4 National Parks In Vermont

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A quaint, charming and natural haven, the New England state of Vermont also has some stunning natural attractions. If you’re looking for national parks in Vermont, you’ll find two national scenic trails, a national historic park and a national forest. There is plenty to explore in the Green Mountain State (oh and that’s one of the national parks).

Vermont has relatively few national park sites compared to other east coast states. Even so, what it lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in beauty.

As is the case with most of the New England states, Vermont is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. There are ample opportunities to swim, camp, bike, ski and hike until you cannot feel your toes anymore. Whether you are exploring solo, visiting with family or a group, the national parks in Vermont are super fun to explore.

National Parks In Vermont

National Scenic Trail

1- Appalachian National Scenic Trail

vermont national parks in fall
Vermont’s national parks sites are especially lovely in the fall.

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is the world’s longest hiking trail. At 2,200 miles long, you may not be hiking it all, but when you are in Vermont, why not tackle some of the trail?

The Appalachian trail winds its way from Spring Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine and the brainchild of Benton MacKay, who was a forester and social reformer.

In 1921, his initial vision for the trail was to provide people with a way of escaping the industrialisation and hecticness of 20th-century life.

The idea was not just for people to be able to connect with nature but also to develop a project that provided community development, labour opportunities and the preservation of wilderness.

Local citizens built the trail, and it was completed in 1937.

These days, it’s managed by the National Park Service, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the U.S. Forest Service while being run by thousands of volunteers.

Vermont’s section of the Appalachian Trail extends for 150.8 miles (242 km) with varying terrain and spectacular views.

This part of the Appalachian Trail runs through the Green Mountain National Forest (more on that later).

vermont map
Looking for national parks in Vermont? Check out these four.

The Vermont trail has dense forest and greenery in summer.

Visit during autumn and you’ll be treated to spectacular autumn colours and perfect hiking conditions.

Vermont’s section of the trail covers some exciting peaks, such as Bromley and Stratton.

There’s something on the trail for everyone, whether you want flat walks or a real steep challenge.

One of the highlights of Vermont’s section is Killington Mountain in central Vermont.

This is a key part of the trail because it marks the first time that the trail reaches a height of 4,000 ft (1219 m) since Tennessee.

There are a variety of day hikes you can enjoy in Vermont along the Appalachian Trail that vary in difficulty.

Camel’s Hump Trail is an excellent out-and-back trail in Waterbury, Vermont, that is considered difficult and takes about five hours.

The Little Rock Pond via Long Trail hike provides another excellent way of experiencing the Appalachian Trail.

This hike is around 4.78 miles (7.7 km) and takes about two hours to complete. Don’t forget your camera for excellent reflections at Little Rock Pond.

If you are visiting one of Vermont’s cities, such as Burlington, Montpelier or Woodstock, heading out onto the Appalachian Trail is the perfect break in nature.

2- North Country National Scenic Trail

vermont national park
Enjoy nature in a Vermont national park site.

If you thought the Appalachian Trail was long enough to be the state’s longest scenic trail, then think again.

The North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) is another great hiking route that will leave you ogling at Vermont’s natural beauty and stretches for more than 4,800 miles (7724 km).

The trail is more than twice the length of the legendary Appalachian and starts in Middlebury in central Vermont, stretching to Lake Sakakawea State Park in North Dakota.

It passes through Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota.

Vermont was the final state to be added to the trail in 2019.

The trail passes through cultural and historic sites as well as stunning natural scenery.

Vermont’s section of the trail covers 70 miles (112 km).

It begins at the Middlebury Gap and follows Route 125 to Middlebury.

The trail section around Middlebury provides walkers with views of agricultural fields, quaint towns and even a river gorge.

While walking on the trail, look out for the blue marked trail posts to keep you going in the right direction.

National Historic Park

3- Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park

national parks in vermont
Admire the fall scenery in Vermont’s national parks sites

This national historic park is named after George Perkins Marsh, who was at the forefront of the environmental movement when climate change first became a concern.

He was best known for his cutting-edge book Man and Nature, published in 1864.

Marsh was fundamental in challenging the assumption that human activity always benefited the environment.

There are numerous places in Vermont where you can learn about the groundbreaking works of George Perkins Marsh.

Head to Clark University, where you will discover The George Perkins Marsh Institute. Or there’s the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Institute.

It’s possible to combine an educational trip with a beautiful park at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park.

Located in Woodstock Vermont, this national historic park makes for an excellent day trip.

The park was established in 1992 and is one of the oldest managed forests in the entire country.

There are plenty of attractions at this national historic park.

You can check out Marsh’s birthplace, there’s a visitor centre, a carriage barn and more than 500 acres (202 ha) of forestland.

This forestry sits on Mount Tom, which overlooks the quaint village of Woodstock.

Visit this historic park between May and October during the open season and you’ll be rewarded with eye-poppingly colourful formal gardens.

While there, you cannot miss out on taking a guided tour of the mansion.

It’s highly informative and will let you learn more about the local area, the environment, and Marsh’s contributions to environmentalism.

Visiting during autumn, particularly in October, is highly recommended.

The autumnal oranges and reds that deck the trees surrounding the estate certainly do New England proud.

Why is it that this part of the world just flourishes during autumn?

One of the best things about the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is it’s a place to connect education and nature.

The continual question being asked at the different sites around the park is ‘What should our relationship be with nature?’

The visitor centre provides several exhibits that document and pose this very question.

Bring the whole family and lose yourselves on the 20 miles of trails the park has to offer.

Go horse riding along the old carriage roads during spring, summer and winter.

If you do visit during winter, some of the park’s sites will be closed. But with the dense snow comes the thrill of cross-country skiing.

You can start cross-country skiing by starting at the Woodstock Inn and Resort Nordic Center.

National Forest

4- Green Mountain National Forest

vermont national parks
If you’re looking for national parks in Vermont, you’ll find lots of nature and history to explore.

If you went to Vermont or even New England and didn’t immerse yourself in trees, did you even go?

With any visit to the state, the Green Mountain National Forest should be top of your bucket list.

This national forest is the only public and federally managed national forest in the state, so it’s pretty special.

At a whopping 400,000 acres (161 874 ha), you’ll be revisiting time and time.

While many choose to head to America’s capital letter big-name National Parks, national forests tend to fall under the tourist radar.

Despite being one of the best things to do in Vermont, the Green Mountain National Forest can still feel like you have the place to yourself.

The Green Mountains are located towards the southern part of the state and are easily accessible from Manchester in Vermont, as well as New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

The forest is made of hardwood trees and, in autumn, provides one of the most spectacular foliage shows around.

Now you might think of Vermont’s Canadian neighbour as having the best maple syrup, but you may just be wrong.

While Quebec is the world’s largest producer of maple syrup, Vermont produces more maple syrup than any other U.S. state, and it tastes great too.

If you are looking for adventure (and not just hiking), then the Green Mountain National Forest has to be top of your Vermont bucket list.

You can enjoy biking, climbing, fishing, hiking, camping, kayaking, canoeing and various winter sports.

What’s better is it is free to access this national forest.

With so much space to explore, hiking is an instant favourite Green Mountain National Forest activity.

There are more than 900 miles (1448 km) of hiking trails and whether you visit in summer or winter, you’ll find a trail to explore (you may need your cross-country skis).

The White Rocks Cliff Trail is part of the Appalachian Trail that passes through the Green Mountain National Forest.

It’s a 6km out-and-back trail located near Wallingford.

vermont flag
The Vermont flag.

If you are into birding and hiking, check out this trail, and you’ll be treated to beautiful views, a little sweat and grind and even a river crossing.

Another awesome trail is the Little Rock Pound Trail. Located close to Danby, this route takes an average of less than two hours.

Though backpackers, campers and anglers frequent the trail, there are spots along the route where you’ll be in total solitude.

Between May and October is an ideal time of year to tackle this route, with autumnal reflections being the highlight of visiting in October.

If you are searching for somewhere with the Green Mountain National Forest to relax, try the Hapgood Pond Recreation Area.

This is a great location for picnicking, fishing, swimming and setting up your tents.

It’s the perfect base for exploring some of the aforementioned Green Mountain hiking routes too.

One of the other things you’ll want to do whilst in the national forest is search for waterfalls.

Thundering Brook Falls is a beautiful and accessible waterfall near Killington.

The path follows wooden boardwalks making it more easily accessible than other trails in the forest.

Another waterfall to chase is Warren Falls.

This is an ideal spot for a bit of cliff jumping and a refreshing dip in the water.

This swimming hole sits on the Mad River and offers natural 10, 15 and 20-foot jumping spots.

It’s best to head here early during summer as it can become very busy during the heat of the day.

Another spectacular waterfall in the national forest is Moss Glen Falls.

If you head to Stowe, you’ll find a breathtaking 8.4 km out-and-back trail awaits you, with the biggest reward being the cascading waterfall.

This is a popular route so head out early for less traffic on the trail.

Who said Vermont and the Green Mountain National Forest had to be a destination for summer?

In summer, the forest turns a luscious green and, in autumn, a rusty orange, but in winter, the area is covered in snow.

There is a plethora of winter sports to be enjoyed in the thick forest.

Two winter recreation areas are perfect for winter sports.

Brandon Gap and Dutch Hill are two such places that provide excellent opportunities for backcountry skiing and snowboarding.

At Dutch Hill, you can also go snowshoeing, sledding and cross-country skiing.

The Green Mountain National Forest is a year-round, all-season Vermont destination suitable for all ages and interests.

Visiting this breathtaking forest should be high on your list of things to do in Vermont.

If you are visiting other neighbouring New England states, why not make the trip across the state line to experience the best of Vermont?

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harriet comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!