Aerial view of the unfragmented forests of our North Pawlet Natural Area, Vermont.
North Pawlet Natural Area Aerial view of the unfragmented forests of our North Pawlet Natural Area, Vermont. © Bob Klein

Places We Protect

North Pawlet Hills Natural Area


Popular with day hikers and rich in biodiversity, this splendid natural area is expanding.

In late 2012, The Nature Conservancy was able to purchase an additional 524-acres, bringing the total protected area to 1,444 acres. Generations of Pawlet families—and visitors from around the world—have climbed the steep slopes to the top of Haystack Mountain to take in the spectacular 360-degree views of Bald and Middle Mountains, the north-south forested hills and the serene Mettowee Valley. This preserve features a series of rounded, forested peaks in the northern Taconic Mountains, clustered in an extensive landscape of unbroken forest. Locals call Haystack, Middle and Bald Mountains the Three Sisters.

Protecting this landscape is a collaborative effort. A local group, Friends of Haystack, successfully conserved the summit of Haystack in 2012, and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board has substantially supported TNC's efforts over the years.

Of the three peaks, Haystack Mountain is perhaps the most distinctive, with its sheer cliffs and dramatic outcrops of slate and quartzite. From the modest 1,919-foot summit you can see as far west as Glens Falls, NY, and south beyond the farms of the Mettowee Valley to Mount Equinox in Manchester.

There is a trail at this preserve to the top of Haystack, and visitors are welcome to explore the woods roads on the property.

What to See: Plants

Warm southern aspect and shallow soils produce drought-like conditions on the hills and promote the growth of several unusual natural communities, including dry oak woodlands and dry oak-hickory-hophornbeam forests.

What to See: Animals

Turkeys, grouse and bobcats roam the rocky landscape. Peregrine falcons sometimes nest on the cliffs of Haystack. These forested hills also provide nesting habitat for neotropical migrant songbirds that rely on unfragmented forest blocks.