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Hiking The Long Trail in Vermont

Jul 24, 2017 03:28PM ● By Victoria Pipas
If you’ve lived in the Upper Valley long enough, you’ve probably come in contact with elements of the Appalachian Trail. Maybe you have a way onto the trail in your back yard, or you’ve hosted or talked with through hikers in downtown Hanover. You may even have hiked part or all of the trail. But unless you’ve explored the trail yourself, you may be unaware that it includes a section of the Long Trail, Vermont’s own trail system that extends beyond its overlap with the AT to span the length of the state from north to south. Read on to learn the history and current status of the trail, and to start planning your local adventure this summer or fall.

The Long Trail is the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States, dating back to its construction between 1910 and 1930 by the Green Mountain Club. The GMC was established in 1910, having been proposed by James P. Taylor, then the Assistant Headmaster of Vermont Academy, as a group committed to building, protecting, and maintaining access to Vermont’s mountains.

Today, the GMC has 14 chapters throughout Vermont and boasts more than 10,000 members, and it’s still responsible for maintaining the Long Trail in cooperation with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, the US Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and a host of private landowners.

The Long Trail runs approximately 272 miles from its southern start on the Massachusetts state line near Williamstown, Massachusetts, to its northern terminus at the US–Canada border near North Troy, Vermont. The trail runs along the ridge of the Green Mountains, covering nearly all of Vermont’s major summits.

If you attempt the entire trail, you’ll find yourself traversing popular ski mountains like Stratton and Jay Peak. You’ll also hit Vermont’s five highest peaks, all of which exceed 4000 feet—Mount Mansfield (4393 ft.), Killington (4235 ft.), Camel’s Hump (4083 ft.), Mount Ellen (also 4083 ft.), and Mount Abraham (4006 ft.).

From its southern terminus, the trail joins the Appalachian Trail for 100 miles until the AT splits off at the Maine Junction near US Route 4 in the Killington/Rutland area to head due east across the state until it reaches the New Hampshire border in Hanover. The 100 miles on the southern stretch of the trail are also the mildest in terms of hiking difficulty. If you’re a beginning hiker or looking for a leveler stretch of trail in order to complete more miles, this section may be best for you. You can choose to hike north or south, and in fact you may opt to begin a weeklong backpacking trip by being dropped off at the Maine Junction and hiking south. Finish in Williamstown and spend the weekend there enjoying local cafés, shops, and the Williams College Art Museum.

Make sure you prepare before you set out on your Long Trail adventure. The GMC recommends hiking on the Long Trail between June and mid October for optimal temperature and trail conditions. In fact, the club requests that hikers abstain from using the trail until Memorial Day at the end of May each year in order to prevent exacerbating the trail erosion that accompanies the annual spring snow melt.

If you’re attempting the entire trail, know your pace and plan well before you go. The average length of time required to hike the whole trail end to end is 19 to 20 days, which means hiking around 15 miles a day. If you’re hiking south to north, expect your pace to slow after you reach the rockier section north of the Maine Junction. Additionally, it’s important for both overnight and day hikers to note that the trail is marked by two-inch by six-inch white blazes.

What’s the most picturesque or most rewarding section of the Long Trail that you have hiked? Please comment below to share with other readers.

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