My family loves to spend time outside. If we are able to hike, bike, swim, canoe, ski, or snowshoe… that’s where you will find us. We’re not particularly athletic or fit, we just can’t sit still. Our innate need to get outside, explore, and be free has taken us all over Vermont finding new trails, waterfalls, swimming holes, and lakes.
I’ve compiled this short list of (relatively) easy family-friendly central Vermont hikes.
Each hike should be achievable for your average 3-year-old on their own two feet on a good day. Under 3 might need to be in a carrier, depending on your pace and ambition.
Moots Point Trail at Taconic Mountains Ramble State Park- Hubbardton, VT
I’ve written before about how magical Taconic Mountains Ramble State Park is and how much time my family enjoys here. This State Park is about a 10-minute ride from the Castleton/Hubbardton exit off of Rt 4. The Moot Point trail is our go-to trail when we have the kids with us. It connects from the Garden Trail off of the Japanese gardens. The trail can be narrow in a few spots but for the most part, it is well marked and a very gradual ascent. My kids were hiking this trail easily and on their own two feet by ages 3 and 4. Even with a gradual ascent, the payoff is worth it. The views are pretty and there is a super cool rock stack at the top. This is an out and back trail, so you will take the same route back down or you can split off onto the cliff trail if your kids are having an especially solid day. Bonus: this trail is open for snowshoeing in the winter.
The deets: Easy hike, good views, Japanese garden at the beginning and end.
The Long Trail/Appalachian Trail at Clarendon Gorge- Clarendon, VT
The Appalachian Trail/Long Trail (AT/LT) cross Rt. 103 about 1.5 miles from the junction with Rt. 7. From the parking lot, take the trail south to cross the suspension bridge and view the falls. We typically hike until our kids complain or ask to turn back. Then, on the way back, we stop at various spots along the river to splash in the water, stack rocks, toss stones, and investigate old campsites.
The deets: You choose the length, cool suspension bridge, fun swimming options for the summer.
Deer Leap- Killington, VT
I doubted our kids would be able to do this hike, but at ages 4 and 5, they proved me wrong. This trail is located right on Rt. 4 in Killington at the Shelbourne Pass. You can either park in the lot at the Inn of the Long Trail or across the street (but, please, use caution crossing the street as it is a bit of a blind spot for drivers). Though it’s not very long (I can hike to the top on my own in about 45 minutes and like I said… I’m not exactly fit), it is quite steep at times. We needed frequent water breaks along the way. The top is rocky and gives the feeling of being on a much higher peak. There is not much space at the top and it was crowded, so I literally held on to my youngest’s shirt the entire time. We had a small snack and some water at the top (there is not much room for an entire picnic). You could also choose to have lunch or an early dinner at McGrath’s Irish Pub, the bar in the Inn. They have live music on most weekends and don’t mind kids.
The deets: The most difficult on this list, pack lots of water, hold on to the littles at the top.
Thundering Falls- Killington, VT
This is an incredibly easy jaunt that you can make more difficult if you want. It’s very easy to find, simply turn on River Rd. in Killington and follow it until you reach the trailhead. There is a very small parking area that is usually full of out of state tags. The majority of the trail is a boardwalk through marsh (seriously, it’s only .5 mile). Then, you reach a dirt trail that intersects the AT. Follow the sound of the waterfall around the curve and view the fall from a wooden observation deck. If your kids are little and that’s all they have in them.. simply hang for a bit, snap some gorgeous family photos, and head back to the car. If your kids are more adventurous, head up the side of the falls and take a look at it from the top. This is steep, loosely packed, and not marked, though you can easily follow a route many have taken before. At the very top, there is a nice wading pool to cool down in.
The deets: very short, very easy, good photo op.
Mt. Peg- Woodstock, VT
This hike is just a short 2 blocks off of Rt. 4 in downtown Woodstock. If you blink (which we did 3 times) you’ll completely miss the tiny parking area and trailhead. At the trailhead, you will see there are a few trails you can choose from. They are all about the same distance and difficulty and all end in the same place. The start of this hike is wooded but the last stretch is an open field at the top of a large hill. When you reach the top, there are benches and a picnic table. It is the perfect area for a family picnic and to toss a football or kick around a soccer ball. Bonus: when you get back to the bottom, you are just a short walk from shopping and dining in Woodstock!
The deets: moderate difficulty for a 3-year-old, a few trail options that all end at the top, nice view, picnic.
Quechee Gorge- Quechee, VT
This spot is sort of a flipped hike as you start at the top and work your way down. You can park on either of two parking lots on Rt. 4, located on each side of the gorge. We typically head to the overlook first and snap our pictures. Then we head to the trail on the southeast side of the gorge. This is a mostly paved trail which brings you directly down into the gorge. The only issue with this hike is that once you reach the pool at the bottom and observe the gorge from that angle, you need to hike back up to the road. This can be difficult if the kids are already tired. This is definitely something to keep in mind when planning.
The deets: Awesome views at the beginning, easy, cool swimming location.