Alpha Guide: Mount Mansfield

alpha Guides | Better than beta.

Hike up Vermont’s tallest peak, scramble along an alpine ridge, and bask in 360-degree views, all on an ascent of Mount Mansfield via a section of the Long Trail, the U.S.’s oldest long-distance hiking trail.

The Green Mountain State delivers on this must-do hike up one of the state’s five 4,000-footers. A roughly five-mile out-and-back trip along Vermont’s most-famous footpath, the Long Trail, gains 3,000 feet in elevation on the way to the state’s highest peak. The journey begins by wandering through an idyllic hardwood forest, and eventually earns an extraordinary alpine ridge that delivers you to a rocky New England summit—one of only three places in the state to find alpine tundra. As you take in the views of Lake Champlain, mountain ranges in three states (the Greens, the Whites, and the Adirondacks), and, to the north, Canada, you’ll quickly discover what the Von Trapps meant when they sang, “The hills are alive…”

Quick Facts

Distance: 5 miles, out-and-back
Time to Complete: Half day
Difficulty: ★★
Scenery: ★★★★

Season: May through October
Fees/Permits: None



When viewed at a distance, Mansfield’s elongated ridgeline resembles a human head, with the various high points named for facial features: the Forehead, Nose, Chin, and Adam’s Apple. The most straightforward way to get to the true summit, the Chin, follows the Long Trail South’s white rectangular blazes beginning on Mountain Road (Route 108).

From Burlington, take Route 89 south to exit 10 for VT-100 South towards Waterbury US-2. Follow this a short way, before turning on VT-100 North. Continue on VT-100 North for just under 10 miles, and take a left on VT-108 North/Mountain Road. After you drive approximately nine miles, the parking lot will be on your right.

If you’re coming from Stowe, there’s a small parking lot on the left side of Route 108, just after Stowe Mountain Resort. Since the lot is small and easy to miss, pay close attention after the resort. If you begin driving uphill on Route 108 into Smugglers’ Notch, turn around; you’ve gone too far.

Once you’ve geared up, walk on Route 108 back toward Stowe Mountain Resort. The trail starts at a break in the trees (44.537126, -72.790910) about 50 yards down the road. Look for an information board and trail marker a short way into the woods.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

Getting Started

The hike begins on relatively smooth trail through a hardwood forest. It is well marked and easy to follow. It also starts climbing almost immediately, which is no surprise, considering the trail gains 3,000 feet in a little over two miles and occasionally crosses some small streams.

Around the one-mile mark, the trail becomes rockier, climbing up short, slabby sections. The footing here is not quite as good, but nothing out of the ordinary for anybody who’s climbed some of the Northeast’s 4,000-footers. Trekking poles are helpful.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

The Taft Lodge

Just past the 1.5-mile mark is the Taft Lodge (44.542551, -72809568), the oldest hut on Vermont’s Long Trail. For a moderate fee, hikers can stay here overnight either on the way to the summit or as part of a longer outing. The lodge, built in the 1920s and recently renovated, sleeps up to 24 and has outhouses and a water source nearby.

Whether you’re day-hiking or backpacking, Taft Lodge is on Vermont’s Register of Historic Places and worth visiting, even if only to have a snack. And, because the lodge is near treeline, it’s also a great place to assess whether you’ll need to add a layer (or two).

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

The Ridgeline Push

From Taft Lodge, stay on the Long Trail South and continue climbing toward the ridgeline. The trail above the lodge remains rocky, offering hikers regular glimpses of Mansfield’s ridgeline through the thinning tree cover. There are also a few spots to turn around and look south, with Stowe in the foreground and the Green Mountains in the distance. If you’re out of breath due to the elevation gain, spend a few moments trying to spot the unmistakable double-bumped alpine ridgeline of Camel’s Hump, another of Vermont’s classic alpine summits.

In one-third of a mile, the Long Trail South reaches the col between the Chin (the true summit) and the Adam’s Apple. Here, the Hell Brook Trail and the Adam’s Apple Trail join the Long Trail. Since the junction (44.545639, -72.811772) is moderately sheltered, it’s a great spot to add an extra layer before popping further above treeline.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

The Ridgeline

From the junction, the Long Trail South makes a sharp left, climbing the ridge toward Mansfield’s proper summit, the Chin. This section is open and exposed to the elements. If wind is coming from the west, this will be the first time you feel it.

Near the top of the summit cone, there are a few short-but-exposed sections that require scrambling and careful footwork. As you ascend, try to memorize the hand and foot holds for the descent.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

The Summit

Mansfield’s summit is a large, flat alpine area that offers plenty of room to spread out. So, find a rock, sit back, and enjoy the broad, open summit (44.5430453, -72.815436) and incredible 360-degree views. Looking west, hikers can see Burlington and Lake Champlain, with New York’s Adirondacks in the distance. To the north is Canada! In the distance to the east are New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Finally, the Green Mountains spill out to the south.

Mount Mansfield is home to 200 acres of alpine tundra, and is one of only three places in the state of Vermont where it is found (Camel’s Hump and Mount Abraham being the other two). In addition to its rarity, alpine tundra is also very fragile and susceptible to human impact. Because of this, please stay on the rocks and in the designated paths when traveling above treeline.

Whenever you can pull yourself away from the summit, just retrace your steps to your car, first by taking the Long Trail North to the clearing. Use particular caution on the exposed portions of the ridge, as they can be harder during the descent. Once you’re back at the junction, continue on the Long Trail to Route 108.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

Bonus Points

Hikers not ready to return to their car can make a short (five- to 10-minute) detour from the col to the Adam’s Apple (44.546573, -72.810353). The Adam’s Apple Trail offers great views of the Chin and Mansfield’s other features and is usually much less crowded than the Chin. Since it is also slightly less exposed to the weather, it’s a worthwhile objective if conditions put the true summit out of reach.

A longer detour—and one that requires pre-trip car shuttling or a short road march at the end— is to continue on the Long Trail South from the Chin, crossing all of Mansfield’s features. Over 1.5 miles of ridgeline hiking, you’ll pass the Lower Lip, the Upper Lip, the Mount Mansfield Peak Visitor Center, the parking lot for the Mount Mansfield Toll Road, and, finally, the Nose. From the Nose, hikers can head back to the Visitor Center, and then descend a short way on the Toll Road to link up with Haselton Trail, which ends at the base area of Stowe Mountain Resort. Alternately, arrange to have somebody pick you up at the top of the Toll Road.

Pro Tip: If you do decide to hike the full ridgeline and the weather turns, the Cliff Trail is an early option for bailing out. Connecting with the Long Trail just before the Lower Lip, it descends to Stowe’s Cliff House, near the top of Stowe’s Gondola SkyRide. From there, hikers can follow a marked access road or ski trails to the base area.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

The Kit

  • Traction is at a premium on the exposed sections of Mansfield’s ridgeline. The Asolo Fugitive (Men’s) and Revert (Women’s) are longtime favorites.
  • Lightweight and packable, a windshirt is ideal for any trip above treeline. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hooded Jacket (Men’s/Women’s) is perfect for handling the ridgeline’s variable conditions, and much like Vermont’s craft brews, it has developed a cult-like following over the years.
  • A puffy coat is great for cool mornings and cold summits, and is handy to have in case of an emergency. The EMS Alpine Ascender Stretch is a great winter midlayer that’s breathable enough to be worth stuffing in your pack for cool spring and summer days.
  • One minute it’s sunny, and the next, you’re stuck in a downpour. Green Mountain weather can change in a heartbeat, so be ready with the EMS Thunderhead, a reliable and affordable way to ensure you stay dry on your summit bid.
  • In the spirit of the state of Vermont, consider a pair of locally sourced socks from Darn Tough, made in nearby Northfield. Living up to their name, these socks come with a lifetime guarantee.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

Keys to the Trip 

  • Depending on the season, you might encounter a Green Mountain Club caretaker at the Taft Lodge. They’re all super nice and great resources for trail information.
  • Vermont takes sustainability seriously when it comes to its trails, so get out before the snow melts, or wait until Memorial Day weekend to climb this ultra-classic mountain.
  • Celebrate a successful summit day at Doc Ponds in Stowe. The bar is packed with Vermont’s best beers (Hill Farmstead, Lawson’s Finest, and Foley Brothers, just to name a few), and the homemade onion dip with housemade BBQ chips is not to be missed.
  • Vermont’s repuation for great beer is well deserved. Since you’re so close, Alchemist Beer’s brewery in Stowe is a must-visit. And, don’t forget to bring your cooler, in case you decide to pick up some souvenirs to bring home!
  • If you’re spending the weekend exploring Vermont, make sure to check out our guides to Exploring Burlington Like a Local and hiking Camel’s Hump.
  • If you’re looking for a great place to camp, the Smugglers’ Notch State Park is just a few minutes away from Stowe Mountain Resort. Sites book well in advance for popular weekends, so make your reservations early.

Current Conditions

Have you hiked Mount Mansfield recently? Post your experience and the trail conditions (with the date of your hike) in the comments for others!

Explore Like A Local: Getting the Most of Fall in Burlington, VT

For this installment of Explore like a Local, we visited Burlington, Vermont, just as fall took hold. With its cool nights and warm days, we found this to be the perfect time of year to get outside and get after it. We packed in as many adventures as we could, but found ourselves wishing we had more time (isn’t that always the case when you’re having fun?). Given all of the possible activities in town and within a short drive, we just scratched the surface of this area—all the more reason to go back soon.

About Burlington

Located in Northwest Vermont, Burlington is nestled alongside Lake Champlain with roughly 43,000 residents, making it the most populous city in the state. The city has a distinct outdoor and progressive vibe along with a bustling restaurant scene and a busy pedestrian-only area on Church Street. The University of Vermont and Champlain College are both located here and contribute to the energy of the city. The city is served by a convenient airport and a major interstate (I-89), so getting here is easy.



Cycling (Spring to Fall)

In Town—Activity Level: Easy

The Island Line Trail sits along the waterfront and heads north into Colchester. If you didn’t travel with your bike, head down to Local Motion and rent a bike directly on the path. The bike path is paved and almost completely flat. Approximately 35 minutes out of town, you’ll reach the amazing Colchester Bike Causeway (gravel, not paved). Ride directly out into Lake Champlain on an old rail causeway. Complete the trip out to the island community of South Hero by taking a bike ferry across a 200-foot gap, left open for boat traffic.

Stowe—Activity Level: Easy to Exhilarating

If you are seeking more challenging terrain, drive over to Stowe and the Cady Hill Forest Trail (on Mountain Road, not far from the intersection with Route 100). You’ll find a mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced singletrack trails. The trails are generally smooth and windy, with some quad-burning climbs.

Hiking/Backpacking (Late Spring to Fall)

Mt. Mansfield—Activity Level: Easy

For some of the prettiest views around, drive to Stowe and pay the $23 fee (+$8 per each additional passenger) to head up the Auto Toll Road. Follow the twisting road to a parking lot on the summit ridge, next to the visitors’ center. From there, hike 1.3 miles (600-foot elevation gain) along the Long Trail to the summit. Bring sunscreen, because you’ll be on exposed rocks for much of the way. Look for the geological survey marker in the stone at the tip of the summit. Fun Fact: For those who have skied at Stowe, the Green Trail “Toll Road” is actually the Toll Road that one drives up in the summer and fall!

Sterling Mountain—Activity Level: Moderate (Difficult if wet)

Sterling serves as one of the three peaks at Smugglers’ Notch Ski Resort. Hiking up the backside of the mountain in late spring, summer, or fall is a terrific way to access Sterling Pond, which sits a stone’s throw from the top of the Smuggs’ lift. The trail is steep in most spots and is slippery when wet. It’s 2.5 miles out-and-back with a 1,066-foot elevation gain. We hiked up pre-dawn with headlamps to catch the sunrise over the pond—well worth the effort, I can tell you. The views are spectacular, at sunrise and otherwise. Campers are welcome at the pond; there’s a lean-to that can accommodate approximately 10 folks, but not too many flat surfaces for tents.

To access the trail, head up Mountain Road (Rt. 108) from either the Smuggs or Stowe side and park in the parking lot at the top of the notch. The trailhead is directly across the street from the information station.


Cave Exploring and Bouldering (Late Spring to Fall)

Both activities are accessible from the parking lot at the top of the notch on Mountain Road (same as above). Huge boulders have fallen from the mountains over the ages and are known as the Smuggler’s Notch Boulders.

Cave Exploring—Activity Level: Easy

Just steps from the parking lot, caves have been formed within the clusters of boulders. Wander in and out of the spaces and marvel at the size of the boulders. A few of the more amazing spaces require a bit of scrambling to access the interior.


Bouldering—Activity Level: Difficult

Bring your crash pads and get after the amazing boulders of Smuggler’s Notch. Situated on either side of Mountain Road, the boulders present a range of difficulty levels. Pick your problem and go about solving it. Just make sure to have a spotter or two along for the adventure. It’s really amazing to see folks climbing the boulders just steps from the beautiful twists and turns of Mountain Road. A group of cyclists took a break to watch us and others work on the rocks.


Rock Climbing (Late Spring to Fall)

Bolton Valley—Activity Level: Difficult

The Lower West Bolton area is a popular climbing spot in Bolton Valley, located just off Route 2 on Notch Road. It can be busy after work or on weekends in the warmer months. Take your pick between leading a route or top-roping. An easy trail leads to the top if you prefer to top-rope, and large trees and bolts are available to serve as anchors. The difficulty of routes ranges from 5.5 to 5.10b.

Skiing (Winter)

Activity Level: Easy to Exhilarating

There are five terrific options for skiers (four for riders) within an hour’s drive from Burlington. Stowe Mountain Resort is the largest of the bunch and draws the most visitors per year. With 116 trails and 485 acres of skiable terrain, Stowe has something for everyone. Smugglers’ Notch backs up to Stowe and covers three mountains. The main draw for Smuggs, as it is affectionately known, is the wonderful children’s program. Top-notch instruction, coupled with wholesome and educational entertainment, has earned Smuggs a well-deserved reputation as a top destination for families.

Mad River Glen caters to a different crowd with their “Ski it if you can” mantra. With some of the toughest terrain in New England and a skier-only policy (sorry, boarders), Mad River Glen has a cult following among experienced skiers.

Less well known is the terrific and affordable Bolton Valley. Only 25 minutes from town, it boasts 71 trails over three peaks. The closest resort to town is Cochran’s Ski Area. While it’s the smallest of the five, it’s perfect for families with small children. It’s only 15 minutes from downtown Burlington and serves as a learning mountain for little and big ones alike.



The Skinny Pancake ($)

For breakfast and brunch, you need to visit The Skinny Pancake. I have two words for you: Noah’s Ark. Just order it. Trust me on this one; I wouldn’t steer you wrong (you’re welcome). The good folks at The Skinny Pancake have developed an ingenious menu, centered around crepes, that features sweet, savory, and healthy offerings, allowing this establishment to stay busy from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Vermont Pub and Brewery ($$)

Comfort food writ large. Find all of the classics (shepherd’s pie, wings, meat loaf, etc.) paired with terrific beers brewed on site. The house-made, flavored seltzers were a hit, as well. Just what you need after a long day of adventure, without breaking the bank.

The Farmhouse ($$$)

For a top-notch meal, look no further than The Farmhouse. Order communal appetizers and watch them disappear in mere moments as people figure out how damn good everything is. Better not be in the bathroom! Our visit in late September corresponded with local Oktoberfest celebrations, and The Farmhouse had filled three chalkboards with different types of märzen lagers for the occasion. And, speaking of chalkboards, we may or may not have taken over one of the boards and added a little #goEast artwork.


Alpha Guide: Camel's Hump via the Burrows Trail

alpha Guides | Better than beta.

Climb to one of Vermont’s most imposing, rugged alpine summits in just a day or less. 

Looming over Interstate 89, Camel’s Hump draws thousands of hikers every year to its undeveloped, alpine summit. At just under five miles and gaining roughly 2,500 feet in elevation, the Burrows Trail is a great way to hike Vermont’s third tallest peak. It delivers everything you would expect to find on the Northeast’s longer, more grueling classic hikes in a short, moderate trek that most can do in a half-day.


Quick Facts

Distance: 5 miles, out-and-back
Time to Complete: Half to one full day
Difficulty: ★★
Scenery: ★★★★

Season: May through October
Fees/Permits: None



Although the hike itself is straightforward, getting to the Burrows Trailhead can feel fairly complex for first-timers. From Interstate 89, take Exit 10 onto Vermont Route 100 South. Follow Vermont Route 100 South for a short distance to a rotary. Then, take the first right at the rotary onto U.S. Route 2 West/North Main Street and follow it for almost 10 miles to Cochran Road.

From Cochran Road, you’ll want to travel roughly a quarter of a mile to Wes White Hill. It’s here, away from I-89 and U.S. 2, that you begin to feel Vermont’s true rural nature, and may begin to question your navigational skills. Follow Wes White Hill for 3.1 miles, until it becomes Pond Road. Then, follow Pond Road until it becomes Bridge Street. Although you’re basically driving straight, amid the fields and farms, and along sometimes dirt roads, it’s easy to wonder if you missed a turn somewhere along the way. So, follow Bridge Street for approximately a half-mile, before turning left onto East Street. After driving about the length of a football field on East Street, make a slight right onto Main Road.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Continue on Main Road for 2.5 miles before turning left onto the appropriately named Camels Hump Road, which, in accord with local nomenclature for the peak, omits the apostrophe. The road is unpaved and narrow, so drive slow and be aware of oncoming traffic as you make your way along the 3.5 miles to the Burrows Trailhead at the road’s end.

If at any point you’re feeling lost, don’t worry. The GPS on our phones worked until just after the turn onto Camels Hump Road. And, if your coverage fades out earlier, consult your map, and you’ll be fine. Or, stop at any of the local stores that dot the landscape and ask for directions. It’s been our experience that everyone is very friendly and happy to help a hiker. Pro tip: They’re especially helpful if you buy some local beer or syrup.

The Burrows Trail is a very popular hike, and the parking lot is relatively small. Those getting a late start should be prepared to either park on the road or at the Forest City Trailhead, where hikers can add a couple of miles to their day by using the Forest City Trail to connect with the Burrows Trail, or just road-march the 0.7 miles up to the Burrows Trailhead.

The lower Burrows Trail. | Credit: Tim Peck
The lower Burrows Trail. | Credit: Tim Peck

On the Trail

The Burrows Trail begins at the back of the parking lot located at the end of Camels Hump Road (44.305058, -72.907684). If you have any questions about where you are heading, look for the plaque on a rock dedicated to Hubert “Hub” Vogelmann. He’s a long-time University of Vermont professor who is well known for his research on acid rain. Nearby, the Burrows Trail begins.

It doesn’t take long to feel the denseness of the Vermont forest, as the lush green landscape has a way of encompassing you on the trail’s early part. Hikers also don’t get much of a warm up. While the trail starts off fairly mellow, it is best described as steep and direct, and quickly becomes a more strenuous climb, with a preponderance of roots and rocks waiting to trip up hikers.

The Burrows Trail gains enough elevation over the first mile that the incredibly green landscape transitions into a pine forest with little to no undergrowth. The trail itself also changes, with the grade becoming more consistent, the rocks getting bigger, and the roots burlier. Take these shifts as a good sign, one signalling that you’re getting closer to the junction with the Long Trail.

Higher on the Burrows Trail. Credit: Tim Peck
Higher on the Burrows Trail. Credit: Tim Peck

The Clearing

Just past the two-mile mark, the Burrows Trail opens into a large clearing (44.312968, -72.885391), where the Burrows, Monroe, and Long Trails all intersect. The clearing is also a great spot to grab a snack and prepare for the upcoming above-treeline hike. Above this, the weather is often vastly different from what hikers have so far encountered on their trip, so add an extra layer and, on colder days, a hat, gloves, and jacket. Keep in mind that layering up is much easier to do in the trees, where the wind isn’t trying to blow your jacket towards New Hampshire.

From the clearing, take the Long Trail south for the final 0.3 miles to Camel’s Hump’s 4,083 foot-tall summit. This is the day’s most challenging section, featuring a short scramble before the trail traverses through the alpine zone and up to the summit on slick and rocky terrain. Since this area is home to rare and threatened arctic-alpine vegetation, try to walk on the rocks and stay between the twine strung out as a directional aid along the path.

Nearing the Summit. | Credit: Tim Peck
Nearing the Summit. | Credit: Tim Peck

The Summit

Despite being atop a busy mountain, the broad, treeless summit of Camel’s Hump—Vermont’s highest undeveloped peak—offers plenty of room to spread out. So, find a rock, sit back, and enjoy the open summit (44.319466, -72.887024) and its incredible 360-degree views. You’ll soon realize why Camel’s Hump is featured on the Vermont state quarter.

In terms of views, to the west are Burlington and Lake Champlain, with the Adirondacks in the distance. Looking north, hikers can pick out the iconic Mt. Mansfield nestled among the most northern Green Mountains. To the east, the green of Vermont eventually merges into New Hampshire’s White Mountains, with Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range guarding the horizon. Finally, the Green Mountains, including Ellen, Abraham, and Killington, spill out to the south.

Whenever you can, pull yourself away from the summit, and just retrace your steps to your car, first by taking the Long Trail north to the clearing. In the clearing, look for the well-marked Burrows Trail, and then, take it to the parking lot.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Bonus Points

Hikers not yet ready to return can search for the remains of a 1944 plane crash. To find it, take the Long Trail south from the summit for 0.2 miles, first crossing some steep rock slabs and then descending into the trees. There, the Long Trail intersects with the Alpine Trail (44.31878, -72.887024). Follow that for a few hundred yards to a cairn marking an unnamed herd path that leaves the trail to the right. Then, follow the herd path a short ways downhill to the plane’s wreckage (44.318165, -72.886650). After taking in this unique sight, retrace your steps to the mountain’s summit.

Overall, this detour is just under a half-mile round trip. But, due to having to descend and then re-ascend the summit slabs, it may take hikers a little longer than they anticipated.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

The Kit

  • A wind shirt is a must-have for any hike that ascends above treeline. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite is a lightweight, packable jacket that is perfect for the final push to the summit.
  • The weather can change pretty quickly in Vermont’s mountains, and more than once has a sunny forecast turned into a rain-soaked adventure. The EMS Thunderhead is a reliable, affordable way to ensure you stay dry on your summit bid.
  • Rocks, roots, and slabs put a premium on traction. For short hikes like Camel’s Hump, a light hiker like the Oboz Sawtooth Low WP is fantastic.
  • Vermont is known for its local products, so celebrate the state’s industry by hiking in a pair of super-durable Darn Tough socks, made down the road in Northfield.
  • The Green Mountain Club’s Camel’s Hump and the Monroe Skyline Waterproof Hiking Trail Map is an inexpensive insurance policy against getting lost.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Keys to the Trip

  • Spotty cell service can render your phone’s GPS useless, and can make finding the Burrows Trailhead the most challenging part of the day. So, if you’re unfamiliar with the area, it’s worth taking along an old-fashioned yet reliable map. The DeLorme New Hampshire Vermont Atlas & Gazetteer is an excellent supplement to your phone and will help ensure you make it to the trailhead.
  • You might encounter a Green Mountain Club caretaker on Camel’s Hump. They’re all super nice and great resources for trail information, so ask them a question!
  • Vermont closes its trails for mud season. So, hiking is a no-go from when the snow melts to roughly Memorial Day weekend.
  • Stop at the Prohibition Pig on South Main Street in Waterbury for amazing local barbecue, beer, and cocktails on your way home!
  • If barbecue isn’t your thing, Waterbury is home to the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory. Take a tour, and at the end, have a pint of your favorite flavor. You’ve earned it.
  • If you’re looking to make it an inexpensive weekend, the Little River State Park is a great campground about 30 minutes away.

Current Conditions

Have you hiked Camel’s Hump recently? Post your experience and the trail conditions (with the date of your hike) in the comments for others!

Header photo credit: Tim Behuniak

Hiking the Vermont 4,000-Footers

The Northeast has many 4,000-footers—115, to be exact. New Hampshire and New York—each with 48—feature the region’s dominant ranges. Even Maine, known for rocky Katahdin, has 14 of these peaks.

So, it would be easy to overlook Vermont, with just five summits over 4,000 feet. But, if you weren’t paying attention, you’d definitely be missing out. Short hikes, challenging trails, and amazing above-treeline views of Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York make the Vermont 4,000-footers some of the Northeast’s best-value hikes.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Mount Abraham

Named after the 16th President of the United States, Mount Abraham is the shortest and “easiest” of Vermont’s 4,000-footers. Luckily, this stunning peak doesn’t need a superlative elevation to attract all types of hikers. Rather, its moderate terrain and fantastic summit views entice almost everyone. In addition to its hiker-friendly trail, Mount Abraham delivers all kinds of walk-worthy views, with Mount Ellen looming on the ridgeline to the north, and the Green Mountains, the Adirondacks, and the White Mountains on competing horizons.

Leaving from the appropriately named Lincoln Gap Trailhead, hikers will follow the Long Trail for roughly 2.5 miles while gaining 1,600 feet in elevation on the trek to the summit. Along the way, hikers will experience a mostly smooth and obstacle-free trail, with a few strenuous sections as it gently picks up elevation. At 1.7 miles, hikers will encounter the Battell Shelter, both a favorite overnight stop and a nice place to sit down and have a snack, if you’re looking to go up and back in day.

Hikers looking for an extra adventure and a different type of view can find the remains of a 1973 plane crash just past the summit on a herd trail located further down the Long Trail.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Mount Ellen

Despite being the only Vermont 4,000-footer to have its summit in the trees, don’t overlook hiking Mount Ellen. Thanks to a great vista when it intersects with the top of Sugarbush Resort, the hike is not without views. And, with impressive ridgeline hiking along the Long Trail, Mount Ellen delivers comparatively unique terrain.

Hikers will leave on the Jerusalem Trail from Jim Dwire Road and follow it for 2.4 miles, before it connects with the Long Trail. Along the Jerusalem Trail, it’s easy to get lost in your thoughts and marvel at the web of tubes woven for maple sugar collection. Once on the Long Trail, hikers will follow a ridgeline section as it climbs up and down before reaching the 4,017-foot-tall summit and having cumulatively gained 2,600 feet in elevation.

Fit hikers, looking to bag two 4,000-footers and sample part of the Long Trail’s “Monroe Skyline” section, should stash a car at either the Lincoln Gap or the Jerusalem Trail and hike Mount Abraham and Mount Ellen together. From either summit, simply follow the Long Trail across this excellent ridgeline stretch while taking in the views and enjoying what many consider to be a classic section of the Long Trail. The almost-11-mile hike covers mostly moderate terrain and also takes you across Lincoln, Nancy Hanks, and Cutts Peaks.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck


Ascending Killington via the Bucklin Trail is a great, moderate way to tag Vermont’s second-highest summit and the tallest spot on the state’s portion of the Appalachian Trail. Most can hike it in half a day, and it crosses two iconic thru-hikes, the Long Trail and the AT. At the top, Killington delivers outstanding 360-degree views and is a must-visit spot for any dedicated New England hiker.

Hiking 7.2 miles round-trip and gaining a little over 2,500 feet in elevation, those used to spending time in the Whites or the Adirondacks might be surprised by how quickly they’ll be able to dispatch this peak out-and-back, thanks to the modest terrain—that is, if they can avoid lingering on its lovely summit. Leaving the Brewers Corner parking lot in Mendon, hikers will follow the gentle Bucklin Trail for the first 3.3 miles, before connecting with the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail for the steep and scrambly summit push.

Depending on the day, your summit experience will vary. From the summit proper, a few manmade structures in the distance are easy enough to put at your back and ignore as you look out to Pico Mountain from the open summit slabs. However, on busy days when the Gondola is running from Killington, expect to share the summit with other hikers and non-hikers. Regardless of the crowds, you’ll get plenty of views of the Green Mountains, Adirondacks, and Whites.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Camel’s Hump

At just under five miles round-trip, hiking the 4,083-foot-tall Camel’s Hump—Vermont’s third-tallest mountain—via the Burrows Trail is a great option for a morning or afternoon. The impressive alpine zone hiking and the treeless summit’s vast 360-degree views, including an awesome perspective of the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain, make this a must-do. On a clear day, hikers can even see as far west as the Adirondacks and as east as Mount Washington.

To begin, access the Burrows Trail at the end of Camel’s Hump Road. You’ll find that the trailhead is easy to spot at the back of the parking lot. In spite of its relatively short length, the Burrows Trail packs a punch. To the summit, attention-demanding rocks and roots characterize its just-under 2,000-foot climb.


Just before the summit, the Burrows Trail intersects with the Long Trail at a clearing. Here, think about getting your wind shirt, hat, and gloves ready—and maybe even a puffy coat on cooler days. As you head above treeline and onto the Hump proper, you’ll find that temperatures quickly change. Also, when descending, take an extra second at the clearing to make sure you’re heading down the right trail. At this spot, it’s easy to be excited by the summit views and accidentally go the wrong way.

Camel’s Hump is an amazing and challenging hike that can be accomplished with plenty of time left to explore Burlington and Stowe, both of which are nearby. But, because this peak can get busy and the parking lot packed, start early, or be prepared to share it with others.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

Mt. Mansfield

Another one of Vermont’s iconic 4,000-footers, Mansfield is the tallest, most northern, and arguably the most difficult peak here, and is a must-do for any Northeast hiker.

When viewed at a distance, Mansfield’s ridgeline resembles a human head, and its various high points are named after such distinct features: the Forehead, Nose, Chin, and Adam’s Apple. To get to the true summit, the Chin, follow the Long Trail South’s white rectangular blazes beginning on Mountain Road (Route 108) just past Stowe Mountain Resort.

Approximately five miles round-trip, the hike begins moderately on relatively smooth trail. About 1.5 miles in, the Long Trail becomes rockier as it approaches the Taft Lodge, where hikers stay overnight either on the way to the summit or as part of a longer outing. Around the lodge, hikers also get their first glimpse of the Chin through the trees.

After passing the lodge, the Long Trail approaches treeline, gaining elevation quickly over 0.3 miles to the junction between the Chin and the Adam’s Apple, one of Mansfield’s many sub-peaks. At the junction, follow the Long Trail South to the left, for a memorable climb up the final 0.3 miles of alpine ridgeline to the summit proper. But, be careful. The ridgeline is very exposed to weather, and a couple segments involve some scrambling.

On the summit, enjoy the alpine flora and the 360-degree views. The view west towards Burlington, Lake Champlain, and the Adirondacks is outstanding, especially near sunset. But, if you stay that late, try not to linger too long, as the scramble back to the Adam’s Apple junction can be treacherous in the dark. As one alternative, try to view the sunset from the Adam’s Apple, which has a similar feel without the exposed descent.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Killington: Skiing The Beast of the East

At 4,241 feet, Killington is known as the “Beast of the East.” Featuring six mountain areas, 1,509 ski-able acres, 155 trails, 21 lifts, and a 3,050-foot vertical drop, it’s a giant, to say the least. For boarders and freestyle skiers, the mountain boasts six terrain parks and two half-pipes. It’s regularly the first to open and last to close in the Northeast, and you have the chance to rip down the same run where Mikaela Shiffrin won the 2016 Audi FIS Ski World Cup slalom race. She’s a badass, and so is this mountain.

Courtesy: Killington Resort
Courtesy: Killington Resort

Getting There and Renting Gear

Killington is in the heart of the Green Mountains, making it an accessible skiing destination for most of New England. As you drive north up U.S. Route 4, you’ll know you’re getting close when you see both a gas station and First Stop Ski & Bike Shop. This place is perfect if you’re antsy to grab rental gear or if you’re planning to take the lift from Skyeship.

If you’re traveling from VT Route 100, you’ll see Base Camp Outfitters, which also offers rentals. As a tip, if you’re into alpine tour, telemark, or cross-country skiing, BCO has all the gear and info you’ll need. As well, the Access Road itself has an abundance of ski and board shops.

Courtesy: Killington Resort
Courtesy: Killington Resort

Base Lodges

Killington’s vast area encompasses five base lodges, so don’t forget where you parked. Here’s the breakdown:


The main base area is home to the K-1 Express Gondola and is the quickest way to the highest terrain. K-1 is essentially the mountain’s home base, featuring Guest Services, Killington Sports, food options, a bar, and an outdoor patio with live music in nice weather. Speaking of weather, the Roaring Brook Umbrella Bar is a MUST in the spring, and let’s not forget the wonderful Waffle Cabin for everyone who has a sweet tooth. As a whole, K-1 is definitely the mecca of base lodges.


As the starting point for adult beginners, it has learning terrain, lessons, and designated slow areas. But, don’t let this intro stuff fool you; Snowshed still gives you access to the entire mountain and has the Double Diamond Demo Center for high-end equipment, a great starting point for groups of friends at all levels. As another tip, just this summer, they moved an Umbrella Bar to Snowshed for people-watching galore!


More family oriented, it has kids’ lessons and rental gear, childcare, and kid-friendly food courts, and is smoke free. With two magic carpets and an abundant amount of beginners’ terrain, this is the place to head with your little ones.

Bear Mountain

With plenty of advanced terrain, and the most likely place to find the sun on a partly cloudy day, it gets you to the steeps, bumps, and trees and has three terrain parks and one of the half-pipes. Bear Mountain is also known for its annual Mogul Challenge, open to anyone hoping to give their knees some work.


You can’t miss the bridge that crosses over U.S. Route 4. The Skyeship Gondola takes you to Skye Peak and provides access to the rest of the mountain. There will be much smaller crowds here, but you can’t rent gear. Food and drinks are available.

Just in case you end the day in a different spot from where you started, there is a shuttle service that runs between the base lodges.

Courtesy: Killington Resort
Courtesy: Killington Resort


Now for the fun part: Know where to get those turns in! Pick your speed or ability, and get out there:

Advanced and Expert Trails

Start by taking the K-1 Gondola—you can get to pretty much anywhere on the mountain from there. If you don’t need a warm up, head right to the Canyon Area for some thrills on the steeps. Need to loosen the legs? Take a skier’s left to North Ridge Triple Chair for a few runs, or go skier’s right and cross over to Needle’s Eye or the Skye Peak Express quad.

No matter where you start, make sure to get some runs in on Bear Mountain. For park fanatics, Skye Peak and Bear are the most advanced places to get in your kicks and tricks. Here, The Stash was designed and built by Jake Burton and his team, and has 66 features that go in, out, and even over the trees, and is guaranteed to impress! You also can’t forget Superstar. A headwall starts off the run, and then, it just lets you rip and carve all the way down.

Credit: Amy Fuller Ahlberg
Credit: Amy Fuller Ahlberg


Ramshead is the place to start if you want to get those skis turning and under control. It also has the small- and medium-sized terrain parks. Next, take Caper to the Snowdon Quad, and enjoy that area for a few runs.

As you keep making your way across the mountain, find Skye Peak, which arguably has the most intermediate terrain of any mountain area in Killington. It would be easy to spend hours exploring and jumping around the many blue trails that are serviced by its six lifts.


Enjoy what Snowshed and Ramshead have to offer: Snowshed Slope is short and wide and provides plenty of room to turn, while Easy Street and Caper on Ramshead are longer and narrower, with turns in the terrain that create a flowing feeling as you ski down.

Feeling lost? Great Northern trail traverses from the top and will bring you to the K-1 Base Lodge and Snowshed. Bear Trax and Bear Claw will take you to Skye Peak and Bear Mountain. If you’re feeling really lost, Killington has ski ambassadors everywhere, all of whom are knowledgeable, friendly, and always willing to lend a hand or lead the way if needed.

Credit: Robin Cox
Credit: Robin Cox

Fuel Up

Looking for a quick breakfast to take with you to the mountain? Stop by the Phat Italian, where they use Boar’s Head meats and aren’t stingy about it. Want to sit down for a bit? Venture off the Access Road and head to Maple Sugar & Vermont Spice in Mendon, or stay local and eat at the Butternut Inn and Pancake House. Either place is a win.

Sometimes, a late start isn’t always a bad thing, especially on the weekend, when The Foundry serves brunch starting at 11, with menu items like omelettes, crepes, breakfast burritos, and homemade waffles—is your mouth watering yet? Pair your breakfast with a mimosa or a Bloody Mary, and you’re on your way to a successful day!

Lunch can be found both on and off the slopes. Every base lodge gives you the option of buying food, but a favorite is always going to be the Peak Lodge. Don’t let the cafeteria-style restaurant fool you, though; the food is delicious. The Peak Bar has an amazing view, along with beers on tap and signature drinks. If you’re up for something different, try the Jerk Jamaican Mountain Grill at the bottom of Needle’s Eye.

Après ski needs to be at The Lookout. It’s the first bar on the left as you drive down the Access Road. It might be busy, but the crowd gathers here for a reason.

Credit: Stephanie Levin
Credit: Stephanie Levin

Spending the Night

In order to get everything in that Killington has to offer, it’s best to stay at least one night.

The Killington Grand Resort Hotel is the only mountainside full-service hotel. Preston’s restaurant and its proximity to Snowshed are huge bonuses for staying there.

Fall Line, Highridge, Trail Creek, and Sunrise are condo units that have shuttle access to the mountain and, if the snow is cooperating, ski-home trails.

Birch Ridge Inn, Summit Lodge, Mountain Sports Inn, and Chalet Killington are all on the Access Road and are only a five-minute drive from the slopes.

Looking to stay outside of Killington? About 15 miles away, Rutland has a Comfort Inn, Days Inn, and Holiday Inn.


It’s not hard to see why they call this place The Beast—it definitely can be a little intimidating! But, if you play your cards right, you’re in for one of the Northeast’s best days on the snow.

Credit: Amy Fuller Ahlberg
Credit: Amy Fuller Ahlberg

Showshoeing Vermont's Camel's Hump

Camel’s Hump is a 4,083 ft. tall peak and a fairly well-recognized natural landmark in the state of Vermont, largely due to its obvious shape. It is located in Duxbury, and from the summit, you can see Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks to the west and the White Mountains in the east, if there aren’t any clouds. It is probably the one mountain in Vermont that, if you haven’t been to the top, you are really missing out on something special.

There are a few trails up to the peak. The Monroe Trail is my favorite, and one everyone should check off their list. It is about 6.8 miles round trip—not your easy jaunt in the woods. In the summer, it’s about a half-day hike, but in the snow, plan on a bit longer of a journey. You can find a trail map here

Getting There

Getting to the mountain itself is fairly simple. If you’re coming from the Burlington area, take I-89 south to exit 11, then take VT Rt. 2 through Richmond to Jonesville, and turn right over the Winooski River bridge. Then, take Cochran Road from the bridge to the first left onto Duxbury Road. It changes its name to River Road at the Bolton-Duxbury town line, but continue following it for about 5.8 miles to the stop sign at the base of Camel’s Hump Road. There, turn right up Camel’s Hump Road, and go about 3.6 miles to the end at the parking areas. Here, there are two parking areas near each other.

Credit: Maddy Jackson
Credit: Maddy Jackson

Being Prepared

Camel’s Hump is one of my favorite mountains to climb in the winter. There are fewer people on the trail, my dog loves it, and the snowshoeing is fantastic! Somehow, this time of year, the snow on the paper birch trees and hemlock pines makes it majestic and much more appealing.

Snowshoeing is a great way to get out in the winter. It’s something that anyone can do and doesn’t require the coordination or technical skill of skiing or snowboarding, so it is very easy to get started. All this said, the first, and most important, thing you should know is that snowshoeing is still hard work! But, it will also be incredibly fun and rewarding. The journey up Camel’s Hump is strenuous, but worth every step.

Preparation is critical. Dressing appropriately can mean the difference between freezing your butt off or dripping in sweat (and then freezing your butt off because you’re soaked). It’s also important to plan out your trip. The mileage, elevation change, terrain, and weather all determine what kind of clothing, pack, and footwear you’ll need.

For Camel’s Hump, this is crucial because of the difference between the steep and physical hike up and the cold, windswept summit. In addition, weather in Vermont can change on a dime—warm and sunny one minute, and the next, it’s cold, blustering, and snowing.

Staying hydrated is also important. Snowshoeing is a lot of work, as you burn a bunch of calories and sweat, and many people make the mistake of not wanting to drink cold water. It’s crucial to keep hydrated at all times of the year—not just summer—and an occasional snack or two doesn’t hurt. Warming your water before you leave goes a long way to making it more appetizing.

Credit: Maddy Jackson
Credit: Maddy Jackson

The Monroe Trail

Camel’s Hump is barely over 4,000 feet, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s an easy summit to reach! The trail begins with a gentle climb, but quickly progresses into some seriously steep steps. For the Monroe Trail, follow the blue blazes on the trees, although it is most likely that someone has already been out with their snowshoes and blazed the path for you. I like to start mid-morning to guarantee that. If you’re in for a challenge, try going to the top first thing in the morning after it snows.

Credit: Maddy Jackson
Credit: Maddy Jackson

I like to break this trail into chunks, as, mentally, it helps me get to the top a little easier. From the parking lot, the first portion is what I call the wooded section, a fairly open hardwood forest of birch and maples. In winter, with its lack of leaves, you can see pretty far through it. During your journey, this will feel like the longest part.

The wooded section eventually intersects with the Dean Trail, but continue on the Monroe Trail, until you notice the hardwoods becoming more dense and see pines emerging. This will be within a mile or so of the junction and completes the hike’s first portion.

The second part—my favorite—goes through softwoods and pines. Here, the woods become very dense, and you are standing next to hemlocks that seem like they should be taller. And, they would be, if they weren’t buried under a couple feet of snow. While you’ll encounter another junction, this time with the Alpine Trail, stay on the well-marked Monroe Trail. This portion continues until the trail joins with the Long Trail.  

The third portion begins after the two trails merge at a clearing that is sheltered from the wind. It’s a great place to take a break and grab a snack, or to add on extra layers before ascending.

Marking the last little climb to the top, it takes about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the conditions. On its narrow and steep parts, your trekking poles will come in handy. Expect to come across ice near the top, especially if it hasn’t snowed recently or if it is on the warmer side, so be sure to pack MICROspikes, or some other form of traction. 

The top of Camel’s Hump is a fairly large area to explore. In the winter, you’ll find most of the fragile flora covered in snow.

To return to your car, just follow the Monroe Trail back down the same way you came up.

Credit: Maddy Jackson
Credit: Maddy Jackson
Credit: Maddy Jackson
Credit: Maddy Jackson


My favorite place to go to after Camel’s Hump is the Prohibition Pig in Waterbury, VT, known for a large selection of local craft beer, including their own, and delicious food. I recommend the hush puppies served with maple butter, as well as the house burger with pimento cheese, fried green tomato, and applewood smoked bacon. Yum!

Making the Transition to Winter Hiking

Often, people treat autumn as a grieving period for their hiking season’s end. The early onset of freezing summit temperatures and the Northeast’s late spring snowpacks can mean that avoiding the trails costs you six months of the year. Instead, with a little planning, knowledge, and preparation, you can get comfortable conquering mountains year-round. Here are a few pointers to get you started.

Credit: Lucas LaBarre
Credit: Lucas LaBarre


While much of the gear you have broken in on summer treks can be useful for winter hiking, you need to add some key weapons to your quiver to fully make the shift.


One of the first gear concerns has to be traction, which is required to hike safely on snow and ice. For early season freezes or hard-packed trails, Kathoola’s Microspikes are perfect. Made with elastic rubber uppers that can easily stretch on and off nearly any shoe or boot and sturdy chains and spikes that dig into the crud to keep you from slipping, these are a must.

Microspikes will work for 90 percent of frozen trails, especially on beginner hikes, but some of the ice-covered routes above treeline and flows you will eventually encounter require a little more. Crampons provide a more substantial bite, but require more practice to use safely. Look for pairs like the Camp XLC 490 that are light, adaptable to nearly any boot, and are not designed for vertical ice—a condition rarely encountered in hiking and mountaineering.

Finally, you will need snowshoes to carry you over fresh powder and keep the trail packed safely for others. Even when the parking lot has no snow, carrying snowshoes is key for those high-elevation drifts, and in places like the Adirondacks’ High Peaks, they’re required by law. For years, MSR was the go-to brand for hiking, but now, others like Atlas and Tubbs offer great products, as well. I use the Tubbs Flex line, partly because I love the ease and fit of the boa enclosure binding system.


Hydration is a second important consideration. While I love the convenience of a bladder in the summer, I avoid them in the winter months. Insulation for their tubes, blowing water out of the mouthpiece after each sip, and other tricks can keep bladders flowing in extreme cold, but for me, it’s not worth the risk or effort. The last thing you want in the middle of a below-zero, big-mileage day is your water freezing up.

Instead, get a few wide-mouth Nalgene bottles, as narrow-top designs freeze quicker. Keep the screw tops from freezing by storing them upside down, so the air/water interface freezes first, insulate them with a bottle cover or even a thick wool sock, and store them in your pack.

Boots and Gloves

Finally, you need to keep your hands and feet warm when facing extreme cold. Wicking layers, insulation, and exertion will protect your core most days, but feet and hands can freeze up quickly when the mercury drops and your hiking party stops.

So, look for waterproof and insulated boots like the Merrell Polarand 8. Additionally, bring several pairs of gloves and socks, as even the best will eventually “wet out” on long hikes, leaving hands and feet susceptible to frostbite.

Credit: Lucas LaBarre
Credit: Lucas LaBarre

Tips and Tricks

As you hike more and more in the winter, you will surely find little tricks and tips that work for you. Here are just a few that have helped me out:

Remember, it’s almost as important to stay warm as it is to keep cool. It sounds crazy, but working up a sweat and soaking your layers can become, at best, uncomfortable or, at worst, can contribute to hypothermia. So, start the hike a little cold and be sure to remove layers as you heat up to regulate your temperature.

Protect your skin. Bright winter sun reflecting off snow cover can sunburn you as fast as the sunshine on the beach. Cold wind can also leave it windburned. To prepare, bring the sunscreen and facemask along as needed.

Choose your food wisely. Bring food that is easy to eat on the move and won’t become inedible if frozen. Long summit picnics are less common in winter conditions, and breaking teeth on frozen treats is not fun.

Credit: Lucas LaBarre
Credit: Lucas LaBarre

Where to Go

To begin your adventure, start off small, get your gear dialed in, avoid winter hiking solo at first, and always carry a map and compass. But, in these conditions, things like route-finding skills and weather become even more important, and hiking with crampons or snowshoeing through deep powder can take some getting used to, as it utilizes different muscle groups. When you are ready to give it a go, here are a few easy hikes to tackle on a bluebird day that are sure to get you hooked and ready to tackle some bigger peaks.

Mount Jo, New York

A short round-trip loop hike of just 2.3 miles from the Adirondack Loj will provide you with upfront views of Heart Lake and many of the High Peaks, like Algonquin.

Mt. Tom, Vermont

From behind a covered bridge in Woodstock, VT, this easy trail of switchbacks climbs just under 1.5 miles one-way to the south summit for nice views of the town and surrounding mountains.

West Rattlesnake Mountain, New Hampshire

This two-mile round-trip hike through gorgeous oak forest rewards you with great views of Southern New Hampshire from its summit’s open ledges.

Credit: Lucas LaBarre
Credit: Lucas LaBarre

The Top 6 New England Hikes

If you’re not getting out hiking this month in New England, you’re missing out! Between the weather, foliage, and lack of bugs, any trail in this northeastern corner is sure to give you a great day out. But, we couldn’t pick just one, so we asked our staff to help choose the best New England hikes.

Credit: Chris Picardi
Credit: Chris Picardi

Maine: The Knife Edge

Chris Picardi

For some, summiting Maine’s Mt. Katahdin marks the culmination of an epic journey along the Appalachian Trail, while for many others, it’s the reward after a strenuous day hike. Regardless of why you are hiking Katahdin, the mountain’s one feature that will almost certainly leave you in awe is the Knife Edge Trail. This 1.1-mile stretch traverses an exposed ridge with plummeting drops on both sides. While the trail can be deadly during inclement weather, on a clear day, it provides the best views of the rest of the mountain and some of the most rugged landscapes in all of New England.

Credit: Hannah Wholtmann
Credit: Hannah Wholtmann

New Hampshire: Mount Liberty

Hannah Wohltmann

With only four miles to the summit, making it the easiest of the Franconia Ridge hikes, 4,459-foot Mount Liberty offers incredible 360-degree views of the surrounding White Mountains. This mountain is accessible and extraordinary in all four seasons of the year. Ascend and descend the Liberty Springs Trail, and make sure you don’t forget your camera! Whether you’re thru-hiking or day hiking, Mount Liberty is the best bang for your buck. 

Credit: Liz Bonacci
Credit: Liz Bonacci

Connecticut: Bear Mountain

Liz Bonacci

Looking for a great hike the whole family can enjoy? Look no further than Bear Mountain in Salisbury. While this mountain stands as the tallest in Connecticut, at 2,316 feet, don’t be intimidated. Take the Undermountain Trail off Route 41 and proceed gradually to the summit for three miles. The slower ascent allows you to chat with friends and family while enjoying the breathtaking views of the Berkshires in Connecticut and Massachusetts. The remains of an old stone tower at the summit let you scramble to the top to capture that “perfect” picture, or simply sit and enjoy lunch while basking in the accomplishment of climbing Connecticut’s highest peak.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Massachusetts: Mount Wachusett

Tim Peck

John Muir famously said, “The mountains are calling, and I must go,” but what happens when the mountains are calling, and you have other commitments? That’s where the convenience of Mount Wachusett comes in. The mountain is less than half an hour from Worcester, less than an hour from Boston, and under an hour and a half from Providence and Hartford, making it the go-to for anyone seeking an adventure without spending an entire day in the car. With an incredibly diverse array of trails, the mountain offers routes for everyone, as hikers can choose steep and direct ascents like the Pine Hill Trail or longer, more gradual climbs like Harrington. No matter which you choose, those who summit Mount Wachusett will be rewarded with great views of Mount Monadnock and Mount Watatic, and on clear days, the Boston skyline is visible, as well.

Credit: Ryan Wichelns
Credit: Ryan Wichelns

Rhode Island: The North-South Trail

Ryan Wichelns

There aren’t too many places in the country’s second-most densely populated state where you can really feel like you’re away from it, but the North-South Trail in the Arcadia Management Area might be one of them. The N-S Trail runs continuously from the Massachusetts border in the north to the ocean in the south, but the 13-mile thru-hike where it bisects Arcadia, with its mixture of quiet forests, old farmland, and 10-foot Stepstone Falls, is a highlight. Head south from the Hazard Road Parking Area to Buttonwood Road, and then, spend a night at the park’s only permitted backcountry campsite, located by Stepstone Falls.

Courtesy: Justin Rumano/Flickr
Courtesy: Justin Rumano/Flickr

Vermont: Devil’s Gulch

Go down, rather than up, to hike one of the hardest sections of the state-splitting Long Trail. The five-mile loop will take you over a mountain and then down deep, so you can scramble over logs, boulders, and through a small cave, all surrounded by 175-foot walls. Watch for moose amongst the ponds and meadows on the other side before looping back.

A Loop to Vermont’s High Point

For the better part of four years, I have lived in Vermont. While being an undergrad doesn’t make me a true Vermonter, getting out and experiencing all there is to offer sure does. Since coming up here, I’ve gone on many hikes, and while you can’t go wrong with any trail, those looking to get the full experience should set their sights on the state’s high point, Mount Mansfield.

Butler Lodge Trail> Wallace Cut-off> Long Trail North> Mt. Mansfield Summit> Subway> Canyon North Extension> Canyon North> Canyon> Long trail South> Wampahoofus> Butler Lodge Trail: Approximately 8.2 miles

For three out of four seasons, I’ve summited Mt. Mansfield. What’s my tip for getting there? First, tune your GPS to the town of Underhill. Then, as you’re passing through on Route 15, look for River Road and finally Stevensville Road. Make sure you drive all the way to the end, where you’ll find a few spaces to park.

Now as you’re ready to hit the trail, gather up your gear and lace up your boots. The start first takes you along the road, where you’ll go over a bridge and then push left into the woods to a register. Here, I start with the Butler Lodge Trail, where your hike gradually increases through steady to steeper terrain. At this point, you’ll note a neat set of steps that was originally installed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, and will soon arrive at Butler Lodge (1.8 mi) – probably my favorite spot in the state of Vermont.

[Photo: Aaron Anderstrom]

[Photo: Aaron Anderstrom]

[Photo: Aaron Anderstrom]

The cabin has aged beautifully, and once you’re inside, you’ll see the nice view from the balcony of the escarpment. After soaking in the scenery here, you will want to continue on your hike via the Wallace Cut-Off trail. This 0.1-mile stretch will bring you around the southwest ridge, where it then meets up with the Long Trail.

To experience the best section of the hike, jump on the LT and head up north to Mt. Mansfield’s forehead. Be alert, though: You will have to climb up some ladders, walk across some beams, and shimmy past some rocks before you come out on the bald forehead. Luckily, getting up to the summit, or “chin,” is an easier, more straightforward journey.

Here, the trail is comparatively flat, and as you continue on, you will round the nose to find the visitors center and parking area. A bit farther, you will pass through some small scrub pines before heading along the western side of the ridge up to the summit proper.

On a good day, you can see many layers of the Adirondacks to the west and get a clear view of the White Mountains in the east. In the right season, this can be an awesome spot to enjoy lunch and meet and greet everyone coming up the various trails to the top.

“On a good day, you can see many layers of the Adirondacks to the west and get a clear view of the White Mountains in the east.”

[Photo: Aaron Anderstrom]
[Photo: Aaron Anderstrom]

When you’re ready to head back down, go south the way you came but look for a sign that says “Subway.” This will bring you down a series of trails I collectively refer to as “The Canyon Set.” After enjoying the breathtaking sights of the Subway (0.3 mi.), you should follow Canyon North Extension (0.6 mi.), Canyon North (0.6 mi.), and Canyon (0.6 mi.) southward. This series parallels the summit ridge on the western slope, with numerous caves, canyons, tunnels, overhangs, and rock piles. As this is a very tricky section, take your time and enjoy it, especially as you have a view of Lake Champlain. If you are planning on taking these trails, use a smaller pack, so you can fit through all of the nooks and crannies along the way.

These trails pop you right back out on the CCC road. There, you will want to head back up towards the visitors center before rejoining the Long Trail heading south. From here, make your way back over to the Forehead, and for this portion, I typically take the Wampahoofus Trail (0.8 mi.) down to Butler Lodge. This trail supplies excellent views for a little while longer and involves some steep components, but all in all, it is a bit easier and offers a nice change of scenery. Once you arrive at Butler Lodge, all you have left is the Butler Lodge Trail back to the parking lot (1.8 mi.).

This trip is one of a kind and truly does capture some of the best mountain hiking Vermont has to offer. Keep in mind, as it’s a full-day venture, it’s important to gauge your fitness and the level of those you hike with.

Hiking Mount Equinox

I admit, I don’t get to Vermont nearly enough. So, when it came time for the family to choose a location to spend Thanksgiving I lobbied hard for a place somewhere in Vermont. The Green Mountains have been calling my name and I needed to listen. My intentions were purely selfish, I wanted to do one of the 4000footers. As luck would have it the family picked a house in West Dover, near Mount Snow. This means I wasn’t going to be near any of the 4kers. I had already spent time running up and down Mount Snow at two Tough Mudders (Conquering the Tough Mudder and Teamwork and Tough Mudder) so I wanted somewhere else to go. After soliciting advice from friends on Facebook it became clear that Mount Equinox would be a great alternative.

Blue Summit Trail

While scouring the internet for any information I could get on Mount Equinox I came across the website for the Equinox Preservation Trust. They had a great interactive trail map on their website along with some history about the Preserve. Another important piece of information I came across was that hunting was allowed over 1,300feet. Being that it was still rifle hunting season I knew I needed to wear my bright colors just to be on the safe side. My trusty orange Buff would be coming with me. I also found out in my searching that there is a road that leads up the mountain for visitors to go up during the warmer months. Hey, if there is a road to the top there must be some great views.

Trail signs

My 3 hour drive from Connecticut to the parking lot on West Union Street in Manchester, VT was uneventful. My plan was to take the Blue Summit Trail up and back. Given more time I would have extended my hike to include a loop around Equinox Pond before heading up to the summit. At the parking lot there is a nice little information kiosk. Here they have trail maps for you to take. Even though I was planning a direct up and back route I decided to take a map to use as a reference. I also liked that the map had the ecology of the mountain and pictures of some plants that you may come across on your hike.

The first thing that came to mind when I started up the trail was that it seemed perfect for cross country skiing. Well, not at that moment, because there wasn’t any snow at the lower levels, but later on when there was snow. The trail is nice and wide and in my mind I could easily picture it covered in snow with skiers gliding along. Then my mind wandered to snowshoeing. Clearly it was stuck in the nonexistent snow hoping that when I got higher I would see some of that lovely white stuff. Sure enough once the trail became more single track hiking, more snow started to appear. There were some slippery, icy spots but nothing that couldn’t be handled barebooting. I knew I was getting closer to the summit when I started to be surrounded by more and more spruce and fir trees. I picked up my pace in anticipation of the views that were waiting. The day was turning out to be clearer than expected and I couldn’t wait to look back down into Manchester.

Higher up on the Blue Summit Trail

I blew past the spur trail to Lookout Rock and went straight to the viewing center at the apex of the skyline drive. Being that the road is closed for the season so was the viewing center. Outside though they have on their deck views to the north and south. Located on the lower level are pictures of the views with labels so that you can tell what you are looking at in the distance. As someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time in Vermont this was nice to get a baring of where I was in relationship to other locations. I ate my lunch at the south facing viewing area while chatting with a couple and their Dalmatian. The Dalmatian really wanted to get my Pop Tarts so I had to scarf those down. The wind started to pick up and I was cooling down so I decided to head off to Lookout Rock.

Looking north from the summit building

For some reason I thought that Lookout Rock was going to be a nice big clearing. This was defiantly an incorrect assumption. Lucky for me I was hiking in the middle of the week and had the bench at the small clearing to myself. Although the size of the clearing was not big, the view looking down into Manchester was. The thing that stuck out the most was the white steeple of a church on the valley floor. This, paired with mountains in the background, was spectacular.

Looking down into Manchester from Lookout Rock

I decided to run back down the mountain. I figured this would give me more time to stop at the Eastern Mountain Sports in Manchester Center before meeting up with my family. Higher up I was able to do some boot sliding on the snow, which I love. Lower down though I was slowed by all the leaves on the trail. The leaves were hiding rocks so I had to be more careful. I descended around 2,800feet in just under an hour. My legs wouldn’t let me forget this the following two days, as my quads felt like I had done a squat workout. Maybe I should admit that I was carrying 10lbs of bricks in my bag as training so the pain was totally self induced.

Even though Mount Equinox isn’t a 4ker I am very pleased by the suggestions my friends gave me to hike her instead. She is 3840feet which isn’t too shabby. Looking forward I would love to spend more time hiking and/or snowshoeing in Vermont. If you have suggestions of trails for me to visit please comment below.