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It’s mud season in Vermont. Not a favorite time of year for most of us locals. The grass is still brown, the sky is grey, and outdoor pursuits are often curtailed by an incredible array of black muck that can easily capture hiking boots and vehicles and hold them ransom for days on end.
This winter, however, was one of the coldest and longest many people can remember, and the approach of mud season felt more like a cause for celebration than ever before. We decided to observe to occasion with a little trip to Merck Forest and Farmland Center in Rupert, Vermont. Our destination was Ridge Cabin, a secluded little getaway high on a ridge with beautiful winter views of both the sunrise and sunset.
It’s certainly not too cold to camp in April, but we wanted the convenience of four walls and a woodstove to keep us toasty and dry out our clothes (all that mud). So, we packed up our gear that’s been sitting idle all winter and backpacked into the woods. 4 adults, 4 teenagers, and a German shepherd puppy. Here’s an overview our spring adventure camping at one of the pet-friendly camping cabins in Merck Forest.
Pet-Friendly Camping Cabins at Merck Forest and Farmland Center
Merck Forest and Farmland Center is a nonprofit working farm and forest in Rupert, Vermont. The camping cabins at Merck Forest are perfect for a rustic, back-country getaway, and the best part is, with the exception of one small cabin that only sleeps two, they are suitable for families and for dogs.
There are 9 cabins in all, and they are spread throughout the 3,100-acre forest, so that no matter which one you choose, you will your own private retreat. We have stayed in four of the eight cabins, and all of them are unique. Depending on the cabin you choose, you can sleep anywhere from two to 15 people.
The Merck Forest cabins are available to reserve year-round, but we have only visited in the winter or spring. In the summer, tent camping is available as well. The cost ranges anywhere from $50 to $85 per night, depending on the season and the cabin you choose. Cost is a bit higher in the winter because stacked firewood is provided for the wood-burning stoves in the colder months.
You will be hiking, skiing, or snowshoeing from ½ mile to 2 ½ miles to your reserved retreat. As you leave the visitor center, you will pass through Merck’s working farm. In March and April, you’ll have the pleasure of visiting the baby animals. There’s nothing cuter than newborn lambs kicking up their heels on a chilly spring day, and for kids, this may just be the highlight of the trip.
Merck also makes hundreds of gallons of maple syrup each year. If you’re a fan of Vermont’s thick, delicious specialty, be sure to schedule your trip in late March to coincide with their annual maple celebration. The absolute best thing about mud season is that it goes hand-in-hand with maple sugaring!
We have looked for other cabin camping opportunities in New England, and this is it my friends — the best of the best. These cabins are perfect for romantic getaways, family vacations, or rollicking adventures with friends.
An Overview of Ridge Cabin in Merck Forest
The relatively easy 2-mile hike in was a bit of a sloshy mess. Everyone’s feet were pretty well soaked, and the puppy, well he was darn near unrecognizable. Ridge Cabin, however was delightful. Nice and tight with a good supply of cord wood for the woodstove, and lots of downed wood for the outdoor cook fire. We set to making the place our own for the extended weekend, and proceeded to camp luxuriously in the Vermont mountains for one of the best mud season adventures we’ve yet to experience.
Ridge Cabin sleeps six people comfortably, but we visited with eight people (four adults and four kids). Two adults opted to sleep outside in a two-person tent. There were a few remnants of snow on the ground in April, but it was pretty mild. The woodstove kept everyone toasty inside, sometimes too toasty.
In addition to wooden bunks for six people, there is also a good-sized table with benches, plus an outdoor fire pit. I would say that Ridge Cabin is one of the more private camping cabins at Merck Forest – we didn’t see anyone else while we were there. The only downside is that finding water for cooking and drinking was a bit of a hike.
Tips for Enjoying the Merck Forest Cabins
- Firewood is provided in the winter to keep the woodstove cranking through the coldest temperatures. For an extra cozy experience, or really cold nights, book one of the three cabins that have sleeping lofts. That rising warmth will drive all thoughts of winter out of your head.
- Water is not readily available at all of the cabins. In fact, we had to do quite a bit of hiking to get cooking water up to Ridge Cabin. In the winter, you can melt snow. In the spring, summer, and fall, either pack in all of your water, or rent a cabin near a stream. A water filter is a must!
- Bring toilet paper! Each cabin has a lovely little outhouse nearby. Sometimes there’s toilet paper too. Sometimes there’s not.
- Porcupines love, love, love the salt on your boots and in your pee. Don’t leave your clothes or shoes outside, and don’t pee near the cabin.
- You have to reserve your cabin for at least two nights. If you want your pick of cabins, reserving a month out should do the trick.
- Bring your camera!
In addition to Ridge Cabin, we have also stayed at Dunc’s Place (good for large groups), Ned’s Place (awesome porch), and Nenrod (fabulous views). I highly recommend cabin camping at the Merck Forest cabins for your next Vermont adventure. There are plenty of hiking trails, farm animals, and even swimming in the pond if you visit in the summer. Rupert is close to the towns of Dorset and Manchester in Southern Vermont, which have a lot going on all through the year.
Want to learn more about reserving the Merck Forest cabins? Check out the cabin overview on their website.
For more information on Vermont camping and Vermont cabins, read these posts next:
Ready to plan your cabin-camping adventure? Here’s some gear you’ll find useful (click on the photo for more info):