The Green Mountain National Forest is one of Vermont’s greatest treasures. It encompasses nearly 400,000 acres of rugged mountains, wild woodlands, and secret valleys in southwestern and central Vermont. It’s within a day’s drive of 70 million people, and I count myself lucky to be a close neighbor to these vast lands. 

Earlier this fall, I had the good fortune to head out to Grout Pond Recreation Area for a little paddling, hiking, and camping adventure. Located in Stratton, Vermont, Grout Pond is a very popular summer destination. The small campground and parking lot fills up on most days, and while it’s worth the trip for a swim in those clear waters, a fall trip is all about the colors and the solitude. 

Photo by Tara Schatz

We arrived at the campground on a Friday morning, and were thrilled to find that there was only one other car in the parking lot. Over the course of the weekend, we saw a total of six people and two dogs, so basically we had the trails and pond to ourselves. 

There are about 18 campsites it total. Seven of the sites are near the road for car camping and RVs, five more sites can only be reached by foot, and six sites can be hiked or paddled to. We really love site #2 for the awesome views and proximity to the water and toilet, but for this trip we chose site #11. It is the last site on the trail, and therefore much more private. It’s about a mile hike from the parking lot to site #11, so we chose to paddle the gear to make things a little easier.

We were lucky to have 70 degree days and 50 degree nights in October. The whole experience was just about perfect — no bugs, no people, gorgeous foliage, and fantastic views all around. Over the course of the weekend, we hiked many of the local trails, but our favorite is definitely the 2.6-mile pond loop trail. It is relatively flat, provides the best foliage views, and was great for our dogs, who didn’t mind swimming in the cold water. 

Photo by Tara Schatz

Photo by Tara Schatz

For anyone who loves camping, hiking, and paddling, but not with throngs of people, I urge you to check out fall camping at Grout Pond Recreation Area. If you’re paddling in, you can unload all your stuff in the day-use area, and then park your car in the lot. It’s an easy 5-minute paddle to most of the sites, and there are lots of well-marked trails to explore. The only drinking water is in the day-use area, so I recommend bringing a filter so you can drink right from the lake. All tents must be set up on tenting platforms, so a smallish tent is a good idea. Sites 10 and 11 have two platforms and can accommodate larger groups. 

The campground is open year round, and sites are free through 2017. In 2018, the price will rise to $16 per site, but I promise you, it’s worth every penny! 

About the Author

Tara is a freelance writer and travel blogger with a passion for outdoor adventures. She currently blogs at Back Road Ramblers, where she shares travel tips, adventure destinations, and family vacation ideas for the wanderer in everyone. Her goal is to help families connect with the world and each other by stepping out their front door and embarking on journeys big and small.

National Forest Foundation