Set deep into the Groton State Forest, 30 minutes from Barre, an hour from Montpelier and 30 miles from Interstate 91, there’s a lodge by a lake with your name on it. Welcome to Seyon Lodge State Park. One of the few state parks that operates year-round, it’s home to a lodge that makes for a great weekend away and a home base for exploring by snowshoe, fat bike or cross country ski.
In Vermont’s early history, the surrounding landscape saw dramatic changes including heavy logging, several large forest fires in 1876, 1883 and 1903 and even a hurricane in 1938. The addition of a railroad in 1873 allowed seasonal travelers to enjoy summers on lakeside campsites. The state bought its first tract of land in 1919 and continued to expand its holdings to 27,000 acres of preserved forest and lakefront, making it the second-largest plot of state land administered by Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.
While Vermont’s state parks technically close their facilities after Columbus Day, you can still enjoy what Groton State Forest and other nearby state parks have to offer during the winter. While many parking areas are closed, the trails in the neighboring state parks and forest can still be accessed from the Groton Nature Center, the Overlook, Kettle Pond, the Northern Parking Area and New Discovery.
The day use parking area at Kettle Pond is plowed and provides access to the pond and the trail around it. In the summer, anglers flock to Noyes Pond, just outside of Seyon Lodge, for some of the best fly-fishing in the area.
Far from rustic, Seyon Lodge feels like a simple B&B and comes with attentive lodge keepers, WiFi, home-cooked meals (on request) and a great room with a working fireplace. It’s often booked for weddings, conferences and retreats and can accommodate 30 day-guests and 16 overnight guests, with 8 private and group bedrooms. With fresh linens, towels and about all you could possibly need, this lodge is far from primitive. After a snowshoe, curl up by the fireplace.
The lodge’s kitchen and lodge keepers can also serve three very good meals a day for a fee and can accommodate any dietary needs. Dinner might be wood-fired pizza, a salad with carrots stored from the summer garden or a hearty stew. During holiday weeks, the 16 beds fill quickly, so make reservations by calling 802-584-3829.
Overnight stays are $85.00 to $95.00 per room (all are double occupancy, $10 per extra person). Season: December 27, 2015–March 20, 2016; April 15–November 13, 2016. For more information visit www.vtstateparks.com or call 802-584-3829.
Exploring the Forest
Right out Seyon Lodge’s front door is the Groton State Forest which has many trails, some groomed and others not so check with the lodge before venturing out. The lodge also has a supply of snowshoes available for rent. Ten miles away, on the shores of Lake Groton, the Groton State Forest Nature Center (closed in the winter) has four trails for day touring including the mile-long Little Loop, which overlooks a wetland and can offers access to other trails.
Fat Biking Trails
While fat biking is allowed on state land on VAST (snowmobile) trails, many VAST trails cross private property where landowners have not yet given permission for two-wheeled trafic in the winter.
At present, the Vermont Mountain Biking Association, a number of local bike clubs and the state’s Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation are working together to create pilot trail networks that are approved for fat bike use and groomed. Within striking distance of Seyon Lodge are three pilot areas: the Seyon Lodge trails, Butter Field Loop and Groton Depot—the last two of which use VAST trails.
For a good, shorter (approximately 8-miles) ride to Seyon Lodge, park at the Northern Parking Area on Route 232 near New Discovery State Park. Go south on the Rail Connector Trail, turn right onto Lanesboro Rd., then left onto the Montpelier-Wells River rail trail. After a long scenic ride past glacially- sculpted mountains and ponds turn right onto Depot Brook Trail and then connect to the Depot Brook Loop which will lead you to Seyon Lodge. For details on these trails and regulations around fatbike use on Vermont State lands visit http://fpr.vermont.gov/node/1604
You can rent a fat bike in Burlington at the Old Spokes Home, . For more on fat bike trails and trail etiquette, visit vmba.org
The Cross Vermont Trail
The Cross Vermont Trail, which stretches from Wells River all the way to Burlington, crosses Groton State Forest between Groton and Marshfield and is great for cross-country skiing but not open to fat bikes. Much of the trail from Montpelier to Wells runs along an old railway bed and is relatively flat. Trail Map 3 covers a 12.74 mile section from Marshfield to Route 302 in Groton and can be found at www.crossvermont.org.
This trail is made possible through cooperative agreements with towns and private landowners and travels through a valley and remains open throughout the year to a variety of users but not, at present, to winter biking.
The organizers are working to change that but until permission is secured, they ask cyclists not to jeopardize the relationships they have worked hard to build. So for this year, bring your cross-country skis or snowshoes.