With photos by staff member, Susie Marchand.
“In nature, nothing exists alone…”
— Rachel Carson, 1962
When the country, along with the state of Vermont, seemed to shut down around us this past spring, people sought out our trails in record numbers. Perhaps you came and found inspiration during this time? When we were told to stay safe and isolate, nature and the outdoors became solace for many. Several months into the pandemic, our community is still enjoying this beautiful landscape and National Historic Landmark.
You can meander through woodlands, pastures, lakeshore, and the formal gardens, all framed by the farms’ historic buildings. The walking trails are an integral part of connecting people to the land and fostering a sense of place, which are central to our educational mission. When you visit and experience the landscape today, consider the long history of those who walked the land before you, from the Abenaki, the First Peoples of this place, to the early farmers, each following the rhythms of the four seasons. When the private agricultural estate was bequeathed to the nonprofit in 1984, a host of programs followed and the nonprofit began planning for ways to share the property more broadly. Walking trails were part of that plan.
The public walking trail system began thirty-five years ago, in September 1984, with a single path leading from the Farm Barn up to the top of Lone Tree Hill. Public access to the property grew with the establishment of the Farm Store & Welcome Center in 1986. Between 1986 and 1992, five additional miles of trail were established using secondary roads and mown paths through fields. Today, the trail system includes over 10 miles of paths and trails.
Whether you enjoy our trails regularly, would like to experience them virtually, or are considering a visit, here are some of the more scenic vistas and views along the way. NOTE: Walking trails are open daily. There are no public restrooms, water fountains, or bottled water available on the property. Please plan accordingly. More walking trail information.
1. Lone Tree Hill. (See map at bottom of blog for numbered locations.) The Farm’s highest point offers great views of the Inn, Lake Champlain, Adirondack Mountains, and Green Mountains. It is the site of The Lone Tree Hill memorial, originally built in memory of Derick V. Webb who donated Shelburne Farms’ land and buildings to the nonprofit in 1984.
2. Sheep’s Knoll. Vistas of the Green Mountains to the East (Mount Mansfield is in center of this photo), pastures, woodlands, wildlife, and the Farm Barn are among some of the views from Sheep’s Knoll. The rustic bench here is one of several found along the trail routes. Each is made from rot resistant woods harvested from Shelburne Farms trees: Cedar (benches and backs) and Black Locust and White Oak (pegs).
3. Cows in pasture. Along several paths, you can skirt farmland and pastures where you may see our Brown Swiss dairy herd or flock of sheep grazing. You may even encounter some of the wildlife that inhabits the forests and farm, like the nesting osprey near the Farm Store & Welcome Center.
4. Lake Champlain - North Seawall. The North Gate Path meanders along pastures, through a wooded area and brings you along the edge of our working Dairy and on to a stretch along Lake Champlain. It is approximately 1-3/4 miles from the Farm Store to this point along the lake. The trail continues on from here!
5. Formal Gardens at the Inn. You are welcome to take a detour on the North Gate Path to visit the formal gardens at the Inn where you can stroll through the terraced, Italianate designed garden filled with an abundant variety of plants and flowers that bloom from spring through early fall! The formal gardens’ original creator, Lila O. Webb loved to invite the public to view the gardens throughout the summer during the 1920s and 1930s, and the gardens have undergone extensive restoration over the past decade. This scenic promontory was once a lookout for the Abenaki and later part of an apple orchard on the Horace Saxton farm (pre-dating the Webbs’ purchase in 1886). [NOTE: If enjoying the property on foot is not possible for you, you can request an accessibility pass.]
6. Butternut Hill. Walking the woodland routes, you will often be beneath the tree canopy of this mature northern hardwood forest. You may notice small wildlife, as well as the sap lines of our maple sugaring operation . This photo captures a section of Butternut, a one-mile loop winding through the forest.
What’s your favorite spot along our trails? What interesting things have you seen? Tag us on social media with your post: #walkingshelburnefarms.