Ready to follow those white blazes?
Here’s all you need to know about The Long Trail, with an emphasis on planning your hike.
Section hikers and aspiring Long Trail thru hikers will find everything you need to know, or at least get pointed in the right direction.
Before we dive in, take a look at what’s not included on this page:
My End-to-End Journal
Are you looking for my southbound thru-hiking journal?
solo in peak foliage – 1,200 beautiful photos and 50 short videos
Long Trail Shelters
Completed in 1930, this is the oldest long distance hiking trail in the United States.
MAP: Vermont’s Long Trail (GMC 6th edition)
PERMITS: none, but some shelters requires a small fee
DESIGNATION: varied – most notably Green Mountain National Forest
BEST SEASONS: late June through early October
DISTANCE: 272 miles from Massachusetts to Canada
WATER: 2 liters capacity is good.
ELEVATION: average 2,000 to 3,000 feet
ROUTE: well maintained, popular trail, signed junctions
GUIDEBOOK: Long Trail Guide
THRU-HIKING: End-to-Ender’s Guide (22nd)
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s get some more basics out of the way, shall we?
Where does the Long Trail start and end?
The Long Trail is a 272-mile footpath that follows the spine of Vermont’s Green Mountains. It extends from the Massachusetts state line to the Canadian border. The southern terminus is best accessed from Williamstown, Massachusetts. The northern terminus is near the town of North Troy, Vermont.
How long does it take?
It generally takes 20 to 30 days to hike the entire trail. Let’s break that down into average miles per day:
15 days = 18.1 miles per day
20 days = 13.6 miles per day
25 days = 10.9 miles per day
30 days = 9.1 miles per day
An average of 9.1 to 13.6 miles per day may sound a little slow to an experienced thru-hiker, but this is a tough trail!
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.
My thru-hike took 25 days.
What are the speed records?
The overall fastest known time that anyone has completed Long Trail is 4 days, 12 hours, and 46 minutes – the supported record set by Jonathan Basham in 2009.
The female supported record is held by Alyssa Godesky, with a time of a time of 5 days, 2 hours, and 37 minutes, set in 2018.
The male self-supported record is held by Travis Wildeboer – 6 days, 17 hours, and 25 minutes in 2010.
The female self-supported record is held by Jennifer Pharr-Davis – 7 days, 15 hours, and 40 minutes in 2007.
These statistics were pulled from the FKT website.
Is the Long Trail part of the Appalachian Trail?
It would be more accurate to say a part of the Appalachian Trail uses a part of the Long Trail.
The southern 100 miles of The Long Trail coincides with the well-known Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail is more widely known, recognized, and celebrated, but the Long Trail came first and served as its inspiration.
The Appalachian Trail uses the Long Trail from the Massachusetts/Vermont border north to an intersection near Killington, VT called Maine Junction. From Maine Junction the Appalachian Trail splits east toward New Hampshire while the Long Trail continues north to Canada.
Will I get eaten by a bear?
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).
See more in this Nature Guide to the LT.
WARNING: New food storage rules for 2019!
Bears have become much more of a nuisance in Vermont in recent years. After several disturbing incidents of bears becoming more aggressive for food, the Green Mountain National Forest issued the following requirements:
Food must be kept in an approved storage container, in a vehicle, or hung in a tree.
When food is hung, it must be 12 feet off the ground and 6 feet horizontally from the tree trunk. This is easier said than done, so personally I think the weight of a bear canister is more than worth the trouble.
See more tips in my article 12 Ways to Avoid Getting Eaten by a Bear.
Are dogs allowed?
Yes, you can have dogs on the entirety of the Long Trail. Some sections have a few short ladders, particularly in the northern segments like Mount Mansfield, so you’ll have to help your dog through these parts. You may have to hold your dog while climbing a ladder one-handed.
How big are the mountains?
The trail traverses all of the state’s highest peaks. 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.
How much does it cost to thru-hike?
Obviously there can be a lot of variation here, but it generally costs about $1,000 per month (Or $250/week) to do any thru-hike. This figure accounts for your food on the trail and an average amount of restaurant meals and lodging.
It does not account for your gear, transportation to/from Vermont, or of course the bills that you keep up on in everyday life, but a Long Trail thru-hiker should find this figure to be about right.
5 Ways to Enhance Your Trip
Vermont is such a magical and happy little state! Did you know that it’s the second least-populated state in the United States? (Wyoming is #1 in that regard). Here’s how to make sure you leave with no regrets:
1) Sample the local brews
In case you haven’t heard, the Long Trail has its very own brewing company and signature beer – Long Trail Ale. Amid the saturated explosion of craft beers, what’s so special about this? It’s been around for a long time. According to the brewery:
The first batch of Long Trail Ale® rolled off the line in 1989. Back then the brewery—known as the Mountain Brewers—was a modest brew house tucked into the basement of the Old Woolen Mill in Bridgewater Corner…
Long Trail Brewing Company is located in Bridgewater Corners, a short distance east of Killington. This isn’t very far from the “Maine Junction” where the Appalachian Trail turns to the east.
If you find yourself in Burlington or Brattleboro, you can check out some of the brewery tours there too!
2) Take your time
Allowing more time makes everything so much easier and more enjoyable, regardless of your potential identity as “fast hiker.”
This is not the sort of trail that calls for making miles and extreme efficiency. The steep and muddy terrain will constantly be working to thwart your efforts. A wise companion on the Appalachian Trail once said “When the miles come easy, take them. When they don’t, take it easy!”
It’s rare for the miles to come easy on the Long Trail, and that’s okay! It rains a lot up here… when it does, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have the freedom to hole up in a shelter? If there were ever a trail whose character called for smelling the roses, this is the one.
3) Don’t forget about Ben & Jerry’s
Ben and Jerry’s ice cream has its iconic roots in Vermont. Their factory is in Waterbury, a town near the trail where you may find yourself stopping to resupply anyway.
Daily tours are $4.00 per person and last for 30 minutes. What sort of a hungry hiker can resist this ice cream mecca, especially if you happen to be there in July or August?
4) Stop at the Inn at the Long Trail
Not far from the Long Trail Brewery and Killington is the Inn at the Long Trail. Within the atmospheric hotel you’ll find McGrath’s Irish Pub, a hikers’ favorite stop that’s been operating for decades.
It’s true that this is simply a lodge and a bar, but it’s location near Maine Junction (Where the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail split) wins over the hearts and minds of backpackers.
Historically the trail used to used to go right by its front door! A turn-of the-century re-route moved the official trail about a mile to the west, but it’s still possible connect the Sherburne Pass trail down from Pico Peak, and out the backyard of the inn to Deer Leap overlook.
…or stop at the Yellow Deli
Those on a tighter budget through here should check out the Yellow Deli Hostel in Rutland. I have no personal experience here (Open since 2012), but recent reports mention it as a communal, heart-warming stay that’s not to be missed.
5) Consider hiking Mount Greylock
Mount Greylock a short distance beyond the southern terminus in Massachusetts. You can hike the Appalachian Trail up and over its peak, or even drive a road that goes to the top.
Why would you want to do this? The summit is developed with a unique lighthouse (Strange to find a lighthouse on top of a mountain) and the rustic Bascom Lodge. Greylock is the highest peak in Massachusetts and offers a New England flavor steeped in literature.
Not only that, but the southern terminus of the Long Trail is a little underwhelming. Why not add some drama to your adventure with a bookend on a big mountain? You’re the hero in your life story, no?
Maps and Guides
The Green Mountain Club is your go-to publisher for the best maps and information.
The Long Trail Guide is their ultimate resource. This book is best for section hikers and residents of Vermont who will be returning to the trail again and again. The volume provides turn-by-turn descriptions of the entire trail. In my opinion this is overkill, but it has significant value in a wealth of data.
For example, the guide also provides quality maps of the trail corridor, elevation profiles, and “data book” pages with a breakdown of the mileage and elevation at every landmark imaginable. Another key feature is its detail of the surrounding side trails and driving directions to the trailheads.
The Long Trail Map
There’s nothing like having a good paper map at hand on the trail. The GMC delivers the goods with its Official Map. Covering the entirety of the trail, it was indispensable on my thru-hike.
In late 2018 the GMC released a series of digital maps. I think this was great idea! Trail clubs simply have no choice but to keep up with technology. Otherwise they risk falling into obscurity and losing precious funding. No funding means no trail!
The best free source of online long trail maps is CalTopo. You can go into all kinds of detail here for your planning purposes, and find maps for all of greater Vermont too.
Smaller scale paper maps are available through the Green Mountain Club for popular areas like Killington, Mount Mansfield, and Camels Hump.
The Green Mountain Club also publishes the handy End-to-Ender’s Guide, geared especially toward thru-hikes and extended section hikes. As opposed to the thick Long Trail Guide, this volume focuses on a more streamlined need-to-know delivery of shelter descriptions, water sources, and services in town. This came with me on my thru-hike.
The Guthook Smartphone App – Atlas Guides
Modern hikers are increasingly using phone apps for all of their on-trail information. Within the app you’ll essentially find everything you need to know during a thru-hike. It includes a map with the marked locations of shelters, water sources, road crossings, and even resupply info.
Best of all, it’s designed to work in airplane mode, so no need to worry about poor reception or excessive use of your battery. The app is available here from Atlas Guides.
If I were to thru-hike the Long Trail again…
I would exclusively use the Guthook App for all of my maps and on-trail navigation. Just a couple years ago I would have said I’d carry the paper map and End-to-End Guide (Which is still the way to go if you have a healthy aversion to phones on the trail), but phones are now so ingrained in our society that I think I’d take the leap.
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.
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.
If you’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail, do you remember the terrain in southern Maine? That’s what you can expect on the northern stretches of the Long Trail.
Direction – Thru-Hiking Northbound or Southbound?
Hiking in either direction is suitable, although the majority of end-to-enders tend to go northbound. Here are some things to consider when choosing a direction for your thru-hike:
- The northern sections of the trail are more difficult and strenuous.
- The southern end (Coinciding with the Appalachian Trail) is more crowded.
- The northern sections tend to be more rewarding.
- There’s 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)
Boston is naturally the closest major city, but Burlington has a decent airport too (BTV).
The Southern Terminus – Williamstown, MA
The closest significant town to the southern terminus of the trail is Williamstown, Massachusetts. Peter Pan Bus Lines has a stop in Williamstown that’s possible to connect with several cities including Boston, New York, Baltimore, and Washington DC.
Williamstown doesn’t show up on Peter Pan’s “Routes” menu, but you’ll see it listed in the form provided to buy tickets. Last time I checked (2019), the line goes in both directions to New York’s Port Authority multiple times each day.
From the bus stop at the Williams Inn you can walk to the Pine Cobble Trail, your access to the southern terminus. Likewise, you can walk about three miles east to the Appalachian Trail near Protection Avenue in North Adams.
The Northern Terminus – North Troy, VT
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 shuttle options that are not published online.
A note about hitchhiking:
For what it’s worth, I found hitchhiking to be fairly easy throughout Vermont, with the exception of the outskirts of Burlington. Finding my way up Route 100 to North Troy was simple, even as a solo male (Though I had youth on my side). Hitchhiking 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.
Don’t Forget Uber and Lyft
It’s the 21st century, folks. I imagine you can come up with some creative solutions with the Uber or Lyft phone apps, too!
The Long Trail Shuttle Service
There’s no official shuttle service for hikers and backpackers on the Long Trail (Sounds like a business opportunity!).
However, in the past the Green Mountain Club maintained an informal list of contact information of local folks who where willing to help with shuttles. If you’re interested, it’s certainly worth contacting the GMC to see if they can still help you out.
If you missed the notice at the top of the page, the Green Mountain National Forest has new regulations for food storage in place. Unless you’re willing to elaborately string your food up in a tree every night, a bear canister is now a required piece of gear for the long trail thru-hiker.
Trekking poles are especially useful in Vermont to deal with all the mud!
Two liters of water capacity should get you through the trail just fine. Water is ample out here, even in summer.
In September and October I’d want to have a typical 20-degree sleeping bag. In July and August you can certainly get away with a lighter bag (30-40 degrees).
If you’re looking for some more advice on backpacking gear, start with my ultimate gear list.
Towns and Resupply
Most backpackers take 20-30 days to go 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 (Uber and Lyft may work for this too). Hitchhiking is always an option, despite it obvious caveats.
The towns listed below are viable for resupply or shipping packages. You can use the listed zip codes to ship packages to yourself at the local post offices. Label your package as follows:
Awesome Hiker (Your Name)
Perfect Little Town, VT 12345
UPS and FedEx won’t ship to the Post Office, but some hostels and businesses in town will accept deliveries via these carriers.
Details about services in individual towns are listed in the End to End Guide.
Nowadays some hikers are even ordering their food resupplies online through services like Amazon Prime. Personally I’ve always preferred to buy my food along the way.
Towns listed by Road Crossing & Mileage
This list is arranged by the Long Trail’s total mileage, from south to north. So the VT/MA border is mile zero. Zip codes, orientation from the trail, and occasional distances from the trail are provided.
Towns in bold text are the ones I used on my thru-hike.
mile 14 – route 9 – 4m west to Bennington 05201
54 – route 11/30 – 4m west to Manchester Center 05255
80 – route 140 – west to Wallingford 05773
87 – route 103 – west to Clarendon 05759
104 – route 4 – 9m west to Rutland 05701/ east to Killington 05751
124 – route 73 – east to Rochester 05767 / west to Brandon 05733
134 – route 125 – east to Hancock 05748
151 – Lincoln Gap – west to Lincoln 05674 / east to Warren 05674
163 – route 17 – 7m east to Waitsfield 05673
183 – route 2 – 6m west to Richmond 05477 – east to Waterbury
208 – route 108 – east to Stowe 05672 / west to Jeffersonville
222 – route 15 – 3m east to Johnson 05661
243- route 118
253 – route 58 – east to Lowell 05847/ west to Montgomery Center 05471
260 – route 242 – east to Jay 05859/ west to Montgomery Center 05471
269 – route 105 – east to Jay 05859
In addition to these roads, the main trail is often accessed via numerous side trails . More information about these side trails is best discovered in the Long Trail Guide.
History: Respect the Pioneers
“We’re not worthy!”
More than the other long distance trails, every step you take will be enhanced by an awareness of the Long Trail’s rich history…
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.
American Distance Hiking is Born
In 1909, a man was hiking Vermont’s mountains when he had an idea. The nearby Adirondacks of New York and White Mountains of New Hampshire summoned the praises of numerous outdoorsmen, 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 was the Assistant Headmaster of Vermont Academy… is it just me, or do you imagine the hallowed halls of Dead Poet’s Society?
The Green Mountain Club
Taylor organized a meeting that was held on March 11, 1910 in Burlington. Twenty-three people were present, and decided to call 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 legendary original headquarters. Flares were fired from mountaintops up and down the state to mark the event.
The Green Mountain Club is still going strong today, “making the Vermont mountains play a larger part in the life of the people.”
In 2019 almost 10,000 club members work to protect the scenic forests and mountains that embody The Long Trail. Equally, some 10,000 annual volunteer hours go into maintaining the trail and assisting the club, often including hard labor in the woods.
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 (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…
Did you know?
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 A Century in the Mountains.
“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
The Green Mountain Club Needs Your Love
With each passing year our beloved trails are increasingly threatened by modern development. Decreased respect for wilderness values among the general population plays a role, too.
Every generation must carry the torch in the protection of our public lands and places like The Long Trail, or else they will cease to exist!
Without the Green Mountain Club there would be no Long Trail. Nothing of this magnitude operates for free. Consider joining the GMC to protect the trail for years to come.
Any more questions?
I hope this page has satisfied what you needed to know about The Long Trail (Short of hiking it for yourself), or has at least pointed you in the right direction. Feel free to contact me with additional questions.