Hidden in the woods and pastures surrounding the town of Middlebury is an interconnected network of trails almost 14 miles in length. The Middlebury Area Land Trust, a local grassroots conservation group, initiated the development of this trail system called the Trail Around Middlebury, or “TAM.” The TAM includes the Colin O’Neill trail to the south and west of the college campus, trails through the Otter Creek Gorge Land Trust and Wright Park, and Battell and Means woods.
The TAM is an excellent place to run or walk. Parking is available at most trailheads, and signs indicate whether the trail can accommodate mountain biking. (see the Mountain Biking section for portions open to bikes)
The Colin T. O’Neill Trail
The Colin T. O’Neill Trail by Jill Hindle ‘97.5
Length: 4.6 miles
Starting on South Street just north of Porter Hospital and west of the baseball fields, the trail skirts the golf course ending at Route 30 where the Colin O’Neill trail begins. This portion of the trail winds through a wooded section with signs intermittently placed describing the natural surroundings. The trail then opens up in to pastureland, and crosses Route 125. This portion of TAM extends to Route 23, meandering through woods and clearings, providing excellent views of the Adirondacks.
Length: 1.6 miles
On Route 23, 1.5 miles from Route 125, there is a parking spot on the left hand side that marks that trailhead to the Jackson Trail. To begin this portion of the TAM, cross the road and hop the fence. You might find that you are sharing the trail with cows. Follow TAM signs to a small gorge where you will then walk along a stream bank for approximately 1 mile, after which you will emerge in a meadow and then come to Hamilton Road. Turn right on this road and walk 200 yards to the Johnson Trailhead, where you will find a parking spot on your left.
Length: 1.5 miles
The Johnson Trail begins at the junction of Hamilton Road and Sheep Farm Road in Weybridge. This portion of the TAM proceeds from the parking area north along the fence line and around a pond, which is a popular place to see waterfowl, muskrats and various birds. The trail then enters the woods and turns east coming out on Horse Farm Road.
Otter Creek Gorge Land Trust Trail
Length: 1.7 miles
This trail begins 0.2 miles north of Hamilton Road on Horse Farm Road. It starts by skirting a fence line and then enters the woods where it passes other trails. The TAM eventually leads to Otter Creek where it turns upstream. Otter Creek Gorge can be seen and heard from this portion of the trail. The trail then leads you over a footbridge at Belden Dam and into Wright Park.
Wright Park, by Kate Shick ’00
Length: 3.8 miles.
Wright Park is located north of the town of Middlebury, nestled between the curves of Otter Creek and the stark line of the railroad tracks. It offers the ambling visitor an enjoyable walk through rustling meadows populated with ant hills, forests streaked with slender birch and carpeted with pine needles, and the dim solemnity of a hemlock grove. It is a place where human footprints are mixed with those of coyote, fox, and deer. This is a startling discovery because of the park’s proximity to town (ten-minute bike from campus) and the recent history of the area. Most people, both college students and town residents, simply do not know that Wright Park exists. One resident referred to the place as the location where he and his neighbors went to dump their trash up until about twenty years ago. This aspect of the park’s history is no longer evident, and perhaps lends well as a testament of the healing potential of a landscape, and the redemption possible after human exploitation of a place.
Wright Park encompasses approximately 150 acres of land, with at least 3.8 miles of trails in easy access. The main loop trail has been absorbed as part of the Trail Around Middlebury (TAM), and offers a traverse along amazing limestone cliffs as well as a walking mimic of the meanders of Otter Creek. The TAM continues out of the park to the Belden Gorge. The other trails in Wright Park lead one to beaver ponds, mystic swampy places abounding in cat-tails, and through open meadows full of fading insects and wildflowers. Wright Park offers a venue for a variety of recreational inclinations besides hiking and running. The TAM is open for mountain biking. In the winter, paths are made for cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing. There are wonderful opportunities for animal tracking, as the trail is often muddy and scat is plentiful. For those seeking soothing meditation or solitude, the park has a large endowment of spaces which can be adopted as personal cathartic habitats. Any exploration may lead to an interaction with the abundance of wildlife in the park: beaver, otter, fox, coyote, fisher, deer, skunk, piliated woodpecker, turkey, grouse, raven, and red eft. The transitions between forests are phenomenal as well, moving from white pine stand, to mapley deciduous mix, to silent hemlock. Wright Park offers an integration of physical and sensory stimuli that sparks mindful contemplation. The change in seasons is an unbelievable metamorphosis, yet leaves one with a sense of rhythmic continuity. Members of the Middlebury community are invited to adopt and explore Wright Park as their own wild place.
Directions: Follow Seymour Street out of town, towards the Pulp Mill Bridge. Turn right just before the bridge crossing, following signs for Wright Park and the Stump Dump. Go straight past the Stump Dump to the Wright Park gate and parking area. Essentially, you will be on the east side of Otter Creek, opposite from the Morgan Horse Farm.
Length: 2.5 miles
You can either access the Chipman Hill trail network from High Street or the TAM trailhead off of Seminary Street Extension, just east of the Co-op Fire Insurance building. With an elevation of approximately 360 feet, Chipman Hill is the most prominent feature in town, with the exception of Bicentennial Hall. This is a favorite place for mountain bikers.
Battell and Means Woods
Length: 1.1 miles (Battell) and 0.7 miles (Means)
The trailhead for Battell and Means Woods is located on Seminary Street Extension east of downtown Middlebury.
Means Woods trail starts on the north side of Seminary Street Extension, 100 yards east of the parking lot. This portion of the TAM follows an old road grade through a wooded section to Peterson Heights which is a paved road that leads to Washington Street Extension. Follow TAM signs across an open meadow to the base of Chipman hill.
Battell Woods trail starts on the south side of Seminary St. Extension, and proceeds through the woods on a gravel road where it opens up into farmland. The trail winds past and old farm house along Route. 7 where it ends on Boardman Street near G. Stone Motors.
Jeffrey Murdock Nature Preserve
Length: 0.6 miles
This trail runs from Route 7 across from G. Stone Motors to the Middlebury Union Middle School.