10 Things To Do in the Moosalamoo
1. Hike to a View
With its western-facing slopes and cliff bands, the Moosalamoo has some of the most spectacular hike-to views in the state. An easy, three-mile round trip hike from the Silver Lake/Falls of Lana parking area on Route 53 takes you past the 40-foot cascades and puts you at Lenny’s Overlook. From the cleared cliff, look west across Lake Dunmore to the Adirondacks. An even better version of this view is from Rattlesnake Cliffs, off the Aunt Jenny Trail, though it’s a mile or so longer. For southwestern views of Brandon Gap (and the backcountry ski glades just across Route 73), hike the Long Trail up to Mt. Horrid. And head up Hogback, a three-mile round trip from Blueberry Hill, for an overlook of the whole National Recreation Area.
2. Take a Meaningful Walk
This past spring, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy helped dedicate the new boardwalk and renovated section of the Robert Frost Trail, the second longest universally accessible trail in the state. The trail sits just off Route 125, near the cabin where Frost lived and wrote while he was teaching at Middlebury College. The nearly one-mile trail traverses marshlands, rivers and bits of forest. Along the way, some of Frost’s best-known poems are posted at key lookouts. Farther up 125, make a right on the Goshen-Ripton Road and you will come to the Spirit of Nature Trails. Inspired by the Dalai Lama’s 1997 visit to Middlebury. The paths are short (0.7 to 1.5 miles long) and include posted sayings “to remind you how deeply connected faith tradition is to nature.” At the center is a large 60-foot diameter circle surrounded by towering white pines.
3. Climb a Spire
Just below the Long Trail and Mt. Horrid, Brandon Gap is home to the East’s few free-standing spires. You’ll need to know how to climb, but if you do, it’s a challenging route with stunning views to reward you. See Travis Peckham’s description of the routes on page TK.
4. Camp Lakeside or Near a Flow Trail
Within the Moosalamoo are two stunning campsites, plus one just across Route 53 at Branbury State Park. That park sits on the shores of Lake Dunmore, has a long stretch of beach, campsites and cabins. The Green Mountain National Forest manages two campgrounds within the MNRA (pay $10 and reserve at recreation.gov). Silver Lake, just a 1.5 mile hike from the Falls of Lana parking area, or 0.6 miles down from the Goshen trailhead, boasts some of the prettiest and least-crowded waterfront campsites in the state—but be forewarned there is no drinking water or showers. Set on the shores of the lake in pine groves, the 15 campsites have picnic tables, grills or fire rings, and privvies nearby. Families with young mountain bikers should head to the Moosalamoo Campground, which has a pump track and a mile-long flow trail that circles the campsite. It connects to the Oak Ridge Trail up Mount Moosalamoo, a challenging ride for those with experience. In the midst of the woods is a clearing at Voter Brook Overlook for a view southwest. You can also camp anywhere in the Green Mountain National Forest, but stay at least 200 feet from roads, trails, and bodies of water.
5. Mountain Bike Point to Point
Unlike most of Vermont’s loop-ridden trail networks, the Moosalamoo is geared for point-to-point travel featuring old-school style trails with a few newer flow trails mixed in. The technical Chandler Ridge Trail runs the ridgeline just west of Silver Like and overlooks Lake Dunmore. You can ride Chandler Ridge from Silver Lake 4.8 miles and then return by the Leicester Hollow Trail for about a 10-mile loop. The other distance trail that has recently been upgraded, the Oak Ridge Trail, starts at Route 125 in Ripton and climbs more than 7 miles around Mt. Moosalamoo ending at the Moosalamoo Campground (or vice-versa). The campground also boasts a new flowy 1-mile loop trail that encircles the campground (where young children and teens can improve their skills and always be near-by) and a small pump track for kids. The Moosalamoo Association is also currently mapping a Grand Tour route of 25 miles that connects single track and dirt roads.
6. Run, Race or do a Tri
There are more than 70 miles of trails throughout the Moosamaloo, but the ones most often used by runners are around Blueberry Hill Outdoor Center. These are generally well maintained, mowed, free of nettles and have good surfaces. Some of the popular races are held out of the Blueberry Hill Outdoor Center each July. These include the annual Goshen Gallop 10K or 5k, the Moosalamoo Ultra 36- or 14-mile races, and Infinitus – a week-long series of races from 8K to 888K. Throughout the summer, the Vermont Sun Triathlon Series hosts races out of Branbury State Park. Vermont Sun events kick off with a half marathon in May on roads around Lake Dunmore.
7. Paddle & Fish The Lakes
Bring a SUP or rent a kayak at nearby Branbury State Park and you can explore the 3-mile long Lake Dunmore, home of the state’s record lake trout, Northern pike, bass and more. The Sugar Hill Reservoir is another favorite paddling spot with an easy put-in. It has been drained and closed this past year as work was done on the Goshen Dam, but plans are to refill it in November. There’s great ice-fishing on Lake Dunmore in winter as well.
8. Ski, XC or Backcountry Ski
With lift-served skiing at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl and the groomed cross-country tracks of Rikert Nordic Center, just north of the MNRA, and the backcountry glades of Brandon Gap across Route 73 to the south, the Moosalamoo is bordered by every type of skiing. Within it, you can ski tour the Catamount Trail, the quiet ungroomed trails of Blueberry Hill Outdoor Center or explore the backside of Mt. Moosalamoo, an area that David Goodman includes in his new edition of Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast: 50 Classic Ski Tours.
9. Forage & Bird
With its wide variety of ecosystems, the Moosalamoo has an unmatched natural bounty. In the fall, hunters use the network of trails to look for deer. Mushrooms have been prolific in the woody areas, inspiring local forager Meg Madden to document them on her Instagram page, @megmaddendesign. The Green Mountain National Forest even maintains two wild blueberry picking areas in Goshen. In late summer these are a favorite for bears and humans alike. Come spring, ramps are prolific throughout the area. The Moosalamoo Association also publishes a birding checklist with more than 150 species that make the area home including loons, eagles and peregrine falcons. Download it at moosalamoo.org.
10. Hike or Bike, Inn to Inn
Inn-to-inn hiking (or biking) through the Moosalamoo has been popular and organizations such as the locally-owned InntoInn.com can create custom routes. To do your own tour, stay in one of the 12 rooms at the 1813 Blueberry Hill Inn ($199 to $279). The double occupancy rate includes a bottomless jar of the inn’s delicious cookies, and use of the pond, sauna, ski, snowshoe and hiking trails. You can also set up a tent at the Outdoor Center across the road ($42 a night, shower use included) or book the canvas glamping tent or the “Bed in the Shed”—literally a double bed in a shed ($70). Pizza by the pond and live music are scheduled in the summer and fall at the Inn, with remaining dates this year on Sept. 9, 17 and 23. Travel 7 miles or so down the road or on trails to the classic Chipman Inn in Ripton, just outside the MNRA, where the 9 rooms (some with four-poster beds) start at $189. From there, you can also take backroads or the VAST trail to the Robert Frost Cabins where you can stay in one of 7 cabins (complete with kitchens and gas fireplaces) starting at $237 a night.