Vermont’s Hidden Paddler’s Trails

Canoe camping along Vermont’s rivers can be one of the best ways to see the state. You drift lazily along, your gear with you, a waterfront campsite not far away.

A number of organizations have mapped out trips, set up campsites and can provide the resources you need to make a great weekend happen. Here are our four favorite picks for river trips, all near roads or bike trails so you can easily arrange for a trip back to your car.

The Connecticut

The Connecticut can be a paddler’s dream. The Connecticut River Paddler’s Trail traces the river from Quebec all the way to its outlet on Long Island Sound and lists access points, campsites and portages along the way. For a short trip, recreate the Bellows Falls overnight or, spend four days on one of the more remote stretches in the northeasternmost corner of Vermont, a 70-mile paddle from Canaan to Gilman with views of Mt. Monadnock and the Great North Woods.

The Missisquoi

The Missisquoi ambles inland from Quebec through some of Vermont’s most scenic farmland with views of the Green Mountains to spill out at Lake Champlain. For a short (one to two-day) trip with few portages put in at Davis Park in Richford and amble west 16 miles to take out at Enosburg Falls. There’s one short portage at Breached Samsonville Dam. The bonuses of this trip, beside the scenery are that you can camp at Doe Campsite on a sandy bluff above the river and the rail trail runs alongside it, making for a pleasant bike back to your car.

The Lamoille

In the last few years, work has been done on both the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail and the Paddler’s Trail. Upon completion, both will follow the river from Greensboro all the way to Lake Champlain. For a two-day trip, put in at Cadyville Falls and then paddle five miles, past Ten Bends, to the Tettor Totter Campsite, put in just last year. From there it’s a 14-mile downstream to Jeffersonville with visits (and portages) at Dog Head Falls and Sloping Falls.

Lake Champlain

While it can be rougher than a river, the Lake Champlain Paddler’s Trail does offer some protected sections that can make for an enjoyable weekend canoe trip, particularly in the southern waters. You can camp out and put in at Button Bay State Park (which also has cabins) and follow the trail 48 miles south to Whitehall, stopping to camp out at Five Mile Point in Shoreham, Vt. To use the trail (or even to get a map and permission to camp), you have to join the Lake Champlain Committee ($45 for general membership) but know it goes toward protecting and maintaining both the lake and the trail.