There's something fascinating about gorges that seems to boggle the mind while also evoking a sense of adrenaline. Whether it's the steep, razor's edge cliffside or the daunting water current below, it's something that travelers can't seem to get enough of. To the surprise of many, one of the most incredible gorges in the eastern half of the U.S. can be found in New England, right in little old Vermont.
Quechee Gorge is considered a natural wonder as far as New England's geological features go, and it's one that's worth seeing. Found on the border between Vermont and New Hampshire, the quiet, unsuspecting town of Quechee would never seem as though it's home to something so spectacular. Here's what to know before visiting the gorge, and why one should prepare themselves for great heights and dramatic views.
How Quechee Gorge Was Formed
As with most gorges around the world and especially in North America, Quechee Gorge is the result of centuries of work by Mother Nature. Quechee and the surrounding area were once home to a glacier and as it melted, the water did what it does best: wear down existing formations. The deep, chiseled groove that separates the two banks of the gorge was slowly carved out by consistently flowing water, leading to the great depths that are seen today. The gorge reaches a depth slightly more than 160 feet at its deepest point, and the current beneath is swift and strong at certain river bends. It's worth exploring via either the bridge that goes across it or the hiking trails that surround it (or both!), some of which lead to swimming holes that are frequented by the locals.
The bridge itself sits about 168 feet above the water below, and the visitor's center is the first place to go for newcomers to the gorge. It was built in 2005 and has been a hit ever since, offering an in-depth history of the area. The bridge allows visitors to get a better view of this incredible natural wonder but be warned - it's not for those with a fear of heights, as the center of the bridge allows for a full view of the rushing waters below.
Within Walking Distance To The Falls
Quechee Gorge is home to small waterfalls, swimming holes, hiking trails, and overlooks, but one might want to take advantage of that which surrounds the gorge before heading on down. The visitor's center offers all the amenities one might need before exploring the area, including bathrooms and ample parking.
Within walking distance from that are several gift shops that are Quechee Village, which is home to a small number of restaurants, gift shops, and historic landmarks. This village also offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains (especially during the fall!), with everything conveniently located across the street from the gorge visitor center.
Hiking & The Quechee Gorge Bridge
It's easy to assume that the trails that reside within Quechee Gorge National Park are extensive and challenging, but this isn't the case for all of them. Those hiking will find that the gradual slopes down to the bottom of the gorge are quite manageable, especially with proper footwear and trekking poles. From the Quechee Gorge Trailhead, it's less than half a mile to the bottom of the gorge. From that same trail, hikers can reach the Dam Overlook which provides views of a cascading dam overflow as well as a unique angle of the gorge itself. The longest trail, which is still less than one mile, takes hikers to Dewey's Mill Pond, which is another scenic area of the gorge. All of these are easily explored in a day!
The Quechee Gorge Bridge
When viewing the gorge from this high up, it's easy to see how it earned the nickname of Vermont's 'Grand Canyon.' While it evokes a similar adrenaline rush, Quechee Gorge is far more lush and green, surrounding on all sides by dense woodland. This is best seen from above, and access to the bridge is incredibly easy. The views from this bridge are arguably some of the best in the state and are always impressive to visitors. Starting from the visitor center, the bridge is easy to find and there's parking at the opposite end. The walk to and across the bridge is rather short and easily done, and the views are phenomenal. While the hikes are fairly easy, some might want to simply take in the views from the bridge as this is takes the least amount of effort with the most payoff, depending on how close one wishes to get to the gorge itself.
- The gorge is open seven days a week, and hikers should take care to pay attention to the weather and trail conditions before heading down.