"Bare your soul, and see if it tans"
The Ledges is a clothing optional swimming area on Lake Whitingham, in the town of Wilmington VT. It consists of a long stretch of wooded shoreline, about 1/2 mile worth, with multiple large outcroppings of ledge. When the water is lower, there is a sandy flat area too. There are also two cliffs you can jump off of when the water level is appropriate. One of them has a rope swing.
When should I come?
The Ledges is at its best between the end of July and the end of September. If you come too early in the season, the water level in the reservoir is very high and space is limited. If you come too late in the season, you may find it somewhat on the chilly side. The best days are those that are sunny, warm or hot, and not too windy. People show up as early as 10:00 AM, and often stick around until closing time (around dusk).
How do I get there?
The best way to reach The Ledges is to start at the intersection of Routes 9 and 100 South, in Wilmington. This point is a bit over two hours from Boston and four hours from New York. Proceed south on Rt. 100 for a bit over a mile. After you've crested the hill, there will be a dirt road on the right with signs for "Flames Stables". Take that road and proceed more or less straight down the hill to the road's end, where you will pass through a gate that is the entrance to the TransCanada (formerly NEPCO) recreation area. Park, and walk down to the lake shore. Turn to the right and proceed past the end of the TransCanada area and follow the path. It will take you to The Ledges. If you did everything right, you will find a sign announcing a pending encounter with nude sunbathers.
If you'd like a map link to help get you there, here's one: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Wilmington,+VT&hl=en&ll=42.832926,-72.873173&spn=0.010102,0.021393&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=44.47475,87.626953&t=h&z=16.
The trail from the main TransCanada recreation area to The Ledges is full of roots at the beginning and is an excellent place for the unwary to sprain an ankle. Please be careful! There are other ways into The Ledges from the upper parking lot, but they all have challenges. If you are not steady on your feet, you may want to reconsider your visit.
Parking is somewhat limited, so if you are coming in a group, share a car. There's a lower parking lot in the main TransCanada recreation area near the water, which is relatively small, and an upper lot which has enough room for a fair number of cars. The parking lots may fill up on busy summer weekends, usually between 1 - 2PM in the afternoon, so you might want to plan to come before or after that time.
How much does it cost?
It costs nothing to visit The Ledges. You just have to come early enough to get in.
A wide variety of people visit The Ledges - from young children to senior citizens. There is a local crowd of "regulars", who are universally helpful, kind, and pleasant, and hang out mostly on the main group of rocks. They may remind you of basking seals. The swimming area is quite large, though, so if you are looking for more privacy, go up the shore further and you will likely find some. Younger folks often congregate around the cliff with the rope swing.
In the main (clothing required) part of the TransCanada recreation area, there are porta-potties and cookout centers. We have none of these things at The Ledges; if you need them, you'll have to dress and walk out. In addition, you should be prepared to take all trash back with you.
What should I bring?
I tend towards a minimalist approach, and bring mostly just myself. But some folks bring chairs, beer cooler, sandwiches, and barbeque grills. For people going the first time without clothes, sunscreen is a must. If you plan to be there a while, bringing some water is also a good idea.
The Ledges has been around for a long time. Whitingham Reservoir was constructed in 1926, damming the Deerfield River for recreation and power generation. As a clothing-optional swimming spot, it's been popular since at least the mid-1960s.
Nudity is legal in the State of Vermont. However, lewd and lascivious behavior is not. The take-away: if you're feeling frisky, rent a room.
It's also a good idea to remember that The Ledges remains open due to the good will of the Town of Wilmington. So please, don't cause a ruckus. Get dressed before you return to the main NEPCO area, and please don't drink to excess or be rude to people.
The internet is a wonderful medium. Unfortunately, it can be used for evil as well as good. At The Ledges, taking pictures is frowned upon, unless you explicitly get the permission of the photo subjects. People who are caught taking pictures without such permission may discover that water and cameras do not mix very well.
Will I like the Ledges?
There's no simple answer to this question. In my experience, if you look at clothing primarily as a means of adhering to a social norm, then you'll probably have a pretty good time, provided you pick a day with decent weather. At The Ledges, where being undressed is the norm, you are unlikely to run into folks who do not understand naturism. Many people report a sense of relief not having to worry about managing their garments all the time. Surveys show that most Americans support naturism, in the abstract at least, but your individual mileage will no doubt vary. There are also some reported gender differences: more men than women are willing to try it, but women who do try naturism report enjoying it more than men, on the whole.
But there is no doubt that there are people in this world who are fearful of nudity. Such people find it much more of a challenge to take the plunge. There is one group in particular who, in general, cares more deeply about appearance and what their peers might think - teenagers. Many teens wouldn't be caught dead at a naturist beach with their parents, who already embarrass them on so many levels. Being in the presence of other unclothed adults is also anathema. Thus teenagers, when they come to The Ledges, often show up in packs and stay away from everyone else.
What else is around?
The Wilmington/Mt. Snow region has a number of summer activities, and there are decent restaurants in town also. You can grab a local paper in the Shaw's Grocery Store in town, which should list what is going on. Patronize the local shops if you have time too!
Yeah, go ahead and bring 'em. The place is quite family-friendly. But if your kids are under 7, you may want to visit by yourself first, just to check the place out. Getting in and out is not always trivial and we wouldn't want anyone to get hurt.