Trip Planning

Underrated RV Destinations: Green Mountain National Forest and Southern Vermont

Jeremy Puglisi continues his underrated RV destinations series with Green Mountain National Forest and Southern Vermont. Here are his tips on what to do, what to see, and where to stay.

You could spend an entire summer exploring Green Mountain National Forest and the rest of Southern Vermont--and some RV owners do just that. There is so much to love here--including hikes to waterfalls, cliff jumping into pristine lakes, paddling opportunities galore, great trout fishing, farm-to-table food, locally roasted coffee, craft beer, and lots of quiet, uncrowded places to stretch your legs and reconnect with nature.

There are also several great small cities to explore that cater to the adventurous and the outdoorsy. Downtown Brattleboro and downtown Manchester are both excellent places to get equipped for outdoor adventure or grab a delicious meal after a long day of exploring the National Forest and the region around it.

When it comes to RVing, Southern Vermont has plenty of good options for setting up a basecamp for your adventures. If you are a budget conscious traveler, or just like to camp in beautiful natural settings, then you will want to check out the state park campgrounds listed below. These public campgrounds do not offer hookups, and amenities are quite limited. However, they are better for van lifers and those in smaller RV’s. If you are traveling in a larger rig, don’t fret--there are great private campgrounds with full hook ups that can handle the largest motorhomes and fifth wheels. See below for one of our favorite options.

There are entire books dedicated to the Green Mountain National Forest region--and you could spend a lifetime exploring there and never get bored. So consider this a road map with top recommendations for your first trip, because very few RV owners only visit once.

Family Fun and Outdoor Activities

If you are looking for an adventure in the Manchester area that has all of the best features that Vermont has to offer, then look no further than the 4.8 mile round trip hike to Little Rock Pond. You will take the Long Trail (part of the Appalachian Trail) out to the pond and cross over a rushing stream in a cool and thickly wooded forest. When you come out to the pond head to the rocks on the left for a great picnicking spot. More adventurous souls will bring bathing suits and jump off of the rocks into the water--which is surprisingly warm in the summer.

If you are looking for a hike with great mountain views in the Brattleboro area, then make sure to head to Mount Putney. There are several options here--including a 3.6 mile hike that is very family friendly. Those wanting a longer and more strenuous hike will not be disappointed. There are also two options for hikes that are just over seven miles long.

If you are looking to cool off after hiking Mount Putney, then head to the West Dummerston Covered Bridge and go for a swim. On a typical day, the current here is strong enough for a nice, gentle float downriver. So please remember to pack tubes for the whole family. There are no rental options at the bridge.

More adventurous souls exploring Green Mountain National Forest should head to the Dorset Marble Quarry for a cliff jumping experience they will never forget. It costs $15 dollars per car to get in, and there are jumps for a variety of skill levels. Don’t feel like jumping? The quarry is also a great place for a relaxing picnic and a swim.

Where to Eat and Shop

If you are looking for a casual lunch spot with lots of outdoor seating that serves up some of the best burgers and shakes in New England--than make sure you visit Honeypie in Jamaica. The sauce on the OG burger is tangy and downright magical.

For the best grub you will ever get served out of a blue school bus, head to Curtis BBQ in Putney. It’s just up the road from the Brattleboro KOA (see below) and the ribs and chicken are delicious. Just check the hours before you go--they are not open every day and hours can vary by season.

For more traditional fare near Curtis BBQ head to where the locals eat. The Putney Diner has excellent sandwiches for lunch--but breakfast is the main attraction in this cozy and comfortable mainstay. The pancakes here come in generous portions and they are fluffy and delicious.

If you need a new water bottle or pair of hiking boots then head to Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters in downtown Brattleboro. Their store is gigantic but it has several different rooms for different types of gear--so it still feels like a small mom and pop shop. For quality goods in downtown Manchester, check out The Mountain Goat. Their selection of gear is excellent for a small shop, and their local knowledge is chef’s kiss. Pick up a new French-made Opinel pocket knife while you are there and grab one of their handy pamphlets featuring the area’s best hikes.

If you want a good book to read during your Green Mountain vacation (or a guidebook) head to Northshire Books in downtown Manchester--it is one of the best independent bookstores in the country. In downtown Brattleboro’s Everyone’s Books has a robust selection of regional books and a quirky vibe that is very, very Vermont.

Campground Recommendations

Woodford State Park

Bennington, Vermont

The Vermont state park system is one of the best in the country and Woodford State Park is just one of many gems. Bring a kayak or canoe to take advantage of the lovely Adams Reservoir which is surrounded by a thick forest of spruce, fir, and birch. This park borders the George Aiken Wilderness Area, which is part of the Green Mountain National Forest--so abundant hiking, fishing, and boating options are nearby. But we recommend you hike the 2.7 mile trail right around the lake at the campground to get started. If you don’t have your own kayak or SUP rentals are available right at the park.

Jamaica State Park

The campground at Jamaica State Park is shady and rustic, and it is just steps away from the West River. The water is great for swimming in the summertime and kids love to search for Crayfish around the rocks. The entire area is a dead zone for reception, so plan on unplugging while you are here. The sites along the river with lean to’s are amazing and you can fit a smaller RV right next to them and create a basecamp you will never forget.

Emerald Lake State Park

Emerald Lake State Park campground is simple and charming. The lake is the star of the show here. The waters are crystal clear and the hiking trails around its perimeter are lovely. You can swim across the lake to a little island and follow a short path to one of the best rope swings in all of Vermont. If you have a kayak you can also paddle around the island to this magical summer spot. Bring water shoes so you don’t slip on the rocks.

Brattleboro North KOA

East Dummerston, Vermont

This delightful little KOA is known for its Fall Vintage Camper Rally that takes place at the end of September. Beautifully restored trailers from around the country are set up for an “open house” tour that is a blast from the past. There is much to do nearby including hiking on Mount Putney and tasting organic foods from the farm market right next door. Every inch of this campground is adorable and they can handle the biggest of rigs.

Best Time to Visit for an RV Trip

The vast majority of campgrounds in Vermont are closed in the winter, and the early spring can still be quite chilly. So the best time to visit Vermont on an RV trip would be summer (when the swimming is good) or the fall (when the foliage erupts). So plan on taking your RV to the Green Mountain State during one of those times.

You should also plan on falling in love with Green Mountain National Forest and Southern Vermont. Many RV owners do--and they head back to their favorite spots every year. The crowds are light and the opportunities for outdoor adventure are endless. So why are you waiting to go? It’s time to hitch up and head out to this amazing and underrated destination for RV travel. We know you will love it just as much as we do.

Jeremy Puglisi is the author of Where Should We Camp Next? A 50-State Guide to Amazing Campgrounds and Other Unique Outdoor Accommodations and he is the host of The RV Atlas podcast.

Jeremy Puglisi

Author and co-host of the RV Atlas podcast

Jeremy Puglisi is the co-host of the RV Atlas podcast and the co-author of See You at the Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors, and Where Should We Camp Next: A 50 State Guide to Amazing Campgrounds and other Unique Outdoor Accommodations. He loves nothing more than hitching up and heading out to the next campground with his family.