Vermont is a state of mud, snow, rocks, roots, black flies, mosquitos, cliffs, swamps…. sometimes all at once! Make sure you take the “10 Essentials” on your hike:
- Navigation (map and compass)
- Sun Protection (ex: sunglasses, hat, sunscreen)
- Insulation (extra clothing, rain gear)
- Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
- First-aid Supplies (include any medication you take regularly)
- Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
- Tools/Repair Kit for gear (and know how to use them!)
- Nutrition (extra food)
- Hydration (water treatment/filtration system and/or extra water)
- Emergency Shelter (ex: tarp/emergency blanket)
Wherever you hike, no matter what season or whether it’s a short hike or multi-day trek, be safe and follow the HikeSafe Hiker Responsibility Code.
You are responsible for yourself, so be prepared:
- With knowledge and gear. Become self reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and your equipment before you start.
- To leave your plans. Tell someone where you are going, the trails you are hiking, when you will return and your emergency plans.
- To stay together. When you start as a group, hike as a group, end as a group. Pace your hike to the slowest person.
- To turn back. Weather changes quickly in the mountains. Fatigue and unexpected conditions can also affect your hike. Know your limitations and when to postpone your hike. The mountains will be there another day.
- For emergencies. Even if you are headed out for just an hour, an injury, severe weather or a wrong turn could become life threatening. Don’t assume you will be rescued; know how to rescue yourself.
- To share the hiker code with others.
If you’re hiking to the summit of Camel’s Hump, Mt. Mansfield, or Mt. Abe, you will be entering areas with some of Vermont’s only alpine tundra. The plants here are very fragile and are easily killed from both human and animal footsteps. Please stay on trail in these areas and leash dogs. Alpine zones are also subject to rapidly changing weather, so come prepared with the 10 Essentials and pay attention to weather changes.
Mud Season (Spring)
The State of Vermont closes all trails on state land including those on Camel’s Hump and Mount Mansfield from the beginning of mud season through Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. The GMC recommends avoiding other high peaks during this time as well, including Stratton Mountain, Killington Peak, the Lincoln Ridge (Mount Ellen to Appalachian Gap), and Jay Peak.
Why? Melting snow means muddy trails, especially at higher elevations. Muddy trails means hikers are more likely to walk next to the path, damaging plants and expediting erosion. Damaged plants and expedited erosion mean widening trails and sometimes the eventual loss of all topsoil.
Check out the Day Hiker’s Guide to Vermont or call the GMC Visitor Center at (802) 244-7037 for some low-elevation mud season hikes!
Hunting Season (Autumn)
Hunting is allowed on all GMC owned and managed lands, including along the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail corridors in Vermont. For comprehensive year-specific dates, see the VT Fish & Wildlife website. Here are some seasonal safety tips:
- Wear blaze orange.
- Avoid hiking during dawn and dusk due to low visibility.
- Please leave dogs at home. If you do bring a furry friend, make sure they have blaze orange on as well.
- Walk quietly so as not to disturb wildlife and hunters.
Vermont winters are beautiful times to hike but allow very little room for error. Also, keep in mind that the Long Trail is not maintained for winter hiking. Here are some seasonal safety tips:
- Start your hike early. Daylight is short in the winter and darkness comes suddenly.
- Carry a topographical map and compass, and familiarize yourself with your route ahead of time. The Long Trail blazes are white, which is harder to see against snow. In deep drifts blazes may be buried or appear at knee height.
- Consider using snowshoes and mircospikes.
- Know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite and how to treat them.
- Use layering to avoid sweating and carry an extra change of clothes, such as a dry set of long underwear and wool socks.
- Remember to hydrate! Dehydration increases susceptibility to hypothermia.