Why Bayley-Hazen Road is One of Vermont's Most Historic Routes

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Why Bayley-Hazen is One of Vermont’s Most Historic Dirt Roads

Vermont is home to more than 8,000 miles of unpaved roads. One of the most historic is the Bayley-Hazen Military Road, the Northeast Kingdom’s oldest thoroughfare. Traces of the road, most of it unpaved, extends diagonally 48 miles from Wells River to Montgomery Center.

Much of the original route can be followed using existing roads through Wells River, West Danville, Peacham, Greensboro, Craftsbury, Albany, Irasburg, and Montgomery. You can travel the Bayley-Hazen by car, although you’re better off exploring on bike or even by foot to spot the historical markers, grave sites, monuments, and other small details that recall the history of this 18th-century road.

The History of Bayley-Hazen Road

The history of the road begins in 1776 when Benedict Arnold and Richard Montgomery attempted to capture Canada. The American army needed reinforcements and supplies to continue the siege of Quebec. Jacob Bayley, head of the frontier militia and a resident of Newbury, wrote to General George Washington about the need to build a new road to shorten existing supply routes.

In 1778-79, General Moses Hazen continued the construction of the Bayley-Hazen Military Road as far as Hazen’s Notch on Route 58—now marked by a historic site plaque. The military road was abandoned in April 1779 when news broke that the British patrols might use it as an invasion route.

Steve Perkins, executive director of the Vermont Historical Society, says the other famous military road in Vermont was the Crown Point Road from Fort #4 to Crown Point and Ticonderoga.  “That road is mostly gone now, so it’s not fun to drive like the Bayley-Hazen Road,” he says.

As a military achievement, the Bayley-Hazen road was considered a flop. Still, nearly 250 years after it was built, the road continues to generate interest among history buffs, locals, and visitors today. The 1959 booklet, “Bayley-Hazen Military Road — 1776 & 1779” described the historic road as making “no concessions to comfort or convenience, and very few even to the law of gravity. It goes as straight as possible, regardless of grade, like an old Roman road, but by no means regardless of that bogey of the early road builders in New England. In general it keeps on the ridge tops, dodging the wet spots as much as possible, crossing brooks and larger streams at right angles, almost never following them.”

Sounds like a road worth traveling.

A map of the route and other details can be found on CrossVermont.org.

Dirt roads, History, Orleans County, Popular, Scenic Drives
  • Sandra Oldfield
    Posted at 19:09h, 19 August Reply

    Thanks for this. I’m so disappointed I didn’t do this drive–I’ve waited my whole life to go to Vermont and just went in this past July. Wish I had seen this before I left!
    I suppose I will have to go again.

    • Erica
      Posted at 20:51h, 19 August Reply

      Sorry you didn’t get to see it, Sandra! You’ll definitely have to come back!

  • c king
    Posted at 01:33h, 21 August Reply

    Here is another fun fact… Hazen was responsible for scalping at least six men during the french and indian wars. he also burned two women and three children alive while making their families satch. The name of the road honors truely monsterous man… Sometimes being a history major is depressing…

    • c king
      Posted at 01:33h, 21 August Reply

      *making their families watch

    • Erica
      Posted at 08:12h, 22 August Reply

      Wow, that is depressing. Had no idea he was so awful!

  • Mark Creaven
    Posted at 11:44h, 21 August Reply

    can you say knuckle head? surely this man was not the world’s best patriot. he sought to open the land up for himself. what a revelation for him to be told that the road runs both ways.

    • Erica
      Posted at 08:16h, 22 August Reply

      Hi Mark — It’s amazing that he has a road, a cheese, and I’m sure other things named after him. What C King said in the comments is horrifying as well!

  • Lian
    Posted at 11:25h, 22 August Reply

    Funny that some of the towns the road runs through Cabot, and South Walden where I live between West Danville and Greenboro are not mentioned. There was a map put out some 15+ years ago but it was a limited publication. I’ve always wished that the entire road might become a narrow, well marked but preserved historic walking trail for everyone (maybe also parts of it be a riding trail for horses?) much like the historical trails in England that also span private land.

    • Erica
      Posted at 18:55h, 22 August Reply

      Hi Lian – That sounds like a good idea. It seems like people would like to know more about it and explore the road.

  • Pingback:9 Vermont Scenic Drive Alternatives to Route 100
    Posted at 19:59h, 13 July Reply

    […] 1778-79, Hazen led the construction of the Bayley Hazen Military Road to this part of Route 58 – now marked by a historic site plaque — on a route that started […]

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