12 Hikes to Views

f you have a few hours, or even a few days, head for the hills. Here are a dozen hikes that range from popular to rarely traveled, from easy to epic. What they have in common is the promise of a view from the top—something that not all trails in our forested state can deliver on. Did we leave some obvious ones out? Like Mt. Mansfield? Camel’s Hump? Mt. Philo and Snake Mountain?  Sure. But you know those. Any others? Send us your favorites. For all the beta on these others visit our website, vtsports.com  to links to the trail descriptions online.  All distances are round-trip (or out and back) and we’ve rated these from easy (*) to epic (*****).  


1. Haystack Mountain, Wilmington.  *

Length: 4.5 miles. Trail: Though it can draw crowds, Haystack Mountain is a must-hike if you are in the southern part of the state. It’s a short, twisting, two-mile hike from the trailhead to the summit. There, you can see the entire Deerfield Valley, New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock, the Haystack Pond and Mount Snow. Part of the hike is on snowmobile trail and most of it on Green Mountain National Forest land.  Getting there: the trailhead is off Chimney Hills Road in Wilmington.


2. Glastenbury Mountain,  Bennington. ****

Length: 21 miles. Trail: If you want the biggest, best views of wilderness in Vermont – and are ready to make an overnighter, or two-night trek, head down the Long Trail toward the fire tower on Glastenbury Mountain. The trail is steep and you will be well away from roads and town so come prepared. There are several campsites along the way. The reward, a view from the firetower over more than 36 square miles of uninterrupted forest and 12 peaks over 3,000 feet. Glastenbury itself is 3,748. You can loop back on the West Ridge trail. Getting there: the well-marked trailhead is on Route 9, 5.2 miles east of Bennington and 15.8 miles west of Wilmington.


3. Stratton Mountain, Stratton**

Length: 6.8 miles; 9 miles with Stratton Pond loop. Trail: This classic section of the Appalachian/Long Trail begins at a gradual ascent from the parking area through a mixed hard/softwood forest. 

At 1.4 miles the trail crosses Forest Road 341 and begins a steeper climb up the mountain. The trail flattens out while following a ridgeline, then climbs again using switchbacks. At the summit of Stratton Mountain, you can climb a fire tower with views of Somerset Reservoir and Mount Snow to the south; to the southwest, Glastonbury Mountain; to the west, Mount Equinox and the Taconic Range. You can return the way you came, or you can extend the hike for a possible overnight trip by continuing from the summit to Stratton Pond and then follow the Stratton Pond Trail 4.6 miles back to the parking lot. Getting there: Turn off Route 100 to the Arlington-West Wardsboro Road (also known as the Kelly Stand Road, the street sign reads Stratton-Arlington Rd.). Head west on Arlington-West Wardsboro Road for 7.1 miles to a large parking area on the north side of the road. The trailhead is marked by a United States Forest Service (USFS) sign.


4. Mount Ascutney via Weathersfield Trail, Ascutney**

Length: 5.7 miles. Trail: The moderately Weathersfield Trail climbs through Ascutney State Park past waterfalls under hardwood canopy, passing scenic outlooks and geological features unique to Vermont. At the summit, the watchtower rewards hikers with views of, New Hampshire’s White Mountains and the Berkshires in Massachusetts. Getting there: Take exit 8 (Ascutney off I-91 to Vermont 131 west.) Drive 3.3 miles to Cascade Falls Road and turn right. Bear left at the fork and continue to a right turn .3 miles later. Drive up a short, steep hill to the parking lot and the Ascutney State park information board.


5. Deer Leap Mountain, Mendon. *

Length: 2 miles. Trail: This is an easy day hike that includes portions of the Long and Appalachian trails, as well as a side trail that leads to stunning views of Pico Mountain from the Deer Leap Cliffs. The cliffs are a popular rock-climbing area as well. The hike starts on the north side of US 4 and follows the blue-blazed Sherburne Pass trail until a junction at .5 miles. Continue on the Appalachian Trail until another junction for the Deer Leap Trail just a few steps further, which will bring you to the cliffs. Getting there: From Rutland, drive east on U.S. Route 4 for about 9 miles, driving past the sign for Pico resort, until you arrive at the Inn at the Long Trail at the top of Sherburne Pass. The parking lot is on the right side of the road (facing east.)

6. Mount Moosalamoo, Salisbury**

Length: 5.8 miles  Trail: A classic hike with views of the Champlain Valley and Lake Dunmore, the trails around Mount Moosalamoo in the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area can make for an exciting day hike or an overnight trip. The Moosalamoo trail starts at the Silver Lake/Falls of Lana trailhead parking lot just 1/8 mile south of the Branbury State Park entrance. The trail passes the plunging falls before it crosses the north branch of Voter Brook and climbs to the Oak Ridge Trail at 2.5 miles, a climb of 1,530 feet. The summit of Mt. Moosalamoo is 0.4 miles south on the Oak Ridge Trail. The trail goes past Rattlesnake Cliffs with spectacular views of beautiful Lake Dunmore, Fern Lake and Silver Lake, as well as the Champlain Valley, Adirondacks and peaks to the south. Other hikes, or mountain biking, along Chandler Ridge and camping at Silver Lake’s designated sites can make this area good for multiple day excursions. Getting there: Follow Route 53 around Lake Dunmore to Branbury State Park is on the east side of Lake Dunmore and home to a cozy campground. Rock climbing on solid 80-foot cliffs is nearby. The trailhead is just south of the park.


7. Battell Trail to Mount AbE,
Lincoln ***

Length: 5.8 miles. Trail: Mount Abraham via the Battell Trail is a 5.8-mile round trip but with a 2,500-foot elevation gain. The trail reaches the Long Trail just below the Battell Shelter. The route then follows the Long Trail north up some steep grades of exposed bedrock before reaching more open views at the summit. After chilly weather, watch for icy patches on the steeper ledges just below the summit. Looking north, you can see, Mount Mansfield, Mount Ellen and Camel’s Hump. To the south are Mount Grant, the Breadloaf Wilderness and west to Lake Champlain. The summit of Sugarbush South (Lincoln Peak) is just a half-mile to the east along the Long Trail. Getting there: From Lincoln, travel north on Quaker Street. Turn right Alder Hill Road and continue onto US Forest Road 350. After two miles, parking is on the right. An alternative route is to go to the top of Lincoln Gap, park and take the Long Trail for two miles to the summit; it’s slightly shorter and less steep.


8. Braintree Mountain, Braintree **

Length: 4 miles. Trail: One of the newest projects of the Rochester/Randolph Sports Trails Alliance has been to put in a “Trail Hub” in downtown Randolph and to map the growing number of backcountry ski glades, mountain biking and hiking trails in the Braintree Mountain Forest. 

The Braintree Range has four peaks: Round Top, Twin Peaks, Skidoo, and Braintree which tops out at 3030 (hence the nickname, 30-30). The view from Braintree Mountain is the stunner, with vistas across the Greens and to the Whites. From the trailhead, take the Haul Road up to the Bell Gates cabin (a winter warming hut for backcountry skiers) and from there, tak the Skidoo trail up to the summit. Or, for a longer hike, take Thunder Mountain Trail to the Braintree Mountain Trail. Signate is still limited so it’s best to bring a trail map.Getting there: Stop in at the Hub (located next to The Gear Shop) in Randolph. The trailhead kiosk is at 2576 Riford Brook Rd. in Braintree.


9. Owl’s Head, Peacham *

Length: 3.6 miles. Trail: One of the most photographed scenes in Vermont – rolling hills, vibrant foliage and ponds tucked in the folds of ancient granite – is just a short hike, the last part on stone steps built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. To get to the flat, rocky outcrop that delivers these views, is just a 1.8 mile hike, one way. At the top, the vast expanse of the rest of New Discovery State Park, Groton State Forest, Lake Groton and Kettle Pond unfold below. While this trail is often popular on weekends, go during the week and you could have it to yourself. There are lots of places to camp, including paddle-to sites on Kettle Pond. Getting there: From VT-232 take the New Discovery State Park road leading to Osmore Pond and the parking lot is off the road. There is a second lot farther up if that is full.


10. Mount Hunger, Waterbury Center ****

Length: 4.4. miles.  Trail: This out-and-back hike is a short drive from Waterbury Center and gains 2,300 feet in a straight shot to the summit, meaning you gain elevation with every step. The 3,539-foot high summit features views of the Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump to the west and Groton State Forest to the east. On clear days, you can see as far as the Presidential Range in New Hampshire. Accessible, short and popular, it’s a great half-day or shorter hike for most. If you want to make a day of it, leave a shuttle vehicle at the Pinnacle parking area and hike the Skyline ridgeline north 6.4 miles to the Pinnacle trail. Getting there: From the town of Waterbury, head north on Vermont 100 and take the first right after the Ben & Jerry’s Factory onto Guptil Road. After .9 miles, take the next right onto Kneeland Flats, which turns into Ripley Road. At the intersection with Sweet Road, turn right. Trailhead parking is on the right.

11. Mount Hor, Sutton ***

Length: 5.4 miles Trail: While the summit of this peak is wooded, the trail leads to two breath-taking vantage points on the cliffs, with views of Vermont’s deepest lake below, Lake Willoughby. Carved by glaciers, Mount Hor’s unique characteristic is its sheer rock face which drops into Lake Willoughby, then plunges another 312 feet to the lake bottom. The cliffs have been designated as a National Natural Landmark. From the parking area, the trail follows a hillside walk through maples and nettles to a junction at .7 miles. From here, hike uphill on the faintly-blazed West Branch Trail to the wooded summit.

Return to the trail junction and follow the East Branch/Wheeler Pond Trail along the ridgeline to the overlooks above Lake Willoughby. As an alternative, you can hike Mount Pisgah, with parking just a short distance away from the Mount Hor trailhead. Getting there: To reach the Hawkes Trailhead, follow the CCC road from the Mount Pisgah South Trail parking lot. Bear right at a fork and continue to the trailhead 1.8 miles from Vermont 5A. There is a small parking area on the right.


12. Kingdom Heritage Trails, Canaan ***

Length: Variable. Trails: Less than a year old, the Kingdom Heritage Trail network links together several trails in the region to form a network of over 20 miles of trails. For a starter taste of the area and stunning views of the Nulhegan Basin, take the Bluff Mountain Community Trail from Island Pond, to Lookout Junction and the Lookout Trail – a moderate 2.6-miles that lollipops its way through the Brighton State Forest with a variety of hard and softwoods.  Upper Lookout Trail to the summit is steep and has metal handholds so be prepared. The trail also connects to the Gore Mountain Trail and Middle Ridge trails, which offer limited views.  The new trail system is managed by the Green Mountain Club and the Northwoods Stewardship Center. Getting there:  From Island Pond head north on VT 105 for 0.3 miles. Turn left onto Curran Avenue and continue for 0.2 miles. Turn right onto Mountain Street and continue for about 0.5 miles after the road turns to dirt. 😕 

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