Whether it's spring, summer, or fall, hiking with kids in southern Vermont is a great way to spend some family time outdoors. On top of fresh air and exercise, a good hike in Vermont gives kids the chance to connect with nature and learn about their surroundings. These five spots for hiking with kids have varying degrees of difficulty but are all on the medium-to-easy end of the spectrum. They're also easy to access.
Emerald Lake State Park
Located between the towns of Manchester and Rutland, Emerald Lake State Park has a wide network of hiking trails and footpaths encircling the 20-acre lake and surrounding woods. Some of the more wooded trails offer a good challenge for older children and adults, while young kids might prefer the easy trails such as the Lake Trail or Lower Trail. When you’re done hiking you can also enjoy a swim in the lake or a cookout in one of the park’s campsites before heading out.
Shaftsbury State Park
Another wonderful lakeside trail system, Shaftsbury State Park offers an excellent look at some southern Vermont wetlands and the animals and plants that inhabit them. The “Healing Springs Nature Trail” as it’s called lets visitors explore the area around Lake Shaftsbury and view native wildlife and vegetation up close all year round, and its short length and easy access means it a perfect place to go with children.
Molly Stark State Park
Right outside of Wilmington you’ll find the Molly Stark State Park trail system. This easy-to-moderate area of hiking trails offers some good family-friendly hiking for older kids and adults, and it also connects to several other trail systems including the trails for the town of Wilmington and those located within the Hogback Mountain Conservation Area. Make sure you take a trail map with you or follow the blazes, since the trails have several branches that can lead you over quite a wide area.
Mount Snow Hiking Trails
With more than 20 miles of trails to explore, Mount Snow is a great place to visit during the warmer months of the year for some old-fashioned hiking fun. While not every trail is great for children - expect some challenges on some of the slopes - there are plenty of family-friendly areas for you to explore both on the mountain and in the nearby Deerfield Valley trails. Plus you can easily access all of Mount Snow’s amenities including restaurants and bathrooms, and you can also take advantage of other activities such as mountain biking, golf, and special events. One important tip: for safety reasons, hikers need to stay off the designated downhill mountain bike trails.
Haystack Mountain Hiking Trail
This one is just up the road from us on route 100, and it's something of a rite of passage here at Chimney Hill. The Haystack Mountain hiking trail gives an awesome view of the Deerfield Valley, and at just over 1,000 vertical feet, it's manageable for most families.
Hiking excursions big or small fare better with comfortable base camp nearby. If you're looking for a place to fill water bottles, mix granola, and unwind after your descent, a southern Vermont rental home is an excellent fit.