Developing Vermont into a world-class outdoor destination does not happen by accident. The trails and rivers in Vermont are perfectly manicured, the rivers are clean, the habitat has been restored, and even the hidden swimming holes are maintained by volunteers and paid professionals. Community engagement, economic stimulation, and preservation of outdoor spaces are at the core of our work. On your next trip to Vermont, why not experience all that for yourself? As a starting point, here are some samples.
Rivers are Released
Vermont and New Hampshire are separated by the Connecticut River, for which the Connecticut River Conservancy has been fighting since 1952. Throughout Vermont, the entire stretch of the river has been cleaned up enough for swimming. The Conservancy is restoring riparian zones and demolishing dams in Connecticut’s tributaries in addition to hosting cleanups and riparian restoration projects. Kathy Urffer, the Conservancy’s river steward for Vermont and New Hampshire, says the river is difficult to access because it flows through rural Vermont. Nonetheless, we’re working to change that because people only protect what they know and love. Rivers in the region offer the most untapped recreational opportunities.”
There are now 50 sites at which you can camp along the Connecticut River’s entire length (from its headwaters near the Canadian border to Long Island Sound). The fastest-flowing sections under dams make for great half-day paddles in Vermont, and you can camp before making the next portage if you target the faster segments. Do you live down south? Below Vernon Dam, you’ll find Stebbins Island Campsite.
Making Play a Reality
There have been improvements in gear, accessibility, and instruction before the pandemic, leading to an increase in adaptive sports participation. Vermont is more popular than ever now that it is fully open again. Kim Jackson of Vermont Adaptive says people are increasingly interested in getting outside. Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sport by the numbers: According to the organization, this year 400 volunteers will facilitate 3,000 outings in adaptive sports and programs, 100 of whom are experienced instructors who have taught people with all sorts of abilities to rip outdoors. Watersports equipment, skis, and adaptive bikes are available. A total of 24,000 volunteer hours are generated by these 400 volunteers each year. College students, medical professionals, retirees, recreation instructors, and physical therapists provide volunteers for the cause. They were essential to our success.
Visit Vermont Adaptive in winter and see their facilities on Pico and Bolton Valley ski areas, as well as on the Glen Ellen side of Sugarbush. Watersports are available on Lake Champlain in the summer. Vermont Adaptive offers mountain bikers in the Mad River Valley the chance to shred on traditional and adaptive bikes.
Swimming holes are being saved
During the formation of the Vermont River Conservancy (VRC) 26 years ago, the group’s mission was not to protect entire watersheds, but to save Vermont’s legendary swimming holes. The state’s swimming holes define the summer months in Vermont, and it is crucial to preserve them. Development, however, threatens these forest hideaways, as well as the legacy of Vermont’s public access to private lands. Today, Vermont River Conservancy continues to fight for swimming holes even as it has expanded its work to include climate-change mitigation, habitat restoration, and access to waterways. Almost 100 people were educated on how to care for them as a result. “As the open market grows, we are competing more and more with VRC,” said Steve Libby, executive director of VRC. “But it is worth it.”.s worthwhile. This is a popular spot for Vermonters and visitors alike.”
Traveling to Johnson is not complete without stopping at the Journey’s End waterfall and swimming hole. A close call nearly cost it. Fortunately, because of fast action by the Vermont River Conservancy, the site has been turned over to the town of Johnson, which owns and manages the site. Deputy Executive Director Richarda Ericson says more than 120 individuals donated to the VRC. There’s a story behind every swimming hole. Looking for more? See where you can swim in six unique spots in Pennsylvania.
Stewards in the Making
The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont is known for not being famous. Uncrowded regions and secluded, virgin woodlands can be found here. The Kingdom, on the other hand, should be known for producing conservationists. The Northwoods Stewardship Center was founded in 1989 to provide outdoor education to area youth; today, Northwoods stands on four pillars: environmental education, forest stewardship, conservation, and the all-important conservation corps, which sends out 117 staff members (including 60 high school students in the summer) and manages a 1,500-acre parcel of forest land. The executive director of Northwoods, Maria Young, states, “All of our activities feed off of each other.” “I’ve seen kids who used to be campers grow up to be corps crew chiefs.”
Plan Your Visit: In 2010, teenage workers from the Northwoods Conservation Corps hewed out a trail in isolated Essex County. The Kingdom Heritage Path network now has 20 miles of trail to explore following 20 field sessions and the efforts of 120 local youths and young adults. The center’s Maria Young explains, “Increasing access to natural places is a key component of what we do.” “We want locals and visitors to see these lesser-known corners of Vermont,” said the group.
Taking a Ride on the Rail Trails
Repurposing the past for current purposes is something Vermonters excel at in rural sections of the state. For instance, repurposing disused train lines as outdoor assets for walking, running, and cycling. That was the inspiration behind the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail in northwest Vermont, which spans 26 miles from St. Albans on Lake Champlain via Enosburg Falls and on to Richford near the Canadian border. The Northwest Regional Planning Commission (NRPC) of Vermont is expanding on what the path can accomplish for the communities along its route today, with a public awareness campaign and an app (along with physical signage) pointing to restaurants, businesses, and community assets along the way. “The trail is coveted by the locals,” says Greta Brunswick, NRPC senior planner. “The idea now is to boost the recreation sector and direct traffic to trail-friendly destinations. It’s a lovely method to keep folks moving.”
Make a Visit Schedule: Dairy country can be found in Northwestern Vermont. Every hamlet has at least one stand offering creemees, a unique native soft-serve treat. Pick a few towns to link between breakfast and lunch—paddling is also available on the Missiquoi—and then cruise Enosburg Falls with a creemee with the app in hand and a cruiser bike beneath you.
Are you ready to go on an adventure?
The aforementioned organisations, initiatives, and projects represent a small portion of the work being done in Vermont, but they span the entire state. Remember that each of these sites is surrounded by historic downtowns, brewpubs, culinary and artisan markets, and so much more—the trail truly begins at the finish. Click here to learn about the many possibilities for your own Vermont adventure.
The outdoors of Vermont welcomes us all with unrivalled recreational options and breathtaking splendour. More than 800 pristine lakes, 67 show-stopping peaks to climb, and a fresh adventure around every corner are all part of the sustainability and outdoor care philosophy. Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information from Vermont.