Wells River via Cross Vermont Trail

Destination:  Wells River
Trails:  Cross Vermont Trail, Boltonville Nature Trail, Blue Mountain Nature Trail
Region:  VT - Central East  
Location:  Newbury, VT
Rating:  Easy  
Features:  River, pond, wetlands, gorge, cascades
Distance:  Approximately 4.8 miles  
Elevation Gain:  Minimal  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 2:00   Typical: 2:25  
Outing Duration:  Typical: 3:30  
Season:  Summer
Hike Date:  09/01/2006 (Friday)  
Last Updated:  08/20/2010  
Author:  Webmaster

View of Wells River and farm from the western side of the I-91 underpass (photo by Webmaster)

Route Summary   

This is a hike on Cross Vermont Trail with detours to explore a couple adjacent loop trails. Sights include a river, cascades, a pond/wetland area, and local views.

  • Start on Cross Vermont Trail at the trailhead located near Boltonville Road.
  • Follow the wide and flat Cross Vermont Trail for 1.4 miles which will bring you under the I-91 overpass and then past a wetlands area with a pond on the right. While traveling through the wetlands area, look on both sides of the trail for a few interpretive signs.
  • At the end of the pond there will be three trail junctions in quick succession... we will explore two of them on the return trip. For now continue straight on Cross Vermont Trail for another 0.3 mile which will bring you to the eastern trailhead of this section.
  • Turn around and retrace your steps for almost 0.3 mile, then take your first right onto Blue Mountain Nature Trail which will end up looping back to Cross Vermont Trail just 50 yards beyond this point. This route has several interpretive signs describing animals and trees.
  • Follow Blue Mountain Nature Trail for 0.9, staying close to the perimeter of the plateau you'll find yourself on and ignore the shortcut trails that cut left... eventually the main trail will curve left and lead you back to Cross Vermont Trail. (Or if you wish to shorten this portion, take one of the left-hand turns, then when you meet the loop trail, turn left to head back to Cross Vermont Trail.) Survey ribbon and small blue signs with black arrows will help mark the way.
  • Upon reaching the end of Blue Mountan Nature Trail, turn right back onto Cross Vermont Trail.
  • Retrace your steps on Cross Vermont Trail for 0.7 mile, past the pond and under I-91 until arriving at the first junction for Boltonville Nature Trail. This path makes an almost-loop and then rejoins Cross Vermont Trail just 0.1 mile beyond this point.
  • Turn right onto Boltonville Nature Trail and follow it for 0.9 mile. It will descend close to Wells River and bring you along a small gorge area with cascades before heading back uphill to rejoin the main trail.
  • At the end of the loop, turn right to continue your return trip on Cross Vermont Trail.
  • After walking 0.3 mile you will be back at the parking lot.

Place         Split
Western CVT parking area 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
West Jct. Boltonville Nature Trail 0.3 0.3 0:06 0:06
East Jct. Boltonville Nature Trail 0.4 0.7 0:13 0:19
I-91 underpass 0.1 0.8 0:03 0:22
West Jct. Blue Mtn. Nature Trail 0.6 1.4 0:14 0:36
East Jct. Blue Mtn. Nature Trail 0.0 1.4 0:01 0:37
Eastern CVT End 0.3 1.7 0:06 0:43
Blue Mtn. Nature Trail (eastern loop begin) 0.3 2.0 0:06 0:49
Blue Mtn. Nature Trail (western loop end) 0.9 2.9 0:25 1:14
I-91 underpass 0.6 3.5 0:14 1:28
Boltonville Nature Trail (eastern loop begin) 0.1 3.6 0:03 1:31
Boltonville Nature Trail (western loop end) 0.9 4.5 0:23 1:54
Western CVT parking area 0.3 4.8 0:06 2:00
* mileage is approximate


Hog peanut (photo by Webmaster)

"Spaghetti" fungus

"Oyster" fungus

Trail map of hike route along Wells River on Cross Vermont Trail and adjacent paths (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

The Cross Vermont Trail (CVT) stretches 75 miles horizontally across Vermont from Burlington to Wells River. Many sections are on roads and other sections are various recreational trails and former railroad beds. The CVT follows river valleys and is therefore mostly flat.

View to the east from beneath I-91 (photo by Webmaster) The section of CVT that I did was completely flat, wide, and suitable for walking, running, biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. It had views of the Wells River in various spots, a section of beautiful wetlands, and lots of interesting plants. I could have easily spent the entire day here with field guides in hand, trying to identify the various shrubs, wildflowers, ferns, clubmosses, etc.

The two side loops I did had minimal elevation changes.

So I started along the wide and pleasant trail. After spending so much time hiking rocky, mountainous terrain, this flat, soft, smooth trail was a very welcome change.

I shortly passed by a sign indicating the Boltonville Nature Trail; and then another one marking the eastern junction of the Trail. I explored this loop on my return trip so more later on that.

Shortly after, I reached the I-91 underpass which marks the halfway point between the trailheads of this section of the CVT. This was a surprisingly nice area with an extra-wide railed trail running under the highway. There was a picnic table on the western side and a nice outlook across the Wells River to a farm with lush green grass. To the east side was a bench and another nice outlook over the river. [9/5/2009 Update: The view from the bench is now largely obscured and shows very little of the river.]

Continuing along I started to see a lot of horsetails along the trail. This species of the unusual horsetail plants are called scouring brushes. They grow about 2 feet tall straight up out of the ground - no leaves, no branching - and with an odd sort of "flower" at the very top. Native peoples used to take a bunch of these, hold them together and use the tops to scrub pots, etc. And if you rub your fingernail cross-wise against the stem of the plant you'll find it makes a great nail file.

Bench overlooking wetlands (photo by Webmaster) Just a few of the other plants seen along these trails include bedstraw, milkweed, goldenrod, partridgeberry, black-eyed Susan, cattails, Joe-Pye weed, yellow wood sorrel (sour grass), and goldenrod.

A bit farther along was a wonderful wetlands area. I would have loved to dally here but each time I stopped walking the mosquitoes started attacking. So I walked slowly and took in the beautiful pond with juncos flitting about and a couple ducks on the water. On the other side of the trail were enormous cattails. There was also a bench that looked like a great spot for quiet contemplation and bird watching (if you're dressed in a mosquito-proof suit or it's the dead of winter).

Use caution while walking this section of the trail as holes in the ground tend to form, are then filled in, and new ones form – so the holes may seem to be "moving" if you revisit this area. I also saw a snake in this area.

Beyond this area were more trail junctions. A sign pointed to the right indicating "BMU", which leads in a quarter of a mile to the Blue Mountain Union School. Across from this junction, 30 feet farther along the CVT, is the unmarked, western junction of the Blue Mountain Nature Trail loop. Continuing along the CVT another 50 yards, you'll find the eastern junction of the Blue Mountain Nature Trail loop, also on the left. I'll check this out on my way back too, so more later.

At this point, I was almost at the end of the CVT and I soon reached the end at a small parking area.

From the bench overlooking a placid section of Wells River (photo by Webmaster) Turning around, I retraced my steps just a short ways and sat on a bench overlooking the river to eat lunch. A red squirrel kept me amused. He would scurry around in the nearby shrubs, stop and look at me, come up close, then scurry away again. He probably couldn't wait for me to leave so he could eat my lunch crumbs.

Right below the bench a little stream feeds into the river which is smooth and calm here. And next to the bench was an interesting plant which I believe was hog peanut (Amphicarpa bracteata). It's a member of the pea family and grows like a vine up and over other plants. It has flowers similar to that of cow vetch but instead of a vivid purple, these were white, transforming to a deeper lavender near the ends of the flowers. And they had cute little peapods dangling from the vines. This plant has a different type of flower near its base as opposed to its upper sections... and hence different types of fruits/seeds. Its common name comes from the fact that hogs will feed on the seed type that grows underground. Birds will feed on both types of this plant's "fruits".

After finishing lunch, I continued retracing my steps a bit until I reached the eastern terminus of the Blue Mountain Nature Trail. I turned right to follow this interesting trail that at one point brought me to the shore of the river. Then it wound its way up a hill and I was on what seemed to be a plateau peninsula surrounded by the river and/or wetland areas. This was a pleasant walk with a mostly open understory and hemlocks on the inside of the loop and views down to the river and woods on the outside of the trail.

Ferns along the Blue Mountain Nature Trail (photo by Webmaster)

I came across some funky looking fungus that looked sort of like bright yellow spaghetti growing out of the ground in short, wavy strands. Next I came across what looked like the skeleton of a heron. Eventually the trail wound back downhill, looking out to a magical wooded area with the sun illuminating a carpet of ferns. The trail reconnected with the CVT just a short distance from where I left it.

I continued on the CVT, back through the wetlands area, and under I-91, and beyond that, I turned right to follow the Boltonville Nature Trail. This started with a steep, narrow trail that descended to the floodplain area of the river. In the floodplain area, the footing was a bit lumpy (but fine). This trail also went close to the now gently babbling river at times and after being out in the open for a while, it ducked back into the shady woods. I saw some oyster-shaped fungus.

Shortly after entering the woods, I was surprised to find a neat little gorge and some cascades. What a wonderful spot for a picnic. I decided to stop here and eat the other half of my sandwich. The ground was soft to sit upon and the gorge was fascinating and the cascades mesmerizing. At the cascades, the trail turns left and starts going up the hill, but you can continue walking straight to explore more of the river, which is worth a look.

Returning back to the trail and heading uphill, I shortly rejoined the CVT; and after that I shortly rejoined the parking area. If one was to hike this in reverse, the gorge area could be reached after only about 10-15 minutes of walking...so if you don't have much time but want to find a peaceful place to relax, this makes for a quick fix.

Cascades on Wells River (photo by Webmaster)

Cross Vermont Trail (photo by Webmaster)


VT - Central East

  Driving Directions   

There are two trailheads, both located on Rt. 302; one west of the I-91 interchange, and one east of it.

Recommended Trailhead:
  • The recommended trailhead is located one mile west of I-91, on the north side of Rt. 302.
  • Its entrance is in between a gallery (a sign says "Boltonville Landing") in an olive green building (this used to be a red building called "Curious Cow") and Boltonville Road.
  • Headed west on Rt. 302, the entrance is particularly tricky to spot, but watch your odometer and trust that it's after the gallery on the right and slow down. You have to make almost a U-turn to enter into the parking lot and the sign isn't readily visible from this direction.
  • Headed east on Rt. 302, the entrance is immediately after Boltonville Road, both on the left.
  • After turning into the entryway, there is a nice roomy dirt parking lot.
  • The lot is not plowed in winter. I've parked at a little extra plowed area at the junction of Boltonville Road and Rt. 302 near (but not blocking) a driveway and some mailboxes. I've also seen evidence of people parking along the road near the gallery building.

Alternate Trailhead:
  • This trailhead is unsigned and the maneuvering is a little tight.
  • When heading west on Rt. 302 from Wells River, it is the second driveway after the Fish and Game picnic area, both on the right.
  • Heading east on Rt. 302, this driveway is about 0.7 mile east of I-91 on the left.
  • About ten feet in from the driveway is a small blue and green "Cross Vermont Trail" sign that can be spotted from the road if you're looking for it.
  • The drive descends steeply to a level area where there's room for a few cars if people park carefully.
  • This trailhead is not plowed in winter.

Other Notes   

No motorized vehicles allowed.

More Wells River Trail Reports   


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