On July 10, 2023 Vermont experienced historic rainfall and widespread flooding. 24-hour rainfall totals ranged from 3-7+ inches, with the highest totals concentrated along the spine of the Green Mountains. The Winooski River flooded over in several places, and many mountain communities experienced widespread flooding and damage. Here we compile trail updates from the July 2023 flood.
GMC pulled all field staff (caretakers and trail crews) from the field beginning on Sunday, July 9, in anticipation of the weather event. On Wednesday and Thursday, July 12-13, crews conducted a rapid trail assessment to determine road and trailhead access in popular areas and baseline bridge inspection. A full account of conditions and damage to the Long Trail System will take some time.
For those looking to support flood relief efforts in affected communities, here are some ways you can help.
Thursday, August 24: The Long Trail through the Winooski Valley farm fields is now reopened! Thank you to the volunteers who replaced missing and overturned stiles over the electric fences in this area.
Trail Updates from Vermont 2023 Flood
Trail, Shelter, and Bridge Closure Updates as of Thursday, August 24
- Bamforth Ridge shelter is closed. The foundation is structurally unsound due to rainfall damage. There are a few tent platforms at the site, and Montclair Glen is 5.5 miles to the south, and Buchanan Shelter is 12 miles north.
- The Lamoille River suspension bridge is now open, with a new route through the high water channel marked with flagging. This replaces the scramble up the bank.
- Peru Peak Shelter bridge (just north of the shelter) remains closed. There is a temporary walk-around established while further assessment is completed to determine if the bridge needs permanent closure. Please follow the signage.
- The Forest City Trail bridge remains closed.
- The Gulf Stream bridge on the Appalachian Trail at Route 12 has an extremely washed out approach, but the bridge structure remains safe and passable. Do not attempt to ford the stream.
Road Access Closures as of 1 p.m., Tuesday, July 18, 2023 – for updates please check directly with municipalities. If you have an update on one of these roads, please submit it here.
- Road access (Gilman Road) to Governor Clement Shelter is closed.
- Forest Road 10 is closed to through traffic due to a previous washout. The LT/AT trailhead is accessible from the west.
- Kelley Stand Road is currently partially open, is down to one lane of traffic in spots.
- Cold River Road LT/AT is closed from the west side.
- County Road in Stamford is impassable. You can reach the LT/AT trailhead there via Klondike Road from North Adams (medium clearance necessary)
See all Trail Updates here.
Hiking FAQs Post-Flood
This guidance is up to date as of July 20, 2023.
Can I go (day) hiking?
We advise all hikers to proceed with caution and use careful judgement. The trails will be muddy and the rocks on the trails will likely be wet. Turning around if you encounter mud or walking directly through it will help prevent erosion or trail widening. Also, it takes longer to hike through muddy conditions, so plan accordingly.
Keep in mind that emergency resources are stressed – if you have even a minor injury in the backcountry, you may face long wait times or unavailable crews, and may be taking emergency services away from areas that have high needs.
Allow for more travel time to and from your hike. Many of the roads used to get to our beloved hikes are dirt roads, or dead-end roads. With the ongoing rain, we are seeing reports of new damage almost daily. Please check road conditions before you leave and allow time to follow a detour if necessary.
Update (August 28, 2023): Trails statewide are extremely muddy, rivaling conditions typically seen during mud season. Please follow mud season best practices:
- Turn around if you encounter intense mud you do not want to walk through
- If you do continue, hike directly through the mud. Hiking around it widens the trail and exacerbates erosion and trampling.
- Use durable surfaces like rocks, logs, or boardwalk (puncheon) when available.
- Consider waterproof shoes/boots, gaiters, and trekking poles for stability. Pack extra socks!
Do I need to cancel my thru hike?
Thru hikers should take stock of the situation and risks and make the best decision for themselves. Overall, the trail system fared well during this storm. A few things to consider:
Anytime you enter the backcountry, you assume some risk. Starting a thru hike in the next few weeks will elevate that level of risk given the current conditions. Though we did not see widespread damage to the trails and facilities, there is a heightened risk of even small amounts of rain causing damage or creating dangerous hiking conditions given our saturated soil and high water levels. Search and Rescue resources may be limited, as well as road access.
Many trailside communities experienced significant destruction and will be in recovery mode for a long time. Providing services to and welcoming thru hikers will not be top of mind. It may be more challenging, but not impossible, to hitchhike, arrange rides, and find stores and hostels. Plan your resupply and off-trail days accordingly. Consider providing extra financial support to the communities impacted by this flooding.
Hiking through muddy, saturated trails can exacerbate erosion and widening. If you choose to continue your hike, plan for extremely muddy conditions. This can slow down the pace of hiking, so plan accordingly. Have a reliable way to stay informed about changing conditions and weather (like a cell phone with backup chargers AND a satellite device that can receive messages).
I thought the storms were over. Why do I need to keep up to date?
We have overly saturated soils and some of the highest river levels on record. Things will not dry out overnight, and there is more rain in the forecast. These conditions increase the chances of further flash floods, mudslides, washouts, and generally risky conditions. Plus, state emergency resources are taxed and backcountry rescue may be low on the priority list or more challenging due to conditions.
In the longer-term, severe weather is becoming more common in Vermont because of climate change.
How long will the closures last?
A few small sections of trail, access roads, and pieces of infrastructure are closed due to flooding and damage. Those include the Long Trail through the Winooski Valley farm fields. Even if waters have receded, please avoid these areas until further notice. We will need time to conduct another assessment after active flooding has abated before we can reopen these sections. Right now all closures have manageable reroutes in place. Follow along here for more information.
Can I volunteer to help clean up the trails?
Thank you for your interest in helping the Long Trail recover from this event. Staff and established volunteers from our membership sections are still coordinating a thorough assessment of 500+ miles of trail. Large volunteer clean-up projects will likely be available in the future as we gain a comprehensive understanding of the system-wide needs. Please check our website and be on the lookout for emails with future volunteer clean-up projects.
There is a more pressing need for volunteers and support at the community level. The state of Vermont is mobilizing volunteers for coordinated efforts here: vermont.gov/volunteer. You can also read our recent blog for flood relief funds and local volunteer efforts.
What impact will this have on the trail long term?
We have been contending with and planning for the impacts of climate change for years now. We know that Vermont is getting warmer and wetter, with more severe rain events like the one we just saw becoming more common. To shore up the trail to weather these sorts of rain events, we need skilled crews to install durable trail structures, like stone staircases, checksteps, and waterbars (drainage) to funnel water off the trail in a controlled manner. New construction projects need to be designed, built, and maintained to handle higher frequency and intensity storm events.
How can I support impacted communities on the Long Trail and in Vermont?
You can offer on-the-ground support by registering as part of the state of Vermont’s volunteer pool to be dispatched to various volunteer efforts based off of your offered skills and where manpower is needed. You can also sign up for locally organized volunteer efforts in impacted areas and support and shop from local businesses.
Those unable to offer physical support or help locally can still contribute to recovering communities by donating to emergency funds and sharing these opportunities to help with family and friends.
Vermont Community Foundation’s Vermont Flood Response and Recovery Fund 2023
Northeast Organic Farming Association’s (NOFA) Farmer Emergency Fund
Read our recent blog for links to various flood relief funds and local volunteer efforts.
Does this storm have any impact on GMC operations and events?
Last week all field staff were pulled from their normal ranges and projects first for their safety, and then to conduct infrastructure assessments. This interrupted our tight schedule of trail maintenance projects. We may also have to further change the schedule to address high-priority storm-related impacts like blowdowns, washouts, and assessments.
All events and volunteer-guided hikes will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Keep up to date with those here: www.greenmountainclub.org/