September 2021
Foliage views on Round Pond at Holbrook State Park - B. Mason
Greetings Everyone,
Autumn is an incredible time of year in Vermont State Parks with the crisp mornings and bright colors, some of the most spectacular scenery, and wildlife on the move prepping for winter. As we head into the tail end of this notable park season, we are trending toward record levels of visitation. We are grateful for every visitor who has enjoyed the benefits of Vermont’s amazing park system this year and we are humbled by the privilege of operating these special places.

I recently read an article about the value of asking for advice. A simple request for advice can open people up to your challenges, foster connection toward a greater understanding, and help benefit your situation. Any feedback or advice you have for Vermont State Parks is considered a gift and is always welcome. Please keep sharing your thoughts about any aspect of our operations or individual parks.

Let me take a moment to offer a shout out to all the fantastic park staff who work tirelessly to make these beautiful spaces welcoming, safe, and accessible for all visitors. They will tell you that the most motivating aspects of their job are the smiling faces and bright-eyed kids along with the memorable moments and milestones they witness throughout the park season.

Please join in or at least stay connected to our fall photo contest. I can assure you, some fantastic scenes are being captured for us to marvel and enjoy. I hope you can get out there and enjoy this terrific stretch of weather and I trust we will see you in the parks!


Nate McKeen, Director of Vermont State Parks
Congratulations Park of the Year Winners!
Park of the Year awards were announced at our annual meeting on September 5th. This award is given out yearly to a park in each region of the state, and is based on a number of factors: hospitality, staff relations, safety, facilities, tool and equipment care, and report/ record-keeping. 
Northwest RegionGrand Isle
Northeast Region: Crystal Lake
Southwest RegionBomoseen
Southeast Region: Molly Stark
2021 Falling for VT State Parks Photo Contest is LIVE
Above: A colorful mirrored spectacle on the pond at Brighton State Park - E. George

Vermont State Parks is pleased to announce the 2021 Falling for VT State Parks Photo Contest. We are seeking your best shots of the legendary foliage in VT State Parks! Head out into the parks and capture the beauty of the 2021 foliage for a chance to win:

  • 1st - $100 Vermont State Park gift card
  • 2nd – 2022 Season Family Vehicle pass 
  • 3rd – 10-punch pass
Outdoor Observer: Fall Changes
To the right: Trees change color at Gifford Woods State Park.

Our beloved and entertaining campground chipmunks are busy in state parks, scurrying around gathering seeds and nuts to store in their underground burrows for winter food. Last weekend I saw red maples starting to turn just a little red during a visit at Stillwater State Park, and earlier this week I was at Gifford Woods State Park and saw sugar maples starting to hint at their bright orange autumn glory. It is happening all around us in Vermont, the miracle of fall changes.

Like the busy chipmunk, all Vermont’s wild animals are getting ready for the coming cold weather. Some animals travel great distances to find easier weather, and they are fueling up for a long migration journey. Some animals are growing thicker fur to insulate them during the cold Vermont winter weather. Some animals are gaining fat, so they have insulation and extra energy on their bodies to help them make it through, whether they spend the winter in torpor, or out and about in the snowy landscape. 

One native Vermont resident we have been looking for this summer is getting ready for winter by eating as many aphids as possible. Who could this be? Why, our little red and black spotted friends, the lady beetles. Commonly called ladybugs, these little red and orange beetles are eating plenty of extra insects to prepare for a winter of diapause (similar to hibernation) together in rock crevasses (or maybe your home). Lady beetles look for warmer places to overwinter, and in the forest they will crawl into rock crevasses or under flakey tree bark. Clapboards or wooden window frames also make preferable places for them to gather.
To the left: Close up of a lady beetle at D.A.R. State Park - M. Conley

This summer we were looking for lady beetles in parks because we participated in the Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas project with the Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE). Did you know there are 42 recorded species of lady beetles in Vermont? VCE is keeping track with help from citizen scientists on iNaturalist. Lady beetles come in all shapes and sizes and can vary in color from brown to yellow to orange and red. It has been exciting to engage visitors in parks looking for lady beetles during interpretive programs. 

If you were not able to join in a lady beetle hunt this summer, I invite you to look for lady beetles on plants outdoors near your home to see how many you can find. You can take this to the next step by sharing your lady beetle discoveries on iNaturalist, and contribute to the Vermont Lady Beetle Atlas yourself. Please share with us your discoveries about lady beetles, and other fall changes you see all around you as summer gracefully changes to fall. 

Rebecca Roy, Parks Interpretive Program Manager

Fall Foliage Hikes
Right: A person with dogs on-leash enjoys the trails in Groton State Forest - A. Tetreault-Dudley

With temperatures dropping and fall foliage coming into view, it’s the perfect time to go hike. There’s a trail for every ability level and adventure. Here’s just a few of our favorite hikes!

Accessible by Car

Mountain Road, Mt. Ascutney State Park in Windsor. Parkway guide.
The Mount Ascutney Parkway is a 3.7-mile road built by hand and machine by the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1933 to 1937. The parkway has stunning long-range views of the Connecticut River Valley.  

Mt. Philo Access Road, Mt. Philo State Park in Charlotte. Trail guide.
The summit access road allows visitors to drive to the top. The park is an excellent spot to watch autumn bird migrations, and is noted for raptor watching. 

Accessible by Wheelchair

Accessible Trail, Sentinel Rock State Park in Westmore. Trail guide.
A small network of trails loop through the fields and forests in Sentinel Rock State Park. From Upper Parking Area, there is an accessible trail both to the rock and to great views from the grassy knoll above the rock. The trail is 4+ feet wide with a gravel surface, which has small-sized stones, but is loose in some areas.

Boreal Forest Trail, Brighton State Park in Island Pond. Trail guide.
Interpretive panels along the Boreal Trail will introduce you to the boreal forest— the most widespread natural community on the earth. Take along an audio pen, available at the contact station, to hear the story and sounds of this remarkable natural community.

West River Trail, Jamaica State Park in Jamaica. Trail guide.
One of few converted rail beds in southern Vermont, the section in the park is universally accessible and great for easy walking, jogging, or biking. The trail meanders along the West River, following the old bed of the West River Railroad. Look for “The Dumplings,” a group of large boulders about 0.5 miles up the trail.
Left: Hikers enjoy the fall foliage at a summit - Zhou-Hackett Family

Accessible by Foot - Moderate to Challenging

Deer Leap Overlook, Gifford Woods State Park in Killington. Trail Map.
This park is home to one of the few old growth northern hardwood forests in Vermont. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike with views, Deer Leap offers spectacular views and is near both the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail for a longer trek.

Mt. Olga Loop, Molly Stark State Park in Wilmington. Trail Map.
A 1.7-mile hike takes you up Mt. Olga and back again. This trail includes a fire tower to where you can see mountains in three states: Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. You can camp at Molly Stark through Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Stevenson Brook Trail, Little River State Park in Waterbury. Trail Map.
Stevenson Brook Trail is a choose-your-own adventure trail. There are several side trails you can add to your hike. Take the main body of the trail or branch off and explore remains of historic homesteads, sugar houses, barns, sawmills, and a cemetery.

Vista Trail Loop, Emerald Lake State Park in East Dorset. Trail Map.
This is another southern park with an underrated trail system, including an easy walk following the shore of Emerald Lake. Emerald Lake is open through Indigenous Peoples' Day, and is close to Dorset and Manchester.

As you head into the woods this fall, keep safety in mind by planning ahead, being prepared, and wearing blaze orange as hunting season is in full swing during the fall.
For more information on trails in Vermont State Parks, check out:
1962 Girl Scout Senior Roundup Reunion
Above: A group photo of a Senior Girl Scout Troop in '62 (left) and a group photo of reunion goers in '21 (right).

Two years before Button Bay was established as a Vermont State Park, it was the location for the 1962 Girl Scout Senior Roundup. The two years of planning, designing, and implementing leading up to the two-week event in late July, formed much of what the park is today. This Roundup marked the 50th anniversary of Girl Scouting, and was celebrated with an 18-foot cake, and a special guest appearance from Maria von Trapp. 

Girls and women came from all over the country and the globe, with 30 different countries represented, totaling approximately 10,000 people. Everyone in attendance was temporarily considered a resident, therefore making the location briefly the 3rd largest city in Vermont (it would be the 8th biggest today).
These girls, along with visitors from the community, participated in a wide array of activities, programs and events that ended each day, of course, with singing around a campfire in a huge arena built for just this occasion. Button Bay was primarily chosen as the location for this event because of its unique geology, and the significant interest in geology shown by the majority of girl scouts at the time. The 60-year-old solitary pine tree, that still stands in the field near the arena today, was planted to mark this historic event. 
This September 15, 2021, saw another girl scout reunion return to Button Bay! This was a monumental event for all women who attended and holds a very special place in all their hearts, and for many, it shaped who they are today. For this reason, nearly 100 women happily return to Button Bay both on their own and for official Roundup Reunions to revisit the site that was the event-of-a-lifetime. 

After 4 years of collecting photos, documents, memorabilia, and stories from the 1962 Roundup, Park Managers Lauren & Kierstin were able to create a popup museum highlighting this event. A permanent display is currently in progress in the Button Bay State Park Nature Center. 
Late Season Parks Open Through October
Need a laugh?
Here's a Vermont State Parks 'Dad joke' and pun compilation courtesy of Ranger Chad Ummel! What's your favorite park-related pun?

With your help this year, Vermont Parks Forever, the nonprofit foundation for Vermont State Parks, has doubled our Park Access Fund and expanded our reach into all 14 counties of Vermont! Together, we’re raising awareness and funds to remove barriers and help even more Vermonters enjoy a visit to one of the 55 state parks.

We’re still looking to do more! Have suggestions for an organization that we can help get into the parks? Email us at Check out who we’ve helped into the parks so far this year at

Spending time in nature is important for everyone, and since 2016, Vermont Parks Forever has provided free day passes to help those who otherwise would not have the chance to experience the state parks.  Free passes given to foster families, essential workers, youth programs, and Vermonters with mobility impairments, ensure the natural relief a day in the parks can bring.  Vermont’s state parks are for everyone and together we can promote a more equitable outdoor experience! 

Interested in helping us further this good work?
Share your pictures!
We love to see your Vermont State Parks adventures! Post them on our Facebook page or share them with #VTStateParks on Instagram or Twitter
“Go, sit upon the lofty hill, And turn your eyes around, Where waving woods and waters wild Do hymn an autumn sound. The summer sun is faint on them— The summer flowers depart— Sit still— as all transform’d to stone, Except your musing heart.” - Elizabeth Barrett Browning