Whatever the Seasons Might Offer, Barnard has Adventure for Everyone
Barnard is a paradise for people who love the outdoors. Whatever you like to do, whatever your level of experience, you’re likely to find it in the trails, lakes, creeks, and roads around Barnard — from paddling on Silver Lake, to hiking the Appalachian Trail, to biking the roads and trails, to snowmobiling the VAST trails, to ice fishing. Or just lounging in the sun and taking in the idyllic beauty of the lake. The possibilities are endless.
Where to Explore in Barnard
Nestled in the hills that surround the village of Barnard sits Silver Lake. At times tranquil and serene, other times abuzz with activity, the 84 acre lake at the heart of the town caters to everyone. Sitting on the shore with a cup of coffee on a summer morning, you might see a kayak cutting through the rising fog. Or you might have the lake to yourself. With no motorized watercraft on the lake, it feels peaceful even when busy with swimmers, canoes, paddleboats and paddleboards. In the winter, you’ll find pickup hockey games on the ice and plenty of space to cut a hole and drop your ice fishing line.
Nearly half of the lake’s shoreline is conserved or state park land, and the other half is dotted with tasteful, understated cottages. Where the lake meets the village, directly across from the Barnard General Store, there’s a public beach with picnic area and boat launch.
Silver Lake State Park
On the northern shore of the lake you’ll find Silver Lake State Park, a popular destination for locals and out-of-towners alike. The 35-acre park has a beautiful sandy beach with swimming area, trails through woods and wetlands, picnic grounds, grills, a concession stand, horseshoe pits and basketball hoops, boat rentals, and a big playground for the kids. Silver Lake State Park also has 40 campsites for tents and RVs, and seven lean-to sites.
The park is perfect for cookouts and picnics, and if you’re planning a bigger event, there’s a pavilion you can rent out for the day.
The park is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but the grounds can be accessed anytime, and is a short walk — or boat ride or cross-country ski — from the village and the general store.
The Dorothy Thompson Memorial Park
A state-designated historical site, the Dorothy Thompson “Commons” is located next to the Barnard General Store on Route 12. Thompson was one of the most famous journalists and political commentators in America, landing on the cover of Time Magazine in 1939 when her influence was equated with that of Eleanor Roosevelt. You can learn more about Dorothy here.
On land donated to the Silver Lake Association by the late Lolo Sarnoff (a close friend of Thompson’s in the 1950s), the Commons is an open space containing a state historical marker, a marble monument commissioned by Sarnoff in Thompson’s honor, a sculpture by Thompson’s third husband, the artist Maxim Kopf, and a small cabin once belonging to Thompson’s second husband, the Nobel laureate Sinclair Lewis.
The Barnard Community Trust, working with the Silver Lake Association, is planning to improve the site in the near future.
There are more bears than people in the wilds of the Chateauguay No Town area, 60,000 acres of largely roadless protected forestland that straddle the borders of Barnard, Bridgewater, Stockbridge, and Killington. The Chateauguay is traversed by the Appalachian Trail and includes several State Wildlife Management Areas, and the Chateauguay NoTown Conservation Project Committee has conserved nearly a third of this prime wildlife habitat. Within the Chateauguay boundaries there are two watersheds and miles of land used for outdoor recreation such as hunting, fishing, hiking, skiing and snowmobiling.
At the end of Chateauguay Road, at the Barnard-Bridgewater border, 1,000 acres have been conserved as “Forever Wild” as a buffer zone around the Appalachian Trail. The land encompasses a large beaver pond complex and is great habitat for all of the wildlife that roams the Chateauguay area.
The Appalachian Trail
The country’s most storied footpath, the Appalachian Trail, passes through Barnard in the Chateauguay. An easier way to access the trail is to pick it up where it crosses Route 12 in Pomfret, about 6 miles south of the village of Barnard. On the west side of Route 12, there’s a parking lot with trail maps in the hiker kiosk.
Amity Pond Natural Area
The Amity Pond Natural Area is a 182 acre state park that is technically in Pomfret, but is accessed by trailheads just outside the village of East Barnard. The area is typical of Vermont hill lands—it was once heavily forested, then cleared for pasture in the 18th and 19th centuries, and then given back to the forests in the early 1900s. Throughout the Amity Pond Natural Area, evidence of its past use is found in old stone walls, sugar arches and abandoned roads.
At Amity Pond, there are two rustic camping shelters, each with a fireplace and non-potable water supply.
However You Might Like to Experience the Outdoors, You Can Easily Find Adventure In & Around Barnard
Road cyclists and mountain bikers alike can find great rides in Barnard. You’ll find paved roads, gravel roads, class four trails and technical organic singletrack for your two-wheel pursuits. Our paved roads are part of some popular cycling routes, and every May the Killington Stage Race passes right through town. Our gravel roads also play host to the increasingly popular Vermont Overland race.
Silver Lake is a destination for fishermen and women throughout the year. You can hook largemouth bass, northern pike, pumpkinseed sunfish, yellow perch, and rock bass. Many take a boat out onto the lake to fish, while some stick to the shore. There are also plenty of streams and creeks that are fishable, though the fishermen’s code dictates that we cannot publish the best spots to fish in and around town. You’ll have to ask a local. The Barnard General Store sells worms, and Locust Creek Outfitters in Bethel (6 miles up Route 12 from the General Store) has a wider variety of fishing supplies. Fly fishermen and women might be best outfitted at one of the outdoors shops in Woodstock, or further afield. A cold winter usually promises that ice fishing shanties of all shapes and sizes will become arrayed on the ice of Silver Lake in the center of town.
Golfers may travel to numerous course near Barnard, including courses in the nearby towns of Woodstock, Quechee, Rochester, and Killington. Visit the Vermont Golf Guide for more information on the local golf courses.
Explore a stretch of the Appalachian Trail or take a hike on any number of other local social trails. The Chateauguay is crisscrossed by dozens of footpaths, as is the protected area on the northeast side of Silver Lake, which you can get to from the State Park. Other hidden gems include Amity Pond Natural Area in East Barnard and Hawk’s Hill, to mention only a few.
If you head down to Woodstock, you’ll find over 30 miles of trails that connect Mt. Peg, Mt. Tom, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park, and the village.
Locals hunt the forests and fields all around town, but the wilderness of the Chateauguay No Town area is a special destination for deer and moose. Be sure to check out the calendar and rules and regulations from Vermont Fish and Wildlife before you head out. Respect posted No Trespassing signs, and be on the lookout for others out in the woods. Locust Creek Outfitters in Bethel (6 miles up Route 12 from the General Store) can help get you set up with licenses, ammo, and other supplies.
Skiing & Snowboarding
There are at least a half dozen ski areas within an hour’s drive of Barnard, including big tourist destinations like Sugarbush, Killington, and Okemo. Even closer is Suicide Six, one of the oldest downhill ski areas in the country and so named due to the fact that it at one time claimed the six steepest trails in the Northeast. Just 15 minutes from the village of Barnard, “the Six” is family-friendly and caters to skiers and snowboarders of all ages and abilities. Some other notable family-friendly ski areas nearby include Dartmouth Skiway, Middlebury Snowbowl, and Bread Loaf’s Rikert Nordic Center.
The options for cross-country and alpine skiing are plenty in the backcountry. For a formal experience, the Woodstock Inn Nordic Center, is just 15-20 minutes to the south. Around Barnard, you can cross country ski on the groomed snowmobile trails that traverse the town, or venture further afield, into the vast wilderness.
Barnard is fortunate to host 42 miles of groomed snowmobile trails, part of the 5,000 mile network of VAST trails in the state. Volunteers with the local club, the Barnard Mountain Viewers, maintain the well marked and mapped trails that crisscross the town and venture into the beautiful Chateauguay wilderness. The club also organizes group rides. Buy a trail pass at Locust Creek Outfitters in Bethel and then fuel up with ethanol-free gas at the Barnard General Store, where a trail conveniently passes by.