Join Vermont State Parks for Fun, Guided First-Day Hikes

 

Six hikers stand and smile in front of a snowy lodge and snow frosted evergreens.

First Day Hikers stand in front of Butler Lodge in 2023.


Start the new year on the right foot with a hike in the great outdoors. On January 1, 2024, everyone is once again invited to join a free, guided, family-friendly hike taking place at many state parks, state forests, and other public lands across Vermont. Hikes are led by professional guides and outdoor educators eager to share their knowledge and love of Vermont’s outdoors. Don’t need a guide? No matter where you live in Vermont, a state park or state forest is always close by, and you can still get outside to enjoy it. State Park entry is free on New Year’s Day (and all winter long). You’ll discover a whole new world in winter. 

A toddler smiles at the camera as a parent and a young child enjoy a fire in a CCC-era shelter at Owl's Head.
First Day Hikers warm up at the CCC shelter at Owl's Head.

Please pre-register by contacting hike leaders ahead of time. On hike day dress for the weather and bring snowshoes if the snow is deep, and micro-spikes or traction aids in case of ice. Please also bring beverages and snacks. In the event of questionable weather, your hike leader will get in touch with you.

 Check out our website at http://vtstateparks.blogspot.com/ and our Facebook feed for more information and more hikes as they are added.

 

Here is a list of First Day Hikes happening near you: 

Bartlett Mountain Loop, Willoughby State Forest

Guide Names: Cathi Brooks and Sue Winsor, Green Mountain Club NEK Volunteers

To register or for more information: s.j.p.winsor@gmail.com

Meeting Location: Westmore Parking Lot, south of Lake Willoughby on Route 5A

Meeting time: 10:00am

Hike description: This moderately challenging trail follows the CCC Road in Westmore for about 2.5 miles then we will turn on to the Bartlett Mountain Loop which is about 2 miles, returning on the CCC Road. Total miles is about 6.5. This is also a x-country ski trail and if the trail has been groomed SNOW SHOES WILL BE REQUIRED. Skiers are also welcomed. If there is only a little snow and the CCC Road is packed from previous traffic, micro spikes should be carried to be on hand if needed.

 
Big Deer Mountain, Groton State Forest

Guide Name: Danielle Schneider, Vermont State Parks Regional Operations Manager

To register or for more information: danielle.schneider@vermont.gov  

Meeting time: 9:30am

Meeting Location: New Discovery State Park winter parking area, 4239 VT RT 232, Marshfield, VT 05658

Hike Description: Moderate hike up Big Deer Mountain from New Discovery winter parking area. Two miles round trip, mostly level hike with steep ascent in final 200 yards. Depending on conditions, snow shoes and/or traction aides, and hiking poles recommended.

 

Bomoseen State Park

Guide Name: Caitlin Gates, Vermont State Parks Volunteer

To register or for more information: caitlin.s.gates@gmail.com

Meeting time: 10:00am

Meeting Location: Meet at the Bomoseen State Park Gate, 22 Cedar Mountain Rd., Castleton, VT 05743

Hike Description: Easy, one mile, family friendly hike that winds through some of the quarries, rubble piles and building ruins of the West Castleton Railroad and Slate Company. Traction aides and/or snowshoes required depending on conditions.

 
Button Bay State Park

Guide Name: Ron Payne, Otter Creek Audubon Society President

To register or for more information: rpayne72@myfairpoint.net

Meeting time: 9:00AM

Meeting Location: 5 Button Bay State Park Rd., Ferrisburgh, VT 05491

Hike Description: An easy 2 mile walk on flat terrain in search of overwintering birds.

 
Butler Lodge, Mount Mansfield State Forest

Guide Name: David Hathaway, Green Mountain Club Burlington Section

To register or for more information: david.hathaway.78@gmail.com

Meeting Location: Butler Lodge Trailhead, Stevensville Road, Underhill, VT 05489

Hike Description: Snowshoes required, 4.1 miles, 1600' elevation gain. Group size limit 10. 

 

Colchester Causeway

Guide Name: Patrick Dattilio, Vermont State Parks, Parks Regional Facility & Project Manager

To register or for more information: Patrick.Dattilio@vermont.gov

Meeting location: Causeway Park, 781 Blakely Rd, Colchester, VT 05446

Meeting time: 8:00am

Hike description: Kick off the New Year with a hike across Lake Champlain on the Colchester Causeway. This easy, family friendly hike will start from Causeway Park and head out onto the causeway, all the way out to the opening and back to Causeway Park. Round trip is about two hours. There is no elevation gain, and this hike can be done with hiking boots or other water resistant/proof footwear. Traction aides will be helpful if conditions are icy.

 

Happy Hill Shelter on the Appalachian Trail

Guide Names: Kathy Astrauckas and Bob Hagen, Upper Valley Ottauquechee Section of GMC

To register or for more information: 802-785-4311, email: kabh@myfairpoint.net

Meeting Location: Norwich, VT 05055

Hike description: Moderate hike. A.T.  Loop with Cossingham Road, Norwich, VT, to Happy Hill Shelter. Lovely woods, lots of short ups & downs.  ~ 4 mi., 800' elev. gain.  Moderate.  Conditions will determine what type of footgear is required (snowshoes or microspikes).  Contact leaders for meeting time and place. 

 

Millstone Trails, Barre Town Forest

Guide Name: Kaley Grenier, Vermont State Parks, Call Center Representative

To register or for more information: kaley.grenier@vermont.gov

Meeting location: 44 Brook Street, Websterville, VT

Meeting time: 11:00am

Hike description: This approximately 2.5 mile family friendly, easy hike follows groomed trails through Barre Town Forest. Bring the whole family to explore the winter world in this beautiful forest featuring historic granite quarries, abandoned for over 100 years. This hike is in partnership with the Millstone Trails Association, who generously maintains the over 20 miles of trails in the forest. Trails are groomed and depending on conditions, snowshoes or traction aids may be required.

  

Owl’s Head Mountain, Groton State Forest

Guide Name: Walter Opuszynski, Forest Recreation Specialist, VT Dept of Forests, Parks & Recreation

To register or for more information: walter.opuszynski@vermont.gov

Meeting time: 1:00pm

Meeting Location: Route 232, gated area near Lanesboro Rd. Groton, VT 05046

Hike Description: Moderate, up and down hike geared towards families with young children. Road to the shelter: ¾ mile with 350 feet elevation gain. Trail to the top of the mountain: 1,500 feet with 100 feet of elevation gain. 1 hour+


Round Pond State Park

Guide Names: Guy Maguire, Programs Director, South Hero Land Trust

To register or for more information: Visit the South Hero Land Trust Website 

Meeting Location: 27 East Shore Road, South Hero, Vermont 

Meeting time: 9:30am

 Hike description: Join South Hero Land Trust staff and volunteers at Round Pond State Park for a casual walk through the meadows and woods as we make our way down to celebrate the New Year on the beautiful Lake Champlain shoreline. This family friendly hike is about 1.3 miles round trip, relatively flat, with one short steep section to get down to the beach (optional detour is available).  If there is enough snow, snowshoes can be handy, but are usually not necessary. Similarly, if the conditions are icy,  microspikes, yaktrax or other traction devices can be helpful. 


Spruce Mountain, LR Jones State Forest

Guide Name: Dana Lawrence and Nancy Thomas, Green Mountain Club Montpelier Section Volunteers

To register or for more information: hikeski51@gmail.com  

Meeting time: 10:00am

Meeting location: Spruce Mountain Trailhead, 681 Spruce Mountain Rd, Plainfield, VT 05667

Hike description: This moderate to advanced 4.5 mile (round trip) hike summits Spruce Mountain with a 1,164 foot elevation gain. There is a fire tower located on the summit with expansive 365 degree views. Traction aids and snowshoes are required depending on conditions.

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