Southern Vermont’s Hidden Gem

Sometimes, the fun of travel is discovering a scenic, hidden destination unknown to most Americans. Call it “Hidden America.” Southern Vermont’s Harriman Dam and Reservoir is such a place, one the locals know well but missing from travel lists of the best things to do in Vermont.

Yet, once you drive down a dirt road in tiny Whitingham and park next to Harriman Dam, a geographic wonder with a unique history unfolds. The reservoir is perfect for walking, hiking, kayaking and swimming, and, within 20 miles, there are exquisite inns, fine restaurants, unique shops and craft breweries.

Harriman Reservoir, also known as Lake Whitingham, is on the Deerfield River in Whitingham, Wilmington and Readsboro, Vermont. It is the largest lake entirely within Vermont: eight miles long and 2,184 acres. The lake, which lies at an elevation of 1,481 feet, is managed by Great River Hydro, the largest producer of conventional hydropower in New England.

A rail trail alongside Harriman Reservoir provides an easy walk with scenic vistas and access to the shoreline. The trail is part of the Catamount Trail, a 280-mile cross-country ski trail that spans the length of Vermont. The area is home to bald eagles, loons and other wildlife.

Nearby is Route 100, one of America’s most scenic highways. It runs along the eastern edge of the Green Mountains next to farms, picture-postcard villages and ski resorts.

Top-notch lodging is available at numerous inns, including the Hermitage and the Snow Goose Inn in West Dover. Both are near Mount Snow, a short drive to Stratton Mountain and Wilmington’s shops and dining options.

The Hermitage sits on 112 acres and has rooms dating back to the 1800s that have been luxuriously updated. The 12-room Snow Goose offers relaxed upscale lodging with three large common spaces, seven decks and porches and sumptuous amenities.

The Hermitage offers its own fine dining, and Folly is a Wilmington culinary gem. Recommended dishes served recently at Folly include Thai Gulf shrimp in coconut lime sauce and duck with cherry hoisin sauce, grilled local apples and candy cane beets.

Two breweries in the area — Snow Republic in West Dover and Beer Naked in Marlboro — serve excellent pizza besides their brews. Beer Naked sits atop Hogback Mountain and offers fabulous views.

Snow Republic owner Walt Bansley welcomes guests with a career-changing personal story on the brewery’s website.

“A Marine Corps veteran, turned trial lawyer, turned brewery owner, Walt traded in his combat boots for dress shoes and now flip-flops. His San Diego roots and love for Cali Reggae music creates a laid-back, chill, pet-friendly, kid-friendly atmosphere that makes this production brewery and taproom a must stop when visiting the Mount Snow ski and golf resort region.”

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