Ethan Allen Homestead – Mostly flat trails take you through fields and marshland and next to the Winooski River. Take Route 127 out of Burlington, getting off at first exit (North Avenue and Beaches). Then follow signs.
Mud Pond in Williston – This is a great place for you and your child to feel away from it all, just a few miles from Tafts Corners! There’s a mile-long uphill trail through woods to a beautiful little pond with a sturdy observation platform. Take Route 2 through Williston village. Turn right on Oak Hill Road. Just over the interstate, turn onto South Road. After 1.9 miles, take another right onto Mud Pond Road. The parking area is on the right.
Shelburne Bay Park and LaPlatte Nature Area – Both of these areas are reached from Bay Road, which connects with Shelburne Road. For the flat LaPlatte trails, park in the large fishing access lot and walk across the road. The parking lots for Shelburne Bay Park are a little farther down Bay Road. These trails run along high banks over the river and aren’t appropriate for toddlers. Older children will love the exciting views but should be closely supervised.
There are several good walking areas in Colchester. The easy trail in Delta Park goes through woods to the lake and is good for young children. From Porter’s Point Road in Colchester, turn onto Airport Road and then take a left onto Windermere Way. Go 0.7 miles to the Park.
Not far from Delta Park are Airport Park and Colchester Bog. Walk on flat trails and boardwalks, with nearby playgrounds and restrooms. From Porter’s Point Road in Colchester, turn onto Airport Road and look on the right for the Park. The Colchester Bog Trail continues onto the Causeway, an old railroad bed extending across Lake Champlain almost all the way to South Hero. The two-mile Causeway is a great walk for older kids.
There are also beautiful trails in Winooski that take hikers along the river and by dramatic cliffs, a dam and fish ladder. You can get current maps and information from the Winooski Valley Park District at www.wvpd.org.
In the Essex/Underhill/Jericho area, there are paths around Indian Brook Reservoir and Colchester Pond as well as behind the Old Red Mill in Jericho. Mills Riverside Park (entrance from Route 15 just outside Underhill Flats) has extensive trails through fields and forests.
A bit farther away, the Nature Conservancy has preserved a beautiful old forest in Charlotte. The trail at Williams Woods Natural Area is a little over a mile long and will give children a feeling of being in an untouched forest. Take Route 7 south and turn right toward Charlotte village and the ferry to NYS. At the stop sign, turn left on Greenbush Road. After about three miles, look for wooden sign on the right. (The sign is under some trees and not easy to see unless you’re going slowly.)
Nature Walks in Northern Vermont and the Champlain Valley, a book by Elizabeth Bassett, has maps, directions and descriptions of many local destinations. The Day Hiker’s Guide is also invaluable.