6 Great Paddling Destinations in Vermont

Explore the Green Mountain State from the seat of a canoe or kayak

By Alex Frost

Rich with lakes, ponds, and rivers, the state of Vermont is a paddler's paradise. Boasting not only what is known colloquially as, "the 6th Great Lake" in Lake Champlain, paddlers in Vermont can enjoy any number of day trips on lazy rivers and calm lakes as well as multi-day excursions on paddling trails. Vermont's bountiful wildlife, verdant hills, and lush forested areas are all sights to be seen for the itinerant paddler.

Lone Rock Point

Lone Rock Point. Photo by Sam Davies | Outdoor Gear Exchange

Lone Rock Point
Just a stone's throw from Burlington's beautiful waterfront is Lone Rock Point. A popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, this thrust fault is evidence of the tectonic forces that created Vermont's Green Mountains hundreds of millions of years ago.

Paddling to Lone Rock Point during sunset in the summer months is a special treat. The spectacularly light-colored dolostone jutting over the gray shale underneath seems to become almost luminescent as the sun sinks below the horizon.

When putting in at North Beach—which also hosts a paid campground—it is an easy, short paddle (just 0.8 miles) north along the shoreline to reach this geological marvel. Paddling farther north along the shoreline into Appletree Bay yields sights such as forested bluffs, Leddy Beach, and Appletree Point.

Connecticut River. Photo by Beyond My Ken.

Connecticut River. Photo by Beyond My Ken.

The Connecticut River
Carving the border between Vermont and New Hampshire, the Connecticut River offers a myriad of options for both day trips and longer sojourns. The East Ryegate-to-Hanover section of the Connecticut River Paddlers' Trail is a popular multi-day trip. This 51-mile, portage-free excursion sees the river grow ever wider and more picturesque; it also boasts a number of primitive campsites available along the way that are maintained by the Upper Valley Land Trust.

Green River Reservoir. Photo by Kalin Burkhardt, Outdoor Gear Exchange.

Green River Reservoir. Photo by Kalin Burkhardt | Outdoor Gear Exchange.

Green River Reservoir State Park
The Green River Reservoir is beautiful, tranquil, and boasts 28 remote campsites along its 19-mile shoreline. These campsites are accessible only by boat—some 1 to 2 miles from the boat launch site–so get ready to portage.

Located in Hyde Park, this wild and undeveloped place is perfect for early morning paddles after a night of camping. Watch the fog rise from the lake with only the sound of your paddles slipping through the water to break the calm.

Nesting loons and a great blue heron rookery located in the northern end of the reservoir make for a spectacular natural experience. You'll likely find the solitude of this spot to be recharging and refreshing.

Lake Willoughby. Photo by Sam Davies | Outdoor Gear Exchange.

Lake Willoughby. Photo by Sam Davies | Outdoor Gear Exchange.

Lake Willoughby
More reminiscent of a Norwegian fjord than a lake, Lake Willoughby sits nestled in between Mounts Pisgah and Hor, and is known for the stunning clarity and depth of its water.

Carved from the surrounding landscape by glacial activity, Willoughby is impressively deep with some spots exceeding 300 feet. And the water temperatures remain cold even into the summer. Peregrine falcons nest along the sheer cliffs surrounding the lake. You might even get lucky enough to see one catch a fish.

Lake Willoughby is definitely a must-see for paddlers in Vermont. (But fair warning: when putting in at South Beach outside of Westmore, you may run into the occasional nudist. The lake's stunningly clear emerald-green water, however, will more than make up for any awkwardness you may experience!)

Winooski River. Photo by Sam Davies | Outdoor Gear Exchange.

Winooski River. Photo by Sam Davies | Outdoor Gear Exchange.

The Winooski River
As the second-longest river in Vermont, the Winooski winds its way 90 miles through the heart of Vermont's Green Mountains. A trip down the Winooski will take you through pastoral landscapes, the state's capital, and Vermont's largest city, all before reaching an end at Lake Champlain.

A popular section of the Winooski to paddle is the length between Bolton and Richmond. It's also the site of Friend's of the Winooski's annual Onion River Race and Ramble. Paddlers venturing down this portion of the river experience some of the Winooski's more spectacular scenery, with the Green Mountains prominent to the north and south, and the rolling farmland of Bolton and Richmond consistently in view.

Missisquoi River. Photo by Elliot Rosewater.

Missisquoi River. Photo by Elliot Rosewater.

The Missisquoi River
High in the northern reaches of Vermont, near the border of Canada, runs the Missisquoi River. A beautiful 12.5-mile loop trip on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail through the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge will prove to be a treat for paddlers of the ecological persuasion. The Great Blue Heron rookery on Shad Island is home to the largest colony of Heron in Vermont.

The loop paddler can put in at either Mac's Bend or Louie's Landing in Swanton, and travel up through the Missisquoi River Delta out into Lake Champlain, around Shad Island, and into Dead Creek where the waters merge to put you back on course to your launch site.

— About the Author: Alex Frost is a content writer at Outdoor Gear Exchange, Vermont’s leading outdoor equipment retailer. Though primarily an avid backpacker and trail runner, his love for the outdoors covers the breadth of activities that can be done in wild places. When he’s not on the trail—or capsizing a kayak—he resides in Burlington, Vermont with his lovely wife, Dharma.

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