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Locals lovingly describe the Cross Vermont Trail as a patchwork quilt that will ultimately form a 90-mile trail from Lake Champlain in the west to the Connecticut River in the east. A component of the Cross Vermont Trail, the Montpelier & Wells River Rail Trail is named for a former railroad that followed the same route, but most residents know the pathway by the name Cross Vermont Trail.
Part of a larger system that includes segments in East Montpelier, Plainfield, and Wells River, among others, this 22.9-mile portion is the most scenic of the off-road paths, stretching past three state parks and through Groton State Forest.
Starting in Marshfield at US 2 and School Street (parking is available 0.1 mile south along School Street at the Marshfield Town Office), you’ll technically begin your journey on a 1-mile on-road portion (School Street becomes Lower Depot Road) that heads southeast and then curves southwest to Railroad Bed East, just past the intersection of Bemis Farm Road (right) and Upper Depot Road (left). Follow signs for the Cross Vermont Trail to find your way. Note that this portion is difficult to navigate because the beginning of the off-road portion is not marked. After passing Bemis Farm Road and Upper Depot Road, immediately look for Railroad Bed East, a short road that veers right (Bailey Pond Road will continue to stretch southeast). After veering right, the route takes you almost immediately onto the off-road portion of trail.
Heading southeast, the trail follows the Wells River, which flows east from the river’s source in Groton State Forest, where three state parks provide numerous opportunities to camp and fish alongside impeccable views of the forest and mountains. In 4.4 miles, you’ll reach Kettle Pond State Park, followed by Stillwater State Park by Lake Groton in another 2.4 miles, and then Ricker Pond State Park in 2.8 more miles; parking and trail access are available in each location, close to or adjacent to the trail.
As you journey out of Marshfield toward Groton State Forest, the trail is best described as rustic; it is well suited for hikes, mountain bikes, and snowmobiles but not road or hybrid bikes. Prepare for some steep climbs and majestic views as you pass lakes and ponds, with mountains as your backdrop. You’ll even find a few picnic spots nestled among the trees. The trip is nothing short of gorgeous as you weave in and out of tunnels of trees, the canopy offering a visual cue for where the railroad once carved its path.
Along the way, you’ll see relics from Vermont’s logging history. Note specifically the remnants of Ricker Mills dam at the outlet of Ricker Pond along the southern edge of Groton State Forest. From the late 1700s through the 1960s, many mills could be seen along Lake Groton.
The southern portion of the trail between Groton and Boltonville—also primarily used for hiking, mountain biking, and snowmobiling—is more rustic. Assuming you have the right gear, the end of the trip can be a tranquil experience, taking you through the quiet village of South Ryegate and delivering views of pastures and forested hills along a long stretch of old railbed. At US 302/Scott Highway, you’ll meet an on-road section of the Cross Vermont Trail that extends about 3.3 miles into Boltonville. Turn right onto US 302, and follow it to Church Street. Turn left onto Church Street, and then turn right onto Creamery Road. Follow Creamery Road until it meets up again with US 302/Scott Highway. Turn left onto US 302, and follow the road until you pass Boltonville Road on your left. Immediately to your left is another 1.8-mile off-road section of trail that leads you through woods and underneath I-91 to US 302 in Wells River.
To reach the northern endpoint and parking at the Marshfield Town Office from I-91, take Exit 21 to merge onto US 2 W (toward SR 15). Head west on US 2 for 19 miles, and turn left onto School St. Go 0.1 mile, and turn right into the parking lot at Marshfield Town Office. The on-road portion of trail begins approximately 0.1 mile north at US 2, and the off-road trail begins about 0.9 mile south along the trail at Railroad Bed E.
At the southern edge of Groton State Park, parking is available at the Ricker Mills trailhead located at 58 State Forest Road in Groton. From I-91, take Exit 17 toward US 302 W/Scott Hwy. Head west on US 302/Scott Hwy. (from I-91 N, you’ll turn left; from I-91 S, you’ll turn right), and go 8.7 miles. Turn right onto SR 232, and go 1.6 miles. Turn right into the parking lot adjacent to the south end of Ricker Pond.
To reach parking at Mills Memorial Field in Groton from I-91, take Exit 17 toward US 302 W/Scott Hwy. Head west on US 302/Scott Hwy. (from I-91 N, you’ll turn left; from I-91 S, you’ll turn right), and go 3.7 miles. Turn left into the Mills Memorial Field parking lot. The southern endpoint for the off-road section of trail is just 0.2 mile north along US 302/Scott Hwy., to your left at Brown Dr.
Rode a hybrid the approx.12 mile stretch out and back between Rts. 302 and 2. This is not a typical rail trail with a uniform surface. It’s a dirt surface with occasional protruding rocks. Not for road tires or slicks. That said, the surface and trail conditions were good and it was easy to maintain a nice pace.
This stretch is essentially two long but very gradual hills. The trail is shaded throughout and travels through beautiful forest, past streams and wetlands with occasional views of ponds.
The trail is quiet and secluded but nearby state park campgrounds are easy to reach and there’s a short side trail to Kettle Pond. Looking forward to riding this trail again - after the black flies have flown south for the winter.
I have ridden this trail with a hybrid bike every August for many years since my wife's grandfather built a cabin on Lake Groton 106 years ago. No problem. The section along Lake Groton has a few rocks sticking up in the tread-way so keep your eyes peeled. Yesterday there were two trees across the trail but bike could be lifted over. It is nice territory, take your time and enjoy. Youker
A nice ride through the marsh land. A few homes and camps off the trail but otherwise very secluded. Definitely needed a trail bike or at least knobby tires. Our Happy Medium tires struggled a bit on one stretch
There is a big washout at the east end of the Plainfield to East Montpelier trail near Country Club Road of about 100 sheer feet. Bob Youker
I'm guessing no ATV riding
The trail is actually officially open east from Ricker pond to the Town of Groton where there is parking by the old RR station and on to South Ryegate where you need to start using the road for a while untill the trail picks up again. See their maps on the web site. Youker
Not all of this trail is officially open but I have done all of it from Rt 14 to Wells River. It is a bit bumpy in places but is a great ride. Maps are available on their web site. Bob
"I have ridden this trail many times and enjoy the fact it's mostly in quiet woods and not near roads. I've seen moose and other wildlife. The VT state campgrounds are very nice and offer easy access to the trail, especially Ricker Pond Campground. Kettle Pond is the ""high point"" on the trail.
"I rode this trail in September of 2002. The trail is uphill from Ricker Pond to Route 232 and then downhill. It's a nice ride, although it is a good workout. The Plainfield end needs work."
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