Long Distance Trails

From Peaks to Valleys: Exploring the Beauty of the Long Trail, Vermont

POSTED ON September 1, 2022 BY Ralph S.


Introduction

Embark on a journey where undulating terrain meets undying adventure as we delve into the heart of Vermont’s wilderness, exploring the legendary Long Trail. Managed by the Green Mountain Club, this rugged hiking trail takes hikers through the pristine landscapes of the Green Mountain National Forest, offering an escape into nature’s embrace that’s both challenging and breathtaking.

As the oldest long-distance trail in the United States, the Long Trail shares its roots with the iconic Appalachian Trail, creating an intricate web of paths for avid hikers. Whether you’re an experienced thru-hiker seeking the ultimate challenge or a nature enthusiast eager to explore the Green Mountain State, the Long Trail, Vermont beckons with promises of unforgettable moments and unparalleled views.

This post is your compass for an end-to-ender’s dream, providing insights into the art of thru-hiking, conquering tough trails, and navigating the entire Long Trail from its southern terminus at the Massachusetts border to the rugged beauty of the northern wilderness. You can even join the online hiking community (created by the Green Mountain Club) for suggestions on gear and planning.

Join us as we unravel the secrets of side trails, the allure of the Long Trail’s connection with the Appalachian Trail at Stratton Mountain, and the tales of those who proudly bear the title of ‘end-to-ender.

Long Trail Vermont

History of the Long Trail

Located within the breathtaking landscapes of Vermont, the genesis of the Long Trail can be traced back to the visionary minds of the Green Mountain Club (GMC).

James P. Taylor and Willard W. Cummings conceived the idea of a long-distance trail in 1909, with a mission to protect and preserve Vermont’s rugged mountains, forests, and rivers.

By 1910, their idea inspired by the long-distance hiking trails of Europe, GMC member Benton MacKaye proposed a trail running the length of Vermont from Massachusetts to Canada.

The GMC aimed to create a long-distance hiking trail that would traverse the spine of the Green Mountains, showcasing the pristine beauty of Vermont’s mountains and forests. The driving force behind this ambitious endeavor was the club’s desire to provide a hiking experience that was both challenging and awe-inspiring.

Inspired by the success of the Appalachian Trail’s creation, the Long Trail project gained momentum. The Appalachian Trail, completed in 1937, set a precedent for long-distance hiking in the United States, and the GMC sought to replicate that success on Vermont soil. With the financial support of donors, volunteers, and the dedication of countless trail builders, the Long Trail officially opened in 1930, spanning 272 miles (about 438 km) from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian border, with about 166 miles (267 km) of side trails.

The collaborative effort that birthed the Long Trail exemplifies the deep connection between the trail and the Green Mountain Club. Volunteers, known as the “Trail Blazers,” meticulously carved out the path, overcoming challenges presented by Vermont’s rugged terrain. This shared passion for preserving the natural beauty of Vermont and fostering a love for hiking has been the cornerstone of the trail’s success.

One noteworthy feature is the Long Trail’s coincidence with the Appalachian Trail on Stratton Mountain, creating a convergence of two iconic trails. This shared section not only adds to the Long Trail’s allure but also highlights its place in the broader context of long-distance trails in the United States.

Throughout its existence, the Long Trail has witnessed significant events, with hikers making it a tradition to traverse the entire trail over Memorial Day weekend, marking an enduring celebration of nature and camaraderie.

Today, the Long Trail stands as a testament to the foresight and dedication of the Green Mountain Club and continues to beckon adventurers to hike its storied path through the mesmerizing Vermont mountains.

You can learn more about the history of this trail on the official Vermont History page.

Long Trail Vermont

Key Facts About the Long Trail

Location: Vermont, United States

Total Length: Approximately 272 miles (438 km)

Time it takes to hike: varies depending on individual hiking speed and experience; typically takes between 20 and 30 days (end-to-end hike) at 13.65 miles (22 km) to complete it in 20 and 9.1 miles (14 km) to complete it in 30, and several months for section hikers.

Trailhead(s): Southern terminus at the Massachusetts border (location) and northern terminus (location) at the Canadian border

Difficulty Level: moderate-to-strenuous, with challenging terrain and steep ascents.

Number of Visitors: approximately 555 (end-to-end hike) applications in 2020, and thousands of section hikers each year.

Established on: Conceived in 1909 but was officially opened in 1930.

Total Elevation Gain: Over 66,000 feet (about 20,116 meters)

Best Time or Season to Hike: Late spring to early fall, typically between June and September, because you’ll avoid black flies, crowds, and heat. April through late May is mud season

Lowest Point: Winooski River Crossing (location) at approximately 338 ft (103 m) above sea level.

Highest Point: Mount Mansfield (location) at about 4,393 feet (1,339 meters) above sea level.

Trail Overview: Difficulty Levels and Route Options

Long Trail Vermont

The Long Trail beckons hikers to embark on a journey through undulating terrain, dense forests, and panoramic vistas.

Here’s an overview of the trail, highlighting difficulty levels, available routes, and key points of interest along the way. But before that, you can check out our guide to thru-hiking challenges and preparation.

Starting Your Adventure

Southern Terminus: Hiking SOBO

Location: Massachusetts Border (starting point)

The Long Trail begins at the southern terminus, marking the border with Massachusetts. Hikers setting out on their thru-hike or section hike will find themselves immersed in the verdant wonders of the Green Mountain National Forest.

Trail Highlights

  • Mount Mansfield (location): As the highest peak in Vermont, Mount Mansfield offers a challenging ascent and rewards hikers with breathtaking views. Traverse rocky terrain adorned with alpine vegetation, the diverse ecosystems along the trail.
  • Camel’s Hump (location): A beloved landmark, Camel’s Hump, boasts a distinctive double-humped profile. Hikers are treated to an exhilarating climb, rewarded with panoramic vistas that extend to the Adirondacks and the White Mountains.
  • Stratton Mountain (location): Notable for its convergence with the Appalachian Trail, Stratton Mountain presents a unique intersection of two iconic long-distance trails. This section is a must-see for those looking to experience the interconnected beauty of the Long Trail.

Route Options

Thru-Hiking: For the ambitious hiker seeking an end-to-end experience, the entire Long Trail from the southern terminus to the Canadian border offers a challenging but rewarding journey. Embrace the camaraderie of fellow thru-hikers and immerse yourself in the wilderness.

Section Hiking: Alternatively, section hikers can choose from numerous route options, tailoring their adventure to specific landscapes and difficulty levels. From Mount Mansfield to the picturesque Little Rock Pond (location), each section holds its allure.

Difficulty Levels

  • Undulating Terrain: The Long Trail is renowned for its undulating terrain, which presents a mix of steep ascents and descents. Hikers should be prepared for varied trail conditions, making sturdy footwear and trekking poles invaluable companions.
  • Long Trail Shelters: Strategically placed shelters along the trail provide rest stops for thru-hikers and section hikers alike. These shelters, maintained by the GMC, offer a chance to recharge and connect with fellow trekkers.

Trail Coincidences (Vermont’s Green Mountains to the White Mountains)

The Long Trail coincides with the Appalachian Trail at Stratton Mountain, creating a seamless connection between the Green Mountains and the White Mountains. This junction adds an extra layer of excitement for those exploring the entire trail.

Northern Terminus: Hiking NOBO

Location: Canadian Border (end-point)

For those completing their journey, the northern terminus at the Canadian border marks the culmination of an unforgettable adventure. Celebrate your achievements and revel in the sense of accomplishment at Journey’s End.

End-to-end hike tips:

  • Check out our guide to thru-hiking cost
  • For those hiking SOBO (southbound), keep in mind that the terrain is more challenging and less populated compared to hiking NOBO (northbound).
  • Make sure to check for road crossings and plan your resupply stops accordingly. You can find out more information about the trail updates here.
  • When planning a section hike, consider starting at North Troy (location) or Manchester Center (location) to experience some of the most scenic parts of the trail.
  • Always stop by the Yellow Deli in Rutland (location) for some food from the local hiker community.

Permits and Regulations

Long Trail Vermont, section 7 & 8

Before embarking on your Long Trail adventure, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the necessary permits and regulations. Luckily, people do not need any hiking permits to embark on the journey.

But here are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Long Trail Day Hikers: If you plan on hiking sections of the trail as a day hiker, you will need to inform the Green Mountain Club (GMC). This permit helps the GMC track trail use and make necessary improvements to the trail.
  • Overnight Camping Permits: As of the 2023 hiking season, there is no fee to camp at any site (70+) on the trail because the sites are first-come, first-served. But if you are unfamiliar with Vermont’s backcountry, you should read more about overnight sites.

You can also consider joining the Long Trail Hiking Group on Facebook to familiarize yourself with all the necessary information to help you successfully hike the trail.

Seasonal Considerations: Best Times to Thru-Hike The Long Trail and Weather Conditions

The Long Trail, Vermont

Embarking on Vermont’s Long Trail means immersing yourself in the dynamic and sometimes unpredictable weather that the Green Mountains have to offer. Whether you’re planning a thru-hike or a section hike, understanding the seasonal nuances is crucial for a safe and enjoyable journey.

Here’s what to expect in each season:

Spring (April–late May)

Spring temperatures range between 5°C and 15°C (41°F – 59°F). As winter releases its grip on the landscape, the transition to spring is marked by the emergence of vibrant flora. However, hikers should be aware that April through late May is mud season.

The thawing ground and melting snow create muddy conditions, especially in lower elevations. So, hikers should prepare for wet and slippery terrain and consider choosing higher routes to avoid the worst of the mud.

Key Notes: Thru-hikers should plan accordingly when hiking in the spring, and those heading to Maine Junction or exploring side trails may encounter challenging conditions.

Summer (June–August)

Summer is characterized by warmer temperatures and lush greenery. Temperatures range between 15°C and 30°C (59°F – 86°F).

In early June, there might still be lingering snow on ridgelines, but late June and July have less risk of dry water sources. Nonetheless, be cautious of the black fly season, especially in early June. Late summer and early fall are ideal times to hike, offering pleasant weather and fewer crowds.

Key Notes: Black flies can be bothersome in early June, and late summer and early fall are ideal for thru-hikes.

Fall (September–mid-November)

Fall is a sensory delight, with the vibrant hues of fall foliage painting the landscape. Temperatures in this season range between 5°C and 20°C (41°F – 68°F).

Mid-September through late October is prime time to witness the stunning transformation of the Green Mountains. However, be prepared for temperature variations, and if hiking in late autumn, there is a higher chance of encountering snow at higher elevations.

Key Notes: Fall foliage is a highlight. Be prepared for temperature fluctuations, and higher elevations may see snow from early October and can last through mid-June.

Winter (Late November–March)

With temperatures ranging between -10°C and 5°C (14°F – 41°F), winter transforms the trail into a snowy wonderland, but it comes with its own set of challenges.

Snow can appear at higher elevations as early as October and last through mid-June. Winter hikes require specialized gear, and the trail may be less accessible. Also, don’t forget to check out our guide to hiking in winter.

Key Notes: Winter hikes are less common due to snow and challenging conditions. So, plan carefully and be equipped for cold weather.

To learn from previous long trail finishers, check out the End-to-Ender Panel on YouTube.

Gear Essentials for Hiking the Long Trail

Hikers in Vermont

Vermont’s Long Trail offers hikers an incredible trek through the beautiful Green Mountains. However, this tough trail requires careful planning and proper gear to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.

So, here’s the essential gear for hiking this incredible trail.

Hikers Set:

  • A proper backpack is crucial for thru-hiking or section hiking on the Long Trail. Look for a backpack that is lightweight, comfortable, and sturdy enough to carry all your essentials. Make sure the pack has good suspension, padded shoulder straps, and a hip belt for added support.
  • Next up is footwear: choose reliable hiking boots or trail shoes that offer good traction and ankle support. Consider investing in waterproof boots, as the trail can get very wet during the mud season or heavy rain. Also, you need reliable hiking socks that guarantee comfort when walking.

Cooking System:

  • Hiking the Long Trail means cooking your meals. So, a lightweight and compact cooking system is essential. Look for a stove that runs on white gas or multi-fuel, as these fuels are readily available along the trail. Also, consider carrying a small pot, bowl, and utensils to prepare and eat your meals.

Sleeping Pad and Shelter:

  • A good sleeping pad is essential for a restful night’s sleep on the trail. Look for a lightweight and compact pad that offers good insulation and cushioning from the hard ground. Some hikers also prefer inflatable pads to save space in their backpacks.
  • The trail also passes through the Green Mountain National Forest, which provides shelter options for hikers. Unfortunately, these shelters can fill up quickly, so make sure to carry a lightweight tent or hammock for backup sleeping arrangements.

Sun Protection:

  • Vermont’s Long Trail traverses through open areas, fields, and high elevations, exposing hikers to the sun’s rays. Make sure to pack a hat and sunscreen for sun protection. A pair of sunglasses is also essential to protect your eyes from the bright sun.

Water Filtration:

  • Water is essential when hiking the Long Trail. The trail provides several opportunities to refill your water bottles, including streams, springs, and small brooks. However, it’s important to treat water before drinking, as it may contain harmful bacteria.

Clothing:

  • Hiking through different seasons requires proper clothing for all types of weather conditions. Lightweight, quick-drying, and moisture-wicking clothing is ideal for the trail. Pack layers to adjust to temperature changes, and consider carrying a rain jacket and pants for wet weather.
  • If hiking in late autumn, there is a higher chance of snow at higher elevations. So, pack accordingly and be prepared for colder temperatures, for example, with the Silverlight winter socks.

Maps and Navigation:

Wildlife Encounters and Insect Protection:

  • Hiking during late spring and early summer means encountering the black fly season. These pesky insects can make the hike uncomfortable, so consider packing bug spray and a mosquito net for your shelter.
  • While hiking, you may also encounter black bears and other wildlife. Note that there’s a food storage mandate in the Green Mountain National Forest. So, hikers should always take the necessary precautions, including hanging food in bear bags or using bear-proof containers, to avoid any encounters with these animals. The trail includes installed bear boxes (listed here).
  • Check out our guide to wild animal encounters on the trail.

For more details, check out our guides to day hiking, a multi-day hiking checklist, and ultralight backpacking for beginners.

Maps, Guides, and Resupply

Long Trail Vermont section 7 & 8

Embarking on the Long Trail adventure requires careful planning, and having the right maps, guides, and resupply strategy can make all the difference.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the Long Trail seamlessly.

Long Trail Guidebook:

Before hitting the trail, invest in the official Long Trail Guidebook published by the Green Mountain Club. This detailed guide provides essential information about trail sections, water sources, shelters, and elevation profiles. It’s your comprehensive companion for navigating the entire trail.

Start with the Long Trail Guide, the Long Trail Digital Maps, and the End-to-Ender’s Guide.

Long Trail Maps:

Carry detailed maps of the Long Trail to enhance your navigation skills. The Green Mountain Club offers waterproof maps covering the entire trail, providing crucial topographical details, side trails, and key landmarks. These maps are invaluable for planning each day’s journey and understanding the terrain.

Silverlight App:

For tech-savvy hikers, the Silverlight app (Android or App Store) is a fantastic resource. Offering interactive maps, real-time GPS tracking, and a community. The Silverlight app is an excellent tool for both thru-hikers and section hikers.

Resupplying: Ensuring Trail Sustainability

  • Strategic Planning: Plan your resupply strategy carefully, considering the duration of your hike and your preferred pace. The Long Trail has convenient road crossings near towns, making resupply relatively straightforward. Key resupply points include Manchester Center (location), North Troy (location), and towns near the northern terminus.
  • Local Markets and Post Office: Towns along the trail often have local markets and post offices where you can send resupply packages or purchase essentials. Familiarize yourself with the available services in towns like Manchester Center and North Troy to ensure a smooth resupply process.
  • Yellow Deli: A unique resupply option is the Yellow Deli in Rutland (location). Operated by the Twelve Tribes community, this establishment welcomes hikers, providing a communal atmosphere and offering a variety of food and supplies. It’s an excellent stop for both resupplying and connecting with fellow hikers.
  • Trail Angels and Hostels: Keep an eye out for trail angels—generous individuals who offer support to hikers, sometimes providing snacks, water, or even transportation to resupply points. Additionally, hostels along the trail, such as those in Rutland and North Troy, offer opportunities for rest and resupply.

Additional Tips:

  • Consider carrying the Long Trail Data Book, a pocket-sized guide with key trail information, distances, and elevation profiles. It’s a handy reference for quick trail details while on the move.
  • Vermont’s Long Trail has multiple side trails that lead to beautiful destinations such as Little Rock Pond, Pine Cobble Trail, Maine Junction, and more. Make sure to research these trails beforehand and consider adding them to your itinerary for a more diverse hiking experience.
  • You can find a collection of maps here.

Camping and Overnight Stays near the Long Trail

Shelter along the Long Trail

Camping is a crucial aspect of an overnight hike on the Long Trail. With over 70 designated camping spots and various options for overnight stays, hikers can plan their hikes accordingly to ensure a comfortable and safe experience.

Designated Camping Spots:

The Green Mountain Club has established designated campsites along the Long Trail where hikers can set up camp. These spots are first-come, first-served, and do not require an overnight camping permit.

These designated campsites include:

  • Lean-tos: Simple shelters with three sides and a roof, lean-tos can accommodate up to eight hikers. They are located every 10 miles (approximately 16 km) along the Long Trail.
  • Tent sites: Located near lean-tos or in other designated areas, tent sites provide flat ground for pitching a tent. They are limited to four people per site.
  • Congregated Camping Areas: Established in high-use areas, congregated camping areas are designated spots for larger groups to camp together. They can accommodate up to ten people.

Private Lands and State/Federal Lands:

In addition to the designated campsites, hikers have the option to camp on private lands with permission from landowners. Hikers should always respect posted signs and get permission before setting up camp on private property.

  • State lands, such as state parks or forests, also offer camping opportunities. These sites require a valid permit and may have specific regulations for overnight stays. More information can be found here.
  • Primitive camping is allowed in certain state forests. However, your campsite must be at least 100 feet (30 meters) from any water source, 200 feet (61 meters) from any trail or property line, 1000 feet (about 305 meters) from any traveled road, and below 2500 feet (762 meters) in elevation.
  • The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation provides pertinent information on state land camping (source).
  • Lastly, hikers can also find federally managed campsites along the Long Trail. These sites require a permit and may have additional regulations, which can be found on the respective websites for each location.

Important Tips:

  • Regulations for camping and campfires vary along the trail. When in doubt, please camp only in designated areas and avoid building fires.
  • Groups larger than 10 require a state primitive camping permit and should contact GMC’s Group Outreach Specialist.
  • The availability of designated campsites may vary depending on the season and weather conditions. It’s best to do research and plan ahead to ensure a camping spot is available.
  • Carry a data book that includes information on camping spots. These resources often provide insights into specific sites, water sources, and trailside amenities.
  • Camping between shelters is permitted along much of the LT in the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF). Small wood fires are allowed if Leave No Trace principles are followed.  Large groups should contact GMC’s Group Outreach Specialist.
  • In high-use areas, such as near the Appalachian Trail junction, designated campsites may be limited. Hikers should have a backup plan in case all spots are taken.
  • Lastly, engage with local trail communities, whether online or in person, to gather insights from fellow hikers.

Getting There: Directions and Transportation Options

Long Trail Vermont Direction

Planning your journey to the Long Trail is the first step in embarking on a thrilling adventure through the Green Mountains. Whether you’re preparing for a thru-hike of the entire Long Trail or focusing on specific sections like the Pine Cobble Trail, getting there and moving around efficiently is essential.

Airports and Transportation

Nearest Airports

The most accessible airports for reaching the Long Trail are Burlington International Airport (BTV) and Albany International Airport (ALB). Both airports offer convenient connections to major cities and serve as gateways to the beautiful Vermont landscape.

  • Burlington International Airport (BTV): Located approximately 134 miles (215 km) from the southern terminus of the Long Trail, Burlington International Airport is a popular choice for those starting their hike in the southern part of the trail.
  • Albany International Airport (ALB): Albany International Airport, situated around 45 miles (around 72 km) from the southern terminus, is another viable option, especially for hikers arriving from the south or those looking for additional travel flexibility.

Transportation from airports to the Long Trail:

Private shuttle services provide a convenient option for transportation from airports to trailheads. These services, often operated by local trail enthusiasts, offer a personalized and reliable means of getting to your starting point.

Getting Around: Trailheads and Private Shuttles

  • Thru-Hiking Preparation: If you’re planning to thru-hike the entire Long Trail, logistics become a crucial aspect. Arrange transportation to your chosen trailhead, considering factors such as proximity to the southern terminus and the trail section you plan to cover first.
  • Trailheads Accessible by Car: Many trailheads along the Long Trail are accessible by car, making self-driving an option for reaching your starting point. Ensure you have accurate trailhead coordinates, and use GPS or navigation apps to guide you to the specific location.
  • Private Shuttles: Private shuttle services cater specifically to hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. These shuttles can transport you from airports to trailheads or between different trail sections. Research and book shuttle services in advance for a seamless transition to the trail.
  • Trail Logistics: Stay informed about trail conditions, especially if your hike involves navigating the iconic white blazes that mark the Long Trail. Check Long Trail news and trail updates for any closures, reroutes, or important information that may impact your journey.

Additional Tips:

  • Local Transportation Hubs: Utilize local transportation hubs in trail-adjacent towns for additional flexibility. From towns like Manchester Center, you can access the Long Trail and arrange transportation to specific trailheads.
  • Community Support: Engage with the hiking community and forums to gather insights into transportation options and shared experiences. Fellow hikers may offer advice on navigating to and from the Long Trail.
  • South Terminus Considerations: If you’re starting your journey at the south terminus, consider exploring nearby attractions like Vermont Mountains Play to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the region before hitting the trail.

For a list of transportation options, including public, commercial, and private listings – check out the End-to-Ender’s Guide.

Conclusion

The Long Trail is a trail like no other, offering an unforgettable journey through the beautiful landscape of Vermont. From the lush forests in the south to the rugged peaks of the Green Mountains in the north, hikers will enjoy stunning views of the landscape.

The trail offers a chance to reconnect with nature, witness Vermont’s rich history, and explore the beautiful culture that Vermont has to offer. It is a must-hike for anyone looking to explore the great outdoors, escape the hustle and bustle of daily life, and enjoy breathtaking scenery.

So why wait? Grab your backpack, lace up your hiking boots, and take a walk through some of Vermont’s most wondrous scenery.

Seek out more enjoyable destinations by visiting our page on long-distance trails.


RALPH S.

Ralph S. is the founder of Silverlight, an avid hiker and trail runner he enjoys spending time outdoors, riding his motorcycle and swimming at the beach when he's not busy replying to customers or developing new Silverlight gear.

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