Adventure, camping, canoeing and kayaking, Destinations, hiking, New England, State Parks, United States, Vermont

A Secret Vermont Treasure: Groton State Forest

Groton State Forest

Back Road Ramblers partnered with Vermont State Parks this summer to photograph and write about as many of the parks as we can reasonably visit.  We explored Groton State Forest in July, along with Ricker State Park, Boulder Beach State Park, Kettle Pond State Park, Stillwater State Park, and Peacham Bog. The post below was originally published on the Vermont State Park blog, but I’m including it here as well to inspire my readers to visit Vermont’s fabulous natural areas. 


Like many of Vermont’s most wild places, Groton State Forest is off the beaten path, nestled between the Green Mountains to the west and the hills of the Connecticut River Valley to the east. It’s one of Vermont’s largest publicly owned areas, encompassing almost 30,000 acres, and seven unique state parks. The forest and parks provide plenty of variety for adventurers, who come here to hike, bike, paddle, fish, camp, and relax.

I spent a blissful couple of days in Groton State Forest this summer (not long enough). My home base was Ricker Pond State Park,  which was recommended by one of the Vermont State Park rangers as being on the quiet side (I’m always looking for quiet).  I slept in a lean-to near the shores of Ricker Pond, but each day I set out to explore the lakes, ponds, mountains, bogs, and woods that make this place so special. Here are my favorite adventures in Groton State Forest.

Peacham Bog

I love exploring the flora and fauna of bogs, and Peacham Bog is one of the largest and most beautiful bogs in all of Vermont. Peacham Bog Natural Area encompasses 728 acres, but the bog itself is about 200 acres. It’s considered a dome bog, which means that it rises slightly above the local topography. I hiked the 4.5-mile Peacham Bog Loop Trail, which took about 4 hours with a stop for lunch. I didn’t see anyone else on the hike, but I did discover an abundance of songbirds (various warblers), millions of dragonflies, and the carnivorous pitcher plant, which was in flower and really beautiful.

The Peacham Bog Loop Trail begins at the nature center on Boulder Beach Road. Pay careful attention to your map and the signage as you’re hiking, because there are a lot of connecting trails. I took a wrong turn at one point, and could only back track to find where I went wrong. Lesson learned. The bog itself is a great place for a picnic — just follow the boardwalk to the lonely bench. This marks the halfway point if you’re following the Peacham Bog loop.

Peacham Bog Groton State Forest

Hiking the Peacham Bog loop trail

 

Peacham Bog Groton State Forest

The boardwalk through Peacham Bog

 

Peacham Bog Groton State Forest

Those pitcher plants are real killers!

 

Peacham Bog Groton State Forest

The pitcher plant flower

Early Morning Paddling on Ricker Pond

 I was lucky enough to score a lean-to (Aster) right next to the canoe launch on Ricker Pond, so I took full advantage, and woke up early to paddle into the sunrise. There were at least 5 loons paddling with me through the fog, and they seemed to enjoy playing hide and seek with me as I paddled along. Ricker Pond’s small size allowed me to paddle along the whole shoreline as the sun was rising and still be back to the lean-to in time for a cup of coffee. Ricker Pond is a lovely, small campground, and just about every site is either on the water or set above it with an awesome view.

Ricker Pond State Park

Foggy sunrise on Ricker Pond

 

Ricker Pond Groton State Forest

The fog is starting to lift

 

Ricker Pond Groton State Forest

The loons of Ricker Pond were curious about me

Afternoon Swimming at Boulder Beach 

 Boulder Beach State Park is definitely the place to be for family swimming, picnicking and frolicking. There’s a fabulous sandy beach, and the water is clear and weed-free. It was high summer when I visited, and really hot, at least for Vermont. There were a lot of people at the beach — cooling off in the water or relaxing on the shore, but not so many that it felt crowded. I treated myself to an ice cream at the snack bar, and floated the rest of the day away.

Boulder Beach State Park

Swimmers cooling off at Boulder Beach State Park

 

Boulder Beach State Park

A baby duck explores Boulder Beach

Sunset from Owl’s Head 

I asked a local friend where I should hike to catch the sunset, and she didn’t even hesitate for a minute before suggesting Owl’s Head. The trailhead to Owl’s Head is in New Discovery State Park. It’s a moderately steep hike, and just 1.5 miles, so you can easily hike up for the sunset and be back to your car before dark. This is a great hike for families with kids, and the views are fantastic!

Owl's Head Groton State Forest

The view from the shelter on top of Owl’s Head

 

Groton State Forest

Sunset over Kettle Pond from the top of Owl’s Head

A Hike and a Swim at Kettle Pond

Kettle Pond State Park is probably the most quiet park in Groton State Forest. There are a few primitive campsites that you can hike or paddle to, a trail around the lake, and a canoe portage. The trail is strewn with boulders and the sparkling water of the pond is always visible through the trees. It’s a lovely trail for listening to the loons, or discovering an elusive snowshoe hare. You’ll find a few nice swimming spots along the trail as well.  

Kettle Pond State Park

Spotted on the Kettle Pond trail

 

A jackrabbit enjoying the evening on the Kettle Pond trail

A jackrabbit enjoying the evening on the Kettle Pond trail

Visiting Groton State Forest was like escaping back in time. The landscape is wild, the trails uncrowded, and the pace blissfully slow. Plus, Groton provided me with the quintessential summer-in-Vermont vacation I’ve been looking for — camping, swimming, paddling, and hiking. It’s an enchanting place, with a bit of magic for every explorer.

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This is one of the largest publicly owned tracts of land in Vermont. In Groton State Forest, you'll find 7 unique state parts, set among 30,000 acres of forest, mountains, lakes, ponds, and bogs. A visit to Groton could mean a secluded getaway or an awesome family adventure.

I’ve linked this post up with the Photo Friday link-up at Pierced Wonderings. It’s a great way to explore some amazing photo blogs with your weekend coffee.

Pierced Wonderings

19 Comments

  1. What a lovely place. I love your nature photo gallery. What sort of fish can you catch up there?
    melody pittman recently posted…11 Ways To Save Money When TravelingMy Profile

    • Thanks for visiting, Melody. People love to fish for trout – rainbow, brown, and brook, and the warmer waters have lots of bass, perch, and sunnies. I’m not much of a fisherwoman, but it’s a serious sport up here.

  2. Vermont looks like a dream! I’d love to visit in the fall. Lovely post, thanks for sharing!
    Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren recently posted…Where To Stay In Edinburgh: A 15th Century TownhouseMy Profile

  3. Wow a nature lovers dream! Those pitcher plants look scary!!! Love the idea of the the hikes and pretty sunsets!

  4. Nice work Tara, because of your photos I felt like I was walking through the park myself. I continue to be impressed by the US parks and know that I need to add these to my must visit lists sometime.

  5. Wow, it looks like a secluded place. Indeed a secret treasure 🙂

  6. Vermont is one state I have not made it to yet. It is clear I need to go and go to this park!

  7. Love your pictures. Absolutely stunning! That pitcher plant looks a bit mean though!

  8. Beautiful photography! Owl’s head looks wonderful 🙂

  9. Wow! This state forest looks absolutely gorgeous! Those photos of the lake in the mist were stunning- and a bit spookiy 😛 How were the mosquitos here? I feel like with so much water around they might be annoying

    • They weren’t too bad, Brianna. I’ve definitely experienced worse. Didn’t even need DEET for this trip. Thanks for visiting!

  10. Ricker Pond looks sublime! I love all the wildlife you saw and wish I could come visit.

  11. Stunning photographs! Looks like a great place to visit.

  12. These are wonderful, Tara! I’ve enjoyed following you on IG. Owls Head and Kettle Pond were favorites for our girls scout troop when I was growing up. And our family had memorable a “winter” picnic at Owls Head one year. We snow-shoed in. A fun, memorable times. Thanks for sharing.

  13. WOW those photos of Ricker Pond are haunting! I’ve always wanted to spend time in Vermont (haven’t made it yet) and this post is super inspiring. I’ve been spending too much time outside the US… time to explore ‘home’ a little more. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Wow, what a beautiful part of the world! I’ve always wanted to visit Vermont, especially in the fall. Thanks for sharing and happy travels 🙂
    Carmen’s Luxury Travel recently posted…The Hotel Villa Magna Madrid: Savor Spain’s CapitalMy Profile

  15. Looks like a great trail to follow, beautiful pictures!
    Julian recently posted…Exploring Cities through GPS Guided Travel ArticlesMy Profile

  16. Wow – what a beautiful place. I’d love to visit here.

  17. Lynn

    Sounds like I need to make a trip there!

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