Amy Potter, an experienced backpacker, manages the Green Mountain Club Visitor Center. She and her staff, Maggie Mae Anderson, Maggie Twitchell, and Rick Hopkins answer questions from hikers throughout the year by phone, email, and online. We’re sharing some of the most commonly asked visitor center questions, along with their answers, of course.
The Marvin B. Gameroff Hiker Center closed to the public last year because of the pandemic, limiting contact to email and phone, so we were thrilled to re-open weekends this summer. Every year brings new and interesting questions, especially as more people are hiking. Here are some of the most common questions this year:
- How can I get a ride from the trail into town, and where can I park overnight?
These questions are by far the most popular the visitor center receives. With few loop hikes in Vermont, transportation is often a problem even on a day hike. We provide a list of volunteer trail angels and businesses like taxis and buses. We can also recommend overnight parking areas generally safer than trailheads.
You can also join GMC’s online Facebook community for help with rides and other trail services.
To access the list, email [email protected]
2. Where should I take my kids for their first backpacking trip?
Because the outdoors was considered a safer environment during the pandemic, we heard from more folks wanting to take their children backpacking for the first time. As mom of a three-year-old, I know the challenge of hiking and camping with kids. I try to suggest trips with interesting destinations and terrain to keep children excited and motivated to explore. Kids like trails with puncheon, bridges, shelters, fun rock scrambles, and any body of water.
Little Rock Pond Shelter is a favorite beginner overnight. It has three approach trails of varying length and difficulty, and also offers a loop from Forest Road 10 via the Green Mountain Trail to challenge older kids. With tent sites, a shelter, and several swimming spots, it serves as a fun base camp for exploring the pond.
- How to Hike with Infants, Toddlers, and Kids
- HikeVT: Overnight Hikes for Beginner Backpackers
- HikeVT: Kid-Friendly Day Hikes
- How should I store my food to keep it from bears?
Every hiker must secure food and waste to limit bear-human interactions, so this is among the most important hiker education we provide.
In 2019, the U.S. Forest Service issued an order requiring proper bear-safe food storage in the Green Mountain National Forest. We strongly encourage carrying a bear canister or using another approved storage method on all Vermont overnight hikes.
Anything with a scent, including food, food waste, soap and toothpaste, must be stored in one of the following ways:
- A locked vehicle
- A bear box if available
- A bear canister or Ursack
- Properly hung high in a tree (watch this video)
The Green Mountain Club launched a free bear canister lending program for hikers this year to help encourage proper food storage.
- Do I have to stay in the shelters along the trail?
During the pandemic many people preferred tents over shelters to provide more distance from other hikers. It isn’t always obvious where and how to primitive camp along the Long Trail, because it crosses private, state, and federal land, and each has different regulations. You can definitely find places to tent all along the trail, but we ask that you learn the rules of your overnight site location to minimize your impact. The Long Trail Guide is the best resource for camping regulations for each section of the trail.
- Why are trails closed for mud season, but not during the rainy July we had?
It was a wet and muddy summer to say the least, so many people had this question.
During mud season (roughly April-May) we see more consistent muddy conditions due to spring snow melt and other conditions, so we can pr
epare ahead of time with our trail management partners to discourage high-elevation hiking.
While hiking in mud can damage trails anytime, trail conditions vary unpredictably through the hiking season. It’s not practical to monitor current conditions on more than 500 miles of trail. So we encourage folks to always hike through mud rather than around it to avoid widening trails and trampling vegetation, and to do the rock hop when possible. If you can choose where to hike, seek dry trails, and turn back if you don’t want to walk through any mud you find. And always pack dry socks!
6. How do I apply for my End-to-End hike certification?
GMC used to require hikers to submit trip journals to certify End-to-End hikes. Today fewer people keep journals, but document journeys with digital photos or social media posts. Journals are now optional, but we ask each applicant three questions designed to foster reflection on the experience and to share memories with GMC. We enjoy reading your answers, as well as journals and photo albums if you submit them.
- Interested in planning a Long Trail thru-hike or section hike? Start here.
- A Day in the Life of a Long Trail Thru-Hiker
Submit your application by October 1 to receive your patch by the end of October, or submit by March 1 to receive it by the end of March. All applicants from both rounds will have their names printed in the Summer 2022 Long Trail News.
If you have questions about an upcoming hike please know that the staff of the Green Mountain Club Visitor Center are a free resource available to answer your questions and lend their hiking and backpacking knowledge.