The last time I was in Poultney, I was at a conference at Green Mountain College, and didn’t get a chance to wander the downtown, though I eagerly wanted to. I was pleased that our visit to Lake St. Catherine included a Saturday lunch in town so we could explore the area. It’s not big, so park anywhere and walk everywhere. Here are a few of our highlights:
Location: Route 30, Poultney, Vt.
Type: Overnight camping and day-use area
Size: 117 acres
Camping: 50 tent/RV sites and 11 lean-to sites
Things to do: Hiking trails, swimming at the lake, kayak and canoe rentals, fishing, Nature Center.
Amenities: Three bathrooms, sandy beaches, concession stand, children’s playground, firewood for sale. Campground is a 10-minute ride to the Poultney General Store.
Lake St. Catherine is known as a cool water lake and the Vermont State Park that surrounds part of the 930-acre body of water lived up to its name on the first night of Memorial Day Weekend camping this year. Temperatures dropped to the low 30s after dark and were accompanied by a howling, biting wind that seemed to cut right through the thin plastic of our tent.
Phayvanh and I woke up early Saturday morning chilled to the bone. A morning fire and coffee warmed us and as the sun emerged from behind the clouds, we quickly forgot all about the arctic-like night. As the weekend continued, the weather just got nicer, hitting a high in the low 80s on Sunday.
Lake St. Catherine State Park has been in operation for more than 60 years, but much of the land was once farmland, slate-mining quarries, and a boy’s summer camp. Reminders of the park’s past life can be found in the 117-acre campground, including the collapsed ruins of old buildings and vintage tools rusting in the brush.
But the campground doesn’t feel like an aging throwback – instead, it’s comfortable and sprawling and perfect for families with young children. The center green at the campground’s main four corners resembles a downtown village square, right down to rows of Maple trees along the dirt road. The center green truly feels like the heart of the campground and kids and families gathered there to play tag, softball, and basketball.
In addition to the campground, there is a day-use area with a semi-sandy beach (if you want to go swimming, I recommend the smaller beach in the campground area – it was more private and the beach and shallow water area had less rocks), a concession stand, and kayak and canoe rentals (we went with a two-person pedal boat). Pets are allowed in the camping area, including that beach, but not in the day-use area.
We stayed three nights at Tent Site #28, located in the middle section of the park and along one of the main roads linking the two clusters of campsites. This spot is private, elevated, and nearly completely surrounded by woods. We could only see two other campgrounds.
Other spots that look good include Tent Site #44, which has a small cabin behind it and a sunny grass knoll; Tent Sites #41-42, which make a great private pair for two families; the lean-to named Pine looked private as well. Avoid Tent Site #37 – it is too close to the very busy boat launch.
The campground’s Nature Trail is a short, handicapped-accessible walk through the woods. It’s not very dynamic, but it does connect with the Loop Trail, which brings you deeper into the old woods surrounding Lake St. Catherine, offers a worth-the-hike view of nearby Birdseye Mountain, and drops you off in a grassy field near a chestnut tree breeding orchard.