As the Appalachian Trail moves north through New England, the sections get steadily longer—and so do the climbs. Stretching 150 miles between Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Vermont beckons with maple syrup, charming ski slopes, and a mysterious (if not downright suspicious) lack of rocks in the trail. Big mountains like Stratton, Bromley, and Killington offer up dramatic views, but for the most part, the trail sticks to the green tunnel. Starting at the Massachusetts border, the AT joins forces with Vermont’s famed Long Trail for 105 miles, introducing AT adventurers to a different flavor of thru-hiker. The injection of Long Trail culture and a healthy dose of AT lore make this state stand out from the crowd.
Terrain and Trail Conditions
Vermont has its share of big climbs (and plenty of smaller ups and downs) but the terrain in this state is generally more rolling than that of the states on either side. Big climbs like Stratton and Killington are manageable enough to get your heart pumping without crushing your soul. Many northbound hikers see Vermont’s smooth, spongy trail as a welcome respite from the abrupt terrain and rocks of the mid-Atlantic and the southern New England states. Savor it while you can, because trail conditions in New Hampshire will not be as forgiving.
When planning a hike in Vermont, timing is everything. For instance, Vermont is best avoided from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day, when the dreaded black fly reigns supreme. April and May are also known as mud season in these parts, as spring snowmelt turns the trail into a gloopy mess. Some early season thru-hikers tackle the trail under these conditions each year, but it’s not recommended—for your well-being or that of the trail.
Highlights from the Appalachian Trail in Vermont
Mile 1,623.2: Glastenbury Mountain Lookout
One of Vermont’s few remaining fire towers, Glastenbury Mountain is considered one of the state’s premier fire tower hikes. For northbound hikers, this is the first of several phenomenal lookout towers you’ll encounter in this section.
Mile 1,639.2: Stratton Mountain
You’ll work hard to reach the top of this noteworthy climb—but trust us, it will all be worth it. The views from the historic fire tower up top—listed on the National Register of Historic Places—are to die for. Indeed, AT champion Benton Mackaye was so inspired by the beauty of this peak that it caused him to dream up a continuous footpath through the Appalachian Mountains. That makes Stratton Mountain the intellectual birthplace of the Appalachian Trail.
The cozy-looking cabin just south of the peak may tempt you, but don’t get your hopes up: it’s for the exclusive use of Green Mountain Club caretakers. However, a break from the elements is just a 0.8-mile spur trail and subsequent gondola ride away at Stratton Mountain Resort. With lodging and extensive dining options available, this stop is well worth it (just check that the gondola is operating first).
Mile 1,655.9: Bromley Mountain
Enjoy pretty views from the ski slopes of Bromley Mountain. Tenting and campfires are prohibited at the summit, but hikers are allowed to sleep inside the ski warming hut.
Mile 1,685.2: Clarendon Gorge
Hikers planning to hitch to town from VT 103 must first contend with the raging rapids of Clarendon Gorge. Fortunately, a picturesque suspension bridge makes crossing this rocky ravine a snap. It’s not every day that you get to admire the majestic Mill River from an adult bouncy bridge, so cherish the experience.
Miles 1,685.3, 1,696.7, 1,703: Rutland
The bustling town of Rutland is a popular destination for AT and Long Trail hikers. Lodging, dining, resupply, and entertainment options abound in this classic trail town. The controversial Twelve Tribes community operates a well-known restaurant and hostel in town called the Yellow Deli. Whether or not you stay there, it’s worth at least poking your head inside the restaurant to appreciate its unique interior.
Mile 1,692: 500 Miles to Katahdin
Alpine summits and deli-laden town stops are undoubtedly great, but there’s more to the AT than views and food. Take time to celebrate the simple joy of long-distance hiking at the fateful “Katahdin: 500 miles” sign on the southern side of the mountain. Whether you’re southbound or northbound, thru-hiking or section hiking, there’s something undeniably magical about this spot.
Mile 1,696.7: Killington Peak
A spur trail behind Cooper Lodge Shelter leads a quarter of a mile to Killington Peak. Here you’ll find beautiful views, a lodge and restaurant, and gondola service to the town of Killington. From the bottom of the mountain, bus service to the town of Rutland is also available. Views and food aren’t the only excitement, either.
Mile 1,704: Maine Junction
After rubbing elbows with Long Trail thru-hikers for over 100 miles, the two trails finally diverge at Maine Junction. The area is well signed, so the difference between the two footpaths should be apparent. Still, it would be wise to pay attention at this junction, lest you accidentally end up on the wrong route.
Mile 1,704.9: Inn at Long Trail
Looking to treat yo self? Hike 0.5 miles east on the Sherburne Pass Trail to reach the Inn at Long Trail, a charming lodge with attached dining options.
Mile 1,708.4: Thundering Brook Falls
Take in all 125 feet of Thundering Brook Falls from a wooden observation platform just off the trail. This destination is popular with day hikers, so be prepared for crowds when the weather’s nice.
Mile 1,720.4: The Lookout
The owners of this private cabin generously allow respectful AT hikers to sleep inside when they themselves aren’t using it. Unlike most AT shelters, this one is fully enclosed on all sides. It features a working door (!!), windows, and a second-story loft. There’s even an observation deck on the roof that commands an impressive 360-degree Green Mountain panorama.
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All mileages taken from The 2019 AT Northbound Guide, by David “AWOL” Miller