Campfire at campsite in Eden, Vermont. Photo: Erika Nichols Frazer

While Vermont hosts many tourists who swim, hike, bike and camp in our beautiful state during the summer, there are lots of hidden spots only locals know. I’ll probably get in trouble for revealing one of my favorite swim and camping spots in the state, so I’ll just say it’s in Eden and leave it at that. It’s one of those rare places where you can still hike and camp for free without making a reservation and have plenty of quiet space to yourself. No park rangers, no vehicles, no electricity or running water. You have to hike out about a mile from the parking lot to get to the pond where there are several cabins up for grabs, first-come, first-served, and more spaces to pitch a tent where you please.


My husband and I have been camping in this spot since we met 13 years ago. We’d only been dating a few weeks when he said, “Want to go camping right now? I know a place.” We’ve returned every summer since, with friends and dogs (and now some of those friends have kids in tow). There is a lean-to built over the water and a few cabins along the way. Our favorite cabin was hexagon-shaped and adjacent to a dock from which you could swim. Until last summer, that is, when that cabin was burned down, purportedly by some college students (that’s an unverified rumor; we don’t really know what happened). We’d stayed there last May and when we returned in August, all that remained of our favorite cabin was a pile of glass and nails and charred steps leading to nowhere. That hasn’t stopped us from returning, though, and pitching our tent by what remains of the cabin or snagging a lean-to when one’s available.

The pond’s water level was low when we were there earlier this summer, so no jumping from the dock, but we did manage several swims and watched a loon circle the pond, diving for its dinner, calling out to us over the water. There’s something magical about waking up in the woods and watching the sun filter through the trees over the clear, calm water, the call of a loon echoing, and the howl of a coyote as you settle into bed, the smell of woodsmoke on your clothes.

We returned in August to find the water even lower, some areas that were typically swamp completely dry. We were fortunate to grab the lean-to over the water and hunker down in it for a fantastic thunderstorm that lit up the pond and the sky. Miraculously, our fire outlasted the downpour and we were able to make our dinner after the rain dissipated.

There are plenty of places to camp throughout Vermont in the summer, though you need reservations at most state parks and are likely to find yourself with neighbors. I like to find those (mostly) untouched spots where you can unwind and get away from people and lights and noise. Our favorite spot in Eden has no phone lines in sight — just trees. It’s quiet as you hear a beaver tail slap the pond by the dam. I always bring several books with me as I chew threw them while in the hammock or sunning on the dock. There used to be a raft that’s long-since sunk but some people still bring small boats/kayaks and floating devices. Our dogs aren’t swimmers but they do enjoy wading in the pond, chasing frogs, and helping gather firewood.

Regardless of where you camp, getting out in the woods and sitting around a campfire, hands sticky from s’mores, is a perfect way to spend a summer or fall weekend.