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 20. Below this table of contents you’ll find some general information about the trail, a brief history, and tips on planning your own hike.
Click here for a complete index of Shelters on The Long Trail.
Table of Contents
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
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.
It’s also regarded as one of the nation’s most rugged distance trails, because of its tendency to frequently challenge hikers with steep, rocky, muddy, and rooted areas, particularly in the northern sections.
The trail is primarily wooded and includes maple, birch, beech, pine, hemlock, spruce, and balsam fir. It extends 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 elevation.
The path is marked by uniform 2×6 inch white paint blazes, and has almost sixty simple overnight shelters.
Some of the more 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 of other hikers have had better fortune.
Some four hundred years ago, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed inland from the Atlantic Ocean, and made his way south to a large, unnamed freshwater lake. His account:
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 stood on top of a mountain in Vermont 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, on misty 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 is still going strong today, with almost 9,000 members protecting Vermont’s scenic forests and mountains that embody The Long Trail. Some 500 volunteers maintain the trail and assist the club, often giving up their spare time to do 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 Long Trail actually served as the inspiration for The Appalachian Trail. Benton Mackaye, the primary visionary of The Appalachian Trail, claimed that he was sitting in a tree on top of Stratton Mountain(Same as James P. Taylor) 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…
Planning a Hike
First and foremost, take a look at the Green Mountain Club website. You’re going to want to purchase The Long Trail End to Ender’s Guide, as well as the Long Trail Map. 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.
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).
Most backpackers take 20-30 days to hike the trail from end-to-end, carrying a few days’ worth of food at time. Some of the 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 an option as well.
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. 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 LT holds the reputation as one of the most rugged distance trails in the United States.
Hiking in either direction is suitable, although the majority of end-to-enders tend to go northbound. This way you can get in shape before reaching the strenuous north, and there’s something odd about beginning a journey at “Journey’s End.”
The closest town to the southern terminus of the trail is Williamstown, Massachusetts. Peter Pan Bus Lines has a route to Williamstown from the Port Authority in New York City. As of December 2011 it departs twice daily from Williamstown, as well as twice daily from NYC.
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. Contact the GMC 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.
Statistics – my Long Trail hike at a glance
Day 1 – North Troy, VT to Journey’s End Camp—————–0 LT miles +5
Day 2 – Journey’s End Camp to Laura Woodward Shelter—8.7 LT miles +0.6
Day 3 – Laura Woodward Shelter to Hazen’s Notch Camp–9.5 LT miles +0
Day 4 – Hazen’s Notch Camp to Spruce Ledge Camp——–14.5 LT miles +1
Day 5 – Spruce Ledge Camp to Roundtop Shelter————-14.7 LT miles +0
Day 6 – Roundtop Shelter to Bear Hollow Shelter————–7.2 LT miles +3
– RESUPPLY in JOHNSON at grocery store
Day 7 – Bear Hollow Shelter to Taft Lodge————————12.6 LT miles +0
Day 8 – Taft Lodge to Puffer Shelter———————————10.2 LT miles +0
Day 9 – Puffer Shelter to Richmond, VT—————————-11.5 LT miles +0.6
– RESUPPLY in RICHMOND at small store, OVERNIGHT in town
Day 10 – Richmond, VT to Montclair Glen Shelter————-11.3 LT miles +3.5
Day 11 – Montclair Glen Shelter to Birch Glen Camp———9 LT miles +0
Day 12 – Birch Glen Camp to Waitsfield, VT———————2.6 LT mils +4
– RESUPPLY in WAITSFIELD at grocery store, OVERNIGHT in town
Day 13 – Waitsfield, VT to Battell Shelter————————9.8 LT miles +0.6
Day 14 – Battell Shelter to Skyline Lodge————————14 LT miles +0
Day 15 – Skyline Lodge to Sucker Brook Shelter————–9.6 LT miles +1
Day 16 – Sucker Brook Shelter to David Logan Shelter——12.6 LT miles +0
Day 17 – David Logan Shelter to The Inn at The Long Trail–12.7 LT miles +1
– RESUPPLY in RUTLAND at grocery store, OVERNIGHT in town
Day 18 – The Inn at The Long Trail to Cooper Lodge———–5.9 LT miles +7
Day 19 – Cooper Lodge to Minerva Hinchey Shelter———–13.8 LT miles 1.6
Day 20 – Minerva Hinchey Shelter to Big Branch Shelter—-13.2 LT miles +1.2
Day 21 – Big Branch Shelter to Bromley Shelter—————-14.1 LT miles +0
Day 22 – Bromley Shelter to Stratton Mountain—————–15.8 LT miles +1
– RESUPPLY in MANCHESTER CENTER at grocery store
Day 23 – Stratton Mountain to Goddard Shelter—————–16.3 LT miles +0.7
Day 24 – Goddard Shelter to Congdon Shelter——————-14.4 LT miles +0.3
Day 25 – Congdon Shelter to North Adams, MA—————–10 LT miles +4.4
“LT miles” refers to the official white blazed trail
“+” and “extra” distances refer to miles hiked on side trails and along roads
The below stats 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
- the below stats 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