Get Outside in the Green Mountains!

The view from the beach at Lake Shaftsbury State Park in Vermont
An early morning view of Lake Shaftsbury

April 5, 2021

As the fickle spring weather succumbs to the warmth of summer, Vermonters are beginning to spend more and more time outside.

These activities require no or low physical contact with people outside of your immediate household for safe, healthy adventures. Spring and summer recreation opportunities are plentiful in Bennington and the surrounding communities and include biking, hiking, walking, running, golf, paddling, fishing, and outdoor photography. 

Want to get outside and have some fun in Bennington this summer? Here are some of our favorite spots to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. 

Mountain Biking in Bennington

A mountain bike in the woods at sunset.

The Bennington Area Trail System is a beloved multi-use trail system on the side of Mount Anthony near the former Southern Vermont College. Not only are the views amazing from this vantage point, but the trails offer some of the best mountain bike riding in Southern Vermont. 

As a non-profit 501 (c)(3), BATS works with public and private landowners to plan, build, and maintain trails for sustainable, non-motorized use in and around the Bennington, Vermont area. The organization was founded by a group of local bikers, runners, and hikers that advocate for multi-use singletrack trails for the enjoyment of area residents and visitors alike.

There are currently about 8 miles of maintained trails that are suitable for novice to expert riders. Trails are rated for mountain biking on the trail map.

  • Green Circle: gentler grade, more beginner trail
  • Blue Square: intermediate, more hills, possibly more technical
  • Black Diamond: difficult, hillier, more technical

Beginners should check out the SVHC trails, which are located behind Southern Vermont Medical Center and are well-marked for easy riding. Park at the Stark Street playground in or at SVMC in Bennington

Tips for Mountain Biking Responsibly during COVID-19

  • If the parking area is full, please visit at another time
  • Ride solo or in small groups
  • Maintain a distance of six feet (two bike lengths)  between riders and hikers
  • Do not congregate in the parking area or trail intersections

Paddling in and around Bennington

A yellow canoe sits on the bank near the Henry Bridge in North Bennington, Vermont
A canoe near the Henry Bridge in North Bennington

Canoeing and kayaking are both great ways to enjoy the outdoors while social distancing, and there are several small lakes and rivers around Bennington that are perfect for paddling. If spending a few hours on the water is your idea of a perfect afternoon, check out these spots.

  • Lake Paran – Lake Paran is a small, 35-acre lake in North Bennington with easy access for canoes and kayaks. The shore is undeveloped and the scenery is lovely. Use the boat launch on State Fishing Acc off of North Street in North Bennington. 
  • Lake Shaftsbury – While Lake Shaftsbury State Park won’t officially open for visitors until June 26, 2020, there is easy access to the beach if you park outside the gates. The lake encompasses 26 acres with a wetland on one end that is great for birding. There’s also an easy 1-mile trail around the lake.
  • Woodford State Park – 23-acre Adams Reservoir is located in Woodford State Park at 2,310 feet above sea level. The shoreline is entirely wooded and there are a couple of private coves that are fun to explore. Be on the lookout for sundews, a carnivorous plant that grows on logs in the marshy part of the lake. A 2.4-mile trail meanders around the lake and is perfect afternoon hikes.
  • Walloomsac River – If you don’t mind doing some car shuffling, the Walloomsac River is a nice easy paddle for a warm day. Put in at the Henry Bridge in North Bennington and paddle downstream to the Edward Cottrell Bridge at the intersection of Cottrell Road and Route 67 in Hoosick Falls, New York.

Tips for Paddling Responsibly during COVID-19

  • Paddle in places that are below your paddling skill level
  • Paddle in small groups
  • Maintain social distancing while in parking areas and out on the water
  • Only handle your own gear and bring hand sanitizer with you
  • Follow all normal safety precautions — wear a PFD, tell a friend or family member where you are going, and be sure to check weather conditions before heading out.

Hiking, Walking, and Birdwatching in Bennington

A young boy lies in the forest wearing a backpack.
Taking breaks are important too!

There are numerous trails in and around Bennington for you to enjoy this spring and summer, whether you’re craving a steep mountain hike with panoramic views or a meandering stroll through fields and forests. Here are our recommendations for spring and summer hiking trails.

  • The Appalachian/Long Trail in Woodford – The Long Trail System’s trails will be open starting on May 22, but because these trails tend to see a lot of use, we recommend hiking early in the morning or during the week to maintain social distancing guidelines. Park in the lot on Route 9 in Woodford and head north to Maple Hill ( 4.9 miles round trip) or south to Harmon Hill (3.6 miles round-trip). Maple Hill features views of Mount Anthony along the power line on the way up and Harmon Hill has a nice view of Bennington at the top.
  • Bald Mountain in Bennington – There are two ways to hike to Bald Mountain. Start in Bennington at the trailhead on North Branch street for a 7.9-mile hike with 2,162 feet of elevation gain, or park at the trailhead in Harbour Road in Woodford for a 4-mile hike that gains 1,580 feet in elevation. 
  • Robert Frost Trail in Bennington and North Bennington – You can hike the Robert Frost Trail from the Robert Frost Stone House Museum in Bennington or from Lake Paran in North Bennington. The trail is 2 miles one-way and travels through wetland and forest, across Paran Creek and along Lake Paran. This is a great spot for birdwatching and picnicking. 
  • Mile Around Woods in North Bennington – The farms, fields, and forests surrounding the Park McCullough House are about as bucolic as you can get — the spring woods are filled with wildflowers and birds, horses graze peacefully in the pastures, and expansive views are commonplace up on the hill. Check out this photo essay for a digital view if you can explore this spot for yourself. 

Tips for Hiking Responsibly During COVID-19

  • Have a plan B – if the parking area at the trailhead is full, consider checking out a less crowded spot.
  • Hike solo or in small groups
  • Step off the trail to let others pass by while maintaining social distances
  • Keep moving and don’t congregate on the trails or in the parking areas
  • Try not to hike during times of peak activity such as on busy weekends 

Golf in Bennington

The 18th hole at the Mount Anthony Country Club in Bennington
The 18th hole at Mount Anthony Country Club in Bennington

Golf is a fantastic way to get some exercise, get together with friends, and enjoy the outdoors. We are fortunate in Bennington to have one of the most beautiful courses around at Mount Anthony Country Club (MACC), which is now open with tee times starting as early as 7 am and a wonderful 9-hole Women’s League for beginner to intermediate golfers on Wednesday mornings and an 18-hole league for more advanced golfers on Thursday mornings. 

MACC is taking all the necessary precautions to ensure that golfers can recreate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have installed a mechanism that allows golfers to retrieve balls by pulling a handle on the flag with your putter so the flagstick never has to be touched. Rakes on the bunkers and ball washers have been removed, and only one person is permitted per golf cart. 

In order to limit the person-to-person contact, please schedule and pay for your tee time on the MACC website.  MACC is open to the public and patio seating is currently available at the Grille, which features regional and global cuisine using fresh, local ingredients. 

Tips for Golfing Responsibly During COVID-19

  • Consider walking instead of using a golf car.
  • Remain six-feet apart from your fellow golfers at all times.
  • Don’t linger on the course. Head to the outdoor patio for a post-round drink, but don’t congregate in the parking area or other public spaces.
  • Only handle your own clubs.

During these unprecedented times, it’s important to find balance, both in life and in your outdoor recreation. We know that getting outside and recreating in nature is healthy for both mind and body. If done responsibly, it’s a fabulous way to enjoy all that Bennington and the surrounding communities have to offer. 

These outdoor recreation opportunities in Bennington are currently available for Vermont residents and visitors who have been vaccinated or have recently tested negative for COVID-19.

Tara Schatz is a freelance writer and photographer from Bennington.