Lake Willoughby Vermont
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This intro presents a few variations of a ride from Derby VT down to Lake Willoughby and back.
Lake Willoughby lies in a direct line between Crystal Lake (Barton VT) and Island Pond. At its northern end in Westmore there is a large, public beach. At the south end of the Lake there is a smaller beach with private camp sites and boat moorings.
A little less than five miles in length, the Lake is long and narrow and it is sandwiched between spectacular high rocky cliffs on its west side and impressive stone bluffs to the east.
Beginning in Derby VT, the northern end of the Lake can be approached via Route 5A through West Charleston, but this stretch of 5A is of only slightly better than average interest.
A longer, but infinitely more interesting alternative is Hinman Settler Road (some gravel, ok) from Derby to Orleans; then Maple Hill Road (smooth tarmac and fabulous local and far views) to Barton where one finds Route 16 going east past Crystal Lake and straight (in a very curvy way) to Lake Willoughby and it's lovely north beach.
Note that while you can bypass Barton by taking Route 58, the Evansville Road, from Orleans directly to Willoughby, this is a very poor substitute for either Route 16 or Old Stone House and Schoolhouse roads (see below).
The copious curves and hills of Route 16 were re-paved in 2012 and were still very smooth in 2013. This stretch offers exceptional local scenery if you're willing to slow down sufficiently to enjoy it.
Undoubtedly, the two prettiest approaches to Lake Willoughby are on The Gravel. One is Schoolhouse Road and the other is Hinton Hill.
If I want to shorten my trip, one way to do it is to use Old Stone House Road and Schoolhouse Road to bypass Orleans, Barton, and Route 16. Part way down Hinman, before Orleans, on the left, watch for the Old Stone House Museum. You can't miss it. There, take Old Stone House Road to go by Brownington and connect to Schoolhouse Road. Follow your nose (and eyes) to Lake Willoughby from there. Schoolhouse Road is on the map here but not labeled. The end of Schoolhouse can be found by following 5A north from Lake Willoughby.
Whether you take Old Stone House Road or continue down to Orleans, when you get to the Old Stone House Museum, be sure to go up to the scenic outlook. The outlook is at the top of a field directly across from the Museum. Right next to the Brownington Village Cemetery there's a little dirt road up to the lookout. If you don't like the looks of the road, walk up, it's well worth it. From the covered, two story lookout you can see Lake Memphremagog to the northwest and the Lake Willoughby environs to the southeast.
Oh, if you're going down to Orleans, take the next right-hand turn after the Old Stone House Museum. This will replace Hinman Settler's gravel with the smooth asphalt of Frog Pond Road and Tarbox Hill Road and also bring you closer to downtown Orleans and Route 16.
However you get to the north end of Willoughby, 5A takes you down the Lake's eastern shoreline and offers fabulous views of spectacular cliffs plunging straight down into the western waters of the Lake. The surface of 5A had seriously deteriorated during recent years, but, happily, was re-paved during 2013.
There are several smallish stopping areas on both sides of 5A which offer great views of the Lake and surrounds. One unobtrusive stopping place is the jumping rock, where courageous dudes (and dudettes, I'm sure) take the plunge.
Lake Willoughby is surrounded by ponds, which to the east include Newark Pond, Bald Hill Pond, Long Pond, and Job's Pond. These ponds are accessible only by The Gravel. The rustic beauty of these natural settings make them a worthy destination in their own right. One way to reach them is to take Long Pond Road off Route 5A around Lake Willoughby.
Be forewarned: The gravel here is not the smooth, hard-packed gravel found elsewhere. The Gravel here is sandy with lots of the Loose. Severe erosion is commonplace in these mountainous terrains.
From Long Pond it's sand and gravel to Bald Mountain Pond and Newark Pond. From Newark Pond gravel roads go east all the way to Route 114. North on Route 114 leads to the junction with Route 105. A right hand turn there takes you to downtown Island Pond.
Continuing north out of Island Pond on Route 114 takes you to Norton and points east. However, a left on Route 111 a couple miles outside Island Pond takes you past Seymour Lake on your way back to closing the loop if you began in Derby.
Oh, Hinton Hill is the other unique view of Lake Willoughby that I mentioned. Hinton Hill Road is part-way down the Lake on 5A. Hinton Hill can be a up and back side-trip, or a way of shortening the trip as a whole by cutting out Long Pond and making shorter the ride from Willoughby to Island Pond. After looking back at Willoughby from the top of Hinton Hill, simply continue over the hill and take Westmore Road to Hudson Road and Route 105 east to Island Pond.