Lake Shaftsbury State Park is nestled among rolling hills and dense forest in Southwestern Vermont. It’s not exactly a destination for tourists, but the locals make good use of the park in the summer, when they come with coolers, sand toys, and toddlers to make the most of the little sandy beach and perfectly shallow water.
I stay away in the summer – too many people for such a little park, and dogs aren’t allowed at all when the season is in full swing. I lean toward dog-friendly most of the time. My dog is my favorite hiking companion.
When the gates close after Labor Day, the park belongs to me and a handful of dog and nature-lovers. It’s usually warm enough to swim until late September, and the mile trail around the lake is the perfect little adventure for restless dogs and their human companions.
I visit Lake Shaftsbury once a week or so in off season. I know its charms so well, that I often forget to bring my camera. Last week I remembered and thought to capture a bit of fall’s fleeting beauty. It’s a good thing, too, because today the rain is coming down in sheets, the wind is blowing fiercely, and fall seems all played out.
Visiting Lake Shaftsbury State Park
The park is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day for swimming, paddling, hiking, and camping. Dogs are not allowed when the park is open. The campground here is small and buggy, but really quiet. I don’t really recommend it, but there is a delightful cottage for rent right on the water that sleeps six. It’s a great place for kids, with a sandy beach, snack bar, playground, canoe and kayak rentals, and a nice nature trail.
If you visit during the off season, you’ll have to park your car outside the gate and walk in. There are no amenities available and usually no people either. A resident bald eagle or osprey will usually put on a show early in the morning and the sun will play hide-and-seek in the trees as it rises. It’s a lovely place to capture the foliage in the fall or to strap on snowshoes in the winter. If you’re traveling through on route 7 from Bennington to Manchester, Lake Shaftsbury is totally worth a stop – stretch your legs and enjoy some of Vermont’s hidden beauty.
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