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COLCHESTER — Tucked away behind Route 127 and in a fold of the Winooski River, Macrae Farm Park in Colchester is the perfect spot for a between-errands walk or lunchtime snowshoe.
Managed by the Winooski Valley Parks District (WVPD), the 288-acre park includes a 2.9 mile trail network and several landmarks.
To get there, follow Macrae Road to the very end — keep going even when the road narrows and turns to dirt — and don’t be alarmed when you have to give the car a little extra gas to help it up and over the one-lane bridge.
On Wednesday, the tributary of the Winooski River seen from the parking lot was frozen over in a thin sheet of ice, and frost clung to the dry brush along the water’s edge.
Where to walk
Macrae Farm Park offers several loop trails which travel along the river, skirt meadows and plunge through trees. All of the trails are wide and well-traveled.
For the shortest walk, take the River Trail, a 0.7 mile loop with no elevation gain. The trees there are like dancers, entwining their branches with one another and arching their trunks from one side of the trail to the other.
Along the river’s edge, stay quiet, and look for blue wing teals, American bittern and heron. On the dirt-covered path, notice the now-frozen footprints and paw-prints of the visitors who hiked on warmer, muddier days.
Extend the journey by adding on the half-mile Lower Meadow Loop, which encircles a grassy field and is adjacent to the Intervale. This trail, flat and open, would be great for cross-country skiing once the snow falls again.
For an elevated view, try the Old Town Road, a 0.37 mile out-and-back footpath. The Hilltop Trail, true to its name, travels up a hill and ends with views of Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump.
Advice from an expert
Even though the Coronavirus spreads less easily outdoors, the Winooski Valley Parks District has a few tips for staying safe while recreating.
- Wear a mask or cloth face covering when passing or nearing other hikers on the trail.
- As recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, maintain six feet from other users of the park at all times.
- Keep your dog on a leash at all times and avoid touching and interacting with other people’s dogs
- Avoid touching structures such as fences, sign posts, information boards, picnic tables, gates and railings.
- Carry out whatever trash you bring in to help protect WVPD staff.