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16 October 2011

Big Deer and Little Deer Mountains (A Loop Hike in VT)

It has been nearly 8 years since my wife and I moved to Bethlehem, NH.  We are still awed by the natural beauty that abounds in this area.  And, we are still astounded by how little travel time is involved in reaching these picturesque places.  From our former home in the megalopolis of Philadelphia it took several hours of driving on congested roadways to escape the urban sprawl.  And even after enduring that ordeal, we still couldn't reach any destination that was remotely similar to what we now have literally at our doorstep!

This past Sunday (16-October), I drove to the neighboring State of Vermont to explore the hiking trails at Groton State Forest.  Oh my!  It was a really long road trip.  (Yeah!  It took less than an hour!)   Undoubtedly, many readers have visited this location and have hiked to Big Deer and Little Deer mountains.  However, this was my first time.  (Click HERE to access a website that I found useful for planning my hike.)

The roadways within the State Forest are closed for the season.  I parked at the entrance (off VT Route 232) and then walked the main access road to pick up the Osmore Pond Loop Trail.  Along the way, I did a couple of short off-trail forays to poke around in the nearby forest.  One such venture involved a short traipse off the road to take a closer look at a fireplace that could be seen sitting back in the woods (next photo).

As I understand it, this fireplace was a fixture within the Recreation Hall for a CCC camp that was located here in the early 1930s.  There are also cellar holes, stone fences, and other artifacts at this same location.

On a separate tramp through the woods (about a tenth of a mile or so from the old CCC camp), I came across the remains of a vintage automobile that perhaps dates back to the late 1920s.  There must be an interesting story as to how this old car ended up here in the middle of the forest!

After visiting the "Bonnie & Clyde" style car, I returned to the roadway which led me to the shoreline of Osmore Pond.  From here  I took a snapshot of Big Deer Mountain (next photo) which I would be visiting later in the day.

At the north end of Osmore Pond I began hiking the Osmore Pond Loop Trail southward to reach the Little Deer Trail.   It's a short and easy scamper along this trail to the top of Little Deer Mountain.  From the ledges on this petite mountain there is a very nice vista that includes a portion of Lake Groton (next photo).

After a brief visit to Little Deer, it was onward and upward to Big Deer!  Upon descending the Little Deer Trail, it was a short hop, skip and a jump to pick up the Big Deer Mountain Trail from the south end of the Osmore Pond Loop Trail.

Although there is a short-lived steep section on the final approach to Big Deer, it is overall a very easy hike.  Plus, the trail passes through some very attractive woods along the way (next photo).

There are two viewpoints atop Big Deer Mountain.  The blue-blazed trail leads you to one of them.  Whereas,  the other viewpoint is accessed via a spur trail that is unmarked, but it is quite obvious, and there is a well-worn treadway to follow.

From the viewpoint on the main trail, there is a view overlooking Lake Groton.  It is a vista that is very similar to that seen from Little Deer (shown earlier).  Also seen from here (as well as from Little Deer) is the pointed peak of Spruce Mountain (next photo).

There are views of high peaks in New Hampshire's White Mountains from the viewpoint at the end of  the main trail.  However, these views are even more prominent from the end of the unmarked spur path (see next two snapshots).

Shown below are high peaks in and around the Franconia Range (viewable with naked-eye, but photo is highly zoomed for a better photographic display of this vista).
(PLEASE NOTE: Clicking on this, or any other photo, will enlarge it.)

Seen in the next zoomed photo is Mt. Moosilauke, plus other surrounding mountains such as Black Mountain in Benton, NH.

After a thoroughly enjoyable visit atop Big Deer, I completed my loop by hiking northward on the Big Deer Trail to reach the trailhead located near the main access road for the Groton State Forest.

It bears mentioning that the trail system in this forest is very well maintained, and the treadways are well-worn but not worn-out (as can be the case for many popular trails).  In addition, the trail junctions are all very well marked.  Below is a collage of only a few of the many signs that I encountered on my hike.

Regarding the overall length of my loop hike, it's difficult to be precise due to some road-walking for which exact mileage is unknown to me.  I'd roughly guess it was about a 6 mile loop.  It took about 3 hours to complete at a leisurely pace.

To sum it up,  I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of hiking that is available at Groton State Forest.  There are many more hikes at this facility that I'd like to do on other visits, such as Spruce Mountain and Owl's Head (yes . . . yet another peak with this name!).  All the hikes at Groton State Forest appear to be rather easygoing, and that's okay. 
Not every hike needs to be an epic trek to the high peaks. :-)


Steve Smith said...

Very fine report, John! Looks like a great place to hike, with a lot of variety. Over the years I've thought about going over there a at various times, but have yet to make it. Your report has bumped it higher up on the list!


1HappyHiker said...

Thanks Steve! Should it happen to work out, it would be great if we could team up for a joint adventure in that area sometime.


Ryan Linn said...

Nice! I've never been to Groton, although its mountains are very prominent in the view from Camel's Hump and Mansfield. I've heard they're very fun to hike in winter. Maybe one of these days...

1HappyHiker said...

Thanks Ryan! As I was hiking the Groton Trails, it seemed to me that this would be a terrific venue for winter activities. And so, it’s great to read your comment which confirms my suspicion! I’ll definitely be going over there this winter to snowshoe and/or XC-ski!


Marty said...

Hi John,

As usual, great report and pictures and yet another hike to put on my list!!!!! Gorgeous open woods in the fall with hidden treasures!

I LOVE the collage of trail signs, made me laugh and think of the Three Stooges and or the Abbott and Costello "Who's on First Routine". OMG, which way to go!!!!!!

Ryan Linn said...

It's that time again, when we're thinking of snowshoes and winter. I can't wait to bust out the snowshoes and get into the mountains again. Pretty exciting :)

I especially like Vermont mountains for snowshoeing because they seem to get so much snow (at least the last time I lived there) without necessarily being far above treeline, or very high elevation. That makes things pretty relaxing as far as I'm concerned.

1HappyHiker said...

MARTY: Glad you enjoyed the report! And regarding the trail signs, 3 cheers for whoever is in-charge of the trail system. They have done an outstanding job! I think I encountered such a large number of signs because my hiking was concentrated mostly around the Osmore Pond area where there are numerous trail junctions.
RYAN: You’ve got that right! It is indeed that time again! And like you, I’m eagerly awaiting the snow. I love snowshoeing and XC skiing. And from what you’re telling me, it sounds like I might be enjoying doing some of that in VT during this upcoming winter.

Summerset said...

Very, very nice and if you can stand the ride again (ha-ha), would be great to explore in other seasons. I've never been to this area, but certainly will put it on the list of places to go. We're planning to buy my son nice snowshoes for Christmas, so if the trails are mellow, that might be a nice day trip for the holiday break.

1HappyHiker said...

Thanks Summerset.
I’ll definitely be going over there this winter to do some XC skiing and snowshoeing. If it’s not that far for you to get to I-91 from where you live, then it would be a straight shot up the interstate to Exit 21 for VT Rt 2 (west), and then VT Rt 232 off of that.


Rita Wechter said...

What a beautiful place! Makes me want to buy those plane tickets for Vermont today. I love your pictures and descriptions of the trails and of the viewpoints.
Wouldn't you love to write a novel about the stories behind all those abandoned cars in the mountains?

1HappyHiker said...

OMG! Rita, it would indeed be awesome to have a novel written about the stories behind the abandoned cars, houses, farms, etc that are out there. But you have to wonder if such a novel would be comprised of fictional facts or factual fictions? :-)


Jim S. said...

You should try Spruce Mt. in Plainfield,Vt. Great report on some nice hiking and right in the back yard too!

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Jim! Thanks so much for posting a response to my Blog report!

Spruce Mountain (VT) was already on my “radar” for a trip in the near future, but your recommendation just moved it up a notch! :-)