By Elizabeth Bassett, contributor
Widening the focus to neighboring towns, let’s explore the wealth of options in Shelburne and Hinesburg.
- Shelburne Farms is listed in 1000 Places to See Before You Die. Miles of trails traverse the Farms’ 1,400 acres of forest and farmland. The Inn, farm barn and visitor activities are currently suspended, but it’s possible to bring home chef-prepared meals made with farm-produced ingredients and to buy the Farms’ meat, cheese, fruits and vegetables. Map and information at Shelburne Farms website.
- Allen Hill rises 180 feet above Lake Champlain on a small peninsula on Shelburne Point. Its dry summit hosts early spring wildflowers and the chestnut oak, an uncommon tree in Vermont. The loop trail is about 1.5 miles.
- Recreation Path. A gravel path keeps your feet (mostly) dry on a route just inland from Allen Hill. The 104-acre Shelburne Bay Park, site of the Recreation Path and Allen Hill, lies next to the mouth of the LaPlatte River on Bay Road. Total trail network of 3.7 miles.
- Ti-Haul Road was built decades ago to transport the paddlewheel steamer Ticonderoga to the Shelburne Museum. The one-mile gravel path runs between Bay and Harbor Roads, ending across the street from the Recreation Path.
- LaPlatte River Marsh. Managed by The Nature Conservancy, this 245-acre parcel protects marshes, wetlands and rich shoreline at the confluence of McCabe’s Brook and the LaPlatte River. A 1.75-mile trail meanders along the banks of McCabe’s Brook. Bay Road.
- Shelburne Pond. More than 1,300 conserved acres (UVM’s largest natural area) surround Shelburne Pond and include a one-mile walking trail. Just 10 miles from Burlington, Shelburne Pond is also the largest undeveloped body of water in the Champlain Valley of Vermont. The State of Vermont recognizes Shelburne Pond’s wetlands, wildlife corridors, rare communities and endangered species as a site of extremely high biological and ecological significance. In addition, there is evidence of human activity dating back 11,000 years. Pond Road.
- LaPlatte Natural Area. A mowed trail loops over the meadow adjacent to the Shelburne Post Office and then winds along the LaPlatte River. Park on LaPlatte Circle, not at the post office.
- Upper LaPlatte River Natural Area at the Vermont Zen Center. The Lake Champlain Land Trust (LCLT) collaborated with the Zen Center to conserve 65 acres of critical LaPlatte River watershed. Walking trails of 1.2 miles explore river shoreline and fields enroute to a hemlock forest on a limestone bluff. Park in designated spaces at the Zen Center, 480 Thomas Road. Dogs prohibited.
Hinesburg’s many trails are managed by a range of entities:
Hinesburg Area Recreation Trails (HART), Vermont and Hinesburg Land Trusts, Vermont Fish & Wildlife, and UVM Natural Areas.
- Gillespie/Copp-Welch and LaPlatte Headwaters properties offer several miles of trails through forest and meadow, including stunning cliffs and towering hemlocks. Between Lewis Creek and Gilman Road, with parking on both, this mix of public and private land is open for hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
- Geprags Park. Two miles of foot trails on conserved land on the Shelburne Hinesburg Road, close to Hinesburg Village.
- Russell Family Trails. Two miles of trails in Hinesburg Village on a conserved 63-acre working farm.
- Lincoln Hill Project. The Hinesburg Land Trust conserved 144 acres that connect 1,172 acres of the Fred Johnson Wildlife Management Area (WMA) with the Hinesburg Town Forest (see below). There are two parcels of the WMA, one on each side of Hinesburg Hollow Road. Additional parking on Lincoln Hill Road. The WMA is owned by the state and managed by Fish & Wildlife. Timber rights are privately held. There are no trails on the WMA.
- Hinesburg Town Forest. Seventeen miles of trails crisscross hundreds of acres of rolling terrain for walking, mountain biking, horseback riding, snowshoeing and limited ATV use. It’s a good idea to print a map from the town website (HART), as there are many intersecting trails and three parking areas.
- Carse Wetlands Natural Area, on Baldwin Road, is a mix of upland forests, fields, wetlands and a beaver pond on 330 acres. The family of the late Henry H. Carse donated the property to UVM for educational purposes in partnership with the Vermont Land Trust and Hinesburg Land.
- Thistle Hill Trails connect the Thistle Hill neighborhood, on Mechanicsville Road, to the Russell Farm Trails. HART site has details.
- Passing the Buck Trail, at 0.75 mile, connects Buck Hill Road with Lavigne Hill Road. Dogs must be leashed.
- Northeast Quadrant Public Trail. Between May 15 and Oct. 31, four miles of public trails connect with mountain bike trails maintained by Sleepy Hollow Center and Fellowship of the Wheel. Ideal for running and mountain biking, the public trails are marked with HART blazes. Access on both Sherman Hollow and Texas Hill Roads.