Carson "Kit" Davidson’s Taconic Mountains Ramble hiking preserve
Kit Davidson was quite possibly the only independent filmmaker to have endowed and maintained a 420 acre hiking reserve. Located in Vermont’s Taconic Mountains, it encompasses over 6 miles of hiking trails, boasting wonderful views of spectacular scenery, and includes an exquisite Japanese garden with ponds, waterfalls, arched bridges, boulders, and viewing spots high above. Kit and Mickie Davidson bought the property in 1966 (for $69 an acre), and Kit designed and created the trails himself, armed with an occasional backhoe, scores of tools, and some heavy lifting performed by now-and-again paid helpers stronger than he. The trails are well-marked, and hikes range from simple to occasionally challenging. Maintaining the trails is a year-round effort, which Kit does himself. Access over streams and rocks is provided by a number of stairs, bridges, and wooden ramps. Adirondack chairs are placed at various viewpoints. The trails are open all year, and access is free of charge. It is a monumental tribute to the visions of Kit and Mickie and took years to create.
We here at the AFA hiked the Garden, Springs, Cave, and Mickie trails, through beech and white pines, granite, streams, meadows, and brush. Along the way, we encountered the occasional half-buried pipelines, which allow gravity-fed water to power the water feature at the Japanese garden, among other things. The view from 1,220 foot Mt. Zion encompasses the Taconic Mountains, across Lake Champlain and into the Adirondack Mountains. In addition to the views and beauty of the reserve, what impressed us most was Davidson’s skill in blazing the trails, which involved circumnavigating sheer granite cliffs and utilizing fallen rock and a series of switchbacks. Kit welcomed everyone to the Ramble, and the only rules are no smoking, overnight stays, or fires. One of the joys many hikers found was running into Kit wearing his pith helmet, either on one of the trails or enjoying the view from an Adirondack chair perched on a boulder overlooking the Japanese garden.
Kit Davidson passed away on September 29, 2016 and deeded the preserve to the state of Vermont. Formerly managed by Kit's associate Alyssa Bennett, it's now Vermont's newest state park.
Address is 321 St. John Rd, Hubbardton, VT. GPS location: N43°41.099’ W73°08.538’ Tel: (802) 353-4818. Open all year, but during mud season hikers are asked to park outside and walk in (0.6 mile) to save the road from ruination.
Driving directions to trailhead :
Take route 4 (a four-lane) west from Rutland to Exit 5, and turn right toward the Hubbardton Battlefield. After 6 miles plus, turn left onto the St John Road (if you come to the Battlefield, you’ve missed the turn). After 0.3 mile on St John, turn left onto a private drive (first possible left turn). Go up through a field, a cattle guard, a forest, another field, and another cattle guard. Parking is on the left.
From the parking area the trail goes downhill and passes near the right-hand end of the house (where trail maps are available, no charge). From the field below the house, there are views southwest to the cliffs of Mt. Zion Minor, south to Bird Mountain and the Herrick Mountain, and east to the central range of the Taconic Mountains. The trail continues downhill to an arched bridge and the Japanese Garden, with pools and waterfalls.