Hiking the Valley Part 1 - Hoot Toot & Whistle Trail
Our valley is home to beautiful trails. Nestled amongst the Green Mountain National Forest, our villages and homes are seemlessly integrated into the natural beauty of Southern Vermont.
There used to be this limited perception of how visitors could enjoy Vermont. A winter destination, a snow sports lovers paradise. Followed by the picture postcard months of September & October with fall foliage ablaze behind historic barns or climbing our peaks and hills. Half a year of amazing outdoor adventures and our visitors were still missing Vermont's biggest secret.
Summer in Vermont is why people choose to live in Vermont year round. Long languid days with a perfect balance of not too hot or too chilly, low humidity and most importantly the magic of our trails and waterways.
The Hoot Toot & Whistle Trail is arguably the easiest trail. At just over 4 miles roundtrip in length it might seem a little long for a novice hiker, but 99% of the trail is fairly flat.
If you are staying anywhere in the village of Wilmington you can walk to the trailhead located on west Main Street located adjacent to Zoar Outdoors. For visitors staying at Layla's Riverside Lodge, the Deerhill Inn or the Grand Summit Resort in West Dover you could drive your car to Wilmington and park in the west Main Parking lot. Or you could go for the full Vermont adventure and leave the driving to us. The MOOver runs on the half hour from Mount Snow & Timber Creek, along route 100 south to Wilmington.
Make the most of your hike and pack a lunch to take with you. Dot's Restaurant has a great brown bag lunch available that fits perfectly in your backpack. Oh and you are probably going to want to bring a backpack. With a towel and bathing suit. The Hoot Toot & Whistle ends at the northern end of Harriman reservoir at the Mountain Mills picnic area. Plenty of picnic tables, grill stands and restroom facilities to enjoy. Take a quick dip in the fresh water reservoir. Enjoy a delicious lunch and finish your hike with a leisurley hike back along the trail to the village.
As you cross over the Reardon bridge to access the trail enjoy the beautiful flowers sponsored by the town of Wilmington that line the bridge. From here the gravel lined path breaks to the right. As you continue on you will have to make a choice. Follow the marker on your left and take the easiest, i.e. flattest, or continue past the MOOver barn for a slightly more challenging hike. Both trails meet up again slightly west of the MOOver building.
Keep and eye out for wildflowers. They will change seasonally. Enjoy trilliums like this during the spring.
Once the trails have joined up you will continue west. A long boardwalk takes you over a marshy area behind local residents homes.
After leaving the boardwalk you will meander along what used to be an old railroad bed until you come to a beautiful old hemlock grove. This quiet portion of the trail winds over stream beds and through the grove. At the far end of the grove you will come to a footbridge with a old tree on the otherside. It's a pretty distintive tree as clearly our native woodpeckers have had a field day digging for grubs and other woodpecker delicacies. This funky looking tree marks the halfway point of the hike out to the reservoir.
This is one of my favorite spots. Some enterprising sould laid out six log seats to take a break on. It is a quiet and peaceful spot and reminds me of a chapel in the woods.
From the chapel in the woods you will continue on the trail.
The homes adjacent to the trail begin to peter out as glimpses of the northern end of the reservoir start popping up on your left.
The trail will make a sharp left at the 3/4 mark. Pay attention and you might see the old iron railroad ties at your feet on the left.
Continue on until you arrive at the Mountain Mills Recreation Area.
The Hoot Toot & Whistle is appropriate for all ages. Rugged strollers might be okay on this trail, but the trail is not paved. The trail is open to hikers, walkers, runners and cyclist. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the trail.
**Fairwarning. In late April & early May the trail still sees quite a bit of run off. There will be mud and wet so make sure you are prepared with the appropriate footware.