It’s summertime, and in Bennington, the livin’ is as easy – or adventuresome – as you like.
June 29, 2023
This much is certain: there are many ways to have a good time outside in and around Bennington in mid-summer.
The Walloomsac River powered the industries that built the town, and, thanks to a mini-hydro station at the Paper Mill Covered Bridge dam, it’s now contributing to Vermont’s climate goals.
The Walloomsac isn’t as well known as its Northshire cousin, the Batten Kill, but it offers similar recreational opportunities. Fishing for trout, for one thing. Kayaking, for another.
Where else can you pass under two covered bridges and portage around a third, all within a stretch of river just a couple of miles long between Bennington and North Bennington?
If you’re game for a little paddling, here’s how to go about it.
First, check the real-time water level online (google “Walloomsac gauge”). Between two and three feet is the sweet spot; below two, you may need to push yourself along the stony bottom in places.
You can put in on the east side of Silk Road by the Route 279 overpass or a bit further downstream at the Silk Road Covered Bridge.
The water below that bridge is slow-moving and smooth because of the dam a mile ahead and is also suitable for canoeing. Below the Paper Mill Covered Bridge is a beautiful stretch of moving water leading to a beachy takeout just before the Henry Covered Bridge; it helps to have a second car waiting for you there.
The river continues to New York State, and so can you, if you like. In any case, you’ll see birds such as kingfishers, herons, and maybe even a bald eagle along the surprisingly wild route – and you may spy trout through the clear water beside you.
For details on where to put in and take out, and for other pointers, be sure to check this online guide before you go.
The Walloomsac is only one of many portals to outdoor adventure (and relaxation).
Here are a few ideas for swimming in and Around Bennington
- The Tubs, Pownal: This beloved local swimming hole is located in North Pownal and includes two small pools under small waterfall cascades that are suitable for a refreshing dip.
- 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 pool that is deep enough for total immersion.
- Lake Paran, North Bennington: Lake Paran is a small lake with great views of the surrounding mountains, and it’s the only swimming spot on our list that has lifeguards on duty. Canoe rentals are available; if you bring your own, use the Fishing Access area on the east side of the lake.
- Lake Shaftsbury, Shaftsbury: Lake Shaftsbury State Park includes a small lake surrounded by a nice walking trail. The swimming area is shallow and roped off, with a nice sandy beach, but you can swim beyond the rope if you wish. There are no lifeguards on duty, but it’s otherwise perfect for families, with a broad lawn for running around and picnicking facilities in the shade.
For more details on these swimming spots, read The Local’s Guide to Swimming Holes Near Bennington.
Hit the trails in Bennington
There are numerous foot trails in and around Bennington for you to enjoy, whether you’re up for a steep mountain hike with panoramic views or a meandering stroll through fields and forests – or something in between. Here are our recommendations for summer hikes.
- The Bennington Area Trail System is a multi-use, 8-mile trail system on the east side and north slopes of Mount Anthony. The trails offer some of the best mountain bike riding in Southern Vermont as well as beautiful woodland walking. One hiking trail (“Zaphod’s Run”) will now take you in only half an hour to an impressive lookout over Bennington. See last month’s post for details and consult the online trail map.
- The Appalachian/Long Trail in Woodford – 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 on Harbour Road in Woodford for a 4-mile hike that gains 1,580 feet in elevation. The trail from Bennington passes by (on a short spur) the panoramic White Rocks overlook.
- Robert Frost Trail in Shaftsbury and North Bennington – You can hike the Robert Frost Trail from the Robert Frost Stone House Museum just over the Bennington-Shaftsbury or from Lake Paran in North Bennington. The trail is 2 miles one way and travels through wetlands and forest, across Paran Creek, and along the north shore of Lake Paran. You’ll see birds, and you’ll walk by a red pine forest planted by Robert Frost and his son Carol a hundred years ago.
- Mile Around Woods in North Bennington – The farms, fields, and forests surrounding the Park McCullough House are about as bucolic as you can get —horses graze peacefully in the pastures, and meadow birds sing from the unmown fields (they get hayed after nesting season). Check out this photo essay for a digital tour or explore for yourself.
Need more ideas? Here are some easy hikes throughout Southern Vermont for families with kids.
Did you say golf?
You’re in luck: Bennington has a beautiful and well-maintained 18-hole course at the Mount Anthony Country Club, where the mountain slopes down to the river, with tee times starting as early as 7 am.
What about cycling, pickleball, tennis, horseback riding, and more?
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Pownal writer Phil Holland writes a monthly post for Vermont Begins Here.