Memorial Day Weekend marks the official start of hiking season, though early season conditions and some patches of snow and mud persist. New to hiking in Vermont, or need some inspiration to make it the best summer ever? Get started with this summer in Vermont hiking bucket list. Share what’s on your list in the comments!
Catch 360-degree views at sunrise on Camel’s Hump
There’s something magical about getting up well before dawn and chasing the sun to the sky. We love Camel’s Hump for sunrise because the undeveloped 4,000-foot peak offers 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape. On a clear day, you can see Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks to the west, peaks of the Green Mountains from the north and south, and all the way to New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Not all sunrise hikes are “successful,” i.e., result in perfectly clear skies streaked with pink and orange, but the attempt is always an adventure. Be prepared with headlamps or two, and warm clothes for the summit. Check mountain point forecasts and plan plenty of time to get to the summit, so you don’t rush and risk an injury. Other shorter, more accessible sunrise hikes can be found here.
Cool down mid-hike in one of Vermont’s best swimming holes
You can swim in many ponds along the Long Trail (Stratton, Little Rock, Griffith Lake, Sterling Pond, Ritterbush) or visit one of the beloved wild swimming holes throughout the state. Bingham Falls in Stowe is nestled at the base of a short, but steep rock staircase. Warren Falls in Warren is reached by a short path and has a few places to jump from the rocks into the cool water. There are countless other less-visited swimming holes that can be found with a little research. Swimming holes get crowded and many do not have restrooms or garbage cans, so please do your part to pack out your waste.
Hike the Short Trail and visit GMC’s Visitor Center
The Short Trail is a .5-mile interpretive trail that mimics the experience of hiking on the Long Trail, located at GMC’s Visitor Center and Headquarters on Route 100. You’ll see the same white blazes marking the trail, and an old Long Trail Shelter was even relocated to the Short Trail. Along the way, read about the landscape: discover elements of deer habitat, a beaver pond, and evidence of Vermont’s ice age. Before you go, stop in to the Visitor Center to check out maps, guidebooks, clothing, and souvenirs — and to plan your next hike!
Take a Wilderness First Aid course to refresh safety skills
Getting outdoors is even more fun when you also feel confident and prepared in the backcountry. Refresh or learn new safety skills by signing up for a Wilderness First Aid course— GMC is hosting the weekend-long class in June, August, and November, or check out the Solo Schools website for a class near you. Brush up on safety tips with GMC’s trip planning resources, bear safety blog post, and HikeSafe’s Hiker Responsibility Code.
Learn how to identify flowers, trees, or birdcalls
So many other forms of life share the trails and mountain tops with us. When out on a hike, how much wildlife and plant life do you recognize and know about? Take a hike on Mount Mansfield’s alpine zone and see how many plants you can identify after reading our blog, “Alpine ID: 15 Plants to Find Above Treeline.” Up your nature knowledge with the help of nature guides, like the Nature Guide to Vermont’s Long Trail and upcoming GMC-hosted workshops. There are also several free online resources like arborday.org’s What Tree is That? and Cornell Lab’s Merlin Bird ID app and webpage.
Overnight in a Long Trail shelter
Experience the Long Trail a bit more intimately by spending a night or two at one of the trail system’s 70+ backcountry shelters and campsites, each spaced approximately a moderate day’s hike apart. Shelters are a beloved part of trail infrastructure and history and provide a great place to meet other section, thru, and overnight hikers, as well the caretakers who work hard to maintain the sites. Enjoy an overnight at a shelter for free (there are no fees starting this year) but keep in mind space at shelters is first come, first served. Remember to pack out what you pack in and camp in designated areas and avoid building fires, as the Long Trail passes through various areas of private, federal, and state land.
Join a group hike to meet fellow hikers
Joining a group hike is a great way to meet other outdoor enthusiasts and Long Trail lovers. Based on how you prefer to hike and what your interests are, you can find specific hiking communities through various Facebook and Meetup groups. Some of our favorite groups include Women’s Hiking Group – Vermont, Hikerbabes Community, Hiking Mom’s of Northern Vermont, Vermont Taking It Easy Hiking, and Outdoor Afro Burlington. To find hiking partners, ask about recent trail conditions and get hike recommendations and inspiration from peers check out the Long Trail Hiking – GMC Community and Hiking in Vermont groups. You can also join your local GMC section on an outing, regularly led by volunteer trip leaders, and connect with fellow GMC supporters and members.
Hike to a new favorite fishing spot
Did you know you can fish in many rivers, streams, and lakes in Vermont, including along the Long Trail? Former GMC staffer John Plummer loves to fish for trout at sunset at Sterling Pond, Vermont’s highest-elevation pond, and current Executive Director Mike DeBonis prefers Silver Lake in Goshen. On the Appalachian Trail east of Killington, the trail crosses the Cold River which is an excellent fishery. Little Rock Pond is stocked yearly with brook trout, and fishing is allowed with a VT state fishing license. Check out Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s myriad resources to get started fishing in Vermont – a license is needed, except on Free Fishing Day, June 10 this year. You can also check out Vermont Trout Hikes, a book by Peter Shea focused on trail fishing adventures.
Enjoy a cold drink at a new brewery after your hike
After a hike, swim, or bike ride, few things feel better than a cold drink and some tasty food. Stop by Burlington Beer Company in Burlington to try a pour of Vaulted Blue, inspired by the century-plus of trail maintainers and hikers. 5% of all proceeds go directly to the Green Mountain Club. Check out GMC’s HikeVT recommendations for bars and restaurants close by to some of our favorite hikes, including The Alchemist in Stowe, Stone Corral in Richmond, Hill Farmstead in the Northeast Kingdom, and Madison Brewing in Bennington.
What else is on your Vermont Hiking Season Bucket List? Let us know in the comments below for a chance to be featured in an upcoming post!