Even though Willoughby State Forest in Vermont was officially established in 1928, it was a patchwork of land. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the state purchased enough land to create a single, massive park. The region was heavily logged and converted to farmlands in the 1800s. The Civilian Conservation Corps, as a part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, planted tens of thousands of trees in the early 1930s. The maple, oak, birch, and spruce saplings thrived, and today, it’s hard to imagine that there were ever farmlands.
The closest town is Barton, VT, which has a grocery store and a handful of restaurants. This charming town is just a couple miles to the west of the state forest. For more variety in retail shopping choices, as well as a medical center, the closest town is Newport, about 30 miles north. Kickstart your ultimate RV camping adventure when you search for an RV in Caledonia County.
Encompassing over 7,600 acres, the bulk of Willoughby State Forest consists of three prominent geological features: Lake Willoughby is cradled on two sides by Mount Hor and Mount Pisgah. The lake itself covers around 1,600 acres and is over 300 feet deep, which is one of the deepest lakes in the New England region. Giant limestone and granite boulders, deposited by a mile-high glacier as it retreated north some 10,000 years ago, tower over the lake. These boulders are prime spots for cliff diving and jumping. A swimming beach and a small boat launch invite water recreational fun. Many adventurers enjoy kayaking, canoeing, and even sailboating. Fishing, too, is enjoyed by many. Anglers can expect to catch brook trout, rainbow trout, catfish, and bass. Though it’s exceptionally rare, if a fisherman catches a round whitefish, they are required to release it. The round whitefish is an endangered species, and it is believed that Lake Willoughby hosts one of the last surviving populations of this fish.
There are several miles of hiking trails that criss-cross as they ascend Mt. Hor and Pisgah. Hikers who achieve summit are rewarded with a birds-eye view of the lake’s inky blue depths and a sweeping view of the mountain on the opposite side of the lake. While bicycles are welcome, they are restricted to gravel paths and roads. Mt. Hor, due to its craggy cliffside that rises over the lake, is popular with rock climbers, though contending with the steep slopes to gain access to the rock slab can be challenging in the wet season. Climbers should also exercise caution when spidering up the slab. Peregrine falcons like to nest in nooks and crannies and may take offense at a climber venturing too close.
When winter rolls around and blankets the mountains in deep, soft snow, the fun doesn’t stop. The access roads are kept plowed, and most of the trails are groomed for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Though snowmobiles are not permitted in this park, several other nearby parks permit it.
In addition to many wildlife that makes their home in these woods, black bears are frequently sighted as they travel on game trails from other woodlands in search of delicious food. Bald eagles, deer, foxes, and raccoons are familiar companions in the woods.
While hunting isn’t permitted, there are several other nearby parks, such as CC Putnam State Forest, in which hunting is allowed during the appropriate seasons. Hikers and other outdoor adventurers should wear blaze orange during these periods.
Camping at Willoughby State Forest
Rent a travel trailer and fulfill the fantasy of waking up surrounded by nature without enduring leaky tents and rocky soil. Unfortunately, RV camping at Willoughby State Forest isn’t possible because there are no campgrounds. However, there are a handful of options nearby. White Caps Campground is a privately-run business that’s found at the southern end of Lake Willoughby. The campground offers full or partial hookups, fire rings at each site, and a general store. Well-behaved leashed pets are welcome here.
Another option to consider is to RV camp at Belview Campground near Barton, VT. The campground features full hookups, free WiFi, and dogs are allowed. This campground claims to be the only campground with a dog park in Vermont. Most RV sites are set in deep woods, and they can seem very private. A few sites here are waterfront.
Exploring the area
Vermont is well known for its towns that date back to the 1700s, many of which are inhabited by people with an unusual sense of humor. Many homes, buildings, and other structures are registered on the National Register of Historic Structures. Hop into a rental motorhome and hit the road.
Explore the charming mountain towns and look for curious stores, restaurants, and idiosyncratic museums. The Bread and Puppet Theater and Museum in Glover, VT, was originally founded in 1963 in NYC’s Lower-East side, and a few short years later, it moved into a historic barn in Glover. All performances are paired with delicious homemade bread. The museum is open June till November.
The tiny town of Brownington, VT, is a frequent host of festivals, faires, and expos throughout the year, due to its large fairgrounds. Popular festivals include the Antique Engine Show, Old Stone House Day, and the Apple and Cheese Festival, which is typically held in late September. The events draw many residents from the other nearby towns as well as out-of-town leaf-peepers who have descended upon Vermont to ogle the colorful trees.
Snack on homemade maple syrup candies and craft beer as you settle down by a crackling campfire. Listen for the soft hoots of owls as they prepare to hunt at dusk. Watch the twinkling stars appear in the night sky.