The 837 acre, Hinesburg Town Forest is located within the Northern Green Mountain region of Vermont on the eastern edge of Hinesburg just a few miles from the Village Center. It shares a border with the town of Huntington. To the east lies the foothills of the Green Mountains, to the west lie the flat, rolling agricultural lands that stretch to the shores of Lake Champlain.
Chartered in 1762, Hinesburg (originally spelled Hinesburgh), has historically been a rural farm and mill community. By the late 1800’s, the Hinesburg Town Forest landscape was a patchwork of small family farms, each with cleared fields, pastures, orchards and woodlots. Nearby were Village Centers where farmers could obtain the services of a gristmill or a general store.
Beginning around 1936, as agriculture became increasingly mechanized, small-scale farming became an economic challenge. One by one, as the hill farms also lost their struggle with the depleted and scoured landscape, the farms were abandoned or taken by the Town for tax arrears.
Like many towns or municipal forests in Vermont, Hinesburg’s first Town Forest was created in the mid-1900’s from several of these old abandoned farms in the Town’s eastern foothills (see Historical Notes below for details).
Today, Hinesburg Town Forest is comprised of two sections; the large main parcel and the smaller Hollis parcel which joins the main parcel at its northwest corner. Combined, these two areas make up a diverse landscape comprised of mostly successional northern hardwood forest marked by beautiful stands of firs, pines, birches, wetland swamps, woodland streams, vernal pools, high ridges blanketed by red spruce, steep rocky hillsides and gullies, exposed rock ledges and boulders left behind when the glaciers retreated from this part of the continent 18,000 years ago.
The Hinesburg Town Forest, with over 18 miles of multi-use recreation trails, is a popular recreation destination for area residents as well as visitors from nearby Burlington, VT. The trails were designed to provide a myriad of loop options for hiking, biking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Some trails are open for snowmobile and horseback riding. Birdwatching and wildlife viewing are also popular activities.
The trails travel through the forest on old roads and singletrack trails bordered by moss-laden stonewalls lined by the towering trees which originally marked homestead and farm field boundaries. Signs of earlier times are everywhere. If you take the time to observe, you might notice old cellar holes, milk cans and sap buckets, a brick chimney base jutting out of the earth, barbed wire embedded within a tree, patches of apple trees interspersed throughout the woods, and sugar maple and American beech trees coming up through gaps in the canopy.
A large U-shaped ridge runs northeast to southwest and then follows the southwestern edge of the Main parcel boundary. Besides making for some excellent mountain biking terrain, the views of the Green Mountains, Adirondack Mountains and the Lake Champlain Valley from these high ridge tops are spectacular.
There are also two major wetland areas within the Hinesburg Town Forest. One is an alder swamp in the central portion of the main parcel and the other is a red maple swamp in the Hollis parcel. Each has a distinct character defined by its vegetation.
This varied terrain and habitat of the Hinesburg Town Forest accommodates a diverse wildlife population including moose, red fox, white-tailed deer, fisher, bobcat, black bear, raccoon, porcupines, northern goshawk, barred owl, pileated woodpecker, ruffed grouse, red squirrel, wood frogs, salamanders and a variety of songbirds.Facilities include a small picnic area located at the Hayden Hill East entrance.
Trail Description: Hinesburg Town Forest Trails
Over 18 miles of old roads and singletrack trails wind through the forest and are interwined in a story that reaches far into the past. Work on the trail system is an ongoing project as trails are designed and redesigned to adapt to the forest terrain, natural water drainage, historical and ecological needs. Trails are named (Sheep Thrills, Homestead, Enchanted Forest) to reflect unique landmarks and the Hinesburg Town Forest heritage.
Hinesburg Town Forest Trail maps are posted on the Informational Kiosks located at all three trailheads.
The Fellowship of the Wheel, a local mountain biking club along with a cadre of volunteers, designed and built the network of 13 named singletrack trails that crisscross nearly all of the Hines Town Forest. While there are a few beginner level trails, most of the trails are designated intermediate and advanced and provide one of the most challenging singletrack trail systems near Burlington, VT.
You could literally spend hours linking smaller loops together to wind around small sections of the forest or string together trails to form colossal loops that follow the forest perimeter.
In the 1980’s the Hinesburg Boy Scout Troop built the Eagle’s Trail, a complete 3.7 mile perimeter loop around the Forest that is easily accessed from both the Hayden Hill East and Economou Road parking areas. The trail, comprised mostly of old farm and town roads travels past several old cellar holes and winds through diverse natural habitats. The trail is fairly well-marked and blazed with red plastic blazes with the letter "E" painted on them.
The Fellowship Of The Wheel Center
A good place to get your bearings and begin and end your rides is the "The Fellowship Wheel Center" located at the hub of the Trail System. It's the perfect place for a beginner. The small clearing has a few obstacles for practicing MTB skills and the beginner Nature Boy Trail can be easily accessed from the Center.
Hinesburg Town Forest MTB Challenge Loop
The Hayden Hill East parking area is a popular starting point for intermediate and advanced riders. From there you can access some of the popular singletrack and traverse the entire forest using some of the best singletrack the forest has to offer. Start out on the Maiden Trail, connect to the Back Door Trail, Dragon Tail Trail, Wolf Tree and Wolf Jaw Trails, Enchanted Forest Trail and the Boneyard Trail. Then head up the Homestead Trail back to the start.
If you’ve got anything left and you’re up for a fast downhill thrill, shoot down Sheeps Thrill for the perfect ride cap.
Factors which spurred Hinesburg’s dramatic population growth in the early 19th century included the beginning of Vermont’s booming sheep industry and the unique geology of the Hinesburg Thrust Fault which helped to provide the hydropower necessary to drive the mills. When the steep rocky hillsides of the Hinesburg Town Forest proved ideal for grazing Merino Sheep, small, self-sufficient farms blossomed on the hillsides where woolen cloth and other products, like butter, were produced and kept for consumption or sold locally.
Pond Brook flows over the thrust fault and drops 300 feet in one mile. In conjunction with man-made millponds and Lake Iroquoi, this provided enough waterpower to drive 34 mills at peak development. During the 215-year industrial history of Mechanicsville, the industrial center of Town, the mills sustained agriculture and the economy.
The Hinesburg Town Forest was formed as a municipal forest over a period of 20 years. As farming became increasingly mechanized, small-scale farming became economically unfeasible and one by one, the hill farms were abandoned or taken by the Town for tax arrears.
The first farm that became town property, and eventually part of the Hinesburg Town Forest, was the 100-acre T. Drinkwater farm owned by Felix Martin in 1936. The last property added was the 125 acres acquired in 1958 from the Plant and Griffith Lumber Company.
Traditionally, the Hinesburg Town Forest has been managed for timber extraction and habitat enhancement. These management decisions are made by the Hinesburg Town Forest Committee and the County Forester.
Nearby Points Of Interest
There are several farm conservation projects in the area which provide an excellent place to learn about Vermont’s agricultural roots and current agricultural activities.
The Russell family can trace it’s Hinesburg roots back to 1795. Through the generations, the Russell’s have continued their sugaring operations at the Farm. The family gathers sap in the traditional fashion, using buckets, horses, a wagon, and a sled. Right in the Hinesburg's Village Center, people can see old-fashioned sugaring in action.
The Russell Family Trails are part of the the Hinesburg Area Recreational Trails (hart) system. Two miles of trails are available for a variety of uses including mountain biking.
Trailhead: From the Hinesburg Town Hall, go south on Route 116 for 0.3 miles. Turn left onto Lyman Meadows Road and follow it for 100 yards. Turn left onto Lyman Park Road. In about 100 yards it leads into the gravel parking area (facing the back of the Catholic Church). To access trails, cross Lyman Park fields in a northeasterly direction to the trailhead located just beyond the baseball diamond.
Website: Hinesburg Area Recreation Trails
The Hinesburg canal runs along the northern side Mechanicsville Road between Route 116 and CVU Road. To the casual observer the canal looks like nothing more than a drainage ditch. However, back in the 1800’s this stretch of water brought hydro power to Hinesburg village in order to power the mills which in turn sustained industry and agriculture in the area for over 200 years.
From Hinesburg Town Hall: south on RT 16 for 2.2 miles. Left turn onto North Road and follow for 2.2 miles to Texas Hill Road. and make a right. Go about 2.75 miles and turn right onto Hayden Hill Road East; and go for 0.3 miles. Look for parking area on the left.
From Hinesburg Town Hall: south on RT 16 for 2.2 miles. Left turn onto North Road and follow for 2.2 miles to Texas Hill Road. and make a right. Go about 3.2 miles and bear right onto Texas Hill Circle, then make a right onto Economou Road. Parking at end of Economou Road.
From Hinesburg Town Hall: south on RT 16 for 2.2 miles. Left turn onto North Road and follow for 1 mile to Hayden Hill Road West. and make a right.Go about 1.5 miles and look for the parking area on the right.
Note: The Economou Road trailhead is NOT PLOWED in winter.
Hinesburg Town Forest Committee
Mountain Bike Club: Fellowship Of The Wheel