This post was written by Jocelyn Hebert, GMC Long Trail News Editor.
Hiking to the summit of White Rock Mountain in the CC Putnam State Forest (not to be confused with White RockS in southern Vermont!) is not only one of my go-to hikes in summer and fall, it’s a winter favorite. And it’s one that I think is good for beginner and more advanced winter hikers.
It’s accessed on the Middlesex side of the Worcester Range by taking the Middlesex Trail to the Bob Kemp Trail, 2.6 miles to the summit. The trail is gentle at first since much of the start follows a logging road. Eventually, it turns into the woods and begins to climb through the forest.
The really cool part is the area just before you reach the actual summit. As you come out of the woods you will step onto an open and flat rock table with stunted trees. Look back! There’s an awesome view of Mount Hunger.
The blue blazes on the table—painted on rocks for a stretch due to a lack of trees—are covered with snow so you must pay careful attention. Enough people hike this trail in winter that you can generally discern the path, but if there has been fresh snowfall or wind has blown snow over the packed trail, finding the entrance into the small forested area that you need to hike through before the final push to the summit can be difficult.
Some hikers may choose to stay down on the table and forego the short but often icy climb to the top. The views from there are still great and you won’t feel disappointed if you don’t make it all the way.
As a relatively experienced winter hiker, I’ve done this trail by the light of a full moon (along with a headlamp of course) in February. And, last New Year’s Eve friends and I rang in 2016, reaching the table with five minutes to spare until midnight! We made a toast, noted the fireworks in the valleys, and got down, and out of the howling wind, quickly.
Night hiking is not for everyone but if you are properly dressed, well prepared, and have a good plan and exit strategy in place, it can be invigorating. I wouldn’t recommend hiking this, or any, trail at night in winter alone. It’s a lot more fun with friends anyway.
And, it goes without saying that hiking in daylight allows you to take in the beautiful long-range views seen from above. A couple of years ago, while my brother was home visiting from Alaska on New Year’s Eve day, we made our way up White Rock with my energetic ten-year-old pup Calais. There is a wall of snow after the table but before the summit that may be too hard for some dogs without assistance. Remember, the views are still rewarding lower down.
Don’t forget to carry or wear microspikes or some type of winter traction. Chances are, if you make it to the summit, you’ll need them.
Resources: GMC’s Day Hiker’s Guide to Vermont and GMC’s Mount Mansfield and the Worcester Range Hiking Trail Map