When it’s not snowing in Vermont, there are hundreds of eco-friendly day hikes you can take, with the kids and the dog.
If you want to go swimming in some chilly lake water, you can do that too. There are even waterfalls you can swimmer under and around.
Whether you’re in the north or the south of Vermont, experience the hikes the Adirondacks have to offer – like our favorites below.
1. Red Rocks Park, Burlington, Vermont
If you’re into cliffs with gorgeous views, you’ll be into this trail. Not only is it outside of Burlington (south), which is one of the healthiest cities in the nation.
The trail itself is the Lake Trail, in Red Rocks, which borders on Lake Champlain. The hike is easy, you may break a sweat, but you’ll still smell fine when you get back down.
It’s safe for kids, as long as you keep an eye on them, as there are barriers between the trail and the cliff drop offs. Dogs can come too, as long as the leash is less than six feet long (no extendable).
The hike is about 1.2 miles round trip, or a little longer in the winter (since you have to walk to the park). There is a parking fee, which is $5 for Vermont residents and $8 for non-residents.
If you bike there or take a car, there’s no entrance fee.
About Lake Champlain
This trail, well named as the “lake trail” goes around Lake Champlain. If you’re daring and you’re willing to break a few rules – you can jump from the cliffs into the lake, which daredevils have been doing for decades. (Probably centuries).
If you want to start your day with a hike and then go swimming in the lake, make sure you’re ready for some cold water.
There’s a public beach at the base of the trail, so go ahead and get wet.
2. Haystack Mountain Trail, Wilmington, VT
A much longer hike, this trek will take you about 4 hours, round trip. It’s not a terribly hard hike, but it’s moderate, in terms of altitude gain and steepness.
Most families can handle it, if they have kids from four and up, as the steepest part is just the last third of a mile.
You’ll have to have some motivated kids though since it’s a long hike.
When you get to the top, you’ll be rewarded by views of the surrounding hills and Hackstack and Crystal Pond.
Dogs are allowed, and the trail is winter friendly (with snowshoes). The mountain itself used to be a ski area, so you can expect open expanses as you climb up.
Have cash on hand for a parking fee, and make a day of your time near Wilmington. Nearby there’s Mount Snow if you’re up for another hike, as well as Harriman Reservoir.
You can swim and take paddle boats out on the lake, which yes – is cold. If you want to go a little father, head to Woodford state park, about six miles away.
3. Mt Philo State Park, Charlotte, VT
If you’re still stuck on the beauty of Lake Champlain or want a more difficult hike, head to Mt. Philo State Park.
You drive up most of the mountain, and you can even drive to the top. But there’s a 3/4 mile trail that takes you from one parking lot to the summit.
The short trail is hard, it’s uphill all the way, with no plateaus. But since it’s so short, it’s doable (and you can always take breaks).
The trail is pretty covered, in tree growth, so as you’re hiking up, you don’t see much of a view. It’s not until you reach the top, where the trees stop and it seems like the whole world opens up.
It’s a known spot for romantic sunset picnics and proposals.
If you want to bring kids on this hike, bring a kid-carrying backpack or leave the littlest ones at home. If your kids tend to complain while hiking, skip this one (and just drive to the top).
If your puppy is hiker, they can come too, but on a leash.
Parking is free, but there’s a $4 charge for adults and $2 per kid – unless it’s the offseason when kids are free.
If you really love this spot, you can camp there, during the season, which is about Memorial Day to Columbus Day. If you do decide to camp, make sure you catch a sunrise or two at the summit lookout.
4. Bingham Falls, Stowe, VT
If waterfalls, not mountain views, are more your thing- head to Stowe. That’s where you’ll find trail access to this thirty-foot waterfall that you can swim in (and around).
It’s an easy trail, though it’s not for little ones that tend to wander off (or can’t walk in a straight line). IT’s about .2 miles downhill to the falls, or you can go farther – about .75 miles one way, in all.
Dogs are welcome and swimming is allowed. You can jump from some of the surrounding walks into the waterfall pool, or pass it and find some higher up swimming holes.
If you don’t like crowded trails, don’t head out to this one on weekends and during the summer.
Parking and access are free, so go ahead and bring the whole family.
Stowe also offers Moss Glen Falls, which isn’t on the same trail. It’s about the same length and difficulty, though – but it’s less impressive, at least – that’s our opinion. The fall is tiered, so it’s not one solid shoot.
It doesn’t cost anything to visit it, so why not make a day of it and see two falls?
5. Owlshead Mountain, Peacham, VT
If you’re up further north, you should check out this moderate hike, that takes about two hours.
It’s a full four miles round trip, which is great for older kids. Though it’s not an especially tall peak, it gives good views at the summit, looking over the generous hilly landscape.
There is a fee to access the park, but it’s not much – and it’s worth the cost. Bring your kids and the dog, and you can even snowshoe the trail in winter.
If you have little ones or big ones that can’t do a four-mile round trip hike, you can drive up the mountain, not quite to the summit – to get similar views.
JUUL pods and smoking aren’t allowed at the structure at the peak, but you can vape in the car when you get down from your nice hike.
6. Airport Park in Colchester, VT
If you’re looking for more of an outdoor space that doesn’t involve long hikes, head to Colchester. Airport Park has playgrounds and a nice causeway where you can take a long walk or ride bikes.
The hidden hiking gem in this park takes you on a boardwalk through a bog. Bogs are a rare and complex ecosystem, that most people never get to see.
The kids will think it’s cool to walk over a swamp and you can see plants that don’t grow anywhere else.
You should always stay on the designated trails when hiking, but it’s especially important to do so here. Bogs are rare and we need to protect the ones we have.
Since the boardwalk stint/hike is so short, you’ll want to check out the rest of what the park has to offer. IT’s free to visit and dogs are allowed, but they need to be on leash on the causeways and boardwalks.
7. The Falls of Lana and Rattlesnake Point, Salisbury, VT
IF you’re looking for another waterfall hike, this is the one for you. The Falls of Lana is one of Vermont’s most famous waterfalls, and the trail is often crowded in the summer.
The fall itself is four tiers high, and yes, you can swim in it. IT’s about .4 miles to the falls from the trailhead, though you can hike farther (5 miles round trip) to rattlesnake point between August and March.
Be sure to stop at the A&W drive-in, not far away, for carhops on rollerskates, as your kids have only ever seen in the movies.
Eco-Friendly Day Hikes in Vermont
The natural beauty of Vermont is breathtaking. You have tall mountains, cascading falls, and lakes you could swim in for hours.
Make sure you actually keep this eco-friendly day hikes eco-friendly by staying on the trail and packing out what you ack in.
For more unique travel spots, click here.