Recently, on a particularly sunny Spring day, I decided to take my son on a mini-hike at the Winooski Gorge Overlooks Park. I’ve lived in Chittenden County most of my life, but before Busy Btown, I had no idea this little spot even existed. With water levels high this year, I thought it might be an especially interesting time to hit some trails overlooking the Winooski River, so I packed my son’s bag with a few treats, and we headed into South Burlington.
The Winooski Gorge Natural Area is located mere minutes from St. Michael’s college. From Route 15, I turned onto Lime Kiln Road. Just after crossing the bridge, a free parking lot was directly to the right. It was very easy to find, and on this day, my car was the only one in the lot.
From the parking lot off Lime Kiln Road, you’ll see a sidewalk that leads toward the bridge, ending at an observation platform. There, we found a lovely view of the river and the underbelly of the bridge (along with fencing and some graffiti). The bridge is beautiful, frankly, even while tagged with random scrawls. We sat there for a while, just taking in the rapid waters and appreciating the view.
Also from the parking lot, is a trail that enters the woods to the left, just beyond the Winooski Gorge Overlooks sign.
The trails in this natural area provide a short and fairly easy hike. While it is wooded and there are some inclines, my two-year old explored the path with minimal assistance (to his insistence). However, we did not try to hike down to the water, which makes for a steep climb. Given the water levels, we decided instead to stay along the perimeter railing, high above the river below. The views from there, even in Spring, with only buds on the trees, was stunning.
I will admit that despite the beauty of this little spot, the one thought that kept popping in my mind was the risk of ticks. But that is a regular thought these days, unfortunately. While we tried to stay along the beaten path, the trees are fairly close together in spots, so it is difficult to avoid brushing against a branch. I always remember in these instances to check for ticks as quickly as possible, and we did not have any issues. But as with any hiking trip, it’s good to prepare with bug spray and/or the proper attire.
There are other access points to the river that we didn’t explore. On the other side of the bridge, close to the train tracks, we watched a group of young people climb down among the rocks to hang out. (They seemed to be having a great time, and it also seemed that this was not their first visit).
While the trails at the Winooski Gorge Overlooks Park are open for hikers, birders or anglers, no mountain bikes are allowed (I imagine a bike would be difficult to maneuver). There is also no hunting or trapping allowed. In the winter, visitors can access the frozen river for ice skating or ice fishing.
If you decide to visit this great little natural area, there are a few things you should keep in mind. There are no staff or facilities, no tables or areas for grilling, and no fire pits. However, nothing should prevent you from packing a blanket and picnicking where you find space. If you do pause for a bite or beverage, this is a carry in, carry out park. So as the sign says upon entry, “Take only pictures and leave only footprints.”