Vernon is rich in natural areas where you can enjoy hiking, nature study, swimming, fishing, hunting, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and more, and residents also enjoy a great recreation center with facilities for swimming, tennis, basketball, and much more. Take a tour! (And be sure to visit Vernon VT Nature Finds, a blog dedicated to all the natural features and creatures of Vernon!
Vernon Recreation Center
The Vernon Recreation Department operates the Rec Center on Pond Road, which is home to a swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, playground, and picnic area. Other Rec Department activities take place at the Vernon Elementary School, and the department also maintains the trails at the Municipal forest (see below). For more information about Recreation Department activities, visit this page.
J. Maynard Miller Municipal Forest
One of Vernon’s unique places is the J. Maynard Miller Municipal Forest (often referred to as the "town forest"), home of several stands of black gum trees (Nyssa sylvatica), some of them more than 400 years old. This is one of very few places in Vermont where this species of tree can be found, and it's the best place for visiting them up close.
Typically the black gum is found south of the Mason-Dixon line, where it is also known as the tupelo or black tupelo. During a warm spell sometime since the last ice age 12,000 years ago, black gums moved north into what is now Vermont, and in protected pockets like those in our Municipal Forest, they survived.
One black gum tree in the Vernon forest was measured to be 435 years old. At another location in southern New Hampshire, a black gum was found to be 562 years old. These trees are not only among the oldest trees in New England, but they may be the oldest broadleaf deciduous trees in North America.
There are miles of well-marked trails, including several vista points — oner with views of Monadnock to the east, and another looking out to Mount Snow to the west. Visit our Municipal Forest page for more information about the town forest and its black gum swamps. You can view or download a brochure with trail map here. To get to the town forest: From Pond Road, follow Huckle Hill Road, then take a right on Basin Road. At the end of Basin, you'll find the trailhead and room to park.
Lily Pond is a 40-acre body of quite shallow water that has no natural outflow except in extreme flooding conditions. It is located off Pond Road, and has a public access area reached via a right-of-way, on the right south of the intersection of Pond Road and Newton Road.
Like the town forest, Lily Pond is home to a unique natural community, an outwash plain pondshore — the only such natural habitat in Vermont. Located in an area of glacial outwash with deep sand and gravel deposits, the water level in the pond can fluctuate significantly over the seasons and from year to year. This results in a unique community of vegetation that is adapted to the fluctuation water levels.
Among the plants, all rare in Vermont, that can be found at the pond's shore are three-way sedge, olive spikerush , pipewort, brownfruit rush, meadow beauty, golden pert, toothed cyperus, and autumn fibristylis. Many bird varieties including great blue herons frequent the pond.
Here's a map showing pond depths. Fishing is permitted (license required). Small boats may be launched from the access area (but keep in mind the shallowness of this pond!). Enjoy the pond, but don't disturb its unique plants and animals!
Beach at the Vernon Dam
A recreation area including a sandy beach and picnic tables is located on the Connecticut River, just south of the Vernon Hydroelectric Dam, on Governor Hunt Road. The area is owned and operated by Great River Hydro, which owns the dam. Boats may be launched into the river here, as well. For people traveling on the river by kayak or canoe, there is a portage trail to move from the waters above the dam to those below.
At this recreation area, please observe the posted rules. No overnight camping or late-evening activities are permitted.
A former fish hatchery, the Hatchery Pond is a popular fishing spot, located on Newton Road. No ice fishing is permitted, in order to protect the brook trout. There is no boat ramp — carry-in access only.
Roaring Brook Wildlife Management Area
A large wildlife area (1428 acres), the Roaring Brook Wildlife Management Area (RBWMA) is located generally in the southwestern part of Vernon adjoining Route 91 and the Massachusetts boder, with several discontiguous parcels elsewhere. A small portion is located in the town of Guilford. It is adjacent to the Municipal Forest (see above). From the state Department of Forest Parks and Recreation description:
The unique ecology of the WMA is a high point of the parcel. Roaring Brook is situated in the southernmost portion of the Southern Vermont Piedmont biophysical region. Due to its location, many of the natural communities on the property are unique to Vermont and are more like those found in Massachusetts. Plant and tree species such as black gum, mountain laurel, scarlet and white oak, and American chestnut can found on the property. There are several wetlands within the WMA, and the Roaring Brook flows through the center of the main parcel. The WMA is mostly forested with a mixture of hemlock and hardwood trees. A significant percentage of the hardwoods are white and red oak which provide an important food source for many wildlife species. Five hundred sixty-five (565) acres of the WMA function as deer wintering area. Jefferson’s salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonium) and the Northern Racer Snake are rare species that occur here. Significant natural communities found on Roaring Brook WMA are vernal pools, wetlands, red maple-black gum swamps, and sugar maple–ostrich fern riverine floodplain forests.
The RBWMA has logging roads that can be hiked in summer, and used for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling in winter. The Roaring Brook traverses a series of spectacular waterfalls and cascades, the view of which is the reward of a long hike necessary to reach them.
For more information abut the RBWMA, visit the Department of Forest Parks and Recreation page about it here, which includes a map and a link to the area's long range management plan, a great source for detailed information about it.
Connecticut River Access
Other than access at the Vernon Dam recreation area (see above), there are no public places in Vernon for access to the Connecticut River. As the former Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant site is decommissioned and redeveloped, it is hoped that additional access to the river can be provided on that site.
There are boat launch areas located nearby, including on Old Ferry Road in Brattleboro.
V.A.S.T Snowmobile trails
A network of snowmobile trails on public and private land is maintained by the Vernon Trail Breakers Snowmobile Club (Facebook page). The trails are part of the statewide V.A.S.T (Vermont Association of Snow Travelers) network. A short-term or long-term pass is required to use the trails, and may be obtained via the V.A.S.T. website. In winter, the trails may be used by for hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing, but such users are cautioned to listen for snowmobiles and step aside when they approach. (You can hear them, but they can't hear you!)