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Surrounded by woods, thickets, and hills, just ten miles from the town of Manchester is a 20-acre lake with the glistening green surface rightly named Emerald Lake. Surrounding the mesmerizing lake is a 430-acre state park, characterized by old-growth forest comprised of sugar maples, hemlock, wildflowers, and multiple hardwood plant species. The Taconic and Green Mountains flank the park's east and west boundaries, offering yet more scenic views and opportunities to get out and about in the great outdoors.
Emerald Lake is a place where you can have a peaceful picnic, watch woodland critters, paddle along the shoreline, or fish. Manchester campers and Dorset campers are some of the most regular guests, as well as RV campers from Danby, as all three towns are just minutes away from the state park. During summer, visitors from all over the state come to unwind and camp in an RV at Emerald Lake State Park. Campers without their own motorhome can rent an RV in Bennington County to make the most of their trip and explore the surrounding area.
During the early 19th century, this area of Dorset became famous for its marble quarries. The marble hype went on for over a century until marble harvesting efforts shifted to West Rutland. The land that's now a beloved state park was purchased by Robert Alfred Shaw, who established his farmstead and lived here until 1957. After Robert died, the state purchased the area and made it into the recreation park everyone loves today.
Those who decide to go camping at Emerald Lake State Park are in for quite an eventful and engaging stay. First-timers typically spend their time enjoying the unique lake and going over the historic sites at the park pertaining to past quarry operations and Robert Shaw’s estate.
Canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and non-motorized watercraft are permitted on Emerald Lake. Along the shoreline, you can find boat rentals. If you have a fishing license, paddle out to find the perfect fishing spot and try your luck catching smallmouth bass, yellow perch, and northern pike.
Emerald Lake State Park campers who love birding are in for a treat. Birdwatching at the state park is a favorite pastime for visitors, as different bird species can be spotted near the lake or in the woods. The list is quite extensive, so keep your eyes open for peregrine falcons, scarlet tanagers, cliff swallows, and dozens more species.
Hiking is another worthwhile recreational activity at Emerald Lake State Park. The Rich Woods Trail System boasts several short, easy trails. Most hiking trails at Emerald Lake State Park are less than a mile long. Three trailheads are located inside the campground. Those looking for a challenge will find one on the section of the Appalachian Trail near the park.
Emerald Lake State Park features nearly 70 campsites where you can camp in an RV or tent. The sites don't come with hookups, but you'll have access to flush toilets, dump stations, and hot showers.
Also, you might be able to use your generator as well; just make sure you double-check with the park’s authorities regarding restrictions. Other camping options and amenities include nearly 40 lean-to shelters, picnic grounds, firewood sales on-site, and a playground.
On your Emerald Lake State Park camping trip, take some time to learn more about the park and the history of the area at Dorset Historical Society. Here, you'll find multiple collections that are related to a specific time or place in Dorset. These include marble industry artifacts, 19th-century iron tools, native fern collection, clothing, and farm equipment used by Dorset families.
The town of Manchester has a lot to offer when it comes to entertainment, cultural insights, and dining options. Whether you're looking to treat yourself to a sit-down meal or you just want to grab something quick, you'll find a variety of restaurants, including pizzerias, bakeries, burger joints, and gourmet fare. If you love fine arts, there's also a great museum here. Admire paintings, sculptures, murals, statues, and figurines at the Museum of the Creative Process, or sign up for their workshops.
Finally, if you're in the mood to do something really exciting, you should drive from Manchester towards Arlington, where you'll find a privately-owned toll road where you can go for a skyline drive. You'll start at an elevation of 800 feet and drive along the road that goes up the mountain, providing panoramic views of valleys, rivers, and lakes below. You'll want to bring along your camera for this scenic drive to capture some of the breathtaking vistas along the way.