, keep your eyes open for “The Dumplings,” a grouping of boulders along the water. From there, the trail continues on to Cobb Brook and then to the Ball Mountain Dam. Observe lovely fall foliage along the banks of the West River as you stroll on this peaceful trail.

Lake Shaftsbury State Park, Healing Springs Nature Trail
Lake Shaftsbury State Park, located in southwestern Vermont, is a popular park with a colorful history. During the 19th century, the site of Lake Shaftsbury was known as Vermont Healing Springs. Mineral water from the springs was bottled and sold for its healing abilities. Today, you can take a walk along the calming Healing Springs Trail, a ¾ mile long loop trail that winds along the Lake.


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