Those looking for the essential North Woods experience need look no further than New Discovery State Park. Set in the heart of the Green Mountains, New Discovery is surrounded by rugged, tree-clad mountains and thick, mixed-hardwood forests. Over a dozen placid ponds and lakes are within a few miles of the park, with each offering ample opportunities for boating, fishing or just some shoreline relaxation in a tranquil setting.
New Discovery is set within the 26,000 acre Groton State Forest, Vermont’s second largest - and perhaps its most scenic - state forest. Many miles of hiking trails and many more of multi-use trails, which are suitable for trail riding and mountain biking, snake their way across a landscape of shaded hollows and sunny peaks. Six additional state parks are clustered nearby, several of them on the shores of beautiful Groton Lake. Boulder Beach State Park has a swim beach, and there’s a wonderful interpretive center nearby that offers exhibits and information to all the parks’ visitors.
New Discovery is open from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day weekend, and it stays busy for much of that time. The park offers a few dozen RV suitable campsites, as well as several equestrian sites, all set in a lovely shaded campground that offers easy access to trails, ponds and lakes.
The park can be reached via New Discovery Rd/VT-230. VT-230 cuts through Groton State Forest, going North/South, and offers access to all of the state parks clustered in the area. If you’re coming from I-91 or I-89, both just a few miles from the park, you can take either US-302 or US-2 to reach the turn off for VT-230 (US 302 cuts south of the state forest, US cuts north of it). Roads into the park can have sharp turns and some moderate hills in places, as the countryside is mountainous. All roads are paved and well-maintained, however, so don’t fear any white-knuckle driving. Snow and slush can occur from early fall to late spring in northern Vermont, so be aware of weather conditions before setting out.
The park’s campground setup is very straightforward, consisting of a large loop with all RV sites and a smaller loop with mixed RV/equestrian sites. Parking should not pose much of a challenge as long as you are below the stated length limits (about 30 ft for most sites). Big Deer Mountain and Osmere Pond trailheads are within walking distance of the campground, and the park’s other day use areas and overlooks are just short drives away (additional parking is available at day use areas).
New Discovery sports a beautiful campground encompassed by dense groves of maples, beech, birch, hemlock and more. Most parts are partially or totally shaded. Sites for RVs and equestrian camping are available, and are spread across loops. There are also several lean-to’s available.
All sites are fully primitive, with no electric, water or sewer hookups. Water spigots are spread throughout the campground, however, and there is a sanitary dump station and recycling station right near the park’s entrance. The equestrian sites spigots, water troughs and hitching posts, and there is a horse washing station just up the road from the campground. Both campground loops have modern restrooms with showers, and the larger loop has a small playground and a horseshoe pit.
The Forest Country Store, on Lake Groton, offers basic supplies and food for campers at the seven State Parks in the immediate area. The nearby towns of Montpellier and St. Jonsbury are full-service, offering any additional amenities or supplies you may need.
In total, the campground boats 39 RV campsites and 7 equestrian sites. Reservations can be made up to eleven months in advance; visitors should note that, unlike some of the other parks in the area, New Discovery closes seasonally.
New Discovery’s equestrian camping sites make the park an excellent place from which trail riders can begin their exploration of the surrounding woods and mountains. Groton State Forest boasts about 20-miles of graveled, multi-use trails on which horses are allowed to ride. The Montpelier- Wells River Rail Trail (a section of the Cross Vermont Trail) snakes 11 miles through the forest, passing underneath a thick hardwood canopy and by tranquil streams lined with moss-covered stones and logs. Stunning mountain vistas and lovely deep-woods ponds are also reachable via equestrian trails.
Criss-crossed by numerous streams and dotted with ponds large and small, New Discovery and the surrounding forest provides a paradise for North Woods anglers. Osmore Pond, Peacham Pond and Kettle Pond are all popular, easily-accessible fishing spots near the park. There’s also, of course, Lake Groton, just a short drive south. If you’re looking to find some solitude, grab a pole in head to one of the farther-flung ponds accessible via Groton’s extensive hiking trail network. Brook trout, smallmouth pass, yellow perch and pumpkinseed are a few of the species anglers can pull from the area’s waters.
Northern Vermont can get surprisingly hot during the summer, with high temperatures routinely reaching the mid to high 80s. Resting or setting up a hammock in the shade of maples and beaches is one way to cool off, but the most effective way to beat the summer heat is by taking a dip in cool, clear lake. 400-acre Lake Groton is just a few minute drive New Discovery (it’s also accessible from the park via hiking trails); and Boulder Beach State park, sitting on its northeast shore, boasts an excellent swimming beach.
Seventeen miles of hiking trails wind across the 26,000+ scenic acres of Groton State Forest. Several easy walking trails take you to placid Osmore pond, where you can fish or birdwatch along the quiet, verdant shores. The mile and a half Owls Head trail offers more of a challenge, taking trekkers around marshes and up slopes until they reach Owl Head Peak, which provides a stunning view of Lake Groton and the surrounding tree-clad mountains. Other peaks and ponds can be reached via trailheads leaving from nearby state parks, all within a few minutes’ drive of New Discovery.
The country around New Discovery is scenic, rugged and topographically diverse, making for world-class mountain biking. Heading out from the New Discovery, or from one of the many other nearby state parks, you can ride onto an over 20-mile network of biking trails that weaves its way across thickly forested hillsides, valleys and creeks. Late summer and early fall offer a respite from bugs. Try to avoid late spring, also known as “Mud Season” in Vermont.
The thick woods, scattered ponds, marshes and bogs of Groton State Forest provide excellent habitats for an abundance of wildlife. Whether visitors opt to fish, hike, bike, ride or just relax underneath the shade of some maples, they’ll almost certainly catch a glimpse of some native fauna. Common mammalian inhabitants include moose, deer, black bear, beaver, otter, fisher and mink. Loons, herons, and several species of ducks can be found on the water, while bald eagles, golden eagles, northern harriers, and many hawks and owls can be found circling the skies or soaring between high tree branches.