Vermont is a once-in-a-lifetime magical hiking destination with spectacular snow-capped alpine peaks, pristine glittering lakes, and ancient woodlands. There are many well-maintained hiking trails, so you are truly spoilt for choice!
Hiking in Vermont is an incredibly rewarding experience if you equip yourself with local know-how regarding your destination’s terrain, weather, and essential kit. Recommended trails include the Long and Lincoln Gap Trails, Grout Pond, Mount Hunger, Mounts Philo and Mansfield, and the South Trail.
Although most state park hiking trails are well established and a pleasure to explore, it’s imperative to do a little due diligence before you set off for your next adventure. So, read on to avoid all the potential pitfalls.
Hiking In Vermont: A Brief Overview
Even though Vermont has 67 spectacular mountains, you don’t have to be a seasoned mountaineer to hike there.
There are numerous local and state parks where you could enjoy leisurely hiking trails to explore the plethora of invigorating waterfalls, ancient geological structures, soul-soothing woodlands, and serene meadow wildflowers.
Pre-planning is imperative if you are about to embark on a hike in the wilderness. The Green Mountain Club offers a wealth of local hiking information. So, pop in at their visitor center on route to your hike for custom trail recommendations, including vital safety tips.
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Essential Vermont Hiking Kit
It would be wise to have the right hiking kit on hand before you set off on your outdoor adventure.
Vermont’s trails tend to be either mountainous or muddy with an abundance of mosquitoes and black flies, so ensure that you have the following items in your backpack:
- A map of the region and a compass (obtainable from the Green Mountain Club)
- Sunscreen, a hat, and polarized sunglasses
- Raincoat, including additional clothing
- First Aid kit & prescription medicines
- Snacks and water (including a water purification system)
- Bair boxes/cans (for Long Trail hiking destinations)
- Emergency blanket
- Repair/tool kits
- Bug spray
The Iconic Long Trail: Hiking Excursion
The Long Trail was aptly named as it comprises 272 long miles that stretch all the way from Massachusetts to Canada.
Having been constructed between 1910 and 1930, it is the oldest long-distance footpath in the USA, leading to the establishment of the adjacent Appalachian Trail.
This popular trail winds along the Green Mountains, followed by woodlands, a mountainous tundra, and through pristine streams.
While completing the 5–28-day hiking trail is a monumental feat, most visitors enjoy section hike day trips to complete the trail over an extended period.
Numerous side trails will grant you access to the Long Trail, including the region’s 70 campsites.
The Appalachian and Long Trails share the same route for approximately 100 miles in the southern part of Vermont, which becomes progressively rocky as it meanders through Mount Mansfield, including Jay Peak.
Fortunately, some permanent ladders in the northern region support hikers climbing sheer rock faces.
Although the Long Trail’s natural habitat differs from season to season, they all have benefits and disadvantages, as a severe downpour and muddy terrains may accompany spectacular spring wildflowers.
Alternatively, hot weather can attract large crowds to the trail, including a wide array of bugs with high humidity levels.
While it’s impossible to predict the weather in fall, the spectacular autumn foliage must be seen to be believed.
The Long Trail is the most beautiful in winter. However, hiking in this winter wonderland would require wearing a bespoke hiking kit and expert navigation skills.
The Lincoln Gap: Mount Abe Hiking Trail
Mount Abe, aka Potato Hill, or Lincoln Mountain as locals commonly call its true name, is Mount Abraham.
The mountain’s name could infer that it was originally named in honor of either President Abraham Lincoln or in memory of a war hero named Benjamin Lincoln.
The 4006-foot Mount Abe, Vermont’s fifth tallest peak, is situated in Lincoln. While the 5.1-mile trail to the tundra-strewn summit is strenuous, it is well worth the effort as you will be rewarded with spectacular vistas.
Most hikers access Mount Abe’s peak via the Long Trail’s Lincoln Gap summit route, which meanders via a stony footpath until the trail culminates in a little shelter with a small picnic area.
Following this, there’s rather a steep climb to the spectacular Mount Abe summit, renowned for being one of the Long Trail’s most incredible vistas.
Should you reach the summit on a clear day, you would be able to see Mount Marcy, which is the New York state’s tallest peak, including the southernly Killington Resort and the magnificent Mount Washington.
The Sedate Grout Pond: Vermont Hiking Trail
You certainly don’t have to scale high mountain peaks to enjoy Vermont’s sublime wilderness.
The gentle 2.7-mile trail follows the contours of the pristine Grout Pond, with a mere 249feet elevation in the very heart of the stately Green Mountains.
Along the trail, you can enjoy the sights and sounds of kayakers and an abundance of colorful wildflowers, vividly green mosses, and exotic mushrooms.
The pond’s expansive recreation area is a great place to camp, swim, paddle with kayaks or canoes, or spend a leisurely afternoon trying your luck on fishing.
Moreover, several recreational area trails join the Somerset Reservoir hiking trail, which is transformed into the Catamount ski trail each winter.
While these side trails can get boggy, there are various boardwalks in the area.
The Mount Hunger Hiking Trail
While climbing the 3538-ft Mount Hunger for 4.2 miles is a strenuous walk, the spectacular views of Mount Mansfield, which is Vermont’s tallest peak, are certainly worth it!
The trailhead is approximately 15 minutes drive from Stowe and 45 minutes from Burlington, the region’s largest city.
Although the first section of the trail is not strenuous, it becomes dramatically steeper for 2263 feet to the summit.
On the route, you will encounter rugged steps, spectacular waterfalls, and refreshing swimming holes (if you are brave enough to take a dip).
While the last section to reach the Mount Hunger summit is the steepest climb, you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the magnificent Green Mountains, including the eastern New Hampshire Presential Range.
Mount Philo: A Short Vermont Hiking Trail
The statuesque 986 feet high Mount Philo is based in Charlotte’s Mount Philo National Park in the lush Champlain Valley with its pristine Lake Champlain.
Champlain Valley is also widely known as the region’s breadbasket due to its rich fertile agricultural land.
This 1.4-1.9-mile hike towards the Mount Philo summit provides stellar panoramic views of Lake Champlain nestled in the valley, including New York state’s expansive Adirondack Park.
The Civilian Conservation Corps developed the park in the 1930s by planting trees and constructing trails, roads, a picnic area, ranger accommodation, including a magnificent hilltop lodge with spectacular views.
To access the Mount Philo trailhead, you can either make a reservation at one of the region’s 10 camping sites or pay the daily entrance fee.
While most visitors stick to the paved routes, certain hikers prefer exploring side routes. However, they all meander through stately woodlands and provide glimpses of Mount Philo leading all the way to its glorious summit.
Mount Philo is renowned for attracting hawks to such an extent that the park broke state records for having 3,688 raptors migrating in that region on one day. The best time to view hawks in that region is in late September.
Mount Mansfield Trail: Vermont’s Highest Peak
No trip to Vermont is complete without the bragging rights of having scaled its tallest peak.
At 4,395feet, Mount Mansfield dwarfs the magnificent Stowe towards the east, including the western Underhill.
It is one of only three mountain peaks that still features well-maintained alpine tundra formed during the Ice Age.
There are several ways to access the mountain’s summit. You can either use the Sunset Ridge trail in Underhill or a more strenuous trail that runs parallel to it with incredible views along the way.
While hiking up the mountain is not for the faint-hearted, you will be well rewarded with its breathtaking panoramic views once you reach the summit.
For a challenge, take the strenuous Hell Brook trail that runs from Smuggler’s Notch, alternatively drive up the steep 4.5-mile Toll Road towards Mount Mansfield’s “forehead” and explore the rest by foot.
Mount Mansfield is steeped in folklore – according to legend, the mountain’s shape resembles a gentleman’s face in repose, so you should be able to see his facial features in the formation of the rocks.
Another famous legend is that a “Waphahoofus” mythical creature that resembles a wild boar or a deer inhabits the mountainsides. It is said to be equipped with short and long legs to explore the steep mountain cliffs.
South Trail: Mount Pisgah
The northeastern Lake Willoughby has the distinction of being one of Vermont’s deepest and coldest lakes. Lake Willoughby, including the adjacent eastern side of Mount Pisgah and the western side of Mount Hor, was formed by ancient glaciers.
The delightful 4.1-mile South Trail towards Mount Pisgah’s summit includes Pulpit Rock, where falcons tend to nest, including spectacular views of the sublime Lake Willoughby.
Although some hikers only linger at Pulpit Rock and then turn around – adventurous hikers take the side routes to a rocky outcrop that spectacularly juts out over Lake Willoughby.
From Pulpit Rock, there is a moderately strenuous unpaved trail to the summit, which provides breathtakingly beautiful views of Vermont towards the north and Canada in the south.
Hiking In Virginia: General Safety Precautions
Before you strap up your hiking boots to explore any of the suggested hiking trails, take heed of the following potentially life-saving hiking precautions.
- Consult with the Green Mountain Club to learn about your hiking destination’s weather conditions, terrain, and equipment requirements before you set off.
- Share your destination trail map, including other relevant information like when you should arrive home with a loved one so that they can alert the authorities if needs be.
- If you are hiking with others in a group, stay with them, especially the slowest hiker, as no one must be left behind.
- Have the wisdom to turn back at the first sign of inclement weather. Mountainous terrain weather conditions are highly unpredictable, so it’s not worth risking your life to complete the hike.
Safeguarding Your Valuables
While Vermont State Police have made a concerted effort to safeguard hiker’s parked vehicles from break-ins to steal valuables, it does happen from time to time, especially at popular trailheads. So, hide items in your trunk away from prying eyes, or leave them at home.
Preserve The Fragile Natural Environment
Mount Mansfield and Mount Abe are examples of Vermont’s most precious alpine zones, home to fragile foliage that can easily be destroyed by humans and domestic animals alike.
So, please maintain this precious natural heritage by not veering off the trail paths and keeping your four-legged friends on their leashes.
The Bear Necessities Of Life
There has been an influx of bears in the Long Trail region, so hikers have been required to take special precautions since 2019.
Equip yourself with bear boxes or cans, alternatively keep all your foodstuffs elevated off the ground, and please don’t leave your trash behind.
Muddy Springtime Alpine Trails
All mountainous Vermont state parks are closed from the beginning of the muddy springtime season until the beginning of the Memorial Day Weekend to protect the region’s fragile ecology.
Melting snow at higher altitudes results in muddy paths, which could expedite soil erosion should hikers explore that region at the time. However, there are numerous great alternative trails to explore.
Autumn Hunting Season Safety Precautions
It’s imperative to note that hunting is permitted on the Long and Appalachian Trails, so please employ the following safety precautions before you embark on your hike:
- Wear neon orange shirts to improve your visibility.
- Avoid wearing either brown or white clothing that might resemble the color of a deer.
- Improve your visibility by not hiking at dawn or dusk.
- Leave your fur babies at home or dress them in a bright orange coat.
- Make hunters aware of your presence by waving at them and making eye contact.
Vermont Winter Hiking Safety Precautions
While Vermont might resemble a winter wonderland at times – there is no room for error, so take heed of the following critical safety precautions:
- Start your day at the crack of dawn.
- Invest in durable snow hiking boots.
- Study your topographical map ahead of time and use your compass to navigate.
- Watch out for hypothermia symptoms and be ready to treat instances of frostbite.
- Layer your clothing, and keep an extra set of thermal apparel and socks in your weatherproof backpack.
- Keep well hydrated to avoid hypothermia.
Hiking in Vermont with its sublime snow-capped alpine peaks and panoramic vistas is certainly the stuff of dreams.
However, before taking that Instagram-worthy shot, equip yourself with enough local knowledge concerning the trail. Happy hiking!