Vermont State Parks are treasure troves for families who want to explore the natural wonders of the Green Mountain State. Kids and their parents will appreciate the adventurous opportunities these parks provide — swimming, paddling, hiking, and camping. All of Vermont’s state parks are incredible, but these are our top picks for families with children.
If you’ve ever visited Vermont, you know that it’s a state of great natural beauty — home to lush forests, ancient mountains, and secret valleys. It’s the second least populated state (after Wyoming), but it’s always attracted lots of visitors, who come to experience its New England charm, cultural attractions, and recreational opportunities.
Our family took advantage of these opportunities and spent the summer thoroughly exploring Vermont State Parks. From June through September, we visited 22 state parks, spent 35 nights under the stars, and took hundreds, maybe thousands, of photographs. While every park is amazing and beautiful in its own way, a few stood out as top-notch destinations for families with kids.
Best Vermont State Parks for Families with Children
The following parks get our highest rating for kid-appeal, and they all have something in common — water is their number one attraction. If you’re heading to Vermont with little ones, you’ll definitely want to check out these Vermont State Parks.
Button Bay State Park
Button Bay State Park sits on the shores of Lake Champlain. After the Great Lakes, Lake Champlain is the largest lake in the United States, and it’s Vermont’s crown jewel. In fact, if you’ve never visited Lake Champlain with your kids, I urge you to drop everything and plan your trip now. And if you’re looking for the perfect spot to cook s’mores, watch fairy tale sunsets, and sleep under the stars, Button Bay State Park is it.
Button Bay is a kid magnet, and my kids loved hiking along the shore, visiting the nature center, and cooling off in the park’s pool. As far as I know, this is the only Vermont State Park with a pool, and unlike most of the state park swimming areas, Button Bay has a lifeguard on duty whenever the pool is open.
Traveling Mom Tip: There are two campground loops at Button Bay State Park. The tenting and trailer loop is very close to the playground, pool, and nature center, but is wide open to the sun and the elements. The lean-to loop offers a bit of shade and more privacy.
Little River State Park
Little River State Park is in Waterbury, just outside of Stowe, and it’s one of the most popular state parks in central Vermont. The park is one of two on the man-made Waterbury Reservoir. Waterbury Center State Park is the place to go for swimming, boating, and fishing, but if you want to camp, Little River State Park is a fabulous choice. Highlights of this park include two small, shady beaches, canoe and kayak rentals, and camping cabins for families who don’t want to rough it. There are lots of hiking trails for all abilities, several hidden cemeteries in the woods, and more kids than you can count.
I think the real reason families flock here is the interpretive programs led by Brian Aust. Brian knows the park inside out, and he shares his knowledge with kids in a way that is fun, engaging, and easy to understand. While we were there, we hunted mushrooms, learned about bird migrations, and went on a haunted hike, and I’m totally serious when I say that the kids didn’t want to head back to civilization at the end of our stay. They were happy to take a side-trip to the Ben & Jerry’s Factory of course, but who can resist that temptation on a hot summer’s day?
Traveling Mom Tip: You really have to unplug at Little River State Park. No cell service. No WiFi. Oh, and our favorite campsite? Number 80 in the B loop. You’re welcome.
Stillwater and Boulder Beach State Park
These companion parks are both on the shores of Lake Groton in Groton State Forest. There are actually seven state parks within the 28,000 acres that make up Groton State Forest, so be prepared for a lot of exploring. Stillwater State Park is a perfect homebase for campers. Our kids were able to walk or bike to the nature center, and swim at the camper’s beach when they wanted to cool off. There’s also a boat launch for getting out on the water.
Boulder Beach State Park is only open for day use, and it’s the perfect summer retreat — especially when the mercury rises. We sprawled out on the wide, sandy beach, retreating to the the shady picnic tables only when it got really hot. The kids played in the water for hours, making fast friends and lasting memories. When their lips turned blue from the mountain water, they headed to the playground, then to the snack bar, then back to the water, repeating the cycle throughout the day.
Traveling Mom Tip: Bring your bikes and explore the Cross Vermont Trail, which runs right through Groton State Forest.
Burton Island State Park
Do you have your sights set on a tropical island vacation this year? You can live the island life right here in Vermont for a fraction of the cost. Burton Island is a 253-acre park just off the shores of St. Albans in northern Lake Champlain. You can only get there by boat, and there are no cars on the island. The Island Runner, a Vermont State Park ferry, runs several times a day through the summer from Kamp Kill Kare State Park in St. Albans. If you have your own boat, Burton Island provides slips for overnight use, complete with hook-ups and your own fire pit.
Burton Island has a variety of camping opportunities — from secluded, primitive sites and waterfront lean-tos, to brand new cabins with beds and electricity. Because there are no cars here, our kids were able to take over the trails, paths, and roads without much fear. They never tired of exploring the island — and spent their days at the nature center, playing disc-golf, renting paddle boards, or swimming at the beach.
The small marina is the hub of the island, with free WiFi and a lovely cafe and store called the Burton Island Bistro. This is where we relaxed each morning, drinking coffee and watching the boats go in and out. The bistro also provides campers with breakfast, lunch and snacks, plus a nice selection of beer and wine. Life is a bit slower on Burton Island. It’s the perfect place to hang the hammock, catch fireflies, and tell stories ‘round the campfire.
Traveling Mom Tip: The waterfront campsites fill up quickly, especially on the weekends. For the best selection, reserve your site up to 11 months in advance on the Vermont State Parks website. If you can snag Juniper, our favorite waterfront lean-to, you’re a lucky family indeed!
Ready to escape to Vermont to enjoy everything you love about summer in New England? These Vermont State Parks are our all time favorite spots for family vacations. Pack your sunblock and swimsuits and get ready for some serious outdoor playtime.
Tara is a freelance writer and travel blogger with a passion for outdoor adventures. She currently blogs at Back Road Ramblers, where she shares travel tips, adventure destinations, and family vacation ideas for the wanderer in everyone. Her goal is to help families connect with the world and each other by stepping out their front door and embarking on journeys big and small.