The Moosalamoo region, comprising more than 20,000 acres north of Rutland Vermont lies in the northern half of the Green Mountain National Forest. The hilly terrain is forested with spruce, fir, sugar maple and other northern hardwoods. The 2,640 ft. Mount Moosalamoo is the highest peak in the area. The famous poet, Robert Frost, spent his summers in Moosalamoo for about 40 years and claims to have found much inspiration and solitude here.
An excerpt from one of my favorite Frost poems, "The Road Not Taken", has always been my mantra.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
To find your own inspiration, get on your bike and ride. This area offers more than 70 miles of well-maintained, awe inspiring recreation trails and hundreds of miles of Green Mountain National Forest Service Roads for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Wildlife you might encounter in the area is varied. The black bear, porcupine, red squirrel, snowshoe hare, moose and a variety of woodland birds call the forest home. Along shaded streams and in pools, you might see spotted and dusky salamanders and wood, leopard, and pickerel frogs.
Our suggested mountain bike ride focuses on the The Leicester Hollow - Chandler Ridge Trail, a nine-mile loop that travels around remote Silver Lake and the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area. The bike journey is a one-of-a-kind riding experience. You’ll bike along a mountain ridge that offers stunning vistas and views of Fern Lake and Lake Dunmore, have the opportunity for a picnic on the north shore of sparkling Silver Lake at the Silver Lake Recreation Area and take a magical bike trip through the unique moss and fern-covered, boulder strewn Leicester Hollow
In conjunction with Forest Service Roads 27, 32, the Leicester Hollow and Chandler Ridge Trails, you can extend your ride for miles. There are also optional spur trips on the Minnie Baker Trail or out to Lana Falls where you can cool your feet at the base of the Falls. The Falls are layered in three sections with several good swimming holes.
There are several points from which you can begin your bike journey on the Leicester Hollow – Chandler Ridge Loop Trail. Where you start will depend on how much time you have, your endurance capacity and skill level, your itinerary and where your base camp is. See Directions to Trailheads below for more details.
Speaking of base camp, there is ample camping available throughout the Moosalamoo Recreation area and Green Mountain National Forest. The campground at the Silver Lake Recreation Area offers seventeen free primitive campsites with fire rings, hand water pumps, and vault toilets. They are available on a first come first served basis. Lodging and other services can be found in the gateway communities of Brandon, Middlebury or Rochester, VT.
We enjoyed our stay in Brandon, VT. This cozy town is set against the backdrop of the lush, Green Mountain foothills. Chartered in 1761, it is a study in early American architecture and Vermont history. 243 of Brandon’s downtown core area houses and buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are antique shops, art galleries, museums, several good restaurants and quaint eateries, an ice cream shop and moderately priced motels and B&B's in or near town. You can also easily access the miles of trails and unpaved country back roads in the surrounding area. The Leicester Hollow Trailhead is just ten minutes away.
The Silver Lake Area Mountain Bike Trails
Most people start their ride out to Silver Lake at the Minnie Baker Trailhead with a moderate climb to the Leicester Hollow Trail and a return trip via the Chandler Ridge Trail. If you start from the Falls of Lana Trailhead (Silver Lake Trail), you’ll begin your ride with a merciless, 1.6-mile leg burning, steep climb on an old carriage trail all the way up to Silver Lake.
See Directions to Trailheads below for more details on parking and brief descriptions on each trail in the system.
We began our mountain bike journey from the parking area at the Blueberry Hill Inn Cross Country Ski Center (ask for permission), located on the Goshen-Ripton Road (FR 32) and enjoyed a pleasant ride out to Silver Lake on Forest Road 27. The Blueberry Hill Ski Center has a network of XC Ski trails that are open to mountain biking in the summer months. These trails provide excellent riding opportunities for people of all skill levels. A map of the trail network can be purchased at the Center. The Hogback Mountain Trail is the most scenic and popular trails in the trail system.
From the Blueberry Hill Parking area, ride back to Forest Road 32, cross and take Forest Road 27 toward Silver Lake. Vehicles do travel this road, but the traffic is extremely light.
After several miles of riding through the sun-dappled Green Mountain National Forest on the mostly level, occasionally rolling FR 27, you will reach a gated road with a vehicle parking area (Goshen parking lot) on the left. The trail crests a low ridge and passes under a power line. Continuing through the woods, the trail turns right at a junction with the Ridge Trail, and connects with the Leicester Hollow Trail just south of Silver Lake Campground at 0.6 mile.
From this point there are several ride options.
Ride Option 1: Sliver Lake Recreation Area
To the right, the trail leads through the Silver Lake Recreation Area. Many trail intersections and campsite spurs branch off the main route. Stick to the main path.
Remote Silver Lake is surrounded by forest-clad hills that stretch into the distance as far as your eye can see. It sits 670 feet above Lake Dunmore at an altitude of 1,250 feet, within the heart of the Green Mountains in a bowl scoured by glaciers which stretched down from Canada during the last ice age.
The sparkling, one-mile long, quarter of a mile wide lake is the central focus of the Silver Lake Recreation Area which features a primitive Forest Service Campground and a picnic area with small gravel beach overlooking the northern end of the lake. You'll also find water pumps with potable water. No motorized boats are allowed on the lake making this a peaceful, spot for lunch and a refreshing dip.
You might be surprised to learn that Silver Lake has an interesting past. It was the former site of a 50-60 Room wilderness Retreat and it's also a dam that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (See Historical Notes below).
Ride Option 2: Falls Of Lana
After lunch at Silver Lake, continue your ride on the Silver Lake Trail, an old carriage road, for a side trip to the Falls of Lana if you are up to a serious challenge. Begin your descent down through the gorge to the waterfalls. The grade is steep with loose rock (scree) and sharp switchback turns. It's also a popular hiking trail in peak season. The road passes the top of the Falls of Lana. The waterfalls are layered in several sections. White ribbons of water switchback through the rocks and cascade down through the gorge into deep pools. Use caution if you hike down toward the falls to get a better look as the rocks and roots can be slippery.
The setting is beautiful. However, timing is everything. There are certain times of the year when the falls are reduced to a mere trickle. On our trip there in late August, the low flow of water made for a less than spectacular experience and required a return trip that gained 800 feet in less than a mile! Only the strongest riders will avoid walking their bikes back most of the way.
If you want to check out the waterfalls, without having to make the long climb back up, drive to the trailhead just south of Branbury State Park on Route 53 and do the much shorter hike over to the falls.
Ride Option 3: Leicester Hollow–Chandler Ridge Loop
Most people start this 9 mile mountain bike loop ride from the Minnie Baker Trailhead, head up to Silver Lake and return via the Chandler Ridge Trail. When we were here several years ago, the Chandler Ridge Leg was closed to mountain bikes. So our options at the time were limited to exploring the Leicester Hollow Trail. Since then a whole new world of mountain biking opportunities have opened with the sustainable re-design, construction and reconstruction of the Leicester Hollow and Chandler Ridge Trails (see historical notes below). Today the Chandler Ridge Trail is open to mountain biking.
Without further ado, since you have already arrived at Silver Lake via Route 27, pedal through the Silver Lake Recreation Area on the main trail. The trail ends at the Silver Lake Trail near the dam at 4.8 miles. Ride over the dam, turn left and follow the trail along the west shore of Silver Lake. In about 0.5 of a mile you’ll come to the intersection with the Chandler Ridge Trail.
The four-mile Chandler Ridge Trail follows a ridge with gentle grades. The route, constructed with lots of switchbacks, dips through glades and hollows offering intermittent views through the trees of Silver Lake to the east and Lake Dunmore to the west. There is a point where you can even see both lakes at the same time.
As you descend off the ridge, keep to the left and pedal towards the Leicester Hollow Trail. For a short stretch, you’ll be on the Minne Baker Trail that descends to the Leicester Hollow trail stream basin.
You have two options for the return to the Blueberry Hill Inn parking area.
Option 1: At the end of the Minnie Baker Trail, keep to the left and take a gravel road to paved Route 73. After around 0.75 of a mile turn left onto the Goshen-Ripton Rd. (FR32), and follow signs to the Blueberry Hill Ski Center. It's an uphill ride on FR32 back to the intersection with FR224. Turn right to reach your car.
Option 2: Continue on the Leicester Hollow Trail to complete the loop to Silver Lake. The old carriage road, built by Frank Chandler to bring visitors to the Silver Lake Hotel, offers a pleasant ride through a mostly young successional forest that has reclaimed long abandoned farm fields. Occasionally, you’ll notice stately, old oak trees growing in a line along and near the Leicester Hollow Trail. These trees once defined the edges of fields and roads (fence rows).
Some sections of the Leicester Hollow Trail were severely damaged in the flash floods of 2008. Expect to encounter an occasional downed tree or rocky, eroded section. Although much of the trail has been repaired, some rough and washed out sections will provide a challenge.
The rest of the trail, edged by a thick magic carpet moss and ferns, travels on a slight uphill grade through a dense canopy of forest. There is an ethereal quality to this stretch of the ride as if at any moment a Woodland Sprite or Tinkerbelle might appear. It follows Leicester Hollow Brook and crosses it many times as it ascends gently back to Silver Lake.
At Silver Lake, return the way you came.
Leicester Hollow– Chandler Ridge Trail Loop
There was a time, not so long ago when after visiting family living in Montpelier Vermont, we decided on the spur of the moment to extend our time in Vermont by stopping over for a few nights in the Central Vermont Green Mountains to get in some mountain biking within the 400,000 acre GMNF.
Boy! Were we disappointed! There were REALLY slim pickings as far as good mountain bike trails went. Our choices were limited to wide gravel forest roads and short experimental singletrack trails like the Contest Trail in Pittsfield, VT or the 1.2-mile Pine Brook Trail in Rochester, VT.
Today, we are thankful for trails developed in recent years, like the 8.8 mile Leicester Hollow-Chandler Ridge Trail Loop Trails, that have been redesigned to meet Forest Service Class 2 Bicycle design and construction standards. The big breakthrough came in 2007, when members of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBA) obtained permission to ride previously off-limit to bikes trails in the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area (MNRA).
In 2008 the Middlebury Bike Club was formed by a dedicated group of local riders and the USFS designated the Oakridge and Moosalamoo Trails as open to mountain bike access. We are not forgetting the foresight of the District Ranger for the Middlebury and Rochester Ranger Districts of the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF) and the hard work of the Middlebury Vermont Mountain Bike Club (VMBA), Vermont Youth Conservation Corp crews and other trail advocacy groups who worked together for years to light the spark and build these trails for us all to ride.
Silver Lake Hotel
In the the late 1800’s, a missionary from Montreal by the name of Frank Chandler, who also constructed the Leicester Hollow Road, built a fabulous 50-60 room retreat overlooking the north shore of the lake on the site of the current picnic area. Behind the hotel was an orchard. A few foundation stones are among the few visible remnants of the building. Interpretive markers in the area tell the story of this Grand Hotel that burned down in 1942. In 1947, Mr. Chandler’s heirs sold the land surrounding Silver Lake to the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Green Mt. National Forest.
Silver Lake Dam
Silver Lake also impounds water for hydroelectric power. Water from the Goshen Dam, is diverted into Silver Lake through a long underground pipe called a penstock. Then water from Silver Lake is released via a gate and the penstock feeds water down to a local hydroelectric power station nearly 700 feet below on Route 53. Built in 1922, the station first provided power to the iron mines in Mineville, New York. Today it produces electricity for over 800 homes in the Moosalamoo area. All you can see of this activity is the penstock. The 700-ft drop was considered an engineering marvel in its day.
Trailheads can be accessed at several locations. Popular points include:
Leicester Hollow & Chandler Ridge Trail ParkingThe Leicester Hollow Parking Area at the southern end of the trail is currently closed due to a condemned bridge. Please use the Minnie Baker Trail to reach the Leicester Hollow Trail.
Minnie Baker Trail: 1.2 miles
Trailhead: From Brandon, follow Route 73 east for 3.3 miles and turn left onto Route 53. Park on the right at 1.6 miles.
From Route 53, the trail climbs steeply in several pitches over Chandler Ridge and descends to the Leicester Hollow Trail on a long downgrade with a hairpin turn. Elevation change is 800 feet. Average ride time is about 0.75 - 1 hour.
Leicester Hollow Trail: 4.8 miles
Trailhead: Access from Minnie Baker Trail, Silver Lake Trail, Goshen Trail, and Forest Route 27.
The trail follows Leicester Hollow Brook and crosses it many times as it ascends easily to Silver Lake. The trail ends at the Silver Lake Trail, near the dam, at 4.8 miles. The maximum elevation change is 470 feet and average ride time is 2 – 2 .5 hours.
Silver Lake Trail / Falls of Lana: 1.6 miles
Trailhead: From Middlebury, follow Route 7 to its intersection with Route 53/ Lake Dunmore Rd. Turn left on to Route 53 traveling for 3.9 miles just south of Branbury State Park. Parking is on the left. You can also park at Branbury State Park (entrance fee).
The trail follows an old carriage road from the Falls of Lana parking area past the Falls of Lana and the Silver Lake Recreation Area. Follow the carriage road to Silver Lake and continue to the junction with Leicester Hollow at 1.6 miles. The trail goes uphill all the way and is fairly steep from Route 53 to Silver Lake. The maximum elevation change is 850 feet and average ride time is 1 – 1 .5 hours.
Chandler Ridge Trail: 4 miles
Trailhead: Begins off the Silver Lake Loop Trail on the west side of Silver Lake.
The well-maintained trail, constructed with lots of switchbacks follows a mountain ridge with gentle grades and offers great views to the east and west. Elevation change over Chandler Ridge is 720 feet.
Goshen Trail: 0. 6 miles
Trailhead: From Middlebury travel south on Route 7 to the Junction of Route 125. Travel east on Route 125 for 6.8 miles, and turn right onto Forest Road 32. Follow FR 32 for 6.8 miles, and turn right onto Silver Lake Road (Forest Road 27). Follow Silver Lake Road for 2.2 miles to the parking lot at the end.
The trail begins at the south end of the Goshen parking at the gated road. The trail crests a low ridge and passes under a power line. Continuing through the woods, the trail turns right at a junction with the Chandler Ridge Trail and connects with the Leicester Hollow Trail just south of Silver Lake Campground at 0.6 miles. Maximum elevation change is 270 feet.
Forest Road 27: 2.2 miles.
Trailhead: At Brandon take Route 73 east. Go past Route 53 and turn left onto Town Hill Rd. to Goshen. Take the Goshen-Ripton Rd. (Forest Road 32) north to the intersection with Forest Roads 27 and 224. Turn right onto Forest Rd. 224 and proceed to parking area.
Forest Service Road 27 is a pleasant fairly level, occasionally rolling, ride through the woods. It’s especially pretty in the fall with clusters of purple Joe Pye weed along the route.
For more information
Green Mountain National Forest
Phone: (802) 747-6700