Let’s HikeVT! These easy, moderate, and difficult hikes are in the Appalachian Gap area in Central VT. Two start at the App Gap parking lot, while one starts nearby in Huntington. Our accessible recommendation this week is in Raven Ridge Natural Area in Monkton, managed by our friends at The Nature Conservancy.
- Beane Trail to Birch Glen Shelter– EASY
- Molly Stark’s Balcony – MODERATE
- Theron Dean Shelter – DIFFICULT
- Raven Ridge Natural Area – EASY, ACCESSIBLE
From Beane Trail Parking Lot on Carse Road:
Birch Glen Shelter via Beane Trail – EASY
» 2.8 mi round trip, approx. 600 ft elevation gain
The Beane Trail comes is a favorite of 5-year old Lincoln, who enjoys hiking it with his dad Jason (GMC’s Director of Finance). It’s also a great option for first time backpackers! From the parking area, walk past the iron gate and follow a farm road through open woods until an intersection where the Beane Trail transitions to a more traditional hiking trail. From here, the Beane Trail ascends at a gentle, steady pitch to Birch Glen Shelter.
Driving Directions to Beane Trail parking lot:
From Bristol: Head north on VT-116 N/VT-17 E. At split, turn right on VT-17 E. After 6.9 mi, turn right on Gore Rd. After 2.9 mi, turn right on Carse Rd. At Moody Rd, take a quick right then quick left to stay on Carse Rd. After passing a large farm on your right, park by an iron gate on your left (do not block gate).
From Waitsfield: Follow VT-17 W up and over Appalachian Gap. 2.7 mi after height of gap, turn right on Gore Rd. After 2.9 mi, turn right on Carse Rd. At Moody Rd, take a quick right then quick left to stay on Carse Rd. After passing a large farm on your right, park by an iron gate on your left (do not block gate).
From Appalachian Gap parking lot:
Molly Stark’s Balcony via the Long Trail – MODERATE
» 2.6 mi round trip, approx. 590 ft elevation gain
While this trail’s stats may appear easier than the Beane Trail’s, the route to the Balcony is a rugged walk on rolling terrain. From the parking lot, head north on the Long Trail. You’ll cross Baby Stark Mountain and Molly Stark Mountain before a final short descent to the Balcony on the north slope of Molly Stark Mtn. The Balcony features a lovely northward view.
Fun fact: Molly Stark Mountain and Balcony are named after Elizabeth “Molly” Paige Stark. Molly Stark recruited men to fight for the Americans in the Battle of Bennington in 1977, contributing to the Americans’ victory. She also treated soldiers with smallpox and opened her home as a hospital to treat both American and British soldiers who’d been wounded. General Stark Mountain on the south side of App Gap is named after her husband John Stark.
Theron Dean Shelter via the Long Trail – DIFFICULT
» 3.6 mi round trip, approx. 1,285 ft elevation gain
This adventurous hike steeply climbs from Appalachian Gap and brings you up ladders, through caves, and to beautiful northward and eastward views. The trailhead is directly across the street from the western edge of the parking lot and may be partially obscured by tall grass.
The trail passes by the Sunnyside Trail and a chairlift that is part of Mad River Glen Ski area before reaching the sign for Theron Dean Shelter. Just before the shelter sign, you will see a sign for Theron Dean Cave on your right. This rock scramble can bring you to the shelter via a very short alternate loop. Whichever way you choose for the final stretch, the small log shelter is the perfect spot to rest and eat lunch with a view before the steep descent back to the trailhead.
Driving Directions to Long Trail/Appalachian Gap Parking Lot:
From Waitsfield: Follow VT-17 W from VT-100. Ascend steeply to the height of Appalachian Gap. Parking lot is on right side of road just over crest of gap.
From Bristol: Head north on VT-116 N/VT-17 E. At split, turn right on VT-17 E. Follow VT-17 E and ascend steeply to the height of Appalachian Gap. Parking lot is on left side of road just before crest of gap.
In Raven Ridge Natural Area:
Raven Ridge Accessible Boardwalk and Trail – EASY, ACCESSIBLE
We’re happy to occasionally recommend trails managed by other conservation agencies, like this one at a Nature Conservancy property in Monkton, VT!
From the Nature Conservancy’s website: The Raven Ridge Natural Area features “a new universally accessible boardwalk. The boardwalk spans 935 feet over a sensitive wetland and leads to a 748-foot accessible trail, creating a third of a mile of access for visitors of all physical abilities.”
NOTE: For information, including maps and possible trail closures, please call 802-229-4425 or visit https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/places-we-protect/raven-ridge/.
Driving Directions to Raven Ridge Natural Area:
From Burlington: Head south on VT-7 S. Pass the turn for Mt. Philo and take a left on Old Hollow Rd. After 1.9 mi, take a slight left on Rotax Rd. After 2 mi, park in dirt lot on your right. Trail begins on left/north side of road.
From Waitsfield: Follow VT-17 W up and over Appalachian Gap. At intersection with VT-116, turn left on VT-116 S/VT-17W. In Bristol, turn right on North St. Continue north into Monkton Ridge, then turn left onto Baldwin Rd/Davis Rd. Take first left onto Rotax Rd. After 1.7 mi, park in dirt lot on your left. Trail begins on right/north side of road.
Where to eat and drink nearby:
- Hyde Away Inn for dinner, after-hike beers, and thru-hiker friendly lodging
- The Swanson Inn for their specialty homemade pies and quiches
- Mad River Barn for dinner and after-hike beers
- Lawson’s Finest Liquids Tap Room for light pub food and after-hike beers
- Canteen Creemee Company for creemees and snack bar food
- Jerusalem Corners Country Store in Jerusalem for to-go breakfast and lunch sandwiches
- The Bobcat Café in Bristol for dinner
- Hillsboro Sugarworks for syrup, gifts, and walking trails