“In the fight to save the natural world – the whole world – from the environmental crises bearing down upon us, it’s necessary to remember just how deeply important places like the Long Trail really are. Not just for relaxation, not just for recreation, not just for scenery – but for allowing us to remember who we are.” -Bill McKibben
This is my southbound hike of The Long Trail through the colorful autumn of 2007. I started at the Canadian border on September 26th and entered Massachusetts on October 20th.
A number of my photos from this journal appeared in the Green Mountain Club’s book:
A Century in the Mountains: Celebrating Vermont’s Long Trail
Day 1 – North Troy
Day 2 – Journey’s End
Day 3 – Jay Peak
Day 4 – Belvidere Mountain
Day 5 – Laraway Mountain
Day 6 – Johnson, Vermont
Day 7 – Smuggler’s Notch
Day 8 – Mount Mansfield
Day 9 – Bolton Mountain
Day 10 – Camel’s Hump
Day 11 – Burnt Rock Mountain
Day 12 – Appalachian Gap
Day 13 – Monroe Skyline
Day 14 – Breadloaf Wilderness
Day 15 – Middlebury Gap
Day 16 – Brandon Gap
Day 17 – Maine Junction
Day 18 – Killington Peak
Day 19 – Clarendon Gorge
Day 20 – Little Rock Pond
Day 21 – Bromley Mountain
Day 22 – Stratton Mountain
Day 23 – Glastenbury Mountain
Day 24 – Harmon Hill
Day 25 – Southern Terminus
Day 26 – Mount Greylock
Long Trail Shelters
I have a separate, comprehensive page about the Long Trail’s shelters.
Overview of The Long Trail
The Long Trail is a 270 mile footpath that follows the spine of Vermont’s Green Mountains.
It extends from the Massachusetts state line to the Canadian border, and traverses all of the state’s highest peaks.
Completed in 1930, it is the oldest long distance hiking trail in the United States.
Regarded as one of the nation’s most rugged distance trails, the Long Trail tends to challenge hikers with steep, rocky, muddy, and rooted terrain – particularly in its northern sections.
The trail is primarily wooded, including maple, birch, beech, pine, hemlock, spruce, and balsam fir. It rises above treeline a handful of times, with fragile alpine areas on Mount Mansfield, Camel’s Hump, and Mount Abraham. Mount Mansfield is the highest point in Vermont, at 4,393 feet in elevation.
The path is marked by uniform 2×6 inch white paint blazes, and has almost sixty simple overnight shelters.
Some notable wildlife in The Green Mountains includes black bears, moose, porcupines, beavers, fox, whitetail deer, and peregrine falcons. I did not see any of these creatures on my end-to-end hike (Except deer), but plenty other hikers have had better fortune. See more in this Nature Guide to the Long Trail (affiliate link).
I noticed… some very high mountains on the eastern side [of the lake], on the top of which there was snow. I made inquiry of the savages whether these localities were inhabited… they told me that the Iroquois dwelt there, and that there were beautiful valleys in these places, with plains productive in grain… with many kinds of fruit without limit.
He was looking upon what would be called The Green Mountains, which in French literally translates as les vert monts.
In 1909, a man gazed upon a mountain when he had an idea. The nearby Adirondacks of New York and White Mountains of New Hampshire summoned the praises of numerous outdoors-men, while his beloved Green Mountains of Vermont were vastly overlooked. He envisioned a hiking trail that could link all the range’s best mountains… a long trail. He was James P. Taylor, in view of Vermont’s Stratton Mountain.
Taylor organized a meeting that was held on March 11, 1910 in Burlington. Twenty-three people were present, and named themselves The Green Mountain Club. They mobilized and took to the woods with saws, axes, and shovels. Approximately one hundred miles of trail were cut before a single shot was fired in World War One – 1914.
Over two hundred miles of trail were finished by 1920, with fourteen overnight shelters.
1930 saw the completion of The Long Trail. A celebration was held at The Long Trail Lodge near Killington -The Green Mountain Club’s early headquarters. Flares were fired from mountaintops up and down the state to mark the event.
The Green Mountain Club
The Green Mountain Club is still going strong today, “making the Vermont mountains play a larger part in the life of the people.” In 2017 almost 10,000 club members work to protect the scenic forests and mountains that embody The Long Trail. Equally, some 10,000 volunteer hours went into maintaining the trail and assisting the club, often including hard labor in the woods.
The southern 100 miles of The Long Trail coincide with the well-known Appalachian Trail, which runs from Georgia to Maine. The Appalachian Trail is more widely known, recognized, and celebrated, but the Long Trail came first and served as its inspiration. Benton Mackaye, the primary visionary of the Appalachian Trail, claimed that he was sitting in a tree on top of Stratton Mountain (Vermont) when he had the idea for a trail that would stretch over the length of the Appalachian Mountains. In his 1921 essay that spawned the AT, Mackaye wrote:
[The Green Mountain Club] has already built the “Long Trail” for 210 miles through the Green Mountains — four fifths of the distance from the Massachusetts line to the Canadian. Here is a project that will logically be extended. What the Green Mountains are to Vermont the Appalachians are to the eastern United States. What is suggested, therefore, is a “long trail” over the full length of the Appalachian skyline, from the highest peak in the north to the highest peak in the south…
Most backpackers are familiar with the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive (Paved roads through Virginia and Shenandoah National Park), but few know that a similar road was proposed twice through the Green Mountains (In the 1930s and again in the 1960s). The successful resistance to this and other hardy tales are told in the storied Century in the Mountains: Celebrating Vermont’s Long Trail (affiliate link).
Planning a Hike on the Long Trail
Maps and Guides
First and foremost, take a look at the Green Mountain Club website. For a thru-hike you’re going to want to purchase The Long Trail End to Ender’s Guide, as well as the Long Trail Map (affiliate links). These publications have all the information you’ll need – including services in nearby towns, trail head access, and camping areas. The Long Trail Guide is a more in-depth, detailed look at the trail, and isn’t necessary for planning an extended trip.
Best Time and Seasons
September is the best month for hiking in Vermont, followed by August and July. The path is literally “closed” in certain locations during April and May because of the local mud season. June is still considered spring in the mountains, and being outdoors at this time can be miserable because of the biting bugs – primarily black flies.
Expect snow and/or freezing temperatures throughout the rest of the year, with the possible exception of October (If you’re fortunate). I don’t have winter experience in the Green Mountains but this Snowshoe Guide looks like a great place to start (affiliate link).
There must be thousands of spots – wooded glens filled with ferns, meadows rich with wildflowers, mysterious, fertile bogs, narrow, rocky defiles and notches – that would have gone forever unnoticed had the Long Trail never been built. -Tom Slayton
Plan on hiking an average of ten miles per day to start, and often less than that – even if you’re in good shape. Even a seven mile day can challenge a fit hiker in the northern sections of the trail. It’s best not be too ambitious when planning your mileage – you don’t want to learn this the hard way.
Keep in mind that the northern third of the Long Trail has a reputation as one of the most rugged distance trails in the United States. It’s a “good” trail that’s simple to follow, but perennial mud, steep slopes, rocks, roots, and undulating terrain are not to be underestimated.
Hiking in either direction is suitable, although the majority of end-to-enders tend to go northbound. Here’s some things to consider when choosing a direction for your thru-hike:
- The northern sections of the trail are more difficult and strenous
- The southern end (Coinciding with the Appalachian Trail) is more crowded)
- The northern sections tend to be more rewarding
- Something odd about beginning a journey at “Journey’s End” (The Northern Terminus)
- Transportation to the southern terminus is easier than the northern end
- A late season (autumn) southbound hike can offer relative solitude and peak foliage
Getting There (Transportation)
Most backpackers take 20-30 days to hike the trail from end-to-end, carrying a few days of food at time. Some towns are located within reasonable walking distance of the trail. You can purchase food and supplies at local stores, or send yourself packages to local post offices ahead of time. If you carry a cell phone, sometimes you can arrange for services in town to pick you up. Hitchhiking is always a discretionary option too.
The closest town to the southern terminus of the trail is Williamstown, Massachusetts. Peter Pan Bus Lines has a route between Williamstown and the Port Authority in New York City. Last time I checked (2017), it goes in both directions, multiple times, daily. Greyhound also goes to Williamstown.
The closest town to the northern terminus of the trail is North Troy, Vermont. Public transportation will only get you as far north as Montpelier, Waterbury, or Burlington, so travel to North Troy has to involve local taxi companies, private shuttles, or hitchhiking. You can call the Green Mountain Club at (802) 244-7037 for a list of private shuttles. I found hitchhiking to be fairly easy throughout Vermont, particularly on route 100, with the exception of the outskirts of Burlington. This has its inherent risks, of course.
Rutland is the second-largest town in Vermont (After Burlington). There’s a small airport here, as well as viable transportation via Greyhound. There’s even a local bus that will drop you off at the trail head at Sherburne Pass, and The Inn at the Long Trail.
There’s a similar bus out of Middlebury that stops at the trail head at Middlebury Gap. Last I checked, buses also stop in Manchester and Bennington. This site is a great place to get links to the local bus companies, as well as New England transportation in general.
Albany, Burlington, and Rutland all have airports, as well as Boston.
Use caution when leaving your vehicle overnight at the trail head parking areas, because vandalism has been known to occur. The best option is arrange to leave your car with a local business in town.
See the End to Ends Guide for more. (affiliate link)
Select Resupply Towns
These towns near the Long Trail are viable for resupply or shipping packages.
“Town,” VT “Zip Code”
I chose these as the most sensible places to make my stops. More options (With more detail) are listed in the End to End Guide. (affiliate link)
Towns are listed from south to north.
Bennington – mile 14.3 – 4m W of LT on VT route 9 – 05201
Manchester Center – mile 54.4 – 4m W of LT on VT route 11/30 – 05255
Rutland(W) and Inn at Long Trail(E) – mile 104.2 – on US route 4 – 1m E to Inn, 9m W to Rutland 05701
Waitsfield – mile 162.9 – 7m E of LT on VT route 17 – 05673
Richmond – mile 185?
Johnson – mile 221.7 – 3m E of LT on VT route 15 – 05661
Apps and Files
Guthook’s Long Trail App
It appears as though Guthook’s LT app is only available for Android, as the iTunes link goes directly to the Appalachian Trail app, only covering the southern sections of the Long Trail. I personally don’t like the idea of using a phone app for backpacking anyway, but to each their own, and hike your own hike. 🙂
Postholer.com lists maps and information for download. I’m not a member there and have not looked at these.
The Green Mountain Club
Simply the best most thorough source on the web! Support the GMC.
Forums & Discussion
My Long Trail Hike at a Glance
“LT miles” refers to the official white blazed trail
“+” and “extra” distances refer to miles hiked on side trails and along roads
Day 1 – 0 LT miles +5 – North Troy, VT to Journey’s End Camp
Day 2 – 8.7 LT miles +0.6 – Journey’s End Camp to Laura Woodward Shelter
Day 3 – 9.5 LT miles +0 – Laura Woodward Shelter to Hazen’s Notch Camp
Day 4 – 14.5 LT miles +1 – Hazen’s Notch Camp to Spruce Ledge Camp
Day 5 – 14.7 LT miles +0 – Spruce Ledge Camp to Roundtop Shelter
Day 6 – 7.2 LT miles +3 – Roundtop Shelter to Bear Hollow Shelter
– RESUPPLY in JOHNSON at grocery store
Day 7 – 12.6 LT miles +0 – Bear Hollow Shelter to Taft Lodge
Day 8 – 10.2 LT miles +0 – Taft Lodge to Puffer Shelter
Day 9 – 11.5 LT miles +0.6 – Puffer Shelter to Richmond, VT
– RESUPPLY in RICHMOND at small store, OVERNIGHT in town
Day 10 – 11.3 LT miles +3.5 – Richmond, VT to Montclair Glen Shelter
Day 11 – 9 LT miles +0 – Montclair Glen Shelter to Birch Glen Camp
Day 12 – 2.6 LT mils +4 – Birch Glen Camp to Waitsfield, VT
– RESUPPLY in WAITSFIELD at grocery store, OVERNIGHT in town
Day 13 – 9.8 LT miles +0.6 – Waitsfield, VT to Battell Shelter
Day 14 – 14 LT miles +0 – Battell Shelter to Skyline Lodge
Day 15 – 9.6 LT miles +1 – Skyline Lodge to Sucker Brook Shelter
Day 16 – 12.6 LT miles +0 – Sucker Brook Shelter to David Logan Shelter
Day 17 – 12.7 LT miles +1 – David Logan Shelter to The Inn at The Long Trail
– RESUPPLY in RUTLAND at grocery store, OVERNIGHT in town
Day 18 – 5.9 LT miles +7 – The Inn at The Long Trail to Cooper Lodge
Day 19 – 13.8 LT miles 1.6 – Cooper Lodge to Minerva Hinchey Shelter
Day 20 – 13.2 LT miles +1.2 – Minerva Hinchey Shelter to Big Branch Shelter
Day 21 – 14.1 LT miles +0 – Big Branch Shelter to Bromley Shelter
Day 22 – 15.8 LT miles +1 – Bromley Shelter to Stratton Mountain
– RESUPPLY in MANCHESTER CENTER at grocery store
Day 23 – 16.3 LT miles +0.7 – Stratton Mountain to Goddard Shelter
Day 24 – 14.4 LT miles +0.3 – Goddard Shelter to Congdon Shelter
Day 25 – 10 LT miles +4.4 – Congdon Shelter to North Adams, MA
These next statistics do not include Day 1 or Day 26
Total Days: 24
Total LT Miles: 272.4
Total Extra Miles: 33.5
Total Miles: 305.9
Average LT Miles per day: 11.35
Average Extra Miles per day: 1.4
Average Total Miles per day: 12.75
Total nights in a shelter: 19
Total nights alone in a shelter: 10
Total nights in a tent: 1
Total nights in a ski gondola operator’s booth: 1 🙂
Total nights with rain/precipitation: 10
Total stops in town: 6
Total stops at grocery stores: 5
Total nights in town: 4
Total nights in a hotel: 3
Total showers/bathing: 3
Total loads of laundry: 1
Total times I rinsed laundry in a shower: 2
Average days on trail between towns: 4.8
These next statistics reflect all my time in Vermont on this trip –
Total rides in a vehicle with a stranger: 13
Total rides solicited through hitchhiking: 10
Total rides randomly offered from strangers: 5
Total rides arranged through hotels or taxis: 3