The Newport and Jay area is rich with opportunities for outdoor adventure. Its jewels include the northern spine of the Green Mountains, several state forests and parks, miles of scenic country roads, wildlife at every turn, and lakes aplenty. The area’s largest city, Newport, is a destination in itself with the full gamut of amenities. Part of the Northeast Kingdom, the area offers endless places to hike, run, bike, paddle, and swim.
Whether the Northeast Kingdom is your longtime stomping grounds or a place you have yet to explore, there is something new for everyone to try. We’ve picked our favorite things to do in this neck of the woods to get you inspired for your next adventure, and we include the details to get you pointed in the right direction.
1. Paddle the Northern Forest Canoe Trail
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail connects remote and wild waterways from Old Forge, New York, to Fort Kent, Maine, and includes international travel where it crosses into Canada just northeast of Richford, Vermont. Sections five and six of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail offer some of the Northeast Kingdom’s best paddling. The trail follows Lake Memphremagog and the Clyde and Nulhegan rivers, bringing the paddler to the junction with the Connecticut River and the start of section seven, leading to New Hampshire.
Lake Memphremagog offers miles of flat-water boating, and paddlers will need to carry their passport to cross the international border. The rivers, however, offer more varied and exciting terrain. The Clyde is a smooth and gently winding river, perfect for paddlers of all abilities, while the Nulhegen offers a more technical and wild experience, best suited for more experienced paddlers. “The Clyde is great for families. It’s a winding, twisting, easy-flowing river, and it’s great for fishing,” says Kevin Mack, director of partnerships and marketing at the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
To rent boats or schedule a shuttle on the Clyde River, contact Clyde River Recreation in West Charleston at clyderiverrecreation.com or (802) 895-4333. For maps and other trip-planning resources, contact the Northern Forest Canoe Trail at northernforestcanoetrail.org or (802) 496-7285.
2. Hike Jay Peak
Jay Peak is an important landmark on the Long Trail, as it was once the northern terminus. Will Wiquist, executive director of the Green Mountain Club, says, “There’s a reason why for the first 20 years of the Long Trail, Jay Peak was the northern terminus: It’s a spectacular mountain with remarkable views on all sides.”
The Long Trail North from Route 242 in Jay State Forest leads to the summit of Jay Peak. Follow the white blazes from where the Long Trail crosses Route 242 just southeast of the town of Jay, Vermont, to the summit for a moderate 3.5-mile round-trip hike. The hike is fairly steep at times, but includes a fun open rock scramble and is overall an enjoyable ascent.
For directions to the trailhead, detailed trail descriptions, and a map, see the Green Mountain Club’s “Long Trail Guide” or visit the Green Mountain Club Visitor Center on the Waterbury-Stowe Road in Waterbury Center or at greenmountainclub.org or (802) 244-7037.
3. Tour Back Roads by Bicycle
According to Northeastern Vermont Development Association, Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom offers 2,300 miles of ideal biking roads. And according to the hordes of cyclists flocking there, it’s Vermont’s ultimate destination for back-road cycling.
NVDA provides two detailed guides to get you started, “Cycling in the Kingdom” and “Backroad Bicycle Plan,” both of which can be downloaded from its website at nvda.net/bike-pedestrian-travel.php. These excellent and comprehensive guides provide tested loops and highlight connections to east-west and southerly corridors.
The Back Roads to Big Falls loop, described on page nine of “Cycling in the Kingdom,” is an intermediate to advanced 22.4-mile loop that can be made longer with adjacent links to neighboring routes. The route starts in Westfield, circles through Troy, Jay, and North Troy, then passes Big Falls Gorge―a perfect spot for a photo or picnic, and loops back to Westfield.
You can bring your own bike, or rent one from an area shop, like The Village Bike Shop in Derby. Shop owner Jeff Manning highly recommends coming to the area for biking or general outdoor adventure: “This is probably the most geophysical area of Vermont, offering the greatest number and variety of lakes and mountains.” You can learn more by visiting the Village Bike Shop online at villagebikeshopvt.com or calling (802) 766-8009.
4. Swim in a Lake
Northeastern Vermont offers swimmers several options and seemingly endless miles of open water swimming. For a relaxing day at the beach, Prouty Beach and Campground on Lake Memphremagog in Newport is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily from May 4 through Oct. 8, 2013. For more information, visit Newport Parks and Recreation online at newportrecreation.org or call (802) 334-7951. Prouty Beach is a popular place to be on a hot summer day, so those looking for a quieter swim should check out nearby Derby Pond or Lake Salem.
Many long-distance swimmers flock to the region for open water swimming events, like the annual Kingdom Swim. This World Open Water Swimming event is hosted on Lake Memphremagog and will be held this year on Saturday, July 6. The event offers a variety of distances for swimmers of all abilities, including the 10-mile Open Water Championship. For more information on the event and to register, visit the Kingdom Swim website at kingdomswim.org.
5. Check Out the Wildlife at Eagle Point
This 420-acre wildlife management area at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge is located along the eastern shore of Lake Memphremagog in Derby. The parcel consists of forests, wetlands, and nearly one mile of lakeshore habitat. Wildlife includes an array of turtles, wetland mammals like muskrat, mink, and beaver, waterfowl, and a variety of fish like bass, pickerel, and yellow perch. This wildlife refuge is about 6 miles from Newport City on Eagle Point Road and can also be accessed from the Newport-Derby Bike Path. For more information and a map, visit the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife website at vtfishandwildlife.com.
6. Explore the Newport-Derby Path
Walk, run, or bike the path along roads and an old railroad bed, connecting downtown Newport to the Canadian border. Sections of this trail are groomed in the winter and can be skied right up to Canada! The scenery gets particularly spectacular north of the city, as the path passes through wetlands and offers views of Lake Memphremagog. The North Country Chamber of Commerce includes a description of the path and directions on its website, vtnorthcountry.org, in the section “Tours and Trails.”
7. Picnic at Big Falls Gorge
The Big Falls of the Missisquoi River are impressive as the largest non-dammed cascade and gorge on a major Vermont river. The gorge and surrounding 16 acres are a designated natural area managed by the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation and offer excellent fishing, swimming, outdoor photography, and picnicking. The falls are easily accessible: Take River Road off of Route 105 about 1.5 miles southwest of the junction of Routes 105 and 243 in North Troy. There is a large pull-off for parking, and the gorge is a few hundred feet from the road.
8. Find Deals at the Louis Garneau Factory Outlet
The outdoor adventurer can find loads of deals on high-quality cycling, swimming, triathlon, running, speedskating, and Nordic skiing apparel at the Louis Garneau Factory Outlet on East Main Street in Newport. When you get there, be sure to ring the buzzer to be let in during business hours. For more information, visit the website at louisgarneau.com or call (802) 334-5885.