Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cotton Brook Loop - Waterbury Center

Quick Facts:
Gentle incline, 9.9 mi loop, 1571 ft summit elevation.

Bridges & rushing waters, Waterbury Reservoir campsite, old apple orchards.

Take I-89 to the route 100 N exit (Waterbury/Stowe). Off the exit, head north towards Stowe on 100 N for about 7 miles. Take a left onto Moscow Road and follow for about 2 miles. Then take the left onto Cottonbrook Road, although it may be unmarked (if you were to continue on Moscow Road to the right, it becomes Nebraska Valley Road). In .5 miles, park near the red metal gate on the right.

Start up the dirt road after the red gate and continue on the road until you reach a wood shed. There will be offshoots on the road which are tempting; they're all bike/snowmobile trails and end up leading back to the road at some point or another, so feel free to get a more hyped warm-up by taking them. Just make sure you get back to the road...

At the wood shed, stay right on the road. You'll come across an old apple orchard with a stone cellar hole nearby worth a checking out. Continue on the road over wooden bridges and rushing brooks. At 44.437218°, -72.805298° is the trail high point, from here on out its mostly flat or downhill.

After awhile you'll come to a sign with arrows and what looks like road signs all over it - its very odd and I've never seen a trail marker like this before - you'll know when you see it. Take a right down onto the marked bike trail at the sign. It may not be marked right at the trail head, but a little venture inwards and you'll see signs on the trees that it is indeed a bike trail.

After the zig-zagging descent, the trail comes to a Y and you get a close up with Cotton Brook (its pretty rapid in the Spring) - cross over the bridge to your right and continue until you see the Y at another old apple orchard. Go right and pass through the orchard...expect to see fairies and elves, its a pretty magical-looking place!

The trail is a footpath now and it'll take you right to one of the most beautiful campsites I've ever seen - right on the Waterbury reservoir. This a great picnic spot and a climax to the monotony of the first 7 or so miles of this hike. Follow the footpath to the north along the reservoir's banks, but beware the trail does fade in and out. Best bet is to stay along the banks until the canoe launch, then hop on the dirt road north and walk .3 miles back to the red metal gate. But, if you still have the energy left to go gallivanting, look for the ridge that will allow you to survey the north end of the reservoir and get up to it by bushwhacking. There's a trail up there that will lead you back to the dirt road through some of those bike trails I mentioned before - Then just retrace your steps along the road back to the red metal gate.

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