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.
Lonesome Lake hut is one of three AMC huts open year-round. During peak season, your rate includes dinner, breakfast, a bunk with 3 wool blankets. Meals are served family style; if you have food restrictions, let them know when you make your reservation. There's running water in the sinks (peak season) and composting toilets. Bunkrooms are smaller here than at other huts; you'll be sharing a room with 3-6 others and most of the bunks are only two high rather than the triple deckers you'll see elsewhere. During the off-season, a caretaker may start a fire, but you're on your own for meals and bedding. Sit on the deck or down by the lake and enjoy the views, maybe some wildlike. If you're not an AMC member, join and you'll get a discount on the rate while also supporting their work.
It's about 1.6 miles and 1000' elevation gain from Lafayette Place trailhead, making it a family-friendly destination. NOTE: parking at the trailhead is at a premium and you may need to park at the hiker shuttle at Cannon Mountain. If that's the case, drop off the majority of your crew so that only 1 person has to pay the shuttle fee.
In winter the trail is so frequently travelled that you may not need snowshoes, but I would definitely recommend spikes to minimize the risk of sliding on ice. Your reward is a beautiful view (on a clear day) across the notch to Franconia Ridge. The Kinsman Ridge towers over you to the west. If you're bagging 4000-footers, it's great to hike up here in the evening one day and then head up to the ridge for the Kinsmans and Cannon the next, to make it just a little easier.
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.
As far as the individual sites go, they are fairly standard. Roomy enough with a picnic table and fire ring and most are reasonably spaced far enough apart with trees to provide privacy. However, the noise from Highway 93 is intolerable! 18-wheelers blowing by at all hours of the day and night, making it very difficult to enjoy a restful sleep. I had reserved site 46 because it was across the street from the Pemigewaset River but I could not hear the river over the highway noise. You can hear the highway noise from all the sites, but I think 33, 34, and 35 are the quietest. The Lonesome Lake Trail runs right through the campground which is good news/bad news. Easy access to the trail but there are a number of sites that directly border the trail, which could impede privacy. No cell service. There is a store, and two restrooms with pay showers; one of these also has a dishwashing sink, and washer and dryer, a nice perk. Franconia Notch State Park has a lot to offer and this campground is centrally located. If it wasn’t for the horrible highway noise, I would give this campground 4 stars; however, it is the ONLY campground in the park, so I guess that’s that!
Very large campground outside of Lancaster, NH. Offering a variety of options for camping-tents, RVs, few cabins as well as a motel. Offer reservations as well as seasonal options. We are traveling for work with our travel trailer (34ft) from Indiana and were able to call about 2wks prior to coming and they offered us a seasonal stay, may-October ~2250. Not sure of their other rates. Laundry room behind office as well as arcade, swimming pool, and smaller play ground. 30mins from Gorham, 1hr 20min from Conway. Very beautiful view of presidential traverse from campground.
This is a nice campground with access to the Swift river! Short hike will take you to the river from the campground. There are a lot of spots! We went on a slow day so we had it to ourselves with a few more campers! Bathrooms available with running water and trash cans!
I went to this campground in both 2017 and 2018. We had a great time here for fall camping, we were able to drive up and get a site that day. The waterfront sites are the best and unfortunately we were unable to get one of these sites (though our friends did). The campground is easy access to Franconia Notch and Lincoln. The bathhouse was clean. As stated in previous reviews, staff is friendly, but also particular about the rules and the showers are a little more expensive than average. Overall good campsite and would recommend it.
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!
Campground was clean, easy to find, spots are nestled into wooded areas so you feel very isolated from other campers. We enjoyed this privacy. Campground has toilets, fire pits, big picnic tables, nice areas to set up your tent. Each site is a little different so you can choose which one works best for your needs. Close by hiking.
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.
We spent one night here in our 24ft RV. The campground was not very crowded. There is a restaurant on site, which is great bc there aren’t many options for food around. The owner was very helpful and the campstore was well stocked. We did not check out the restroom facilities.
Westward Shores is an expansive resort located on Ossipee Lake. It caters primarily to seasonal campers and those with RVs, but can accommodate tenters as well. There are a couple of camping cabins starting at $70/night shoulder season and cottages that sleep 8-20 (at significantly higher prices).
The campground is so large that many people get around on golf carts. There are ongoing renovations and new areas, so it still looks a little rough around the edges in places. Lots are large and level with pea gravel and hookups; if you are in a tent, you’ll want to be sure to have adequate padding for sleeping. Additionally, you’ll want one of the more basic campsites located near a bathroom. Some of the loops do not yet have facilities (Aug 2019). The bathrooms are basic and clean.
The primary appeal is the location on beautiful Ossipee Lake with beaches, a marina, and kayak and SUP rentals. There is plenty to entertain the children, with playgrounds, bounce pillows, gaga pit, basketball, and tennis to name just a few. Kids were everywhere on their bicycles.
They didn’t offer up prices when we stopped at the office, so I was dreading the worst, but when I checked online, the RV sites range from $50-56 with hookups, picnic table, and fire ring and there are special rates/deals for extended stays. These rates are a significantly lower than a nearby resort campground that starts at $65/night… but then I discovered this is only true during the shoulder season. My fears have been realized… peak season will set you back $87-95/ night and the camping cabin is $117. These are slightly more expensive than a nearby resort that offers a few more/ different amenities, albeit not on Ossipee Lake.
Nice family campground nestled in between route 15 and the lamoille River. Great car accessible tent sites right on the water and plenty of amenities that the kids will love. We'll stocked camp store and two pools. It can get a bit noisy due to the proximity to the highway, but it's still a good option for car camping in this part of Vermont.
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.