Jean Foster of Middlebury enjoys an early autumn walk last week along Lower Foote Street in Middlebury.
For a small town, Middlebury sure has a lot of—walking trails.
No, we weren’t going to repeat the local woodchuck bumper-sticker slogan, instead we’d rather spread the word about Middlebury’s bumper-crop bonanza of walking and hiking pathways.
Early autumn is an ideal time to get outdoors in Vermont; time to stretch the hamstrings, walk the dog, and fill the lungs with the aroma of falling leaves and smoldering fireplace birchwood.
That’s why Middlebury is perfect for walkers—there is a sensational waterfall downtown, the historic Marble Works, the Middlebury College campus, and Main Street window shopping.
Other locales, such as Lower Foote Street, Creek Road and Blake Roy Road, provide relatively flat terrain for easy to moderate countryside rambles—all within municipal limits.
You can follow an historic walking tour that’s skillfully outlined in “A Walking History of Middlebury” by Dr. Glenn Andres, professor of the history of art and architecture at Middlebury College. This booklet is available at several local Main Street shops or online (search for: “A Walking History of Middlebury”.)
Of course, the king of Middlebury trails is the TAM or Trail Around Middlebury.
The TAM weaves into it the numerous subtrails listed below. Several touch portions of Cornwall, Middlebury, New Haven, and Weybridge.
According to our friends at TrailFinder.com, “parking is available at most Middlebury trailheads and signs will indicate whether the section you are entering is available for mountain bike usage. Much of the TAM crosses private property, so please stay on the trail and respect the rights of these landowners.”
TrailFinder.com provided the trail descriptors that follow; they are up-to-date and accurate. Each trail has been professionally surveyed by Annie Follett, Macky Franklin, and Adam Franco.
•Middlebury College Trails
Length: 4.6 miles. Begin on South Street, west of the Middlebury College baseball fields and just north of Porter Hospital. Follow the TAM signs west as you skirt the southern perimeter of the Middlebury College Golf Course.
The final section from Route 125 north to Route 23 goes through a mix of open and wooded land, with wonderful Adirondack views from one rocky knoll. This section ends at the Jackson Trailhead on Route 23 in Weybridge.
Length: 1.9 miles. Begin at the TAM parking area on the south side of Route 23, 1.5 miles north at junction with Route 125 in Middlebury Village. Cross Route 23 and start this enjoyable hike by climbing the stile over the fence near the north side of Route 23. Don't be surprised if you find yourself among cows.
Follow the TAM signs to the lower end of a small gorge through which a seasonal stream runs. The trail runs north along the stream bank within the gorge for the first mile, then emerges into a meadow before intersecting Hamilton Road.
Johnson Trail (Bike accessible)
Length: 0.8 miles. Begin at the TAM parking area at the junction of Hamilton and Sheep Farm roads in Weybridge. Featuring a pond and restored wetland favored by various waterfowl, muskrats, and a variety of birds, this is a pleasant section of the TAM and an easy walk.
Otter Creek Gorge Preserve
Length: 1.7 miles. Begin at the parking area on Horse Farm Road, 0.2 mile north of the junction with Hamilton Road. After walking along a meadow fence line, you enter a wooded area passing several other trails and follow the TAM down toward Otter Creek.
The preserve is an important natural heritage site that showcases Champlain Valley ecosystems.
•Wright Park Trails (Bike, jog, and stroller accessible)
Many variations and a total network of approximately 3.8 miles. Begin either at the Belden Dam area north of the park or at the southern entrance off of Seymour Street in Middlebury. The land that now comprises Wright Park was given to the town of Middlebury in 1982 by Willard T. Jackson in honor of his Middlebury College classmate Charles R. Wright.
Many variations, total network approximately 2.5 miles. Access to this hill, an ancient glacier-formed drumlin, is from Springside Street, High Street or from the TAM trailhead off of Seminary Street Extension, just east of the Co-operative Insurance building.
Chipman Hill is the most prominent geographic feature in the town of Middleburywith an elevation that is approximately 360 feet above the town center. It affords the hiker wonderful views.
In the 1940s and ‘50s Chipman Hill was the site of Middlebury College’s downhill ski area, and even featured a ski jump, the remains of which can still be found.
•Battell and Means Woods
Length: 1.1 miles in Battell Woods, o.7 mile in Means Woods. Begin at the parking area for Battell & Means Woods on Seminary St. Extension, east of the village of Middlebury. From the Battell/Means parking area, the TAM extends to the south on a well-used trail (the first 1,500 feet of which is gravel through Battell Woods.
Jeffrey Murdock Nature Preserve (Bike accessible)
Length: 0.6 miles. Begin on Route 7 across from G. Stone Motors or the Middlebury Union Middle School. From Route 7 (past a wooden rail fence just north of Dundon's) follow TAM signs through the 16-acre Jeffrey Murdock Nature Preserve to visit a small cave at the north end and a dedication plaque near a rock outcrop. Notice the huge, old oaks and hickories throughout these pleasant woodlands.
Boathouse Bridge (Bike accessible)
Length: 1.1 miles. Begin at the Middlebury Union Middle School on Middle Road or on South Street just north of Porter Hospital. From the Middle School travel north on Middle Road and turn left across a field, then left again (south) onto Creek Road, and then right along the edge of Otter Creek behind the Middle School playing fields. Cross Otter Creek on the footbridge, passing the site of the former Middlebury College boathouse.