Vermont State Parks e-newsletter                                         December 2014
Photo by Lee Krohn

Greetings Everyone,


Craig Whipple, 
Director of State Parks 

You know, Rebecca is right (see article below), there is a lot going on in Vermont State Parks this time of year! At long last, I think the old myth that state parks are only open in the summer is finally busted. You can visit almost any park and find people skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, ice fishing and even camping. Yes, you can even camp in a state park in the winter as long as you first get permission!


But I can't let this past summer get too far out of mind without thanking and congratulating our great park crews, our maintenance staff, all their supervisors and the rest of our team in the headquarters office. With over 970,000 visits this summer season, we set a 25 year record for park attendance! People absolutely love our state parks and we are proud to be of service to the thousands of Vermonters and tourists who make us part of their outdoor plans. We are already getting ready for your visits next year!


For those of you close by this holiday season, don't forget our annual "First Day Hikes" program. Getting outside with you friends, family and a bunch of happy strangers on New Year's Day is the perfect way to start the New Year.  You can check off a whole list of resolutions by being active, being outdoors and having fun at any one of the seven parks with guided hikes this year. Stay tuned through social media and our website for more details.


We'll see you out there!


Craig Whipple

Director, Vermont State Parks


The Outdoor Observer: 
Winter Wonderland
By: Rebecca Phelps

As the snow starts to fly, the Vermont landscape transforms into a sparkling, white winter wonderland. Snow fills pockets and softly eclipses rocks throughout the Vermont woods.  It's time to strap on your snowshoes, skis, or snowboard and get out into this world of white. 

There are countless fun winter outdoor activities in Vermont to draw you away from that mug of hot chocolate in front of the woodstove. Here are some ideas to inspire your outdoor winter adventure. 


Are you looking for the optimum place to go sledding?  Look no further than Allis State Park in Brookfield. Allis offers everything from safe, gentle slopes in the day use area to steeper inclines on the access road. Pack your sleds and a snack to enjoy a hike on the way to the best sliding spots.


Maybe you are looking for a more guided sledding experience.  You can up the ante by enjoying a dog sled adventure in Little River State Park with October Siberians. This private dog sledding outfitter leads guided dog sled trips though beautiful and historic Little River State Park in Waterbury.


Prefer the peaceful tranquility of cross-country skiing through the woods? Seyon Lodge State Park is the place for you. Enjoyed groomed ski trails followed by a lodge visit for a cup of hot chocolate in front of the fire.  Extend this adventure into a weekend getaway and enjoy rustic and welcoming facilities and gourmet meals in beautiful Groton State Forest


Lake Champlain is famous for extraordinary ice fishing opportunities. Pop over to Button Bay State Park in Ferrisburgh and fish for northern pike, trout, salmon, walleyes and panfish.  Other wonderful ice fishing spots include Lake St Catherine State Park in Poultney and Brighton State Park in Island Pond.  Plan your trip by checking out ice fishing regulations on the lake you want to visit and learn to identify the fish you want to catch


Feeling adventurous? Maybe you would like to try some backcountry skiing on the Catamount Trail. This backcountry ski trail runs the length of Vermont and passes through some beautiful, remote areas including portions of Coolidge State Forest and Camel's Hump State Park.


Alpine skiing and riding is synonymous with the Vermont experience. There are several ski areas holding leases to operate on state lands. You are skiing and riding on some state forestland when you cut some curves on Bromley, Burke, Jay Peak, Killington, Okemo, Smugglers' Notch and Stowe Mountain Resort


If you enjoy snowmobiling, the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers maintains snowmobile trails across the state, including trails on many state lands. Coolidge State Forest is a nice place to enjoy some beautiful views while exploring remote forest areas on a snowmobile.  

Try your hand at snowman and snow fort building at some of the snowiest state parks: Coolidge, Camp Plymouth and Elmore State ParksYou can head outside anywhere in Vermont in winter and have an amazing experience.  Simply strap on some snowshoes and head out. Two of my favorite places for snowshoe hiking are Underhill State Park and Gifford Woods State Park.


Check those locations out, or find your own new favorite spot and secret stash of winter woods. And when you are done, you can get back to that mug of hot chocolate in front of the wood stove.

Your Holiday Gift Guide
Give Summer, Fully Assembled
The holiday season has come again and Vermont State Parks is here to offer you some creative gift ideas for the outdoor enthusiast on your list! Whether you're looking for some gear to show your support of the parks, a gift certificate to enjoy all season long, or a holiday package with a little bit of everything, we've got you covered! Check out our gift guide below to help you choose the perfect present.

Holiday Gift Packages,$39-$99

Our gift packages are back this year and feature designs by Vermont artists and packed with park passes, camping gear, gift certificates, boat rentals, and more!  Each package comes fully assembled and gift wrapped. Here is what's included in each one:

The Day Tripper, $39
This package includes a punch card, good for 10 free day visits for an adult or child (does not expire), a gift certificate for a one-hour boat rental, and a Vermont State Parks hat and tote bag. 
Weekend Getaway, $79
This package includes a gift certificate for two nights of lean-to, tent or RV camping in any state park, a gift certificate for an armload of firewood, two Vermont State Parks water bottles, and a tote bag.
Full Season of Family Fun, $99  
This package includes a 2015 vehicle pass, which entitles the recipient to unlimited day use for themselves and up to 8 people per vehicle all season long, two one-hour boat rental gift certificates, a Vermont State Parks tote bag, bumper sticker, and two water bottles.

Vermont State Parks 
These t- shirts will make a great addition to any camper's wardrobe! Made of super soft preshrunk cotton, and offered in several colors, the Play Outside or Stay Outside shirts are a unique way to show support of Vermont's natural areas.
Available in men's and women's sizes.

Vehicle Season Pass,$80
Give unlimited access to any Vermont State Park with a 2015 season vehicle passes. The holder of the pass will enjoy a season of free park day-use entry for themselves and up to eight people per vehicle, all season long. The vehicle pass is a great value for families who love to swim and hike! 

Gift Certificates
You decide the amount
Always the right size! Gift certificates can be made for any amount over $15 and used towards camping, a stay in a state park cabin, park merchandise, or day-use passes.

For more gift ideas and full listings of park merchandise, visit the Vermont State Parks' Merchandise website. Order online anytime or contact our Call Center a 1888-409-7579 Monday-Friday 9:00am-4:00pm. 

Why I Love Vermont State Parks

Vermont State Park visitors share their experiences

"We've been camping at the Vermont State Parks for a number of years now and have never 
been disappointed by the condition, cleanliness, services or staff friendliness and helpfulness of all of the parks. 

We specifically enjoy camping every September at Button Bay State Park in Vergennes, where the view of the Lake never fails to bring us pleasure, year after year. We've been to a number of state parks across the country and most can't compare to the quality of Vermont State Parks.


Thank you for all you do and for keeping the parks user friendly and beautiful."

 -Josie & Mike, Bellingham, Massachusetts 


Do you have a story to share? Send your favorite state park memories and stories to

Thanks to our Photo Interns!


Brooke McKeen

Brooke McKeen is a student living in Weathersfield, Vermont. She loves spending time with her family, friends, and pets as well as taking photos, playing sports, horseback riding, kayaking, reading, and skiing. She also enjoys visitng and camping at Vermont State Parks. Thanks, Brooke, for the photo of the Island Runner ferry at Burton Island State Park


Linda Carlsen-Sperry

Linda Carlsen-Sperry has been a resident of Vermont for over 30 years. She has had photos published in newspapers and Vermont Life magazine and won "Best of Show" at the 2008 Champlain Valley Fair. Linda looks forward to exploring more of Vermont and its parks. She lives in Essex, VT and loves camping at Ricker Pond. To see more of Linda's work, visit her Flickr page. Thanks for the skiing photo at
Grand Isle State Park, Linda!

Vermont Parks Forever 

Vermont Parks Forever is the new foundation to provide donation-based support to Vermont State Parks.

To learn more about the organization, visit: 

Save the Date:
First Day Hikes 2015

Mark your calendars for Thursday, January 1, 2015 and take part in a First Day Hike in a Vermont State Park or in a state forest!

Take advantage of a wonderful opportunity to ring in the New Year and experience your favorite trails in a whole new way. All hikes are led by an expert guide and offer a variety of landscapes and terrain for different abilities.


For more information, contact Jessica Savage, FPR's Recreation Coordinator, at or 802-249-1230. 

For updates on First Day Hikes, visit our events page .


Gene of All Trades
Staff Spotlight: Gene Giard

If you've taken the ferry to Burton Island, camped at a park in the Champlain Islands, or spent the summer working in a Vermont State Park, there is a good chance that you've met this month's staff spotlight, Gene Giard. 
Gene, right, with Burton Island Park Ranger Cody Jackson
Beginning in 1973, Gene has spent over forty years working in the parks in a number of different roles and positions. His official title is Burton Island State Park Ranger, but he also supervises the park's boat fleet, including the Burton Island ferry, is the adviser for Champlain Islands parks, and helps run the hardware and software systems that the parks and central office use.

Gene recently took a break to sit down with us to talk about his history with the parks and his day-to-day experiences: 


How long have you worked here? And how has your position changed since you started?

I started working at North Hero State Park in 1973. The position has changed from hands-on to more of a management position. 

What drew you to work for the parks in the first place and what keeps you interested?
First, the availability of a position and the perceived enjoyment of working outdoors. There are a wide variety of tasks and projects to do. Before something gets too routine, you can change and do something else.

How do you think the parks have changed since your started working here?
The park experience hasn't changed but the management and what is being managed has changed.

Our Island Runner ferry

Do you have a favorite park?
Wilgus is well kept and well managed. It has a little of everything in a little package; the parks in the Champlain Islands because a ferry trip adds an interesting aspect.


What is the most interesting aspect of your job?

Working with the vessels. Passenger service [on the Burton Island ferry] has evolved from a small ferry to an 80-person boat and my position has developed along with it.

On your busiest day, what does your schedule look like?
I could be muckling on to a diesel engine and get a call from someone with a computer problem, so a day can involve all parts of my job.

What is the most memorable experience you've had in a park?

It's easy to remember the negative things but [I remember] overwhelmingly positive interactions, meeting the people and staff that have worked with and for me.


Thanks, Gene, for all you do! 

Stargazing in Winter
By: Jenny Montagne
Photo by Andrew James Lanoue, Maidstone State Park
Stargazing is a fun and engaging activity, and not just for those with a telescope. The night sky offers endless entertainment and a glimpse to the astonishing beauty of our solar system. In the Northern Hemisphere, winter is the ideal season to head outside and search for planets, constellations, and shooting stars. The cold, clear nights of late fall and winter, coupled with longer nights, create supreme constellation viewing opportunities for beginner and veteran stargazers alike. In Vermont, we experience less light pollution, so the night skies appear darker and the stars brighter.

Winter stargazing offers a great opportunity to spot the planets Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury.There are also several constellations and solar events that best seen during the winter months. These include:

Orion, The Hunter
This constellation is seen most clearly from January-March and is a popular one to spot because of how brightly it shines. Orion serves as a great starting point for locating many other constellations. To locate Orion, look for the three-star line that creates Orion's Belt and observe the hour-glass shape that surrounds it. Also of note is the Orion nebula, a dust or cloud cluster in space, which appears as part of the constellation's sword.

Ursa Major, The Big Bear
Ursa Major is the third largest constellation in the sky, containing the familiar Big Dipper formation, an easily recognizable shape within the larger constellation. The Big Dipper makes up the tail and rear of the bear shape, so simply locate the Big Dipper and observe the stars around it to identify Ursa Major.


Canis Major, The Great Dog

The Canis Major constellation is visible from November-March. Sirius, the sky's brightest star, is contained within the constellation and makes up the nose of the dog formation. To locate Canis Major, look southwest of Orion and find Sirius. Once you have identified this star, the rest of the formation is easily identifiable.


Taurus, The Bull

Taurus is most visible between November and March. This constellation contains Aldebran, an extremely bright star which glows red and makes up the eye of the bull formation. Taurus is situated northeast of Orion and can be found be first identifying Aldebran which appears as part of in the Hyades star cluster.
Photo by Andrew James Lanoue
Geminids Meteor Shower, named after the constellation Gemini from which the meteors seem to fall, will take place during the second week of December, with the best viewing falling on 13th and 14th of the month. This meteor shower can produce up to 120 meteors per hour and will optimum viewing times will be from 9:00pm on.

Ursids Meteor Shower, which falls during the New Moon and the winter Solstice, will be highly visible this year around December 22. 

If you're heading outside during the winter, remember to dress warmly! Winter coats, Insulated boots, heavy socks, gloves, and face warmer are all recommended before braving the winter temperatures. Choose a spot with a clear view of the sky that is located away from a city to reduce light pollution and enhance your viewing. Remember to bring a flashlight to light your way, binoculars, or a telescope.


Once you're outside, allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness. You can track the movement of the earth by focusing on a single star close to the horizon and periodically checking on its position.

Check out the following resources for more information on stargazing, meteor showers, and identifying winter constellations:

Stargazing in winter:
Winter constellations:
Meteor showers:

Apps for identifying stars:
Sky View 
The Night Sky Lite


Photo ID Contest 

Identify the tracks in the snow in the photo below. The first person with a correct answer wins a Vermont State Parks punch pass, good for 10 free day-use visits to any Vermont State Park.

Send your answers to 


Quick Links 

Vermont State Parks

Vermont State Park Events  

Allis State Park

Brighton State Park

Button Bay State Park

Burton Island State Park

Camel's Hump State Park

Camp Plymouth State Park

Coolidge State Park

Gifford Woods State Park

Grand Isle State Park

Elmore State Park

Lake St. Catherine State Park

Little River State Park

Seyon Lodge State Park

Underhill State Park

Groton State Forest

The Champlain Islands 

Vermont State Parks Merchandise
Vermont Association of Snow Travelers

October Siberians 

Ice Fishing Regulations

Vermont Parks Forever

Camping Tips & Tricks

Off Season Park Use




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VT State Parks Blog


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Photo by Linda Carlsen-Sperry, Grand Isle State Park
This is the official newsletter of Vermont State Parks
Catch some snowflakes on your tongue, glide across a frozen lake, and enjoy winter in Vermont! 
Vermont State Parks 

Vermont State Parks | 888-409-7579 | 
 1 National Life Drive, Davis 2
 Montpelier, VT 05620