Stretching across secluded, thickly forested hillside looking over the gorgeous Black River Valley, Coolidge State Park is the perfect destination for those wishing to get a taste of Vermont’s deep woods. The Coolidge's beautiful buildings, many of which were constructed by the CCC in the 1930s, mirror the park's authentic, rustic atmosphere.
The campground at Coolidge State Park can serve either as a launching point to explore the hills, brooks and hallows of the Green Mountains, or it could serve as a destination in its own right – a quiet patch of woodlands where you can take in spectacular views and absorb the delicate, green-tinted sunlight that filters through a dense canopy overhead.
If you are looking to relax, you can string up a hammock, play a game of horseshoes or have a picnic with a panoramic view. If you are looking to work up a sweat and get some dirt on your boots, a vast network of hiking and biking paths are just a short drive away. And if you’d be interested in learning more about the areas natural history and inhabitants, check out the park’s excellent, and very lodge-y, nature center.
RV campers can reserve one of 25 primitive sites; for those wanting to sleep out in the crisp Vermont air, there are also a couple dozen lean-to sites available.
The park’s main road (Coolidge State Park Rd.) branches off of Vermont 100A, which itself branches off of US-4. While 100A and the State Park road are usually very well kept, steep hills and sharp turns can make travel tricky for larger rigs. Be especially cautious during wintry or slushy conditions – even in snow-ready Vermont, smaller state roads don’t always get the immediate attention that interstates do.
The nearby towns of Killington and Woodstock, off of US-4 and to the northwest and northeast respectively, offer services including groceries, banks, restaurants, additional camping and more.
The main park road that approaches the camping loop is particularly steep in some sections, and Coolidge’s website recommends that only small RVs/Trailers make the trip. Once you are all set up, park trail heads, the park office, and the park picnic area are each just a quarter-mile walk or drive away. With a bike or car, you can explore beyond the park and see all that the State Forest has to offer.
Coolidge has two small camping loops; one is composed of all lean-to sites, while the other has twenty-five primitive campsites large enough for small camper setups. No water or electric hookups are available at the individual camping sites, however, the park does have a sanitary station and some generator use is allowed. The primitive loop has two modern restrooms, one with a shower, and two water spigots. Free wifi is available at the nearby park office.
Individual spots are well separated from each other and are beautifully wooded – if you so desire, you’ll have no problems finding a suitable pair of hammock trees.
Firewood and ice are available for sale at the park; for additional supplies, you’ll have to head to nearby towns such as Killington or Woodstock.
The park is open from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day. Reservations can be made from eleven months to just one day in advance.
A massive network of interconnected trails winds its way through Coolidge State Forest, which surrounds the park; the Long Trail and the Appalachian pass by Killington Peak, just a few miles to the Northwest of the park. The State Park itself has two trails, the one and a half mile CCC trail and the two and a half mile Slack Hill Trail. Both trails, moderate in difficulty, showcase the serene brooks, imposing hills, stately hemlocks and lush hardwood stands which make up Vermont’s beautiful Green Mountains. The Slack Hill trail (as its name suggests) climbs to the top of 2,174’ Slack Hill and offers a fantastic view of the surrounding peaks and sylvan countryside
While biking on public lands within Coolidge State Forest is only allowed gravel and paved roads, you can still see a tremendous amount of gorgeous country from the seat of your bicycle (the State Forest has plenty of gravel biking trails, in addition to its many hiking trails). Explore the park, and beyond, and work up both a sweat while sailing up and down hills and around sharp mountain curves. And if you work up an appetite too, there’s no need to worry – when in Vermont, you’re not far from outstanding ice cream!
In the mid-1850s, while the California gold rush was in full tilt, a miniature gold rush occurred in Vermont’s very own Green Mountains, when gold was discovered in brooks near the town of Plymouth. The scramble for the precious metal in Vermont was shorter lived, smaller and less profitable than the rush out west, and for most the event faded from historical memory. However, there is still (a bit) of gold in them hills. Though Camp Plymouth State Park, just ten miles from Coolidge, is the most popular prospecting spot, visitors to Coolidge can also try their luck panning in the area’s brooks and streams (just make sure you follow state regulations: no use of mechanical equipment, no destruction of stream beds, no panning in state wildlife management areas).
While the park facilities are not open in winter, you can nevertheless get to the park via connecting trails. The woods of the Green Mountains take on a whole new character in winter, as thick blankets of billowy snow cover the hills and coat the boughs of hemlocks and spruce. Snowshoeing is an excellent - and popular - way to enjoy the quietude and the fresh, bracing air; the lack of leaves also opens up new views and panoramas only available to the intrepid winter explorer.
When it comes to fall foliage, Vermont gives every other state in the Union a run for its money. The thick canopy of the Green Mountain’s rich forests bursts with vibrant, fiery hues of red, orange and yellow every autumn. Fall at Coolidge, with its panoramic views and wooded hiking trails, is certainly a sight to behold. Late September is usually peak leaf season for central Vermont, which means you can go and camp while the park is still open (it closes Columbus Day weekend).
The woodlands of northern New England are host to an abundance of fascinating critters large and small. Deer, black bear and moose are all present, as are fox, porcupines, flying squirrels and more. If you’re out on a rainy spring evening, look for salamanders, like the Dr. Suess-ian Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) crossing roads and footpaths on their way to breeding ponds. Cool streams weaving their way through valleys harbor brook trout and other elusive freshwater fish. If you are at the park during the colder months, you might catch a glimpse of the elusive but majestic snowy owl, which winters in the area.