After a long, cold, and relentless winter in New England, we’re all eager to be outside. Still, even though it’s officially spring (yes, it snowed last night), we’ll still have to wait until Memorial Day Weekend before major hiking trails in Vermont’s higher elevations are open to the public.
Spring, also known in Vermont as mud season, is not a good time for hiking in certain areas, especially in the mountains. According to Vermont State Parks, rain and melting snow at higher elevations keep many of Vermont’s hiking trails wet and muddy. When hikers tramp on saturated soils, it causes soil compaction and erosion, as well as damage to trails and surrounding vegetation.
It will be a several weeks before hiking season is in full swing, but this time of year you can still find plenty of places for light hiking, including scenic dirt roads across Vermont.
Here is my list of 6 Vermont dirt roads to explore on foot in April and May. (Since we’re in mud season, dirt roads tend to be a little muddy in places. Wear trail shoes and you’ll be fine.)
Prindle Road in Charlotte
Estimated length: 2 miles
Prindle Road is one of those dreamy country roads with a little bit of everything: mountain views, barns, pastures, and restored farm houses similar to ones you’ll find in the pages of Architectural Digest. Follow Prindle to Drinkwater Road in Hinesburg and see Camels Hump and Lincoln Peak. If you love barns, take a left off Prindle to the lovely Garen Road. You won’t be disappointed.
Getting there: From Burlington, take Spear Street south to Charlotte and drive past Spears General Store. Prindle Road is on the left.
Kipling Road in Dummerston
Estimated length: 2-3 miles
Kipling Road is an easy walk where you’ll come across the historic Scott Farm (where the film adaptation of John Irving’s The Cider House Rules was filmed) and Naulakha (former home of Rudyard Kipling, a National Historic Landmark available as a vacation rental). The picturesque, storied walk ends at World Learning near Brattleboro. To Kipling, Naulakha came to symbolize all the positive qualities of rural Vermont — peacefulness and solitude. When you’re on Kipling Road, you’ll understand exactly what he meant.
Getting there: From Brattleboro, take Route 5 north to take Middle Road north/west, to Kipling Road.
Old River Road in Woodstock
Estimated length: 3 miles
The road runs along the Ottauquechee River, with Billings Farm & Museum parking lot at one end (Route 12N) and the Taftsville Covered Bridge and Taftsville Country Store at the other. Just a half-mile north of the village, you can enjoy views of farmland, hills, and the river. In three short miles, you can see what makes Vermont so special.
Getting there: Take Route 12 north from Woodstock to Billings Farm and Museum, located at 5302 River Road.
Darling Hill Road in Lyndonville
Estimated length: 5 miles
This tree-lined, scenic route between Lyndonville and East Burke is one of the prettiest spots in the entire state. On Darling Hill, you’ll find views of Burke Mountain, Mount Pisgah, Mount Hor, Lake Willoughby, and Kirby Mountain. Points of interest include Kingdom Trails, the Wildflower Inn, and The Inn at Mountain View Farm, and Burklyn Mansion. As far as dirt roads go, this is about as good as it gets in Vermont.
Getting there: Take Route 114 north from Lyndonville for about a half-mile and turn left onto Darling Hill Road. The farther north you go on Darling Hill Road, the better the views.
Dorset Hollow in Dorset
Estimated length: 6 miles
Dorset Hollow Road is a scenic loop with gorgeous farmhouses and a stunning views of Netop Mountain, Owl’s Head, and Mount Aeolus. This beautiful spot is rich with history. The western end of Dorset Hollow, near Route 30, was the industrial center of town until about 1910. A pottery store, gunsmith, cheese factory, and other businesses stood there over the years. In the 1960s, a ski resort in Dorset Hollow was proposed — and ultimately defeated. These days, it’s a quiet and lovely spot — perfect for a mud season stroll.
Getting there: Dorset Hollow Road is located off Route 30, just northwest of the Barrows House in Dorset (six miles from Manchester.). A place for parking is at the intersection of Upper and Lower Hollow roads.
North Street in Montpelier
Estimated length: 1-2 miles
North Street rises from a pleasant residential area in Vermont’s capital city to a scenic country road with the most incredible views. In the 1990s, I rented a yellow duplex at the bottom of North Street for six months before having any clue what an amazing street I lived on. By chance, I rode my bike up one day and couldn’t believe my eyes. Over the past two decades, I’ve returned many times to soak up panoramic views to the west of Lincoln Peak, Mount Ellen, Camel’s Hump, Hunger Mountain and Mount Elmore.
Getting there: From Main Street in Montpelier, take a right in the rotary and a left on North Street. North Street is very steep and narrow in places, so it’s worth driving up and parking farther up on North Street near Sparrow Farm Road.
This post written by Erica Houskeeper and originally appearing on her blog Happy Vermont.