Outdoors, Travel

Explore the great outdoors in Bennington

5 places to hike, bike, walk or just enjoy a day in the sun

By Cherise Forbes

BATS maintains trails for all skill levels throughout historic Bennington, Vt. Photo provided by BATS

Bennington, Vt., is blessed with a bountiful and beautiful landscape, which makes it all the more difficult to decide where to explore next! Whether you’re a local looking for a backyard adventure or a visitor eager to discover Vermont, we’ve got you covered with five outdoor recreation locations to check out this summer.

Explore historic Bennington with BATS

Photo provided by BATS

The Bennington Area Trail System — it’s affectionately known as BATS — was founded by a group of local advocates in 2015 and is one of the best-maintained trail networks in the region. Cascading through historic Bennington, these trails are ideal for biking, walking and running.
Don’t miss the group’s inaugural 2015 trail, Hops & Vines, which routes hikers and bikers from the Everett Mansion, on the former Southern Vermont College campus, to Monument Avenue in Old Bennington. Hops & Vines can be traversed in either direction and is prime, in particular, for mountain biking.

Looking for a more beginner-friendly trail? Start with the Carriage Road trail, which will take you along a cobblestone road to sweeping views of the valley and the Bennington Battle Monument.
Trail maps and more information about BATS can be found online at batsvt.org. For updates on trail conditions, visit facebook.com/batsvt. Be sure to check out the trail rules and etiquette on the BATS website before you go.

Take a hike on the Bald Mountain Trail

Bald Mountain in Bennington, Vt. offers sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. Berkshire Eagle File Photo

It’s no secret that Vermont is rich with hiking locales, including sections of the Appalachian and Long trails, both of which intersect at the southwestern corner of the state. But, Bennington’s best trail might be the Bald Mountain Trail, known simply as “white rocks” by locals.

You’ll understand the name when you reach the summit, which opens up to a jaw-dropping vista of the western valley. Sit in the sea of rocks — they make up the west side of Bald Mountain — for lunch with a view before descending back into the Glastenbury Wilderness. The Bald Mountain trail can be accessed from Bennington and Woodford.

For more information and a map, check out fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd573938.pdf.

Learn something new at the George Aiken Wildflower Trail

The Bennington Museum’s George Aiken Wildflower Trail features a carefully curated collection of plants, shrubs and ferns. Photo provided by the Bennington Museum

Named in honor of a two-term Vermont governor and six-term U.S. senator, the Bennington Museum’s George Aiken Wildflower Trail features a carefully curated collection of plants, shrubs and ferns that Aiken wrote about in his 1935 book “Pioneering with Wildflowers.”
The half-mile display constantly is evolving, thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers who also maintain an educational aspect of the trail through informational signs and markers, as well as events.

It’s not just the surrounding flora that has historic roots, though. Stone benches and other features adorn the trail, created by Vermont craftsmen using local materials including granite, marble and slate. Accept their invitation to sit down and soak in the scenery before exploring the expanded network of trails including Pine Loop, Jennings Brook, Elderberry and Black Cherry.

The George Aiken Wildflower Trail is open to the public from dawn until dusk, and visitors should leave no trace. For more information, visit benningtonmuseum.org/visit/outdoor-walks/george-aiken-wildflower-trail.

Soak up a classic summer day at Lake Paran

Sunrise on Lake Paran in North Bennington, Vt. Photo provided by Lake Paran Recreations

Lake Paran is undoubtedly the setting of many cherished childhood memories, having provided an all-season outdoors hub since 1960.

In the summertime, you’ll see kids gathered on Paran’s now-iconic floating raft as the adults mill along the beach and lawn, grilling, playing horseshoes or volleyball, or scarfing down one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches around. (Seriously, get a grilled cheese from the concession stand — you won’t regret it.)

Families can enjoy camps and educational programs year-round, but you won’t want to miss Lake Paran’s summer stone-skipping contest or July 3 fireworks display. Be sure to explore the surrounding trails between swimming and sunning!

For more information, hours and admission prices, visit lakeparanvt.org.

Lean into local literature along the Robert Frost Trail

Scenery from the Robert Frost Trail in Bennington, Vt. Photo provided by the Fund for North Bennington

Did you know that you can stand within the “lovely, dark, and deep” woods that Robert Frost described in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening?”

Frost penned this classic poem in 1923 at his home — it now is maintained by Bennington College as the Robert Frost Stone House Museum — on Route 7A in Shaftsbury. The 2-mile Robert Frost Trail in the woods behind his home is maintained by The Fund for North Bennington, and traverses the woods behind the museum all the way to the north shore of Lake Paran.

Bring a book of Frost’s poems to enjoy at the many benches along the trail, or at one of the many stunning views of Bennington and the Berkshires. As you begin or end your hike, stop by the Stone House Museum to learn about Frost and his connections to Southern Vermont. You can even see some of the apple trees Frost planted on the property!

More information: northbennington.org/paran-trails

For more information about outdoor recreation opportunities in Bennington, visit bennington.com/recreationintheshires •

Cherise Forbes is an independent writer, photographer, and designer based out of Southern Vermont. She currently serves as Communications and Marketing Manager for The BOMA Project, a non-profit organization empowering women entrepreneurs affected by climate change.

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