Best Parks In Southern Vermont

Day use beach at Lake Shaftsbury State Park 
If you look at a map of Vermont, sometimes it seems like our parks up north get all the love and attention: Grand Isle, Smugglers’ Notch, Lake Carmi, the Groton forest area. Great spots indeed, but now let’s take a moment to consider our collection of parks in southern Vermont that also deserve some love. It’s a diverse group, including Lake Shaftsbury with a picturesque setting in the hills, Jamaica on the rushing West River, and Woodford, our highest elevation park, on a high, forested plateau in the Green Mountain National Forest.

Another plus for those used to driving in northern Vermont or elsewhere- distances are comparatively short, perfect for a short and sweet road trip between parks. Here are our top 6 in the southern third of the state:

Party at Shaftsbury
Lake Shaftsbury State Park, Shaftsbury VT

Lake Shaftsbury is a pretty day use park (and good spot for a picnic or a swim) with boats to rent, spacious lawn, and concession stand. There is a group camping area that accommodated over 90 people, a pavilion to reserve for group events, and a fully furnished cottage. The Healing Springs Nature Trail is an easy walk through the area’s history and human settlement, forests, and wetlands. Keep an eye out for trees more common to southern New England such as red and white oak, and chestnut.

Directions:
11 miles north of Bennington on Route 7A, and just over an hour from Albany NY and Pittsfield MA. 

The West River at Jamaica State Park 
Jamaica State Park, Jamaica VT

Are you an active sort who likes activities like paddling, hiking or fishing? If so, you’ll like Jamaica. The West River runs through the park and some sites directly face the river. The hike to Hamilton Falls starts right in the campground, and when you’re done admiring the view, take a bike ride along the multi-use West River Trail. Periodically, there is white water rafting along the river which attracts paddles from all over the northeast. When you feel like taking a break, walk around the tiny village of Jamaica, and then go for a swim in the park’s swimming hole, or try your hand at fishing in the West River.

Directions:
Half an hour north of Brattleboro, less than 2 hours north of Springfield MA on Route 30/100.

Townshend State Park, Townshend VT

This quiet, woodsy park has a rustic feel that’s like stepping back in time. The grounds feature a green lawn and stone CCC built shelter, old-fashioned tent platforms, nature center, and access to several hiking trails from the park. There is no lake at Townshend, but boating and swimming are available at the nearby Townshend Dam Recreation Area, run by the Army corps of Engineers. Bonus: the rangers, Chris and Tiff are seasoned Vermont State Parks old hands and world travelers. Tell them we sent you, and ask them for travel advice while you’re there!
View near Molly Stark State Park

Directions:
Less than a half an hour north of Brattleboro on Route 30-S.

Molly Stark State Park, Wilmington VT

Molly Stark is another secluded park with access to hiking trails in the southern Green Mountains. There is a grassy picnic area, and a wooden shelter is available to rent for group events, family reunions, or weddings. When you’re ready for a hike, trails lead directly from the park up the Mt. Olga trail and to a fire tower on the summit. From the tower, you can see mountains in all directions and views to several states: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York. Molly Stark is a great park to visit in fall when the foliage makes the surrounding hills pop with color.  

Paddle at Woodford State Park 
Directions: 
Half an hour between Bennington and Brattleboro on Route 9. An hour and 15 minutes from Springfield MA, and 2 hours from Manchester NH.

Woodford State Park, Bennington VT

Located on the Adams Reservoir, Woodford had a small beach area, boat launch, and kayaks and
canoes available to rent. There are several loops in the camping area, with over 100 lean-to, tent/RV sites and 4 cabins available to reserve. Woodford is also a popular park for hiking-a 2-mile loop circles the reservoir, and the Long Trail is just a few miles down the road.

Swimming hole at Fort Dummer State Park
Directions: 
Just over an hour’s drive from Albany NY, Pittsfield MA and Keene NH.

Fort Dummer State Park, Brattleboro VT

This cute, quiet park lies just outside the town of Brattleboro, and offers both a quiet getaway and easy access to town. The park has a picnic area with volleyball and horseshoe pit, and three short hiking trails- one leads to a swimming hole, and both have viewpoints to the surrounding hills.

Brattleboro is a southern Vermont town on the Connecticut river that has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years, with a your choice of restaurants, breweries, and a distillery nearby.

Directions: 
Five miles off of interstate I-91. An hour and ten minutes north of Springfield, 30 minutes west of Keene NH. 

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