Are you a Vermont hiker that has never hiked one of the state’s beautiful 4,000’ mountains? Or, are you not a hiker yet because the mountains seem intimidating and you don’t know where to start? Whether you want to hike in northern or southern Vermont, we have the hiking plan for you – try our Couch to Camel’s Hump or Couch to Killington Challenge! (Inspired by the Couch to 5k Running Program.)
Join the adventure with this 6-week challenge that will help get you off the couch and guide you from easy hikes through increasing mileage, elevation gain, and terrain difficulty until you are ready to hike one of Vermont’s historic mountains, either the iconic Camel’s Hump or Killington Peak, aka the “beast of the east.” You can use our suggested hikes (below), or choose similar ones that may be closer to home.
Week 1: Start easy! Choose a trail that has low mileage (think 1-3 miles); little to no elevation gain; smooth, easy terrain; and easy to follow signage. Most Vermont towns have great local trail systems that come in the form of town forests, multi-use recreation paths, rail trails, or parks.
Weeks 2+3: For the next couple of weeks, try some trails that are around 3-5 miles in length with a little bit more elevation gain. We want those legs to start getting used to going uphill! Once trails start to gain more elevation, they usually start to get more technical with more rocks and roots to navigate as well.
Weeks 4+5: It is time to ramp up the difficulty. Aim for smaller peaks over 2500’ in elevation and trails over 5 miles. These trails will generally have steeper terrain, bigger rocks, and some may even require hand over hand scrambles.
Week 6: If you made it through the first five weeks with ease, you are ready for your final challenge: a Vermont 4,000 footer!
Suggested Hikes for Couch to Camel’s Hump
- Week 1: Camel’s Hump View Trail, Duxbury; Green Mountain Audubon Nature Center, Huntington; Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail, St. Albans; Burlington Greenway, Burlington; Preston Pond Trails, Richmond; The Short Trail at GMC Headquarters, Waterbury Center; Hubbard Park, Montpelier
- Weeks 2+3: Duxbury Window, Duxbury; Stowe Pinnacle, Stowe; Sterling Pond Trail, Cambridge; Wheeler Mountain, Barton
- Weeks 4+5: Hunger Mountain, Waterbury; Worcester Mountain, Worcester; Mount Pisgah, Westmore; Belvidere Mountain, Lowell
- Week 6: Suggested Loops to summit Camel’s Hump:
- 5.8 miles round trip via Burrows Trail to Long Trail South to Forest City Trail, Huntington
- 7.4 miles round trip via Monroe Trail to Long Trail South to Dean Trail to Monroe Trail, Duxbury
Suggested Hikes for Couch to Killington
- Week 1: Long Trail to Little Rock Pond, Mt Tabor; Delaware and Hudson Rail Trail, Castleton; Cross Vermont Trail, Groton; Mount Peg, Woodstock; Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park, Woodstock
- Weeks 2+3: Deer Leap-Appalachian Trail Loop, Killington; Black Mountain, Dummerston; Harmon Hill, Bennington; Long Trail to White Rocks, Wallingford
- Week 4+5: Stratton Mountain, Stratton; Bromley Mountain, Manchester; Mount Ascutney, Windsor; Ludlow Mountain, Healdville; Mount Equinox, Manchester; Pico Peak, Killington
- Week 6: Suggested routes up Killington:
- 7.4 miles round trip via Bucklin Trail to Long Trail South to Summit Spur, Mendon
- 11.6 miles round trip via Sherburne Pass Trail to Long Trail South to Summit Spur, Killington
All suggested hikes in Week 1 of the challenges below can be found in The Walker’s Guide to Vermont. All other suggested hikes can be found in the Day Hiker’s Guide to Vermont. Some trails may also be found on GMC’s maps. Make sure you are comfortable with the hikes you are doing before taking the next step up in difficulty.
Aside from maps and guidebooks, you can always get hiking advice and recommendations by calling GMC’s Visitor Center at 802-244-7037 or emailing [email protected]. And don’t forget to join our Facebook Group to learn from other hikers!
This article was originally posted in June 2019 and has been updated for 2020.