(PLEASE NOTE: Additional photos from this hike can be found at my BLOG.)
It has been nearly 8 years since my wife and I moved to Bethlehem, NH. We are still awed by the natural beauty that abounds in this area. And, we are still astounded by how little travel time is involved in reaching these picturesque places. From our former home in the megalopolis of Philadelphia it took several hours of driving on congested roadways to escape the urban sprawl. And even after enduring that ordeal, we still couldn't reach any destination that was remotely similar to what we now have literally at our doorstep!
This past Sunday (16-October), I drove to the neighboring State of Vermont to explore the hiking trails at Groton State Forest. Oh my! It was a really long road trip. (Yeah! It took less than an hour!) Undoubtedly, many readers have visited this location and have hiked to Big Deer and Little Deer mountains. However, this was my first time. (Click HERE to access a website that I found useful for planning my hike.)
The roadways within the State Forest are closed for the season. I parked at the entrance (off VT Route 232) and then walked the main access road to pick up the Osmore Pond Loop Trail. Along the way, I did a couple of short off-trail forays to poke around in the nearby forest. One such venture involved a short traipse off the road to take a closer look at a fireplace that could be seen sitting back in the woods.
As I understand it, fireplace was a fixture within the Recreation Hall for a CCC camp that was located here in the early 1930s. There are also cellar holes, stone fences, and other artifacts at this same location.
On a separate tramp through the woods (about a tenth of a mile or so from the old CCC camp), I came across the remains of a vintage automobile that perhaps dates back to the late 1920s. There must be an interesting story as to how this old car ended up here in the forest.
After visiting the "Bonnie & Clyde" style car, I returned to the roadway which led me to the shoreline at the north end of Osmore Pond. From here I could see Big Deer Mountain which I would be visiting later in the day. At this point, I picked up the Osmore Pond Loop Trail which I hiked southward to reach the Little Deer Trail. It's a short and easy scamper up this trail to the top of Little Deer Mountain. From the ledges on this petite mountain there is a very nice vista that includes Groton Pond and the scenic mountainous terrain that surrounds it.
After a brief visit to Little Deer, it was onward and upward to Big Deer! Upon descending the Little Deer Trail, it was a short hop, skip and a jump to pick up the Big Deer Mountain Trail from the south end of the Osmore Pond Loop Trail. Although there is a short-lived steep section on the final approach to Big Deer, it is overall a very easy hike. Plus, the trail passes through some very attractive woods along the way.
There are two viewpoints atop Big Deer Mountain. The blue-blazed trail leads you to one of them. Whereas, the other viewpoint is accessed via a spur trail that is unmarked, but it is quite obvious, and there is a well-worn treadway to follow.
From the viewpoint on the main trail, there is a view overlooking Lake Groton. It is a vista that is very similar to that seen from Little Deer. Also seen from here (as well as from Little Deer) is the pointed peak of Spruce Mountain.
There are views of high peaks in New Hampshire's White Mountains from the viewpoint at the end of the main trail. However, these views are even more prominent from the end of the unmarked spur path.
After a thoroughly enjoyable visit atop Big Deer, I completed my loop by hiking northward on the Big Deer Trail to the trailhead located near the main access road for the Groton State Forest.
It bears mentioning that the trail system in this forest is very well maintained, and the treadways are well-worn but not worn-out (as can be the case for many popular trails). In addition, the trail junctions are all very well marked.
Regarding the overall length of my loop hike, it's difficult to be precise due to some road-walking for which exact mileage is unknown to me. I'd roughly guess it was about a 6 mile loop. It took about 3 hours to complete at a leisurely pace.
To sum it up, I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of hiking that is available at Groton State Forest. There are many more hikes at this facility that I'd like to do on other visits, such as Spruce Mountain and Owl's Head (yes . . . yet another peak with this name!). All the hikes at Groton State Forest appear to be rather easygoing, and that's okay. Not every hike needs to be an epic trek to the high peaks.