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Vermont is a state for outdoor enthusiasts, with its green forests, peaceful meadows, and inspiring landscapes. Vermont residents and visitors love getting outside and active here with hiking, camping, swimming, biking, skiing, and many other kinds of recreation. Fortunately, you can do all of these things in the lovely state and national parks scattered around the state. These are our favorite parks to check out in Vermont.
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Smugglers’ Notch State Park is known for its 1,000-foot cliffs and exciting outdoor activities like ice climbing, bouldering, cave exploring, and biking. This park got its name from when people continued on with illegal trade with Canada through this area after President Thomas Jefferson passed an embargo act forbidding it. Everything from cattle to liquor and fugitive slaves were moved through the Notch. Today, popular hikes are the Hell Brook Trail, Sterling Pond Trail, and Long Trail. There’s a new campground here that has a nice restroom facility and also 20 tent sites and 14 lean-to sites. This park is open from June through October.
Mt. Philo is a 968-foot peak that’s the namesake for this 237-acre park that was actually the first Vermont state park ever created back in 1924. From here, you’ll see views of the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Champlain Valley while you enjoy hiking, camping, and picnicking. The summer months are particularly busy at this park. You can drive or hike to the summit of the mountain and see moose and white-tailed deer, as well as migrating birds in the fall. The north side of the park has a small campground with seven tent sites and three lean-to sites. There’s also a rustic lodge that is available for events here. Mt. Philo State Park is open from June through October for camping and through November 1st for day use.
Half Moon Pond State Park is a quiet camping area that’s within the 3,500 acres of forest in Bomoseen State Park. This is a lovely place to camp with tents/RV sites, lean-to sites, cabins, and one cottage. Sites are available in the woods and at the water’s edge. The park also has hiking trails that lead to the pond and to Bomoseen State Park. Come here to kayak, canoe, or pedal boat on the pond because motorized boats aren’t allowed here. Anglers enjoy coming to this pond to catch largemouth bass, yellow perch, and panfish. This park is open between June and October.
Located in southeastern Lamoille County, Elmore State Park features a mountain and lake near the town of Elmore. The lake spans 219 acres, and the mountain is at 2,608 feet in elevation. This is a popular recreation facility that has a campground with tent/RV sites and lean-to sites, as well as two campground bathrooms with coin-operated showers and hot and cold water. Hike the trails that lead to the top of Elmore Mountain, go swimming on the sandy beach, and rent a boat here to really enjoy the park. There is a beach house function room and outdoor picnic pavilion available here to rent. Like many Vermont state parks, this park is open from June to October.
This Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is part of the National Park System and highlights the mountains, pastures, covered bridges, and natural beauty of Vermont. There are 20 miles of trails and carriage roads to explore here on foot and on horseback. Start your trip at the visitor center, and consider taking a guided tour between Memorial Day and October. It’s also worth checking out the Billings Farm & Museum next to the park while you’re here. In addition to coming here to take a scenic walk through the woods, the park typically offers events throughout the year and also working woodlands workshops for hands-on learning.
Green Mountain National Forest is wonderful to visit in Vermont in the western part of the state and near the New York Finger Lakes region. The forest has eight designated wilderness areas where you can escape from modern life and experience long-distance hiking trails that connect public lands and local communities. Exciting areas to visit are Thundering Falls, the White Rocks Cliff Trail, Little Rock Pond Trail, and the Hapgood Pond Recreation Area. Overall, there are more than 900 miles of trails here for both summer and winter use. In the winter, come here for the three alpine and six Nordic commercial ski areas.
Another state park worth checking out is Mt. Ascutney State Park that flanks the 3,144-foot-tall mountain. Here you’ll find over 12 miles of hiking trails that depart from four trailheads. Along the trails, you can see former homesteads and quarries to learn about the region’s history. You can also get great views of the Connecticut River Valley from the trails. Additionally, the park hosts biking, running, and auto races, and it’s an awesome place to go hang gliding. For an overnight stay, choose one the of tent/RV sites or lean-to sites in two campground loops. The park is open from June to October.
Mt. Mansfield State Forest in Vermont spans 44,444 acres and has four state parks within its boundaries: Little River State Park, Smugglers’ Notch State Park, Underhill State Park, and Waterbury Center State Park. Mount Mansfield is the highest peak in Vermont, standing at 4,393 feet tall. The forest has three state-owned-and-operated campgrounds, the Waterbury Center Day Use Area, two alpine ski resorts, and two Nordic ski centers. There are also some awesome backcountry skiing trails in the forest.
The epic Appalachian Trail passes through Vermont, so even if you don’t want to hike the whole trail, it’s fun to check out the Vermont section while you’re here. The trail runs through a wooded section of the town of Norwich and down Main Street. Therefore, this is a popular place for through-hikers to stop for food, supplies, and rest. The trail is part of the National Park System and extends over 2,180 miles long.
Quechee Gorge State Park is one of the most scenic state parks in Vermont because of its deep gorge that was formed by glaciers thousands of years ago. You can look down the gorge to see the Ottauquechee River 165 feet below and soak up the views. This is a great place to camp between June and October. There are various tent/RV sites and lean-to sites here.
You’ll also love visiting Underhill State Park when you’re in the Mt. Mansfield area of Vermont to experience ski season, unusual vegetation along the summit ridge, and excellent hiking trails. There are four trails that go from this state park to the summit ridge of the mountain. You can stay in the seven lean-to sites and two tent sites at the upper camp area or at the lean-to sites and tent sites at the lower camp area for overnight stays. Off-season access is possible at this park, and you can even ski into the park when there is sufficient snowfall.