Tucked away in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom region lies the majestic Lake Willoughby, surrounded by sheer cliffs, evergreen forests, and the breathtaking natural beauty of the Green Mountains. This narrow glacial lake offers some of the best camping in New England for outdoor enthusiasts. From hiking Mount Pisgah for awe-inspiring vistas to waking up to misty mornings in your tent at the lakeshore campground, Lake Willoughby promises no shortage of adventures for avid campers.
A Natural Haven for Campers
Nestled between Mount Hor and Mount Pisgah, the cliffs surrounding Lake Willoughby plunge nearly a thousand feet to the water’s edge, creating dramatic scenery. The southern part of the lake features a public beach and boat ramp, while the northern area lies almost untouched within Vermont’s Willoughby State Forest.
With 28 tent/RV sites and 10 lean-to sites around the lake, the campgrounds provide great access to the natural beauty of the area. The nearby towns of Barton, Brownington, and Westmore also offer privately run campgrounds and cute Airbnbs perfect as a home base for exploring this corner of the Green Mountain State.
Top 10 Adventures for Campers at Lake Willoughby
For those looking to connect with nature and indulge their sense of adventure, Lake Willoughby promises experiences to delight outdoor lovers. Here are ten of the best adventures in store during your camping getaway to Lake Willoughby:
1. Conquer Mount Pisgah
Mount Pisgah towers over Lake Willoughby’s southern shore, offering spectacular views across the water to Mount Hor on the opposite side. Hike the moderately strenuous 2.2-mile trail leading up to the summit of Mount Pisgah. At just under 2,500 feet tall, it gives hikers breathtaking vistas over Lake Willoughby from exposed cliffs.
2. Go Cliff Jumping
Feeling daring? Cliff jump into Lake Willoughby from one of Mount Pisgah’s cliffs! Jump Rock, at the northern base of the mountain, provides 30-foot high rocks perfect for adrenaline junkies to take a plunge directly into the lake’s cool waters. Just be sure to get an assessment of water depth before diving in.
3. Paddle Along the Lakeshore
Bring or rent a kayak and spend a relaxing day paddling along the shores of Lake Willoughby. Search for otters playing among the lakeside rocks or pause for a PB&J sandwich picnic on a private beach. With the forested shores of Mount Pisgah reflected in the lake’s waters, an afternoon spent kayaking on Lake Willoughby promises serenity.
4. Camp Under the Stars
Pitch a tent at one of Lake Willoughby’s campgrounds and enjoy an evening camping under the stars. Snuggle into your sleeping bag and gaze upward as the inky black night sky reveals the sparkling Milky Way. Early risers can wake just before dawn to catch the sunrise colors spreading across the sky.
5. Rise and Shine with Sunrise Yoga
What better way to start your day than by greeting the morning with an outdoor sunrise yoga session? Roll out your yoga mat on a flat rock overlooking Lake Willoughby and flow through sequences in sync with the waking world around you. Let the lapping water and singing birds be your soundtrack as the rising sun energizes your practice.
6. Cast a Line for Trophy Trout
Lake Willoughby offers some of Vermont’s best lake trout fishing, making it a beloved destination for anglers. Cast a line from the rocky shore or a rented boat to try your luck catching brown, rainbow, or lake trout. Early summer provides prime trout fishing before the water warms up. Don’t forget your license and be sure to practice catch and release!
7. Swing off the Rope Swing
At the public beach along Lake Willoughby’s southern shoreline, check out the fun tree rope swing dangling over the water. Take turns swinging out, letting go, and splashing down into the lake’s cool waters. Just be aware of safe water depth before diving in. For younger campers, it promises hours of giggling entertainment.
8. Paddleboard Yoga
For the ultimate zen experience, unroll your yoga mat atop a stand-up paddleboard. Slowly paddle out onto Lake Willoughby’s calm waters just as the sun begins to rise behind the mountains. Float peacefully as you flow through yoga poses, finding stillness and centering your mind before the campsite stirs to life.
9. Stargaze from your Tent
The limited light pollution around Lake Willoughby makes it an incredible spot for stargazing. As night falls, climb out of your tent and look upward to watch as the darkness reveals a scatter of glittering stars and planets. See if you can spot star constellations like Orion’s Belt or catch a glimpse of the Milky Way spanning the night sky.
10. Cook Over the Campfire
No camping trip is complete without cooking over an open campfire! Try your hand catching lake trout and cooking foil-wrapped fish on the flames for a fresh feast. Or pack hot dogs and ingredients for s’mores or grilled fruit for dessert. Sitting around the fire, roasting snacks, and laughing with fellow campers creates memories to last long after leaving your Lake Willoughby adventure behind.
Lake Willoughby Camping Essentials
To make the most of your outdoor adventures while camping at Lake Willoughby, be sure to come prepared with all the proper gear and equipment you may require:
- Tent, sleeping bags, camping mattresses & pillows
- Headlamps, lanterns for nighttime visibility
- Camp chairs, camp table for comfortable seating
- Cooking supplies like portable camp stoves, utensils
- Fire starter sticks and firewood for campfires
- Food, snacks, and plenty of water
- Sun protection: hats, sunglasses, sunscreen
- Light jackets, warm layers for cool Vermont nights
- Rain jacket, waterproof boots
- First aid kit, medications, insect repellent
- Maps of hiking trails, camping permit info
- Fishing rod, tackle box with license
- Canoes, kayaks, and life jackets (if renting)
Properly preparing gear and supplies will help campers safely enjoy all that Lake Willoughby’s beautiful surroundings have to offer!
Lake Willoughby Camping Tips
To ensure your camping trip to Lake Willoughby goes off without a hitch, keep these tips in mind:
- Reserve your campsite well in advance. Lake Willoughby campgrounds tend to fill up quickly during peak summer months.
- Print out camping permits required by Vermont State Parks and pack them with you.
- Review camping guidelines about gathering firewood, wildlife precautions, and leave no trace ethics.
- Pack layers of clothing even for summer trips. Nights can get quite chilly in the mountains.
- Bring plenty of drinking water and stay hydrated during outdoor activities.
- Make sure any rented boats or gear comes with required safety equipment like life jackets.
- Know basic paddling safety rules if kayaking or canoeing out on Lake Willoughby.
- Check the local weather forecast leading up to your trip and prepare accordingly with wet weather gear or extra blankets.
- Keep all food securely packed away when not in use andnever store food inside tents to reduce unwanted wildlife encounters!
Start Your Lake Willoughby Adventure
With emerald forests, sheer mountain cliffs, and a shimmering ribbon of blue waters set amid Vermont’s rural Northeast Kingdom region, Lake Willoughby offers boundless natural adventures. Hiking windswept trails, paddling the lake at sunset, reeling in an eager trout, or stargazing lakeside after night falls over your campsite – this pristine setting promises magical outdoor experiences to enchant nature lovers of all kinds.
As you soak up Lake Willoughby’s peaceful beauty, feel your worries fade away. Let the loon’s cries, the whispering pines, and the warmth of new friendships surround your spirit. Return home with memories to last a lifetime and a renewed appreciation for the sanctuary only nature can provide. Just be sure to leave no trace behind except footprints so Lake Willoughby’s splendor may thrill campers for generations to come.
The crystal waters beckon you to come and rediscover simplicity amongst these ancient hills. Adventure awaits at Lake Willoughby – are you ready to answer its call?
Come Prepared to Explore Lake Willoughby’s Natural Playground
Lake Willoughby’s soaring cliffs, misty mornings, and starry nights create the perfect backdrop for your next camping getaway. With sleepy towns and locally-run shops nearby adding to the area’s rural charm, the hardest part lies in deciding which adventures to choose!
As you plan your escape to this outdoor paradise, make sure to come prepared with all the gear you need to fully embrace days spent kayaking crystalline waters, hiking wooded trails, or cozying up lakeside after night blankets the campground. From tents, sleeping bags, and plenty of marshmallows for s’mores to cameras, binoculars, and a sense of wonder, the essentials depend on the experiences you wish to create.
Opportunities of Camping at Lake Willoughby
Accessing the Trails
To ride on the Kingdom Bike Trails, a Kingdom Trail Association membership is required. You can conveniently purchase a one-day membership from their online store, supporting the maintenance and development of the trails.
Diverse Riding Opportunities
The Kingdom Bike Trails cater to outdoor enthusiasts, including mountain bikers, leisure cyclists, and horseback riders. The trails are designed to accommodate all skill levels, providing exhilarating challenges and scenic routes.
Immersed in Nature
You’ll be surrounded by breathtaking landscapes while riding on the Kingdom Bike Trails. The trails offer stunning views of Vermont’s natural beauty, from tranquil forests to picturesque valleys at every turn.
Community and Camaraderie
The trails create a sense of community as riders, hikers, and equestrians share the space. You can connect with fellow outdoor enthusiasts and experience the joy of exploring nature together.
The Beauty of Willoughby State Forest
Willoughby State Forest encompasses the area surrounding Lake Willoughby, adding to the natural allure of the region. With its pristine wilderness, sprawling hiking trails, and enchanting picnic spots, this forest offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in Vermont’s abundant natural beauty. Towering cliffs and rugged rock formations make for an awe-inspiring sight as they overlook the crystal-clear waters of Lake Willoughby.
Exploring the Surrounding Area
While Lake Willoughby is the main attraction, the surrounding area offers additional points of interest. Crystal Lake lies just a few miles west of Lake Willoughby, boasting its unique charm. With its sandy beaches and inviting waters, Crystal Lake is very much popular spot for swimming, fishing, and sunbathing.
On the eastern side of Lake Willoughby, you’ll find Long Pond. This serene body of water provides ample opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, and peaceful nature walks along its tranquil shores. The juxtaposition of these nearby lakes ensures that visitors to Lake Willoughby can explore a variety of stunning natural landscapes during their visit.
Outdoor Activities in and Around Lake Willoughby
Lake Willoughby and its surrounding area are a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, or simply strolling along scenic trails, this destination has something for everyone. The region offers numerous well-marked trails that cater to various skill levels, providing breathtaking vistas and opportunities to connect with nature.
For fishing enthusiasts, Lake Willoughby is known for its excellent trout fishing. With its pristine waters, anglers can cast their lines and try their luck to catch a prized trout. Additionally, the lake is ideal for kayaking, paddleboarding, and swimming during the warmer months.
Wildlife and Biodiversity
Lake Willoughby and its surrounding area are teeming with diverse wildlife and rich biodiversity. As you explore the lake and its surroundings, watch for various bird species, including ospreys, eagles, and loons. These magnificent creatures often grace the skies above the lake, providing a captivating sight for birdwatching enthusiasts.
In the forested areas surrounding the lake, you may encounter white-tailed deer, foxes, and squirrels, among other small mammals. The region’s lush vegetation supports a wide array of plant life, including colorful wildflowers and towering trees, adding to the overall beauty and natural charm of Lake Willoughby.
Historical Significance of Camping at Lake Willoughby
Lake Willoughby holds historical significance, a cherished destination for centuries. Native American tribes, such as the Abenaki, recognized the beauty and tranquility of the area, considering it a sacred place. The lake and its surroundings were vital to their culture and traditions.
In recent history, Lake Willoughby has become a popular vacation spot for locals and tourists. Its serene atmosphere and stunning vistas attracted nature lovers, artists, and writers, who sought inspiration in its picturesque surroundings. Today, the lake continues to captivate visitors with its timeless appeal.
If you’re planning a visit to Lake Willoughby, several accommodation options are available to suit different preferences and budgets. From cozy lakeside cabins and rustic cottages to charming bed and breakfasts, you’ll find a range of choices that provide a comfortable and memorable stay.
For a more immersive experience, camping is also an option within Willoughby State Forest. The campground offers tent and RV camping facilities, allowing you to embrace the area’s natural beauty fully.
Restaurants and Local Cuisine
Exploring Lake Willoughby wouldn’t be complete without savoring the local cuisine. The region offers a variety of dining options that showcase Vermont’s culinary delights. From farm-to-table restaurants serving fresh, locally sourced ingredients to charming cafes and bakeries, you’ll have the opportunity to indulge in delicious meals that reflect the region’s flavors and traditions.
Don’t miss the chance to sample Vermont’s famous maple syrup, artisanal cheeses, and other delightful treats that showcase the area’s agricultural heritage.
Events and Festivals
Throughout the year, Lake Willoughby and its surrounding communities host various events and festivals celebrating the region’s natural beauty, culture, and community spirit. From music festivals and craft fairs to outdoor adventure races and art exhibitions, there’s always something happening to entertain and engage visitors.
Attending these events provides entertainment and an opportunity to engage with the local community and gain a deeper appreciation for the area’s unique character.
Safety Precautions and Tips
While enjoying the beauty of Lake Willoughby, it’s essential to prioritize safety and follow a few guidelines. Here are some key safety tips to keep in mind:
- Stay on designated trails while hiking and respect any posted signs or guidelines.
- If you plan to swim, be aware of water conditions and adhere to any warnings or recommendations from authorities.
- Carry essentials such as water, sunscreen, insect repellent, and appropriate clothing for changing weather conditions.
- Practice Leave No Trace principles by disposing of trash responsibly and respecting the natural environment.
- Check weather forecasts before your visit and be prepared for sudden weather changes, especially if engaging in outdoor activities.
- You can ensure an enjoyable experience at Lake Willoughby.
Best Time to Visit
Lake Willoughby is a year-round destination, each season offering its unique charm. The best time to visit depends on your preferences and the activities you wish to engage in.
The weather is pleasant during the summer months, from June to August, and the lake beckons visitors to enjoy water-based activities like swimming, kayaking, and fishing. The surrounding forests are lush and vibrant, providing an excellent backdrop for hiking and nature walks.
This season is perfect for hiking and photography enthusiasts, who can capture the stunning beauty of Lake Willoughby amidst the fall foliage.
Winter, from December to February, blankets the region in snow into a winter wonderland. The lake often freezes, creating opportunities for ice fishing and ice skating. The surrounding trails become ideal for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
From March to May, spring is a time of renewal and blooming beauty. The forests awaken with fresh greenery, and the lake again comes to life. This season is perfect for witnessing the reemergence of wildlife and enjoying peaceful walks along the lakeshore.
Consider your preferred activities and the seasonal offerings to choose the best time to visit Lake Willoughby that aligns with your interests.
How to Reach Lake Willoughby
Lake Willoughby is easily accessible by various modes of transportation. Here are some common ways to reach this natural gem:
If you’re traveling by car, Lake Willoughby is located along the west side of Highway 5A in northeastern Vermont. It’s less than a 40-minute drive south of the Canadian border and about the same distance north of St. Johnsbury, Vt. The scenic drive allows you to soak in the beauty of the Vermont countryside.
For those traveling from farther distances, the closest major airport is Burlington International Airport (BTV), located approximately 80 miles west of Lake Willoughby. You can rent a car from the airport or arrange a shuttle service to reach your destination.
By Public Transportation:
While public transportation options are limited in the immediate vicinity of Lake Willoughby, you can take a bus or train to St. Johnsbury, Vt., and then arrange for a taxi or rental car to reach the lake.
Lake Willoughby, nestled within the beauty of Willoughby State Forest, is a captivating destination in northeastern Vermont. Its narrow shape, crystal-clear waters, and surrounding natural landscapes make it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Whether seeking serenity, adventure, or a glimpse into Vermont’s rich heritage, Lake Willoughby offers a delightful experience.
Plan your visit to this scenic gem, immerse yourself in the tranquil ambiance, and create lasting memories amidst the breathtaking vistas. From hiking and fishing to embracing local cuisine and participating in community events, Lake Willoughby invites you to explore its wonders and connect with the allure of Vermont’s natural beauty.
Lake Willoughby Camping FAQs
Can I swim in Lake Willoughby?
Lake Willoughby is suitable for swimming during the summer months. However, it’s important to be cautious of water conditions and follow safety guidelines.
Are there camping facilities near Lake Willoughby?
Yes, Willoughby State Forest offers camping facilities for both tents and RVs, allowing visitors to experience the natural beauty of the area up.
How early should I book my campsite reservation?
Sites can book up 6 months in advance for peak periods in July-August. Reserve early for summer trips. April/May and September/October are less competitive.
What types of campsites are available?
Options range from RV/trailer sites to platform tents and simple tent sites. Lean-to shelters and cabins are also available. Some sites offer electric hookups.
Is camping permitted anywhere around the lake?
No, only in the designated VT state park campgrounds or on private campsites near the lake. Random backcountry camping is prohibited. Always register and pay camping fees.
Can I rent camping gear if traveling light?
Yes! Outfitters in Newport, VT rent tents, sleeping bags, camping gear. Or pack light and rent gear once you arrive from local shops.
Are campfires allowed?
Yes, in existing fire rings only. Gather dead & down wood, no cutting standing trees. Fires must be attended at all times and fully extinguished before leaving.
What activities can you do at Lake Willoughby?
Campers enjoy hiking Mount Pisgah, fishing, boating, kayaking, swimming, bird watching, stargazing, relaxing by the water, and more!
Are pets allowed at the campgrounds?
Yes, pets are welcome as long as kept on leash and owners clean up after them. Be mindful of other campers. Ensure dogs have proper vaccinations. Kennels also available locally if preferred.
Is Lake Willoughby family friendly?
Definitely! The lake offers activities kids love like paddling, swimming, junior ranger programs, movie nights, and s’mores by the campfire! Just tailor adventures to your kids’ ages and abilities.