2016 Black Diamond Awards: Parks and Rec

From lakes and rivers to mountains, trails and parks, this tiny state is home to some of the best areas in the country for outdoor recreation. With 52 state parks all over the state, there’s something for every interest and the variety is reflected in the culture of some of Vermont’s best-known adventure towns. Here, readers pick some of their favorite places to hike, swim, paddle, spend a weekend or just relax.


Favorite Body of Water: Waterbury Reservoir

We asked for any body of water other than Lake Champlain (which would win by virtue of size alone.) This year’s winner is located just minutes from Waterbury, Stowe and Montpelier. This 900-acre reservoir is a favorite spot for swimming, paddling, boating and picnicing. Swing by on a Tuesday evening in July for SUP clinics and rentals from Stowe and South Burlington-based Umiak Outfitters .

Runners-up: 2. Green River Reservoir 2. Lake Memphremagog 3. Lake Willoughby 4. Echo Lake.


Best Gym: Waterbury Crossfit

If you’re looking to get into shape, the people at Waterbury Crossfit are there to help. A certified CrossFit facility, Waterbury CrossFit runs a series of strength and conditioning programs that combine a variety of functional movements (like lifts and squats) performed at high intensity. You won’t find any weight machines here – expect freeweights, chin-up bars and tractor tires. If you’ve never tried CrossFit before, the gym offers a free introductory class every other Saturday morning. Runners-up: 2. Metro Rock, Essex 3. Recfit, St. Johnsbury 4. The Swimming Hole, Stowe, 5. Petra Cliffs, Burlington.


Best Camping Area or State Park: Underhill State Park

Easy access to trails and stunning views from the highest peak in Vermont made this our readers’ favorite spot for camping. This small state park on the west shoulder of Mount Mansfield features seven lean-to sites and two tent campsites for quiet weekend and includes a log shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. For hiking, the Sunset Ridge Trail, three miles to the summit, is popular. Vermont’s Long Trail traverses the summit ridge and, with several trails from the eastern side of the mountain, many loops are possible on the rare alpine terrain. Runners-up: 2. Burton Island State Park, 3. Brighton State Park, 4. Groton State Park, 5. Button Bay State Park.


Best Sports Town (Large): Burlington

With Vermont’s largest lake a stone’s throw away, a wealth of craft brewers, local fare restaurants, sports outfitters and a young and athletic populace, the Queen City is a perennial favorite for this category. With the Rec Path running by the Lake Champlain Sailing Center and the new skate park, the waterfont has become a virtual sports mecca in the summer. Add to that the abundance of climbing gyms, sports stores and bike routes and it’s no wonder that Burlington not only makes our list but leads many national lists of the best outdoor towns in the country. Runners-up: 2. Montpelier 3. Middlebury 4. St. Johnsbury 5. Rutland


Best Sports Town (small): Stowe/Waterbury

This category was a virtual tie between the top three but Stowe/Waterbury won by a nose. With skiing at Stowe Mountain Resort and Trapp Family Lodge, miles of mountain biking between Waterbury’s Perry Hill, Stowe’s Cady Hill and the Trapp Family Lodge Trails, paddling and kayaking on the Waterbury Reservoir and literally hundreds of bars, restaurants and excellent brew pubs, the towns of Stowe, Waterbury and Waterbury Center are an outdoor sports Mecca not to be missed. Runners-up: 2. Waitsfield/Warren/Fayston 3. Burke/Lyndonville 4. Killington 5. Woodstock/Quechee