On a whim back in August, our family decided we wanted to camp for a night and discover some new mountain biking trails. I did some research and poking around on the interwebs, and discovered Mt. Ascutney State Park in Windsor, VT. The state park had everything we were looking for: close proximity to mountain bike trails, beautiful hiking trails, available leantos, and less than two hours from our home.
I am going to talk about the positives first, and then lay out the few negatives at the end. Sound good? Great!
The state park is located off of a paved road, about 15 minutes from the closest interstate exit. It is situated on the side of Mt. Ascutney, a 3200+ mountain. There is actually an toll-road that goes up the mountain. The campground has two distinct loops. We stayed in the loop to the left of the entrance in one of the lean tos. Our campsite was a prime site. It was very large, and quite private. As a bonus, it even had direct access down a path to a large recreation field that included a volleyball net. Our children and their friends loved biking around the field and exploring it while waiting for meals, etc. The lean to was very clean, and recently painted. It had ample room for 6, and could fit 8 as well. The lean tos come with a bench that can be used inside, or out by the fire which was a nice touch.
Our site was situated under large pine and hemlock trees, with some small deciduous trees mixed in. This kept the site shady, but rays of sunshine did break through at times. Our lean to faced east, so we had a view of the sunrise in the morning.
The bathroom was clean, and the shower area was recently tiled with nice tilework. Outside of the bathroom there was a little library book case with books for campers to borrow. Such a fun idea!
The state park maintains its own mountain biking trail loop, which accessible directly from the campground. It is a 3 mile beginner friendly loop, with some nice rollers and moderate terrain. Down the road about 10 minutes at the Mt. Ascutney Outdoor Center, there is a whole network of mountain biking trails that range from novice to expert. I checked out some of the trails there, and particularly enjoyed the trails in the Mile Long Field. Beautiful switchbacks traversed an idyllic Vermont field.
The hiking trails are also pleasant--there is a sweet little nature loop in the campground with signs identifying different trees. There are also other trails that lead to the summit of Mt. Ascutney. We decided to drive up Mt. Ascutney to see the sunset our first night. Sunset was at 7:30. HOWEVER, the toll road also happened to close at 7:30, which we had ignored on the sign. Well, the state park staff enforce their rules, and they came up to the top before (sadly) the sun had set to tell us we had to drive back down. Half of our group decided to stay at the top and watch the sunset and then hike down in the dark. It was quite the adventure--thankfully we always carry headlamps and flashlights in our car.
It was a bit disappointing that the auto road closes before sunset, but I understand that the park needs to have rules to keep folks safe. There are 6 cabins that the state park rents out that are partially up the mountain on the auto road. Folks who rent those sites actually do have access to the summit at sunset. So if you are looking for an easy sunset experience, that would be the way to go.
Overall, our experience at the campground was fantastic. The other campers were quiet, everything was clean, and access to local recreation was convenient.
The road nearby is noisy. Because of its location, you can hear both the local highway and I91. If being in the quiet wilderness is important to you, than this campground might not work out.
From time to time, as a Dyrt Ranger, I am given gear to test out and review. On this camping trip, we tested out a Gregory Endo 15 3D Hydro Pack. Gregory specifically designed this pack for mountain bikers. We chose the one in Carbon Black. Our first impression of the pack was that it was made out of sturdy, rugged materials, which is important for a pack that has to take the abuse of mountain biking. Our second observation was that it didn't have any external water bottle pockets the way a regular day pack would. This of course makes sense as water bottles would easily fall out while biking. The waist belt is unique as it can slide into a few different positions in order to change how the pack rides on your back. The back panel is lifted away from the users back, which provides excellent ventilation. Inside the pack are sever pockets, including a removable pouch ideal for storing bike tools. My husband really appreciates that feature as it makes it much easier to find his tools on the go. The included reservoir is easy to fill, and we like that it is also very easy to hang to dry. It seems to dry faster than the reservoirs that we have from other brands.He has also used the pack a few times on hikes, and it is comfortable for that as well. The straps are low profile, so it doesn't work for carrying super heavy stuff.
My husband says the pack is comfortable. He says it does bounce a bit while descending rougher trails, and he wished there was a way to prevent that. Overall, it does its job well, stays out of the way, and holds the gear and water that he needs when biking. It is great that companies are starting make mountain biking specific packs.
I discovered this small family-run campground while driving to another one and my curiosity was piqued, so I had to check it out. After a friendly welcome, I was allowed to explore. They offer wooded campsites, some of them along a a brook and others near a pond; There's no boating or swimming in the private pond because of steep sides, but it's stocked and license-free fishing is possible for trout and catfish. The brook runs into the Pemi river. There is also a swimming hole, but I didn't get a chance to explore that.
The 31 sites vary in size, but are reasonably level, no hookups. A clean, bright bathhouse provides toilets and coin-operated showers; a dumpstation is also available for RVs.
The office is also a store with minimal supplies and firewood. Let them know when you plan to arrive and call if you'll be late to hold your site. They're open full-time Memorial Day to Labor Day, and then weekends only through Columbus Day.
It made me sad to think what this campground used to be (either that or the website was terribly misleading, however, since the property is for sale, I am thinking that it may have fallen on hard times).
I called a week ahead to make sure there would be space. Heath, the owner, called back later the same day, very apologetic that it took him so long to return my call (less than a day did not seem to be too long to me). He assured me there was space, so we made our plans. We did not plan on arriving after dark, but we did, having had too much fun admiring the fall color. I called ahead to let Heath know we would be arriving late and left a message (it took three different phone numbers to reach an answering machine). No one was there when we arrived. It was challenging in the dark, but we found two open spaces and backed into one of them. We were not able to use the electrical connection as it required both input and output 30 amp connections and we need a 110 for one of the connections.
I was so tired that, despite the heavy road noise from Route 2, I fell asleep shortly after 9 pm. However, we were woken out of a sound sleep at around 2 am to the sounds of a woman shouting loudly and angrily (at her kids, husband, someone). This went on for a few minutes and no one sounded in distress and then all was quiet again. Even the road noise had subsided.
The bathrooms were small but reasonable. There was a laundry area and a game room/lounge, stocked with a pool table, couch and chairs, books, (recent) newspapers, and games. There was also an above-ground pool and a separate tent area. Cell service was strong and WiFi is available, but we did not use as we did not have the password.
RV sites were$35 and tent sites were$25, cash or check only. The next morning, we checked the office again and it was still locked up with no trace of anyone having been or being around. There was no place to leave the money and we never heard back from Heath, so we left. There could be so much potential to this conveniently located campground and I hope that someone is able to revive it.
This is the best of car camping - you get the feel of really being out in the woods, with your car a short distance away. They provide wheelbarrows for easy moving of your stuff, and the campsites are super clean and well organized. We stayed at campsite 6 and loved waking up to the sound of the stream down the embankment. We’d definitely stay here again!
Stillwater State Park in Groton VT is a delightful retreat, nestled on the shores of Lake Groton. The campground has a mix of lean-tos and tent sites. There are waterfront, waterview, and regular sites. Depending on the site booked, the price can vary by a few dollars. I made a short notice reservation, and we managed to score a waterfront site that someone else had cancelled.
Having our own personal shoreline was wonderful. I was camping with a group of 12-14 year old girls. They enjoyed sitting on the large rocks, watching the ducks and fish in water. We also brought kayaks, which were fun to launch from our site. Our site(site 8) had two fire pits--an older, stone hearth one, and the newer round metal type with a grill. We ended up using the stone hearth to store wood and supplies, and primarily cooked over the round fire pit. The site was large enough for an 8 person tent, a 4 person tent, and a whole bunch of bikes.
We were within easy walking distance of the beach and pavilion. The girls mostly biked everywhere. There is even a nice path through the woods to the local camp store. This was very helpful the first morning when I discovered the bowls had been left at home! The prices at the camp store are reasonable, and they sell many essentials, including ice cream!
The lake water was beautiful and clear. There was enough sand at the camper beach for sand castles and other beach games. We did see a few leeches here and there--none right at the swimming area, but more to the side, close to the vegetated areas.
Stillwater's bathrooms were clean, and there were enough bathhouses that it was never far to one. On our second day, there was an interpretive program at the the pavilion. The ranger led visitors in making bark boats out of materials found in the park. The project was a great idea, as the kids could test their boats right there in the lake. Our group had varying degrees of success, but all the girls agreed it was a super fun activity.
We stayed at the campground on a busy weekend when every site was booked. I was impressed by how quiet the campground ones considering the number of people. The resident campground staff do a good job patrolling to keep things quiet. He even came and check on us because the girls were a little too loud!
In trying to come up with a list of cons, I am having trouble! It was a very positive experience. My only piece of advice would be to make sure you bring the right provisions. This area of VT is 25-30 minutes from any type of grocery store. There is the camp store, but their stock is limited. Just FYI. Also, there is cell service near the water, but it is very inconsistent. Generally, I like limited service since leaving technology is one of the things I love about camping!
Overall, a highly recommended camground. If you have a certain week you want to camp, make sure you book early in the spring, otherwise you might have to wait for a cancellation like I did. The proximity to hiking, boating, swimming, and biking in Groton State Forest makes this a very popular summer campground.
As a Ranger for the The Dyrt, I periodically am given gear to review. This trip, I was stoked to review gear from Banner and Oak. I tested out their women's Pathfinder hat during this trip. I selected it because it had lighter colors, while still looking stylish. I was not disappointed! This hat is structured enough to stand up to abuse and still look good. It is a more feminine riff on the tradition trucker hat style. The back is made out of a stiff mesh, while the front is made of cotton duck fabric. It adjusts with the classic plastic tab system on the back. I loved this hat! It is perfect for throwing on over a braid or pony tail on those messy-hair camping days. It also hides dreaded "helmet hair" after biking. It is now a permanent part of my outdoor gear kit. My 12 year old daughters want their own, and keep wearing mine.
The one area I see room for improvement is in the plastic mesh back. I felt it could be a bit softer, but overall found it comfortable. Definitely check out Banner and Oak if you are looking for solid options for hats!
Decent campground with pretty good amenities (camp store, showers, actual flushing toilets). Only disappointment was that the campsites themselves are way closer together than advertised on the pictures on the website. They also have very little trees or cover in between them, which leaves them relatively open and exposed to other sites.
Overall good experience though. We really enjoyed having the river/creek right near to our site to give us some nice white noise. We would stay there again, but might look into some other campgrounds if we had the option.
High up on a hillside. The prime lean tos have great views. Sites for tents offer some set away but further from water and toilet. Other sites closer, but also closer together. Firewood available. Take a walk to the picnic pavilion which has a great view. Trail around Slack Hill has view of Ascutney. Pavilion and some shelters look over to Kiliington. CCC trail cuts through. Ash and maple woods. Clean, well kept.
My ongoing quest for a high quality riverfront campground that offers tubing continues, but I have found a great option here on the Pemi River. To think, I can't believe I waited this long to investigate the campground behind the sign I've passed on the highway for decades! They only had a last minute cancellation for a full service pull through, but it was more than i wanted to spend for the weekend. Even so, I stopped by and decided after looking around that this will be on my future list. I'll know to plan well in advance!
There are a variety of sites available, including tent sites without hookups, water/electric sites, to full hookups and pull-throughs. They even offer cabins if that's your preference. The riverfront water/electric site are beautiful, though those with the lower numbers are closer to I-93, which may be a consideration if road noise bothers you. The opposite end is near the beach. The seasonal sites are neat and clean. Bathrooms are spotless. If you stay for a week, you'll get the 7th night free.
Amenities include a terrific playground in a large, grassy area, plus volleyball and horseshoes. Wi-fi is available. There's a well-equipped store, firewood for sale, and canoe/kayak/tube rentals with a free shuttle included. They'll take you up the river and leave you to float or paddle back to the campground on your own time. If you bring your own boat, there's a reasonable $5 shuttle fee.
I was looking for a riverfront campground where I might be able to do some tubing, so I stopped by here to check it out. I had called the day before, but didn't get an answer, so I made reservations elsewhere, but they let me take a look around.
The good: they have a wide sandy beach and volleyball nets along the river. It's also just a short distance from a covered bridge with additional sandy beach and boat access. The river was slow and low in early August, but in early May they have the Baker River Regatta with some quickwater. There's an assortment of grassy and sandy sites, with and without hookups. There is a dumping station.
Areas for improvement: I almost turned around and walked right back out because the first part of the campground is seasonal and there are trailers there that look like they've been in place since the campground opened in the 60s. Seasonal sites can run the gamut from neat and well kept to dumpy…these were dumpy. The bathrooms were in sad shape…there was little to no toilet paper, toilets unflushed (it was early afternoon, usually the cleanest time of the day), and signs warned not to mess with the faucets or they'd take them out, etc. You don't want to linger there! They're also the reason for the 1* review. The showers are in a separate building, coin operated, no frills. If you're in a self-contained unit, this may be a decent place to stay on a sunny summer weekend. Some of the sites were neat, but others were littered with downed branches.
This campground is easy to navigate. It’s family friendly with a large field for volleyball, badminton, etc…
Nice and relaxing. Right next to Quechee Gorge where you can hike down to the gorge and go swimming or just sit on the rocks in the sun. Very relaxing and fun!
Kettle Pond State Park is located in Marshfield, VT only 30 minutes from our home, yet going there still managed to feel like a retreat. We booked a group site with a couple other families for August back in the winter. We were thrilled when the weather ended up being perfect for camping. Low 80s during the day, and 60s at night, without any rain. A few of the mornings, the kids even swam before breakfast because the water was warm enough that it was warmer than the cool morning air temperature!
The group sites all have 5-6 lean-tos, with each lean-to having privacy and its own fire ring with grill. In addition, each group site has a large, community fire pit, picnic tables, and out house. Our group site (which was labeled Group Site 12-15) also had direct access to the camper kayak/canoe launch on Kettle Pond.
Kettle Pond State Park also has about 12 remote paddler campsites, most of which are lean-tos. All the campers that stay in the group area and the remote sites launch their boats from the launch that was within our group site. This meant we had a little less privacy than the other group sites, and that we had cars rolling down to the water to drop off boats, but overall, the disruption was minimal. We enjoyed being that close to our boats and swimming for the kids.
This state park also was conveniently located with an access trail to the Cross Vermont Trail. The Cross VT trail is a multi-use bike path that travels much of the width of VT on old farm roads, snowmobile trails, railroad beds, and occasional roads. We took a half day bike trip on it one day to go to the town of Marshfield to visit Rainbow Sweets, home of some of the best French pastries in Vermont. We biked through marshland, seeing Great Blue Herons and other wildlife. We passed by a waterfall, and even stopped at a little farm stand to buy pickles. There were so many fun things to discover! Via the Cross VT trail, you can also travel to other state parks in the Groton State Forest, such as Boulder Beach (excellent lake swimming with sand, playground, and picnic areas), Ricker Pond, and Owl's Head.
Kettle Pond State Park is primitive. There is not ANY running water. The running water is accessed by going to New Discovery Campground, which is is about 3 miles down the road. New Discovery is also where you check in for Kettle Pond. So bringing several large water vessels is important so you can pick up plenty of water, or bring a water filtration system so you can use water from the pond.
So, the jewel of Kettle Pond State Park is really Kettle Pond itself. It is a glacially-carved shallow pond. I was pleased to discover that the bottom of the pond was not mucky at all, as it is all ground of rock silt and rocks. The kids especially enjoyed their time swimming in it at all hours of the day. We also spent lots of time in boats, exploring the pond. The park does not allow any motorized boats on the pond, so it is extremely peaceful and serene. Wild life abounds here, including fish, beavers, and loons. One evening, during a sunset paddle, we got to float alongside a loon family, which was VERY cool.
The lean-tos were in great condition. The floors were flat and easy to sweep out. The overhang was large enough to hang a hammock under. We did not bring mosquito netting for the opening, and the bugs were hardly noticeable. All the lean-tos are far enough apart that you can't hear your neighbor's snoring, which was a plus. However, one night during our stay, a new group arrived at the group site next door. We couldn't even see them, but we could hear them way too late at night, even past the quiet hours. That was only one night, however, and then the next day the campground staff heard and dealt with it promptly. The bathroom was clean, and always stocked with toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
Biking on the Cross Vermont Trail
Sunset and Sunrise paddles
Biking in the campground loops
Enjoying the large group fire pit
Night time loon calls
Playing games at the large group picnic tables
Things to consider:
- Bring a way to filter water, or large containers for getting water at New Discovery
- Definitely rent or bring boats
- Transporting firewood from outside VT is illegal
- The gate is always closed, but never locked (but it looks locked!)
- Bring water and biodegradable soap for hand washing
INH540 Vertical Hang Bike Rack Review
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I was given an opportunity to review this rack from INNO while camping. As a family of 7, we have a ton of bikes to haul. We were able to test out the rack with several different bike frame styles and sizes.
The initial impressions of the rack were great. The rack is designed to fit two different sizes (1 1/4 inch and 2 inch) of hitch receivers. They allow for the 2 different sizes by using metal sleeve that slides over the smaller metal pipe. We have a 2 inch hitch, and so used the rack with the adapter. My husband was super impressed by how easy the rack was to install. The rack installs solidly and securely on the hitch without needing additional tools (a big plus in our minds!).
Ones the rack is installed, you flip the arm up to load the bikes. There are two arms on the rack. The beauty of this rack is that only the upper arm goes through the frame of the bike. Basically, the frame hangs off of the top arm, and then the lower bar of the bike rests on the lower arm. The bike is held into position by a cambered, rotating plastic ratchet-type strap that tightens on to any sized frame. So far, this attachment system seems more durable and universal than the stretchy rubber-type bike straps used by other racks.
The rack holds 4 bikes total. It holds our two adult sized mountain bikes quite well--each one takes just a couple of minutes to load on. However, it is a bit more of a struggle to load the 24 inch kids bikes on, as their bars and frame geometry are tighter. This requires a bit more messing around and adjusting. So smaller bikes take a bit more time to load--probably 5 minutes per bike.
Once the bikes are loaded, there are velcro straps to hold the front wheel rigid, which prevents it from rubbing on the other bikes during transit. There is a locking cable mechanism built into the rack, which is great for longer trips. The rack also has a foot-pedal activated tilt-down feature for accessing your trunk, which is awesome, and easy to use.
When the bikes are unloaded, you can collapse the swing arm of the rack, giving it a lower profile if you don't want to remove it from the car.
Our overall impression of this rack is great. The components are all super-sturdy. The aluminum framing of it is rigid, but not too heavy. The rubberized frame contact points where the bike sits really help keep the bikes stable. We like the included tools, with the storage bag. This makes it way easier to have what you need. Nothing like looking for a tool when you really need it! The rack is a great way to carry mountain bikes for camping, riding, or local recreation.
The one improvement we would make would somehow make it adjustable for smaller framed bikes, but we know that might not be possible! In the meantime, we still use it for smaller framed bike, and it works fine, just takes a little longer to load. It is a keeper, for sure!
Stayed here for 3 nights. Everyone was so helpful and very nice. "Good morning friends!" They brought our firewood right to us and even recommended a place to get great pizza on a rainy night. There is a trail from the campgrounds to see the beautiful gorge. They also had very clean bathrooms too. We will definitely be back.
Saw Hapgood Pond was well reviewed so just went for 2 nights. The site across the way ran a generator midday for3 hours each day. One site down and across a large RV ran their generator from 7 to 10 am or so and again from 4 to 9 pm. These folks never stepped outside their RV. 1 mile trail and day use swimming and boating area. Pit toilets. Showers at day use area at pond. No firewood available. No campground office but host volunteer updates tags on site numbers showing free or reserved.
Truly the Queen of the American lakes. Crystal clear you can see the bottom even in deep water. Campground is huge but well kept and quiet considering the amount of sites Sites near Rt 9 can hear road noise They offer moorings for watercraft Fireplace was in bad repair Many bathrooms and several shower houses that are in good repair Site 132. not on water Water pic from day use area Cell service on north end of campground but spotty
We just spent 5 days at this wonderful campground. They have paid attention to all of the finer details. Beautiful landscaping, well leveled sites, very clean and neat. The staff is wonderful. My only disappointment with the camp is that there are only a few sites with sewer hookup. However, the dumping station is conveniently located, so if you have a small tank, daily trips are not a problem. There is plenty to do in the area - Littleton is a beautiful little town. The old houses in are incredible. New Hampshire is not a dog friendly state, but a short Drive into Vermont gets you access to many fine restaurants where you can bring your dog. Be sure to visit Dog Mountain in Vermont- a truly touching memorial to departed pets.