Editor’s Note: Alicia DiCocco is Director of Development & Communications at the Green Mountain Club and a hiking enthusiast. For more than 100 years, the GMC has worked to maintain and protect Vermont’s beloved Long Trail system.
DiCocco is one of the speakers at an upcoming Town Hall by COVID Support VT, “Let’s Get Outside: Recreational Opportunities in Vermont” (April 27, 6:30 p.m.)
Hiking has always been an integral part of who I am and how I spend my free time. It helps me connect to nature and disconnect from the increasingly virtual world around me. During the Covid pandemic, this has been especially important as I navigate working remotely with two children at home. (Including one who makes frequent appearances throughout my video calls, either to show off his most recent block creation or to climb on my head during a meeting, because that’s his entertainment these days.)
Get Above the Chaos: Hike Vermont
One of my favorite experiences from this winter was in March when my husband and I climbed Camel’s Hump. We had the perfect summit trifecta: no wind, few people, and warm weather. It was truly peaceful, and I almost felt that I could look down at the chaos below me and breathe in moments of peace on the summit that day. After a long winter of social distancing and remote working, I am really looking forward to spending more time on the trails and especially on the summits once hiking season begins.
I also know it’s important to do my part to respect the trails and mountains, which at this time of year means finding places like dirt roads and low-elevation trails that are dry and have more durable surfaces. Hiking on wet and muddy trails, especially at higher elevations, compacts the soil and makes the trails susceptible to erosion and other damage.
Save the Trails and Hit These Alt-Spots During Mud Season
Luckily, we can still have fun during mud season and the communications team at the Green Mountain Club has worked diligently over the past few months in preparation for this muddy and variable time of year to ensure we can all benefit from the Green Mountains. During mud season, the Green Mountain Club discourages hiking above 2,500 feet because those trails are especially vulnerable to damage, but our staff has compiled alternatives to five iconic Vermont hikes, and I personally can’t wait to try them out.
Camel’s Hump Alternative Hike, in Stowe
» 5.84 total miles, approx. 689 ft elevation gain
If you are looking for the mileage of Camel’s Hump, try linking up three of Stowe Land Trust’s mud season friendly trail systems in one day. Start with the Mill Trail for a 1.5-mile round trip hike to the beautiful Bingham Falls. Then head to Wiessner Woods to hike the 1.84 mile outer loop. End your day by hiking the outer loop of Kirchner Woods for another 2.5 miles. You may not find the grand views of Camel’s Hump, but you will find endless wildflowers, explore different ecosystems, and see beautiful waterfalls all in one day.
Mount Mansfield Alternative, in Stowe
» 8.8 mi round trip, approx. 2500 ft elevation gain
If you want the views and elevation gain of Mansfield, try hiking the Toll Road 4.4 miles to the ridgeline. Although it won’t bring you to the summit, you still have approximately 2500’ of elevation gain and amazing views of Smuggler’s Notch.
Mount Ellen Alternative Hike, in Waitsfield
» 5 mi round trip, approx. 2,036 ft elevation gain
Looking to summit a Vermont 4,000’er like Mount Ellen? Instead hike the Stark Mountain Trail to the Stark’s Nest warming hut for approximately 5 miles round trip and 2,036′ of elevation gain. The trail follows a service road from the Mad River Glen Single Chair loading station. When you reach the Long Trail, head north for a short distance to reach the Stark’s Nest warming hut for some amazing views.
Mount Abraham Alternative, in Charlotte
» 4.8 mi round trip, approx. 1200 ft elevation gain
Are you seeking a mountain that will help you condition for bigger mountains like Mount Abraham? Hike the Mt. Philo access road loop 2 times for a total of 4.8 miles and approx. 1,200 ft of elevation gain. You will get your blood flowing as well as find some amazing views.
Killington Peak Alternative Hike, in Windsor
» 7.4 mi round trip, approx. 2,300 ft elevation gain
If you are yearning for a big adventure like Killington, instead try the Ascutney Parkway for a total of 7.4 miles roundtrip and 2,300′ of elevation gain. The paved toll road that winds up the side of Mount Ascutney provides long mileage, nice views, and the elevation gain that can be hard to find during mud season.
Want Something More Leisurely? Try These
If you’re looking for more leisurely hikes or walks for this season and beyond, Green Mountain Club has you covered there as well with accessible trails, low-elevation paths, and other hike recommendations to match whatever you are looking for. Here are some low-elevation hikes to consider: https://www.greenmountainclub.org/hiking/hikevt/mud-season-mileage-hikes-vermont/
Remember, trail conditions can change rapidly this time of year. You can always call or email the Green Mountain Club’s visitor center staff for up-to-date information. And follow us on social media to connect with other hikers. On Facebook, join the Long Trail Hiking – GMC Community Facebook Group
Learn More Ways to Get Outside in Vermont
Learn about more ways to get outside in Vermont from Alicia and outdoor enthusiasts from Vermont outdoors organizations at the April 27 Town Hall, “Let’s Get Outside: Recreational Opportunities in Vermont.” The full line-up of speakers includes:
- Alicia DiCocco, Director of Development & Communications – Green Mountain Club
- Alison Novak, Managing Editor – Kids VT
- Russell Hirschler, Executive Director – Upper Valley Trails Alliance
- Claire Polfus, Project Manager – Center for Community GIS
- Elisabeth Fenn, Conservation Program Manager – Stowe Land Trust
- Sharon Harper, Marketing Manager – Stowe Area Association
- Jessica Savage, Recreation Program Manager – Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation
You can watch recordings of past Town Halls, on Chittenden County Housing Assistance and Food Access in the Northeast Kingdom, here.