GOSHEN/BRANDON — On overnight treks, there’s nothing better after a long day on the trail than having a roof over your head — whether it’s a lean-to or a cozy inn. While trekking in Vermont’s wilderness may not offer the amenities of high altitude lodges in the European Alps, there are plenty of ways to experience consecutive days on the trail and not have to carry a tent with you.
Vermont’s Long Trail has about 70 overnight sites and shelters on its 273-mile trail open for free use or a small fee. The Appalachian Trail, which cuts through Vermont from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, has trails of its own over 148 miles. The cabins and lean-tos are well built and maintained by the crews at the Green Mountain Club.
If the lean-tos and cabins of the LT/AT aren’t quite your style, for a fee you can hire a guide service to carry most of your gear from inn to inn, where all the comforts of home await you after a day on the trail.
“I’m trying to replicate that (European) experience as much as I can in the state of Vermont,” says Bruce Acciavatti, owner of the guide service Wonder Walks, which offers hiking, walking and snowshoe tours in the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area that include overnight stays. Other firms offer similar services, though many require shuttles by car between trailheads.
So if you’re looking to rough it, or prefer the comfort of an inn, here are several trips to consider.
Self-guided hikes on the Long Trail:
Long Trail from Bromley Shelter up Bromley Mt. and to Little Rock Pond:
From the parking lot at Bromley Mountain off Route 11 in Peru, follow the white blazes of the Long Trail 2.1 miles to reach Bromley Shelter (capacity 12). From the shelter, it’s a moderate to rugged hike 7.6 miles to the 3,260-foot high summit of Bromley Mountain using the Long Trail, as well as the Bromley ski trails.
At the top of the mountain, where a warming hut is open to hikers, there are excellent views of Stratton Mountain to the south and Mount Equinox to the west. Continue along the Long Trail to the Peru Peak Shelter (capacity 10) for the night. The next day, continue 6.4 miles to Big Branch Shelter. If you prefer to continue, walk .4 miles to Little Rock Pond tenting area, which also has excellent swimming at Little Rock Pond. In the morning hike 5.9 miles to reach Vt. 140.
Cooley Glen-Emily Proctor Trails:
This hike through the Breadloaf Wilderness bags three peaks along a section of the Long Trail; Mount Cleveland (elev. 3,471”), Mount Roosevelt (elev. 3,520”) and Mount Wilson (elev. 3,763”). From a shared campsite at the end of Forest Road 54, the Cooley Glen and Emily Proctor trails both intersect the Long Trail. From the trailhead, the Cooley Glen Trail turns left and follows an extension of Forest Road 201. It crosses the New Haven River on a bridge, then stays on the north bank of the river and enters the Breadloaf Wilderness. The trail ascends the western flank of Mount Cleveland and meets the Long Trail just south of the Cooley Glen Shelter at 3.4 miles. Maximum elevation change is 1460 feet. Average hiking time is 2 ¼ to 3 ¾ hours.
The Emlily Proctor Trail turns right from the trailhead and ascends an old woods road that enters the Breadloaf Wilderness. The trail leaves the old road, staying on the west side of the New Haven River, and crosses a small river before making a steep and rocky ascent to the clearing in front of the Emily Proctor Shelter at 3.7 miles. Maximum elevation change is 1820 feet. Average hiking time is 2 ½ – 3 hours.
After meeting the Long Trail, the terrain is an intermediate to difficult 5.7 miles to either of the two shelters, Cooley Glen (capacity 8) or Emily Proctor (capacity 5).
Directions: From Middlebury, travel south on Route 7 to Route 125 east. Travel east on Route 125 for 6.6 miles, and turn left onto Forest Road 59. Travel 4.7 miles on FR 59 to its intersection with Forest Road 54, and turn right onto FR 54.
Overnight hike on the Long Trail from Vt. 103 to U.S. 4 up Mt. Killington
Pick up the Long Trail from Vt. 103 at the Clarendon Gorge. Hike over the gorge and continue on to Gould Brook. Be wary of the water level — in the wet season crossing this brook is hazardous. If necessary, backtrack to Cold River Road, head east to Upper Cold River Road, and then west back to the Long Trail. The trail leads past Governor Clement Shelter, which makes a good resting stop for the night after a hike of 6.8 miles. If desired, continue on to Cooper Lodge to spend the night (an additional 4.3 miles).
From Cooper Lodge, a two-mile spur takes hikers up to the peak of Mt. Killington at 4,241 feet, where you can stop at the Peak Lodge for a break. Follow the Long Trail down to Pico Camp and 2.9 miles to Rt. 4 at the Inn at Long Trail. 17.4 miles in total.
Directions: The AT/LT crosses VT 103 at the Green Mountain RR crossing by Clarendon Gorge 2.2 miles east of Route 7, and 7.7 miles east of Rutland and 3 miles west of Cuttingsville. There is a large dirt parking lot on the south side of the highway.
Self-guided hikes with outfitters
Vermont Inn-to-Inn Hiking Tour, Wonder Walks
This self-guided itinerary can run anywhere from two to seven days and is of moderate difficulty, covering 8-12 miles a day through forest, ridge and valley terrain. Among the highlights of the trip are Silver Lake, Rattlesnake Cliffs, which offer views of Lake Dunmore and the distant Champlain Valley, Robert Frost’s summer cabin and Interpretative Trail, parts of the Long Trail, the Ripton and Warren Village Stores, and the towns of Middlebury and Brandon. There are many hiking options available to choose from depending on ability and conditions of the terrain at the time. Inns include options such as Chipman Inn in Ripton, Blueberry Hill Inn in Goshen, Inn on the Green in Middlebury, Inn on Park Street in Brandon and the Huntington House in Rochester
$300 per person, per day, summer, $400 per person, per day, foliage
Vermont Fresh Tour, Inn to Inn
This self-guided tour requires some shuttling by car, as the inns are too far apart or trailheads too remote to walk to. Guests are given several hiking trail descriptions each day offering a choice of an easy hike (under 5 miles), a 6- to 9-mile moderate hike, or a challenging hike, often a portion of the Long Trail. Among these selections are options such as hiking Mt. Abraham on the Long Trail, portions of the Appalachian Trail to Dupuis Hill, Thistle Hill and Bunker Hill, with views of the White River Valley.
The Vermont Fresh Tour features inns part of the farmer-chef cooperative Vermont Fresh Network and include: the October Country Inn, Red Clover Inn, Lilac Inn and the Inn at Baldwin Creek.
Cost: 4 nights: $775 per person double occupancy summer, $895 foliage.
The Vermont Appalachian
This itinerary combines day hikes on both the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail in the central and southern part of the state. This three-night trip covers moderate terrain with higher peaks like Killington for more experienced hikers. For accommodations, hikers will stay at the Crisanver House, the Red Clover Inn and the October Country Inn.
Cost: 3 nights $595 per person double occupancy summer, $695 foliage