Hike the Vermont Long Trail, The Oldest Long-Distance Trail in the US
While the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trail hog most of the attention, the US sports a huge number of wilderness foot paths that have been carved out over the last three centuries. Among these, a trail that crosses the state of Vermont, known as the Vermont Long Trail (or Long Trail for short) is a perfect three to four week destination. Just don't forget your backpacking stove!
The Vermont Long Trail spans the state from North to South (or vice versa) along the spine of the Green Mountains and took twenty years – from 1910 to 1930 – to construct. Because Vermont is a wild and remote state, this trail allows for complete immersion in wilderness. It begins in Massachusetts and ends in Canada and is 273 miles long.
The Vermont Long Trail: Hiking
Most hikers choose the Vermont Long Trail because it accesses wilderness and is a perfect distance to complete in a relatively short time period. But these features are only the beginning, as this trail has some unique attributes that make taking a trip up to New England worth the extra few miles. Especially in summer, this area is truly remote and hikers are unlikely to meet up with many others unless they, too, are devoted distance trail athletes.
This trail does see traffic, as it is officially the longest thru trail in the US. For 100 miles of its length it coincides with its far more famous cousin, The Appalachian Trail. The Long trail is not a beginner’s hike, as it tackles nearly all of the summits in the Green Mountain Range, including Mount Mansfield at nearly 4400 feet (the highest peak in Vermont).
This trail is well maintained, as it has a robust history of stewardship by Vermont’s Green Mountain Club. The club built the trail and has existed ever since, without nearly 1,000 volunteers who work on the Long trail year-round to keep it in excellent condition.
The Vermont Long Trail: Seasonality
The Vermont Long Trail has its hiking season from spring through fall, with highest use in summer. During late spring, sections of the trail are often closed due to mud and optimizing maintenance. The closures are indicated by the Green Mountain Club, so hiking conditions can be assessed before planning a trip.
The path itself includes excellent signage, segmented mileages with hiking times, and numerous lean-tos and shelters. Online resources include maps and guidebooks, but the trail is better marked than most. Even with signage, thru-hikers opts for a guidebook due to the necessity for mail-drops for food, location of water sources.
For new hikers, the Long trail requires a month to complete. It is one of the tougher long distance trails, due to the number of peaks, the mud, and the roots along the trail. A fast hiker who can complete 18 miles a day can do this trail in two weeks, but for the average hiker at least three weeks (about 13.5 miles a day) should be allowed. Even at less than 10 miles a day, completing the Vermont Long Trail will take close to a month.
The Long Trail is a well-kept secret for new long distance hikers and a terrific destination for anyone wanting a remote thru-trail experience. Because of its historical significance and devoted club of trail workers and stewards, it is one of the top destinations for a challenging summer through hike.
This winding footpath includes multiple challenges peaks, numerous streams, and a low point at Winooski river. It is the perfect introduction to the kind of hiking found along the Appalachian Trail, and to the beauty of New England.
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