A little over a year ago, when we moved to Vermont, I happened upon an article in Seven Days. The article was about the newest Vermont State Park, Taconic Mountains Ramble State Park. It described what seemed to be a pretty cool spot that was only about 25 minutes from where we live. I decided to check it out that week with my kids. I don’t think it’d be an exaggeration to say that it’s become our absolute favorite place to visit in Vermont.
This little Vermont State Park has a cool story to tell.
Up until the fall of 2016, it was owned by Emmy nominated documentary filmmaker Carson ‘Kit’ Davidson and his wife, Mickie, a children’s book author. They purchased the 204 acres in Hubbardton in 1966 as a retreat from their busy lives in New York City. On the land, they erected a simple trailer and shed. They needed and wanted nothing more.
While it was private property, Kit and Mickie blazed multiple trails at varying difficulties and welcomed the public onto their land. They had three simple rules: no overnights, no smoking, no fires.
Upon his death in September of 2016 at the age of 92, Kit left his land to the State of Vermont in a trust to be established as a State Park. This fulfilled his lifetime vision for the land.
When we first visited in late May of 2017, the park was in it’s very earliest days of its first season as a Vermont State Park.
The main roadway into the park was closed, so I parked at the bottom and walked the half-mile access road. With a 3 year-old and 4 year-old. By myself. No carrier or stroller. I was cursing myself and considered turning back. But, as we made the final turn out of the woods, my jaw dropped. There was a completely blue sky, wide open, with bright green mountains all around. I’d never seen anything like it.
My boys suddenly ran ahead of me, as if they knew they had something to see. They rocketed down the steep hill of the wildflower meadow and arrived in the Japanese Gardens. We stayed here for, no lie, two-and-a-half hours. Luckily, I’d packed snacks. They found endless nooks to explore and watched the turtles, tadpoles, and salamanders scurry around the ponds. The effect of the garden was simultaneously calming and exciting. They never asked to leave and I didn’t push them, mainly because I wanted to take it all in, but also because I was dreading our march up the steep meadow and back down the access road to the car. We made it back, though.
I brought my husband back that weekend and we tried our luck on a few trails (and, of course, spent ample time in the Japanese Gardens). We were pleasantly surprised by how well the trails were marked and how manageable they were with two small children. I should note that our boys are highly motivated by snacks, the promise of a cool view, and periodically stopping to look at/stack rocks.
Taconic Mountains Ramble State Park (or as the locals call it, Mt. Zion) is, for sure, not your typical state park.
Don’t expect to swim, boat, or camp. But do expect to feel like you are at a secluded, secret hideout. Do expect to frolic with your kids through the flower meadow (currently in bloom). And definitely, do expect to chill out in the Japanese Gardens. Also, know your elevation. While there are trails here with spectacular views, remember, you are not at Mt. Mansfield. The views will be beautiful and at times, breathtaking. If you remember where you are, I promise you will be impressed.
We’ve already been back four times, so far, this season and we plan to stop in every Wednesday at 10am with our Hike it Baby crew throughout the summer (feel free to join us!) I’ve noticed quite a few upgrades to the park this year: a new secondary parking area with access to the eastern trails, improvements to the existing primary parking area, two new information kiosks in each parking area, new signage at trailheads, and fencing around the port-o-potty. But even with upgrades, the quaint, friendly, we’ve-all-got-a-secret feel hasn’t changed a bit. Also not changing (yet), the absence of an admission fee and the Davidson’s three rules, established years ago and followed faithfully by friends of the park. No overnights, no smoking, no fires. Simple and direct, just like Taconic Mountains Ramble State Park.
- About a 1.5 hr car ride from the center of Burlington
- Carry in/carry out
- No running water
- Pets welcome
- Open year-round (Japanese Gardens open from Memorial Day Weekend- Columbus Day Weekend)
- Free admission
- Free on-site parking
- Port-o-potty at main parking area