Sitting on the peaceful, tree-lined shores of Lake Groton, Stillwater State Park is a North Woods gem. Though the small, 52-acre park is filled mostly by its lovely campground, Stillwater offers easy access to a range of activities, including hiking, swimming, canoeing and phenomenal freshwater fishing. The Groton Nature Center, which runs interpretive talks and activities and has numerous exhibits on the area’s ecology and history, is just also just short walk or drive away.
Stillwater is located within a cluster of several state parks, all of which are surrounded by the 20,000+ acre Groton State Forest. The State Forest has extensive network of hiking, biking, equestrian and cross country trails, which visitors use to journey to some of the areas many scenic ponds, peaks, lakes, and streams. Grand maples, stately beech trees, and towering hemlocks flourish in thick groves, which are also home to a wide variety of mammalian and bird life. If you seek fresh forest air and a bit of sylvan solitude, you can’t do much better than the woods around Stillwater.
Stillwater offers 59 campsites suitable for small to mid-sized RVs and trailers. Travelers will want to take advantage of Vermont State Parks’ eleven-month reservation window and book their spots ahead of time.
Stillwater is just a short distance from I-91 (to the east of the park) and I-89 (to the west of the park); travelers can take Hwy 2 or Hwy 302 off of either of these interstates, and from either of these highways they can access State Forest Road, which bisects Groton State Forest and provides access to Stillwater via Boulder Beach Rd. Routes are paved and somewhat hilly, with some bends, though no sections are terribly steep or sharp. If you’re not traveling through during summer, be wary of snow, slush and ice - winter weather starts early and ends late in northern Vermont.
If you’re looking to resupply but can’t find what you need at the county general store, the small, nearby towns of Marshfield (to the north) and Groton (to the south) offer some amenities, including their own general stores and a few restaurants, while the full service town of Montpellier – Vermont’s capital – is just a forty-five minute drive to the west.
Once you’ve arrived at the park, you’ll find a simple setup. The park’s only entranceway leads to two small loops, with the boat launch and swimming area branching off of one of these. Parking can be trickier with larger rigs but is certainly manageable. Boulder Beach Road wraps around the northern half of the lake, providing access to the county store, the Groton Nature Center, and the area’s other parks.
The Stillwater campground consists of one normal loop and one “figure-eight” loop, each having both RV and non-RV sites interspersed along their length. 59 sites are RV suitable.
Most sites have an excellent view of Lake Groton, and some practically sit on the beach. Rich north woods hardwoods line the campground, and a quiet stream runs between the two loops, letting out into the lake.
Sites are primitive, with no electric, water or sewage hookups. However, water spigots are available throughout the campsite, limited generator use is allowed, and a sanitary dump station is located just within the park entrance. There are also three modern restrooms, each with hot showers. A local store with basic supplies (some food, firewood), which serves the cluster of parks in around the lake, is just a short walk or drive from the park.
Site are open from Mid-May to Labor Day, and reservations are taken up to eleven months in advance.
Though Stillwater offers a fantastic view of northern Lake Groton, the best way to explore this beautiful body of water is to head out onto it. A gravel boat launch located conveniently off of one of Stillwater’s camping loop allows you to do just that; visitors can take canoes or kayaks and explore the large lake’s far shores and quiet coves. Paddle out, find a prime spot and relax while kingfishers zip by overhead and painted turtles clamber onto nearby basking logs.
Stillwater takes up a fair amount of shoreline real-estate, and, in addition to a boat launch, offers a swim beach for visitors. Though Vermont is not particularly known for oppressive heat, daily high temperatures in the State Forest can reach upwards into the 80s during July and August, which provides plenty of impetus to take a dip in the clear, cool waters of Lake Groton. Or, if you’re not up for a bracing swim, just soak up the sun and the view while relaxing on the sandy beach.
Groton Lake, as well as the surrounding brooks, streams and ponds, offers excellent freshwater fishing opportunities in a magnificent setting. Anglers can expect to pull smallmouth and largemouth bass, yellow perch, brown bullhead, chain pickerel, pike and more. If you’re new to fishing, take advantage of the park’s “Reel Fun” program, which offers free gear rentals and fishing instruction to visitors.
Also, remember to pick up a fishing license before heading out; nearby Seyon Lodge and Ricker Pond State Parks both sell Vermont fishing licenses.
From September through the end of October, the dazzling, fiery colors of fall sweep across Vermont’s densely forested mountains and hillsides. Though Stillwater’s facilities are closed after Labor Day, the park itself remains open to visitation, and autumn travelers will certainly want to take in the area’s colorful, sweeping vistas or take a forest stroll underneath a roof of red and yellow leaves. Photographers can capture a shot of the vibrant forest doubled as it reflects itself on Lake Groton’s placid surface. Peak leaf season here is usually around mid-October.
Though Stillwater itself does not have any designated hiking trails, a large network of trails branches out from points around the lake and crawls along the hills and valleys of Groton State Forest. Head out to one of the area’s tranquil ponds or summit one of the nearby peaks, such as Little Spruce Mountain. Though summer is the busiest hiking season, hitting the trail during fall means encountering far fewer mosquitoes and ticks. Panoramas in autumn will take on a new, brilliant character as the forest’s canopy transforms from solid green to a patchwork of reds, oranges and yellows.
Consistent snowfall, rolling terrain and thick, conifer-filled woods make for a marvelous cross country skiing setting. Skiers can use Stillwater, or one of the nearby parks, as a launching point from which to explore the surrounding winter wonderland. Watch as chickadees and cedar waxwings flit from bough to bough overhead, or perhaps catch a glimpse of a moose as it nibbles on a snow-clad spruce sapling. Or, if skiing isn’t your thing, head out for a romp on snowshoes.