It’s been warmer than usual at the October Country Inn for this time of year (check us out). It seems like the leaves on our maple trees started to get their fall color overnight. It was cooler today. A quiet Sunday. A good day to walk in the woods. We’ve been hearing about a new trail, the River Road Loop Trail, the town of Killington had been working on and we took this opportunity to explore their handiwork. The 4.1 mile trail circles a section of the Ottauquechee River marshlands. A good place to see moose.
To get to the Killington River Road Loop trailhead from the October Counry Inn, head west on U.S. Route 4 from Bridgewater Corners for about 10 miles. After about 6 miles you pass Killington’s Skyship Gondola Base Station on your left. Route 4 then runs straight and flat up a narrow valley. You will see the highway begin to climb up ahead, and then you will pass Goodro Lumber Yard on your right. River Road is the first right past the lumber yard. River Road is a narrow two-lane road that is paved for about the first mile and a half before turning into a typical Vermont hard-packed dirt road. Just before turning to dirt, on your left, the Killington Town office and recreational area offers spacious parking. Park there.
Start the hike by retracing your route for about .8 mile back down River Road. This is easy walking on River Road’s flat, paved shoulder. The Ottaquechee River marshlands border the road and offer a variety of wildlife viewing opportunities. Moose have been known to frequent the marshy area. There are beaver, and a variety of wetland birds including the great blue heron lurking in the reeds. The marshy area will end at a stand of hardwoods, and a “Killington Loop Trail” sign will then point the way to your right down a dirt driveway. Bear right on the double-track road the driveway will lead you to. You begin your walk through the woods on the double-track road until another “Killington Loop Trail” sign posted just before a large gated chain-link fence points you to the right once more, and onto a single track trail through the woods.
About two-thirds of the loop trail is this, mostly flattish, single-track trail meandering through a mixed hardwood forest that forms the southern border to the Ottaquechee River marshland. You won’t see much of the marsh from this side except for one spot at the edge of the woods where a recycled Killington chairlift has been converted into a bench swing. Take a break and enjoy the view. About a half mile further, the trail comes out on Thundering Brook Road. To complete the loop, turn right for a short distance on this dirt road before turning right again on the dirt part of River Road which will lead you back to the parking lot. Or, at the point where you emerge on Thundering Book Road, If you want to extend the walk a bit more, turn left and walk another .2 or .3 miles up Thundering Brook Road to the Thundering Brook Falls trail. Follow it to the right to Thundering Brook Falls (see Thundering Brook Falls directions for details) and then on to River Road over a boardwalk that spans the marshland, and back to your car. Or, if you still haven’t walked enough, cross River Road after the boardwalk and continue to follow the Appalachian Trail north. You can go as far as Mount Katahdin in Maine’s Baxter State Park if you’re in the mood.