The Groton State Forest: A Winter Playground For All Ages

Fat biking at Seyon Lodge. Photo by innkeeper Tiff Soukup


Many know and love the 27,000-acre Groton State Forest as a summer destination, returning year after year for camping, swimming, hiking, nature walks, biking, horseback riding, and more. As the season wears on, nights turn from crisp to cold, crowds at the beach disperse, and the last campers return home for the season as leaves turn from green to gold and orange. And so, by the time winter brings fresh snowfall to the forest, few people (and critters) that live there year-round are there to see. The landscape is less lush, of course, but with its’ own stark beauty. If you haven’t had experienced a winter Groton adventure yet, it’s definitely worth a trip.

Kettle Pond after new snowfall 
Travelling on a warm day in February with my snowshoes and no particular destination in mind, this was my first winter foray- and to be honest I was slightly skeptical about visiting “off-season”. I have been camping at Ricker Pond since I was small and have many fond memories of days at the beach, campfires, and so on. In my memories it’s always summer here, but the spirit of adventure made me curious. After all, the dramatic magic of changing seasons and landscape is one of the reasons we love Vermont.

In summer months, one of my favorite things about Groton is large network of trails that you can easily spend a day or a week exploring- hills, remote lakes, and one of the largest bogs in Vermont. In winter, this trail network offers a different set adventures- on snowmobile, skis, snowshoes or fat bike. Make sure to dress in layers, pack a backpack with snacks, water and extra socks and mittens. Another bonus: except for the groomed trails at Seyon Lodge, all are free. At the plowed parking area, I strapped on my shoes, grabbed my backpack and set out. 
Don't let winter stop you from having fun- just dress for the weather!

Kettle Pond is one of my favorite spots. I appreciate the quiet and sense of solitude year-round, and love the loop trail that meanders around the lake and past several remote campsites. The snow was not too deep and a trail had already been packed down, making easy walking. It was a warm, sunny day and in truth I didn’t make it around the pond. Instead I spend a long time sitting, looking out at the snow-covered lake, listening to birds and wind scraping through bare branches. The scene looked different, but felt the same.

Winter sunsets are often colorful at Seyon Lodge
When I left Kettle Pond, there was still plenty of daylight left, so I decided to stop by Seyon to try out the groomed trail. If you are interested in staying longer than a day, Seyon Lodge is the only state park open year-round and our only lodge. Seyon offers cozy rooms and a central fireplace, and yummy meals. There are several loops and cut-offs to try, both easy and moderate level. If you are feeling adventurous, you can ski 6 miles to Spruce Mountain and back. Or you can bring a fat bike and explore on 2 wheels. I walked around the trail and sat by the pond just in time to enjoy the beginning of a Noyes Pond sunset. The season was different but the feeling was the same: I didn’t want to leave. 

Learn more:

The Groton State Forest is 30 miles from Barre/ Montpelier, and 30 miles from St. Johnsbury.

Off-season (winter) camping is available through April 15th at several parks in Groton for no charge when you request a permit online in advance. There are no facilities open or ranger on duty, and everything is carry-in carry-out. There is no vehicle access to sites- you must park outside of the gate (without blocking) and walk in. To request a permit, and everything else you need to know about off-season camping,visit our page online.

Fore more information about Seyon Lodge, visit them on the web. Seyon is also popular for group retreats, functions and weddings. For any questions or to reserve, contact the lodge directly at (802) 584-3829. 

Resources:

Groomed winter trails map at Seyon Lodge here:

Map of Groton trails:

A network of snowmobile trails runs through the forest. Search for trails in the forest at the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers website (VAST) 

Fat bikes are allowed only on certain designated trails in the forest. Learn more and fine trail maps here.


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