by Ashley Arnesen
Pick a color trail and head 30 minutes from campus to Vernon for Valley Falls Park.
Valley Falls isn’t only a hiking attraction, but also has a beach, pavilion area and a playground — great to use during the hot days of summer. Part of this park also contains ruins of an old textile mill and an old trout hatchery that is now considered a historical site.
Valley Falls allows hiking, trail running, swimming in the summer, snow shoeing, cross country skiing and fishing during appropriate season. Unfortunately, mountain biking is no longer allowed in Valley Falls Park due to the destruction of the trails. But, with all the various activities that are allowed, it’s worth the drive to explore the park.
The Park also offers historical information and an 800 feet loop for the blind called the Braille Trail that was created by a boy scouts group in Vernon. There is a rope-way to follow that has knots to indicate signs with both English and Braille explanations of the old mill site or natural interests.
If you’re looking for a hike, there are 7 easy trails that cover all areas of the park, including one around the pond and one up the hill to a summit point to look out over beautiful views of nature. For a long hike and one that is taken by many hikers, take the blue and yellow blaze trail.
From the parking lot, walk towards the pond and across the bridge to the stairs and take them up. Once at the top, veer to the right to ascend the hill that will bring you to an old abandoned railroad bed trail. Once here, there are many ways you could take including the lookout trail, marked white, which is straight across and up the hill and only 0.6 miles. To continue onto the blue and yellow trail, take a right and follow the old railroad bed for about half a mile and you’ll come up on the blue/yellow trail on the right.
The ascent is fairly gradual, but if you plan on going during this time of year make sure to wear the proper shoes because the leaves will make it slippery.
You’ll know you’re at the top of the hill when you reach a very well-kept and almost random field. This used to be Boulder Ridge Soccer Field but with no entry to this field besides a dirt road from a neighborhood, it doesn’t seem used. But, this would be a good spot to have a picnic when the weather permits or if you’re looking to play soccer, Frisbee, lacrosse, tag football, or any other sport with a group of friends, this would be it.
The blue and yellow trail will continue back downhill but it will cross with a very obvious trail: the lookout trail. You can either continue straight with the loop or follow the white marked trail up the hill to the summit.
Following the white trail up the hill will bring you out onto large rocks that give magnificent views of the fall foliage. From there, you can continue to the left along the side of the rocks to various other look-out points. You will also be able to check out some graffiti left by other hikers.
By continuing down the ledge you will end up back on the blue/yellow trail and you’ll be able to finish the loop. The trail will end back on the old rail road tracks and then take a left to head back to where you started.
This hike isn’t long at all but it is worth it, especially if you like adventures and love to explore.