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Montpelier & Wells River Trail

North East Kingdom, Vermont

Historic, Family Friendly
Trail Description

Location: Ricker Pond State Park to Marshfield. East Montpelier, Plainfield. Washington and Caledonia Counties, VT.

Directions: Accessed from Ricker Pond State Park. From Groton travel 2 miles west on US 302. Turn right on SR 232 and travel 2 miles. Parking available at the park.

Trail Length: 14.5 miles

Trail Surface: Gravel, ballast, dirt and sand.

Trail Difficulty: Easy

Caution: Shared use with hikers and equestrians.

 

Montpelier Wells River Rail Trail Map

Note: This trail map is a graphical representation designed for general reference purposes only. Read Full Disclaimer.

The Trail:

The 14.5 mile multi-use Montpelier Wells River Rail Trail follows the railbed of the former Montpelier & Wells River Railroad through Groton State Forest. It is part of the ambitious Cross Vermont Trail project and will eventually span the 75 miles from the Connecticut River in Wells River to Lake Champlain in Burlington.

The rail trail is easily accessed from the southern end of Ricker Pond State Park near the park entrance. Heading north of Ricker Pond, the route travels in and out of scenic woodlands comprised of birch, maple, spruce and fir. The trail surface varies from original ballast to a mix of gravel, sand and dirt. To Marshield Pond, it's an easy, relatively flat bike ride (2 percent grade) that everyone will enjoy including beginners and families with children.

Trail Highlights: Historical sites, Owlhead Cliffs and Fire Tower, Kettle Pond.

All along the trail, historical points of interest from the logging and rail road era will be evident. Ricker Pond State Park was once the site of a working sawmill. In operation for more than 50 years, it was one of the longest continuously operating sawmills in Vermont. Other points of interest include Lakeside Station, the Rocky Point and the Tin Pan Flag Stop. Old railroad ties covered with moss scattered over the embankment are other remnants of the past that can still be seen.

Despite a history of intensive logging, industrial activity and severe fires, the forest has made a spectacular comeback and retains it's wild feeling. Wildlife viewing opportunities abound. Large mammals, such as moose, deer and black bear make the forest home. Mink, beaver, otters and waterfowl live by the lakes, rivers, creeks and bogs.

The bike path takes you past several glacial ponds and lakes including Ricker Pond, Lake Groton, Kettle Pond and Marshfield Pond. Secluded Kettle Pond, located in the heart of the forest is noted for it's pretty moss covered boulders. A mixture of rhododendron and blueberry bushes line the shoreline. Listen for the soulful cries of the loons as you bicycle past.

At 2.6 miles the trail crosses Boulder Beach Road which leads to Lake Groton. Continue pedaling across the road. At 3.6 miles into your ride, there are good views of the imposing granite Owlhead Cliffs. For an interesting detour, at 4.4 miles, the rail trail joins VT 232. Turn right and then right again onto Owls Head Road (5.0 miles). From the parking lot at the top of the road, a short walking trail on the left side leads to the summit of Owls Head and a stone Fire Tower constructed in 1935 by the CCC. At the top, you are rewarded with great views of the surrounding area. A log picnic shelter with stone fireplace located near the parking area offers an opportunity for a snack or lunch.

The entire area is also a year round recreation destination. Facilties include several campgrounds, rental cabins and a swimming beach on Lake Groton. In addition to the Montpelier & Wells River Rail Trail, there are over 20 miles of woods roads for mountain biking and miles of hiking trails in Groton State Forest. More experienced mountain bikers can connect to woods roads and trails that intersect the Rail Trail for longer, more challenging loop rides.

 

 

Historical Note:

The Montpelior & Wells River Railroad opened in 1873, giving the Groton sawmills access to markets. From 1873-1956 it hauled granite, lumber, mail, dairy products , livestock and passengers along the route. Much of the ride still looks like it did 100 years ago, including the original granite mile markers. The railroad also opened the area to seasonal campers, with camps established along the shores of Groton Lake by 1894.

 

 

Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation
184 Portland Street
St. Johnsbury, VT, 05819

Phone: (802) 748-8787

 

 

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