Where to hike, swim, bike, and paddle
As the fickle spring weather succumbs to the warmth of summer, Vermonters are beginning to spend more and more time outside.
Summer recreation opportunities are plentiful in Bennington and the surrounding communities and include biking, swimming, hiking, walking, 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
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.
Need more ideas? Check out the Bennington Trail Map — the red trails are suitable for bikes.
Paddling in and around Bennington
Canoeing and kayaking are both great ways to enjoy the summer weather, 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 for an afternoon hike.
- 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.
Hiking and Walking in Bennington
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.
Need more ideas? Here are some easy hikes throughout Southern Vermont for families with kids.
Swimming in Bennington
Vermont’s hot steamy summers often require a mid-afternoon dip, whether it’s in an icy mountain stream or a comparatively warm lake or pond. If you’re seeking relief from the heat or a spot to while away the afternoon, there’s a local swimming hole with your name on it.
Here are a few ideas:
- The Tubs, Pownal: This beloved local swimming hole is located in North Pownal and includes two small pools that are suitable for swimming under small waterfall cascades.
- The Roaring Branch, Woodford: Another favorite with the locals, the Roaring Branch features a sandy “beach” area, several small pools that are suitable for kids, and one deeper pool that is deep enough for submersing.
- Lake Paran, North Bennington: Lake Paran is a small lake with great views of the surrounding mountains, and the only swimming spot on our list that has lifeguards on duty in the summer.
- Lake Shaftsbury, Shaftsbury: Lake Shaftsbury is a small lake surrounded by state park land. The swimming area is shallow and roped off, with a nice sandy beach to relax on. There are no lifeguards on duty.
For more details on these lovely swimming areas, read The Local’s Guide to Swimming Holes Near Bennington.
Golf 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), with tee times starting as early as 7 am.
–Tara Schatz is a freelance writer and photographer from Bennington.
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