The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont is a beautiful place with many lakes and ponds. This uncrowded area offers solitude and quiet for intrepid pond hoppers.
If you’re coming from the south, Lake Willoughby would be the place to start. This is an iconic lake with gorgeous views of two large cliffs on both east and west sides. Willoughby would be a great place to take a dip and lounge on the beaches on either the south or north end of the lake. Note that the Southwest Cove of Lake Willoughby is home to a nude beach. A suggested path around this lake would be to put in at the South Beach access and head to the west side of the lake to paddle along the shore and right underneath the high cliffs above. Once you get past the cliff (roughly half of the way up the lake) head across to the eastern shore, and follow that back down to the same access point. Be wary that on weekends in the summer this lake could potentially be very busy. It is also worth stopping at the Willoughby Lake Store, along the east side of the lake on highway 5A. This quaint local store has everything a Vermont general store should have, like an assortment of locally made products including maple syrup, beer and any other items that you may have forgotten at home and need to pick up.
Access: South Beach access has an easy boat ramp
Recommended Length: 3 mile loop just pass the cliffs and then back down to South Beach Access. Or a 9-10 mile loop around the whole lake starting at South Beach
Norton Pond is a decent sized body of water with some enticing nooks and crannies. Start your trip at the Norton Pond Access Area on the southeastern shore. Explore the islands and peninsulas in the southern half of the lake and get away from the road noise by paddling up the western arm of the pond and discovering Hurricane Brook. In this area, you’ll find a more intimate experience as you wind through the forested waterway.
Access: Norton Pond Access Area. This spot has plenty of parking and a nice boat ramp with a dock. The access is on an unnamed residential road off of highway 114 on the southeastern shore.
Recommended Trip: 4 mile paddle through the islands and peninsulas in the south and western parts of the pond. Or paddle the 8 mile circumference around the pond.
Both the Great Averill and Little Averill Ponds are secluded enough to provide a wilderness feel, but are not so far out of the way. Great Averill is a simple pond that’s surrounded by private camps. From the boat launch, one can see most of the pond and it’s corners. Although the abundance of private property makes stopping for lunch a challenge, the pond offers gorgeous mountain views. Water access for Great Averill pond can be found on the West side of Cottage Road, just 0.3 miles from Lake View Road
Access: west side of Cottage Road, 0.3 miles from Lake View Road.
Recommended Trip: 4.9 miles around the pond.
Little Averill Pond is a beautiful area with lots of natural shoreline. The pond offers stunning views of Brousseau Mountain and is frequented by the Common Loon. The Nature Conservancy has helped keep this 438 acre pond wild by preserving both Loon habitat and the white sandy beaches that line the western shore. Access to Little Averill Pond can be found next to the dam off of Jackson Road. From the Lake View Store head west on Route 114 and turn left onto Little Averill Lake Road after 1.1 miles. After 1.1 miles on Little Averill Lake Rd, the road becomes Jackson Road. Follow Jackson Road for another to 2.2 miles the turn left at the boat launch sign. Hiking Brousseau Mountain offers a great side trip with beautiful mountain views.
Access: next to the dam off of Jackson Road.
Recommended Trip: 3.5 miles around the pond
Make it a weekend
The centrally located town of Island Pond boasts a small round pond and a number of shops including the Essex House and Tavern where you will find a quirky historic hotel, delicious food and a welcoming local vibe.
Quimby Country is located between Forest Lake and Great Averill Lake and offers guided trips and boat rentals. Quimby sits atop 1,000 acres of Great North Woods Forest with 19 quaint waterfront cottages.
Jackson’s Lodge is located on Wallace Pond in Canaan, which sits directly on the Canadian border. Jackson’s Lodge is a great spot to unwind and connect with nature. This “family tradition” establishment would be a wonderful and rewarding spot to relax after a long day of paddling.
- Boat rental available at White Caps Campground
- Willoughby Lake Store
- Quimby Country
- Jackson’s Lodge
- Essex House & Tavern
- Northeast Kingdom Vermont: Lakehopper
- Trail Features