Parts of this description were excerpted from “The Short Trail: A Footpath Through History” with text and editing by Matt Larson, Julia Grand-Doucet, and Susan Shea.
A hike on the Long Trail can sound intimidating to some people, but the Short Trail might be the perfect introduction for those wanting to experience what the Long Trail is all about. The Short Trail is a half-mile interpretive trail located at the Green Mountain Club’s headquarters in Waterbury Center.
Like the Long Trail, it is a journey through time, a ramble through ages of ice and snow back to the days of jagged young mountains. It is marked by the same rectangular white blazes found on the Long Trail. They are painted at regular intervals on trees and posts to guide hikers along the trail. As the trail twists through forest and field, it encircles six acres of land. There are eight information stations along the way to help you envision the cycles of the landscape and the stories that Vermont’s lands hold.
The forces that shaped the Long Trail’s diverse landscape were at work here, as well. As you walk along the Short Trail the contours of rundown stone walls, abandoned beaver dams, tall pine trees, oddly-placed boulders, twisted apple trees, and aged mountains combine to tell a story of place.
Hikers may catch a glimpse of a deer bounding through the woods or see the tracks of a coyote imprinted into the mud. Puncheon and bridges help elevate the trail over notoriously wet areas and streams. Though there is little elevation gain, a few rocks and roots provide interesting obstacles that even the youngest hiker can navigate.
The original Journey’s End Shelter also resides on the Short Trail. The four-sided shelter was built in 1933 and, until 2004, was the last overnight site on the Long Trail System before reaching the Canadian border. Although overnight use is not permitted, Short Trail hikers can go inside to get a sense of what it is like to spend a night on the Long Trail.
It is a lovely place to witness the rotation of seasons that causes sap to flow in trees, birds to migrate, fish to spawn, and wildflowers to bloom. With each season, a new environment emerges. False Hellebore and Trillium line the streams in early spring. Summer’s warm weather allows for a leisurely hike followed by a lunch at the picnic tables. Abundant species of mushrooms line the trail during the fall. Winter brings feet of snow that is perfect for snowshoeing.
Whether you are new to hiking or just need a quick immersion into nature, the Short Trail is a place for everyone to enjoy.