North Branch Cascades Trail

Location: Elmore/Worcester, Vermont

River: North Branch of the Winooski River

Type of Project: Public Access

Date Completed: 2020

Size: 78 acres

Water Frontage: 5,000 feet

Landowner: Vermont Riverlands, LLC

Funding Partners:

State funding from:

  • Department of Environmental Conservation Ecosystems Restoration Grant
  • Fish & Wildlife Watershed Grant
  • Forest Parks and Recreation Recreation Trails Program

Foundation and other funding from:

  • Canaday Family Charitable Trust
  • Jane’s Trust
  • Fieldstone Foundation
  • Lake Champlain Basin Program
  • Outdoor Gear Exchange
  • Dunkiel Saunders Elliott Raubvogel & Hand
  • Davis Conservation Foundation

Local and private contributions from:

  • Canute Dalmasse Legacy Fund
  • Carl Taylor
  • Swimming Hole Fund
  • Women’s Giving Circle of Central Vermont

Trail Partners and Volunteers: 

In addition to the generosity of funders, the North Branch Cascades Trail has benefited from many partnerships and volunteer hours, including but not limited to the following organizations and businesses:

Property Description:

The North Branch Cascades is a remarkable 1 mile stretch along the North Branch of the Winooski River beside Route 12. It is just south of Lake Elmore and is 14 miles north on Route 12 from Montpelier. It is characterized by seven stunning cascading waterfalls and numerous deep holes for swimming, boasting an unprecedented wheelchair accessible trail.

There are three access points along Route 12. One is at the south end, one in the middle, and one at the far northern end (See map).

Among the unique attributes of this site is the riverine experience it offers for multiple uses. This site has a 1-mile nature trail along the North Branch, half of which is now wheelchair accessible. The walking trail offers a unique nature experience in a verdant, moist, and mature hardwood-hemlock-spruce forest along the cold, mountain waters of the North Branch. Ample opportunities abound for birdwatching, botanizing, hiking, fishing, swimming, and picnicking alike.

The newly constructed trail was opportunistic as it sits on the former Route 12 roadbed. In addition to improvements to make a wheelchair accessible trail, six stone stairways have been constructed to provide easy access to the river at numerous swimming holes. A privy has also been constructed at the south end parking lot.

This site is truly special for natural history enthusiasts. Abundant Canada Yew and large diameter Hemlock and Red Spruce along portions of the trail suggest much of the riparian forest is mature and has had little human disturbance for a while, and it certainly feels that way!

Project Background:

The acquisition and conservation of the North Branch Cascades was a partnership with the Vermont Land Trust. VRC has been pursuing this site for nearly 20 years and the opportunity arose in 2018 when the landowners, The E.B Hyde Company in Elmore and Deer Lake Corporation in Worcester were ready to sell off 6,000 acres of timber lands. The 78 acre of North Branch Cascades was carved off from the timber lands by the Vermont Land Trust, which bought and conserved the lands through the Forest Legacy Program. Vermont Land Trust transferred the 78 acres along the North Branch to VRC, with the goal of developing the river trail that exists today and eventually placing a conservation easement on it to protect it access and naturalness in perpetuity.


From the North, take Route 12 past Lake Elmore and 8 miles south of Elmore Store is the pull off for the main parking area on your left. There are two other parking areas to the South as well, if this one is full.

From the South, Montpelier area, take route 12 North for 15 miles, and 6 miles north of the Post Office Cafe in Worcester, the main trailhead will be on your right. The farthest of the three trailheads North on Route 12 is the main parking area, where we encourage people to start from.

Pin for the main parking lot is here, and a pin for the smaller, southern parking lot is here.


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