Southwestern Vermont hosts two mountain ranges—the Taconics to the west and the Greens to the east, four state parks, miles of scenic roads and trails, and dozens of waterways. The opportunities for fishing, paddling, hiking, camping, and cycling are practically endless. What about morning yoga from the summit of Stratton Mountain? Within a half-day drive from New York City, Boston, and all of New England, this part of Vermont is ideally situated for the Northeastern outdoor adventurer. Following are the details to make the most of your next visit.
Take a Hike
With the Long and Appalachian trails in these parts, there are plentiful day hikes and well-established infrastructure to support the day-hiker. Adam Wanamaker at Stratton Activity Hub says, “There are excellent hiking trails on and around Stratton. In addition to hiking to the (Stratton) summit, there are great hikes in the area that don’t have 2,000 feet of elevation change and are more appropriate for a broader group of people.” The Hub offers guided hikes; check it out at stratton.com or call (802) 297-4482.
1. If you’d rather go it alone, Stratton Mountain is a gem. Will Wiquist, executive director of the Green Mountain Club, says, “The summit of the mountain with its historic―and recently renovated by the GMC―fire tower is definitely one of the highlights.” At just shorter than 4,000 feet, the hike to the summit of Stratton Mountain is a lovely eight-mile out-and-back on the Long/Appalachian Trail, accessed from the Stratton-Arlington Road in Stratton Town. If gaining major elevation isn’t your thing, a hike to Bourn Pond via the Branch Trail is accessible roughly one mile west on the same road. This hike is “a unique wilderness experience,” says Wiquist. “It’s quiet and lightly managed, and beautiful. The trail can be pretty muddy, but there is almost no elevation gain.”
For detailed directions, trail descriptions, and maps for hikes in the Stratton area, see the Green Mountain Club’s Long Trail Guide. Be sure to contact the Green Mountain Club Visitor Center at (802) 244-7037 for the latest information on trail conditions and road closures, particularly because this area was hit hard by Tropical Storm Irene. For hiker shuttles, call First Run Ski Shop at (802) 297-4321―they’ll even let you bring your pup.
2. Jamaica State Park is the perfect base camp with more than 50 campsites. It’s clean, private, and feels remote. Located on the West Branch River, it’s an excellent spot for swimming, fishing, and paddling, and the ideal base camp for multisport adventures. For more information on Jamaica State Park, visit vtstateparks.com.
3. For the backcountry camper, the Lye Brook Wilderness Area, northwest of Stratton Town, offers many miles of hiking trails, including the Long Trail, and several backcountry camping options. Stratton Pond offers tent sites and a GMC shelter, plus more campsites to the west. See the Green Mountain Club’s Long Trail Guide or call the Green Mountain Club Visitor Center at (802) 244-7037.
4. For paddlers, Grout Pond Recreation Area, part of the Green Mountain National Forest accessed from Forest Road 262 in Stratton, offers camping on a first-come, first-served basis. More information and maps can be found on the USDA Forest Service website (fs.fed.us) by selecting “Green Mountain” in the drop-down menu, then searching “Grout Pond.”
Paddle the Open Water
5. Grout Pond Recreation Area, described in the camping section above, and neighboring Somerset Reservoir offer miles of open water and shoreline to explore. Lowell Lake State Park is a local favorite. First Run Ski Shop in Stratton Village, at (802) 297-4321, offers kayak and Stand Up Paddleboard rentals at an hourly rate, plus guided tours on Lowell Lake for a minimum of 6 people.
Strike a (Yoga) Pose
6. The national Wanderlust Yoga Festival (wanderlustfestival.com), with workshops and live music, descends on Stratton Mountain Resort every June. If you missed this year’s gathering, Stratton offers regular yoga classes in The Living Room, a new fitness space with gleaming wood floors, a fireplace, and comfortable atmosphere. For a real treat, practice yoga at mid-mountain or on the summit. Classes offered include Vinyasa Flow and Power Yoga, plus 200- and 500-hour yoga teacher trainings; see the yoga section of the Events & Activities calendar on the Stratton website (stratton.com) for class schedule, the events listing for teacher trainings, or call (802) 297-4230.
7. The Vermont Challenge is “fast becoming one of the major cycling events in the United States” (vtchallenge.com). The multiday tour in August offers several ride options and connects cyclists with local businesses. The routes are designed to be challenging for intermediate and advanced cyclists.
8. Aside from the Challenge, there are plenty of options for pedaling. The West River Trail, a 36-mile rail trail, is the perfect off-road ride with both smooth doubletrack and options for beginner to intermediate singletrack. Find trail maps at westrivertrail.org or call the Stratton Activity Hub at (802) 297-4482 for information. Mountain Riders, a bikes and boards shop located at the junction of Routes 100 and 30 in Rawsonville, offer maps and bike rentals; call (802) 297-1745 or stop in.
For cycling residents, the Manchester and the Mountains Bike Club is a deep resource. This active club coordinates weekly road and trail rides. Become a member and receive info about rides and events at mmbc.us.