Large woodpecker holes, tree resin, and wood shavings on the Yellow Trail (photo by Webmaster)

St. Johnsbury Municipal Forest's Trail Network

Area:  St. Johnsbury Municipal Forest
Trails:  Red Connector, Red Trail, Yellow Trail
Region:  VT - Northeast  
Location:  St. Johnsbury, VT
Rating:  Easy/Moderate  
Features:  Views, brook, loop hike
Distance:  Approximately 2.7 miles  
Elevation Gain:  400 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 1:20   Typical: 1:35  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 2:45   Typical: 3:00  
Season:  Winter
Hike Date:  01/06/2008 (Sunday)  
Last Updated:  04/27/2008  
Weather:  30 degrees, overcast
Author:  Webmaster

Route Summary   

Make a wide loop throughout the forest:

Yellow Trail (photo by Webmaster)
  • From Alms House Road, climb the hill (towards the pavilion) to the sign showing a trail map.
  • At the sign, turn right and take a few strides down the wide path which is a former logging road.
  • Turn left onto a narrow path marked by orange survey ribbon: this is the Red Connector.
  • Climb uphill until the Red Connector meets the Red Trail.
  • Turn right on the Red Trail (the Red Trail also goes left).
  • Stay on the Red Trail until it ends. You will eventually pass by a sign for the Yellow Trail on the left and a sign for the Green Connector on the right.
  • The Red Trail will cross a wide unmarked path (the logging road). Turn to the left on the logging road and go uphill for a couple steps, and then turn right to resume your course on the Red Trail.
  • When the Red Trail ends, continue straight ahead on what is now the Yellow Trail.
  • Keep going straight on the Yellow Trail for quite a while. The path will cross an unmarked trail. Next, you will pass by a trail marked with yellow-tipped stakes on the left and then another one shortly after on the right.
  • After walking through hemlock woods for about 20 minutes, you will reach another trail junction marked with yellow-tipped stakes. At this point there are stakes both for the trail leading straight and for the one turning right. Turn right here.
  • About 10 minutes later, there will be a 4-way intersection where the Yellow Trail ends. The cross path is unmarked and across the way, a bit to the right, is the Red Trail. Follow the Red Trail.
  • Upon reaching a clearing, turn left.
  • Go downhill back to the picnic pavilion and trail sign.
  • Then turn right and head down the final hill back to the parking area.

Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
     Split
Time
     Total
Time
    
Alms House Road (575') 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
Height of Land (Red Trail turns into Yellow Trail) (920') 1.1 1.1 0:32 0:32
Alms House Road (575') 1.6 2.7 0:48 1:20

Stay overnight in a tipi
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Rotting tree on Yellow Trail (photo by Webmaster)


 

Trail map of approximiate hike route in St. Johnsbury Municipal Forest (map by Webmaster)


Trail Guide   

This was a delightful walk through the St. Johnsbury Municipal Forest's trail network. I started out wearing snowshoes, although the trail was so well packed that they proved to be unnecessary. In spite of the obvious heavy use the trail had received, I only ran into one couple while walking this route.

View of St. Johnsbury from the picnic pavilion area (photo by Webmaster)


From Alms House Road where I parked the car, I headed up the open hill towards the picnic pavilion. Unlike most hikes where you have to work for a while before getting a view, this route delivers vistas right from this hilltop before plunging you into the woods. Harris Hill (about 950' high) was visible to the south, and to the northwest The Knob (about 1100' high) rises above the many homes and buildings within St. Johnsbury. Looking down towards the start of the access road, the Passumpsic River which parallels part of Concord Avenue, provides a pleasing sight.

View from the picnic pavilion area (photo by Webmaster) Rather than veering left towards the pavilion, I went a bit to the right to check out a large sign bearing a trail map. This map (which the above trail map is based upon) shows the main trails in the network but I came across several other paths that were not depicted. I will have to return on another day for further exploration. Although not all of the trail junctions had signs, all of the routes were well marked with paint blazes in the color corresponding to the trail name.

Leaving the map sign, I walked several strides down the logging road (in the direction opposite from the pavilion) and then turned left where I saw a narrow path entering the woods; the turn as well as the trail were marked by orange survey ribbons. Between the trail being packed combined with a steep ascent, my snowshoes were unable to gain purchase. So I removed them and carried them for the rest of the route and only postholed in a few spots.

Towards the top of this trail segment were beautiful Norway spruce. The path reached a T-junction with the Red Trail and at this point was a sign indicating that the route I had just climbed was the Red Connector.

I turned right to follow the Red Trail (although the Red Trail also went to the left) and continued through more Norway spruce forest. This is one of my favorite trees with their delicate branchlets draping downwards from the main branches like a fringed sleeve; it results in a tree silhouette with an elegant aspect. As I walked along, breezes were stirring intermittently creating snow showers by dislodging the snow held in the conifers' limbs.

I saw a squirrel scurrying about and also found some deer tracks. The path crossed a brook on a snow-covered plank bridge. Just after the bridge, were yellow-tipped stakes and a sign for the Yellow Trail on the left with the brook running alongside the Yellow Trail. I went straight to continue on the Red Trail.

Red Trail going through white pine woods (photo by Webmaster) The nature of the woods changed upon crossing the brook and I was greeted by an open, airy forest consisting of lofty white pines. A few minutes beyond this point I walked past a sign for the Green Connector on the right.

Continuing on the Red Trail, I crossed the logging road by turning left, going a few steps uphill, and then turning right to resume my trek on the Red Trail. The path meandered through flat areas and then climbed steeply uphill to meet the Yellow Trail at the height-of-land. There is no trail sign here; simply a change from red paint blazes to yellow.

I decided this would be a nice spot for lunch and sat down to enjoy a sandwich while I checked out the open woods spread below me. At this point there were many hardwoods although there were also plenty of evergreens still visible.

After enjoying the respite, I continued on Yellow Trail and encountered large, fresh woodpecker holes in a trailside tree trunk. Dried sap left its mark below the holes and the wood shavings were scattered atop the snow.

Very soon the Yellow Trail crossed an unmarked trail at a 4-way intersection. And shortly after that was a trail marked by yellow-tipped stakes going off to the left which was quickly followed by a path also marked by yellow-tipped stakes going towards the right; I remained straight on the main route of the Yellow Trail throughout these junctions.

At this point the Yellow Trail heads downhill and ends up traversing an extensive Hemlock grove for about 20 minutes. In one spot I saw a bunch of black specks on the snow. Looking more closely I confirmed the little dots were "snow fleas"; or more correctly: springtails. These minute critters feed on decaying vegetation and have an apparatus at the end and beneath their bodies that acts like a spring launching them into the air. It is thought that they appear on snow when conditions become too crowded in the ground.

Yellow Trail (photo by Webmaster) The path switchbacked near some interesting boulders and I soon reached another trail junction with yellow-tipped stakes marking the trail straight ahead as well as a path off to the right. Going straight will quickly bring you to the Yellow Trail sign that we passed earlier after crossing the bridge. For this route, instead turn right. You'll go up an embankment and then back down to cross the brook and what appears to be a wetland area - although it was hard to tell because everything was frozen and covered with snow. It appeared that there were some plank walkways underneath the snow which would be useful during wet seasons.

After crossing the wetlands area, the trail steeply ascends a small hill and houses are visible to the right. About a quarter mile from this hilltop you will reach a 4-way intersection. The cross path is unmarked; the Yellow Trail ends; and there are red blazes that lead diagonally across a bit towards to the right. I crossed the unmarked path to follow the Red Trail.

This part of the Red Trail meandered through a neat grove of jack pines. This species of pine has short needles bundled in pairs and orangey-colored trunks. I soon reached a clearing with a view between branches to a local hill. Here I turned left and descended a wide path that quickly brought me back to the picnic pavilion and delivered some more nice local views along the way.

Once beyond the pavilion, I turned right to descend the open hill back to my vehicle.

View of St. Johnsbury from the last part of the Red Trail (photo by Webmaster)

 
Norway spruce on the latter part of the Red Trail (photo by Webmaster)


Start of Red Connector off of the logging road.  Note the red blaze on the tree to the left and the orange survey ribbon around the trunk to the right. (photo by Webmaster)

End of Red Connector at T-junction with Red Trail (photo by Webmaster)

Springtails a.k.a. "snow fleas" magnified many times (photo by Webmaster)

 


VT - Northeast

  Driving Directions   

St. Johnsbury Municipal Forest is located not far from I-91, I-93, Rt. 5 and Rt. 2.

Yellow Trail (photo by Webmaster)
  • Take exit 20 (Rt. 5) off of I-91 and head north on Rt. 5 for about a mile.
  • At the junction of Rt. 5 and Rt. 2 in downtown St. Johnsbury (where Rt. 5 is locally named Railroad Street), proceed east (a right-hand turn when coming from I-91) on Rt. 2 for about a half mile.
  • At the traffic light, turn left onto Concord Avenue.
  • Travel for 0.3 mile and then turn right onto Alms House Road. There was no street sign when I was there but the turnoff is located just after crossing a bridge over Moose River.
  • Proceed down Alms House Road where there will be a playing field on the left. Park on the side of this wide road before it veers towards the right where the town garages are located.
  • Optionally, when there's not snow on the ground, you can proceed uphill by car to the picnic pavilion and trail map sign where there is a parking area.
 
 
  About St. Johnsbury Municipal Forest   

St. Johnsbury Municipal Forest consists of 110 acres located on a hillside ranging from about 575 feet elevation at the parking area to 920 feet at its high point. The Moose River forms one of its borders and a brook flows through the interior.

Its trails pass through several different forest types: Norway spruce, white pine, cedar, and hemlock. Deciduous trees are scattered throughout the woods. The paths are a mixture of flat terrain and short hills - some gradual and some on the steep side.

Seventy-two acres of this area used to be the Almshouse town farm which enabled the poor to work on the farm in exchange for room and board. In 1922, the St. Johnsbury Women's Club started up a reforestation project on this land that was no longer farmed. The first year white pines were planted. In successive years 20,000 trees were planted each spring. These early efforts have resulted in the trees that now populate the forest, many of them close to 100 years old.

Property Use Guidelines   

  • No bikes, motorized vehicles, camping, or fires.
  • Pack out your trash.
  • Stay on the trails.
  • Note that the parking areas and some of the trails come in close proximity to the town garages. Please respect the "No Trespassing" signs.

Evergreens near pavilion area (photo by Webmaster) Picnic pavilion (photo by Webmaster)

  Forest sign (photo by Webmaster)
 
  More St. Johnsbury Municipal Forest Trail Reports   

 
 

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