Bug on red pine trunk (photo by Webmaster)

Quechee Gorge and Beyond

Destination:  Quechee Gorge
Trails:  Visitor Center Spur Path, Quechee Gorge Trail, Long Run Meadow Ski Trail
Region:  VT - Central East  
Quechee Gorge State Park
Location:  Hartford, VT
Rating:  Easy  
Features:  Gorge, river, waterfall, pond
Distance:  4.5 miles  
Elevation Gain:  Minimal  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 2:22   Typical: 2:20  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 4:00  
Season:  Spring
Hike Date:  03/31/2007 (Saturday)  
Last Updated:  04/05/2009  
Weather:  50-60 degrees, sunny
Author:  Webmaster

Ottauquechee River, upstream from the dam (photo by Webmaster) Route Summary   

This easy hike brings you along Quechee Gorge, then up to some waterfalls and Dewey's Mill Pond. Further exploration along the Ottauquechee River and through some meadows and woods is also possible, although it can easily be skipped if you just wish to visit the gorge area.

  • Start at the visitor center and follow the spur trail behind the building from the visitor center to the main trail along the gorge.
  • Turn right to head upstream on Quechee Gorge Trail.
  • Upon reaching the Route 4 overpass, you can continue on the trail which runs beneath the roadway brige; or you can go up to the road to enjoy the view of the gorge from the high vantage point of the bridge.
  • Continue upstream on the trail which brings you along the gorge then to a dam with waterfalls, then onto an isthmus that runs between Ottauquechee River and Dewey's Mill Pond.
  • At the end of the trail where it meets a road, retrace your footsteps back downstream, beneath the Route 4 bridge, and past the spur trail to the visitor center, heading farther downstream to the end of the gorge.
  • Then continue beyond the base of the gorge on a cross-country ski trail. Bear right at a fork which will at first stay near the river, and then loop away from it passing through meadows and then woods before rejoining itself back at the fork.
  • Back at the fork junction, bear right to retrace your footsteps upstream, back to the Route 4 roadway, and then turn right to return to the visitor center, this time along the road instead of the spur path.

Place         Split
Miles*
     Total
Miles*
     Split
Time
     Total
Time
    
Visitor Center 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
Rt. 4 0.1 0.1 0:07 0:07
Dam 0.2 0.3 0:09 0:16
End of Isthmus 0.5 0.8 0:10 0:26
Dam 0.5 1.3 0:10 0:36
Rt. 4 0.2 1.5 0:09 0:45
Base of Gorge 0.4 1.9 0:15 1:00
Start of Long Run Meadow Ski Trail 0.1 2.0 0:05 1:05
Fork in Meadow Trail 0.5 2.5 0:15 1:20
Return to Fork in Meadow Trail 1.0 3.5 0:30 1:50
Jct. Ski/Gorge Trails 0.5 4.0 0:15 2:05
Jct. Ski/Gorge/Campground Trails 0.1 4.1 0:05 2:10
Rt. 4 0.3 4.4 0:10 2:20
Visitor Center Parking Lot 0.1 4.5 0:02 2:22
* mileage is approximate

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Red pine bark (photo by Webmaster)


 

Trail map of hike route along Quechee Gorge and to Dewey's Mill Pond (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

This was a sunny, Spring-fever day with many people out walking along the Quechee Gorge path to experience the beauty of the Ottauquechee River forcing its way through the narrow passage of the gorge. There was a mix of frozen snow and bare ground on the trails. The gorge was beautiful: the water was an enticing green where it wasn't white from the rapids.

I started at the visitor center where I received a map of the "Quechee Gorge State Park Trail System". I exited the visitor center from the back which dumped me onto a spur trail leading from the visitor center, through the woods, to the main Quechee Gorge Trail. The Visitor Center Spur led downward via switchbacks through hemlock woods and then through hardwoods.

Upon reaching the end of that spur, I took a right to head upstream and quickly reached the underpass of Route 4 which crosses the gorge. I climbed up and onto the roadway which gave wonderful views of the gorge both upstream and downstream. The bridge hangs 165 feet above the water. Looking upstream, beyond the bend that hides part of the river and the dam, I could see the frozen Dewey's Mill Pond. The gorge has some short, steep, rocky banks, and then the land continues up at a steep incline and is covered with trees, most of which are evergreens.

Quechee Gorge Trail (photo by Webmaster) Quechee Gorge Trail (photo by Webmaster)


Looking downstream, I could see to what must have been the base of the gorge as the height of the embankments gradually lessoned. Beyond that, farther out, were small mountains.

After getting that wonderful overview perspective, I descended from the road back to the trail and continued upstream. There was a chain-link fence (about 4 feet high), all along the length of the gorge path and the river itself could only be viewed intermittently through the trees. Part of the path was bordered by red pines and the long needles carpeted the trail in spots. I saw an interesting bug on one of the pines. Its head looked like a big black and red eyeball!

Dam and falls on Ottauquechee River (photo by Webmaster)


Farther upstream, I reached a dam with big waterfalls, with the river much wider and the water flowing placidly above the dam. The smooth water looked blue as opposed to the green of the gorge's water.

Isthmus between Ottauquechee River and Dewey's Mill Pond (photo by Webmaster) Beyond the dam, I crossed an open area to get to the isthmus that runs between the Ottauquechee River and Dewey's Mill Pond. This narrow strip of land, about 30 or 40 feet wide provided a nice perspective of both the river and pond. There were many tall grasses growing along the shores and a few short trees in the center and the area beyond the water was surrounded with pleasant hills. There was a bird's nest in one of the bare trees. Upon reaching the end of the trail (at a road), I turned around and retraced my steps downstream.

I went back past the dam, and under the Route 4 bridge, past the spur that leads to the visitor's center and downhill on a wide trail to the base of the gorge (bearing right at a fork where left would lead to a campground). Here the narrow gorge empties out into a wider basin so there's a mixture of smooth and white water with the water getting smoother as it splits around an island and heads farther downstream.

Base of Quechee Gorge (photo by Webmaster) Beyond the open area at the base of the gorge, I saw a path headed uphill and I followed it. It shortly led to a pleasant little plateau overlooking the island. To complete the scene was a nice bench waiting for me to sit on. I ate my lunch in comfort while gazing out at the water wrapping around the island.

The view mesmerized me, not only by its peaceful beauty, but because I had seen it before from a much different perspective. Last summer I had canoed, upriver from North Hartland State Park, against the strong winds, up through the wide, shallow North Hartland Lake, and against strong currents as I got closer and closer to the base of the gorge. On the downstream side of that island was the farthest I could make it via canoe so it was nice to be able to continue the exploration of another section of the Ottauquechee River via foot.

After enjoying a very pleasant interlude there, I continued along the path down a short hill and then mostly along level ground. At the bottom of the hill were some cross-country ski trail signs indicating that I was on Long Run Meadow Trail. The trail ran roughly along the river although not always very close to it. After a while I came to a fork in the trail and I choose the right-hand route, although I later discovered that it just formed a loop and I would be returned to the fork again.

Ottauquechee River, downstream from the base of the gorge with island in middle(photo by Webmaster) Ottauquechee River, downstream from the island that's at the base of the gorge (photo by Webmaster)


The trail went through some pretty, meadow-type areas. At one point was a lean-to type structure off across the meadow, although it was much too airy to offer any real shelter (unless you brought a tarp to lay over it). Through the trees on the river side I could glimpse the beginnings of North Hartland Lake–a large widening of the river. I was hoping the trail would go right up to it but it skirted away from it without offering any clear views. The route ducked into some woods for a while, along a wide trail, giving a view onto another smaller meadow, and then broke back out into the open and rejoined the fork where I had earlier beared right.

Ski trail (photo by Webmaster) I retraced my footsteps back to the base of the hill with the nice outlook, but instead of going back the same way, I continued along the ski trail and went past a wetlands area. After that, I rejoined the main gorge trail by bearing left (where the path going right would lead to the campground). I bypassed the Visitor Center Spur since getting between the end of that path and the parking lot required going through the building which I knew would be closed at that hour (there was also a gate leading directly from the trail to the parking lot but I had noticed it was locked as well as being blocked with piles of snow). Instead, upon reaching Route 4, I left the trail and followed Route 4 for the short walk back to the visitor center parking lot.
 
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Quechee Gorge from Route 4, looking upstream (photo by Webmaster)


Quechee Gorge from Route 4, looking downstream (photo by Webmaster)
 


VT - Central East

  Driving Directions   

Quechee Gorge is located in Hartford, Vermont.

From I-89:
  • From I-89, take Exit 1.
  • Head west on Rt. 4 for about 3 miles.
  • The visitor/welcome center will be on the left, barely a tenth of a mile before Rt. 4 crosses over the gorge.
  • You can park here and join the spur trail by walking through the visitor center and exiting out the back door; or by walking through a gate directly off the parking lot if it is open. Otherwise, you can reach Quechee Gorge Trail by walking on Rt. 4 towards the bridge and picking up the trail on the near side of the bridge on either side of the road.

Facilities   

Visitor center: bathrooms, maps, area information.
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