Having a daughter who lives in northern Vermont is a good thing, especially if you’re a photographer. When I visit, and she’s out shopping or working, I can take the time to grab my camera gear and just poke around, exploring Vermont’s back roads.
Speaking of Vermont’s roads, the Northern Kingdom (what locals call the far northern part of the state) must have one of the highest percentages of unpaved to paved roads in the country, forcing me to slow down and soak in the myriad small farms, forest lots and old New England homes that beautify the landscape. I must average 10 miles/hour, craning my neck this way and that, deciding on what will make a good image. Anyone following me on a GPS would think I was nuts, considering how many times I back up or make u-turns.
Barr Hill Natural Area
So a few days ago I came across a tiny jewel of a park in northern Vermont, tucked away in a remote area, that is absolutely perfect for photography. It’s called Barr Hill Natural Area. Covering a tad more than 250 acres, the 7/10-mile nature trail loops through the property with a few side spurs and is smartly laid out for a small park. Barr Hill is run by The Nature Conservancy (thank you!). Despite very little change in elevation this highlands trail weaves in and out of beautiful scenics as you hike into and out of the woods.
At the entrance to the trail, there is a sign-in book and free brochures that include a map of the loop. Along the way you encounter numbered posts that correspond to interpretive information in the brochure about what you are seeing. The guide is informative without being overwhelming especially if, like me, you’ll be putting down your tripod and camera each time you read the information.
Few people come to this remote preserve. On a Friday, I only met one couple hiking together. That gave me time to amble, looking for possible images. In the end I only took a few images since I had only two lenses with me and limited time. But I did write down a few places that I think would lend themselves to winter scenics. I intend to be back.
The park is situated at 2,100 feet elevation, so when there are clearings in the woods, you can see for miles. The area around Barr Hill is home to moose, white-tailed deer, and black bear, as well as many small mammals and birds. All forest growth is relatively recent, as the mountain was extensively logged in the 19th century.
Getting to the park is part of the charm of the outing. I drove down gravel roads, along small dairy farms with stone fences, and finally up a long, rutted road to the preserve’s tiny entrance. Here are the directions, taken straight from The Nature Conservancy brochure (with a few modifications by me):
At the center of Greensboro, VT find Willey’s General Store. Then take Wilson Street north for 0.1 mile. Bear right at the Greensboro Town Hall onto Lauredon Ave. Drive 0.6 mile and at a fork in the road, bear left onto Barr Hill Road, which is clearly marked. Go 1 mile to the Barr Hill Natural Area sign. Just before the sign on your left you will see a small winter parking area (you’ll have to hike to the park entrance during winter season). In other seasons, continue past the sign and gate for another 0.6 mile to a small trailhead parking area with room for 8-9 cars. Look for the Nature Trail sign and register box.