Vermont State Parks offers guided hiking programs throughout Addison County

Vermont State Park employees, in partnership with Green Mountain National Forest, hosted a guided hiking program for Vermonters in the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, located between Middlebury and Brandon, Vt. New this year, the program ran from Labor Day to Aboriginal People’s Day and is expected to continue seasonally for the next two years. The last hike of this season took place on Sunday October 9th.

The hikes feature the nearly 16,000-acre terrain of the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area in the Green Mountain National Forest, about 20 miles from Middlebury. Hikes generally cover areas around Salisbury, Lester, Ripton and Goshen, Vt.

The program is funded by Green Mountain National Forest and aims to help locals and tourists explore the area while learning from guides. The hikes vary in difficulty, making them accessible to people of different ages and skill levels, and they’re free for everyone except park entrance fees.

Hikes this season covered trails such as Chandler Ridge, Rattlesnake Cliff and Falls of Lana in Salisbury, all of which are about ten miles from the Middlebury College campus. Rattlesnake Cliff is well known in the area for its breeding Peregrine Falcons and views of Dunmore Lake. The Lana Falls hike includes waterfalls and views of Rattlesnake Cliff. “Is This Really Ethan Allen’s Cave?”, a 1.5 mile round-trip hike to Ethan Allen’s Cave in Salisbury, teaches hikers about Vermont and the Revolutionary War.

Jill Brooks, Park Interpreter at Branbury National Park, has been heavily involved in this year’s programming. She and other Vermont State Park employees serve as guides for the hikes. Outside of this program, Brooks runs programs for day visitors to the park, including campers and beachgoers. These programs include science education and activities for children in Branbury National Park.

The hikes helped attendees get outside and engage with the historical and scientific significance of the area, Brooks said. Dawn of Time 2020 has encouraged hikers to connect more with the nature around them. Although the hikes are for people of all ages, this season Brooks has focused on creating kid-friendly hikes to help them interact with nature.

“A big part of the guided hikes is just telling more about the areas we’re exploring,” Brooks told Campus. “I’ve also been doing things this fall as part of this lineup that are more specifically geared toward kids, like doing a little story hour followed by an easy hike to a beaver dam that the kids might be interested in. ” Not only do hikes help participants engage with and appreciate nature, but they also give people the opportunity to connect with other hikers. Brooks said she found the community building aspect to be a particularly special part of the program.

Brooks runs a program that begins at Moosalamoo Campground and continues to Voter Brook Outlook. “It’s like a three-mile round trip, but when we get to the lookout, we spend an hour there doing watercolor painting, and it’s really fun,” Brooks said. “[It is] a great way to connect with nature and observe more deeply and have beautiful conversations with people,” said Brooks.

The hikes are appreciated by the participants, in particular because they are accessible and free. “People who have hiked and done the programming have really positive feedback and are often very impressed that it’s just being offered for free in the community,” Brooks said.

Despite the many educational and recreational benefits of the rides, the program has not been as popular this year as organizers had anticipated. Brooks added that she had hoped turnout would be higher.

The program is expected to receive funding for the next two years to continue running guided hikes for locals. It will follow the same calendar, running from Labor Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. While the exact plans for next year have yet to be finalized, organizers intend to format the rides in the same way as this year. The location of the hikes should also remain the same, but with the goal of spreading across different trails in the area. Brooks said she hopes new hikes will give participants the opportunity to interact with lesser-known areas.

“I think it would be great to try and focus on driving trails that people might not be as familiar with in the area,” Brooks said.

Brooks emphasized that the hikes are free and accessible to everyone, regardless of age or skill level. She hopes to increase the popularity of the hikes for the next season in the fall of 2023 and encourages Middlebury College students to look into the program next year.

More information about rides and upcoming events in Addison County can be found on the Addison County Independent Events Calendar.

About Mariel Baker

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