Best Vermont Sunrise and Sunset Hikes
July 21, 2022
Albert Einstein once said, “Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better.” Vermont sunrise and sunset hikes are a perfect way to connect with the outdoors and clear your head.
Hiking in the Green Mountains is rewarding no matter what. But catching an orange-reddish sunrise or sunset from a summit or scenic overlook is hard to beat. The Green Mountain Club offers recommended routes and safety tips for planning Vermont sunrise and sunset hikes.
Vermont Sunrise Hikes
Puffer Shelter, Bolton
Distance: 10 miles round trip, approximately 2,089-ft elevation gain
“You can’t talk about sunrises in Vermont without mentioning Puffer Shelter,” says Chloe Miller, the Green Mountain Club’s communication manager. This hike can be done as a day hike but is more suited as an overnight one. There are two ways to access the shelter, and the shortest route is the Lake Mansfield Trail to the Long Trail South.
The Lake Mansfield Trail is a moderate climb to Taylor Lodge. From the lodge, follow the Long Trail South as it climbs over rugged terrain with steep, rocky sections and a ladder to Puffer Shelter. There is only room for six hikers and no tenting overflow options, but the views and sunrise from the shelter are unmatched. Find More Trail Details.
Skyline Lodge, Ripton
Distance: 5.2 miles round trip, approximately 1,460-feet elevation gain
Follow the blue-blazed Skylight Pond Trail as it gradually rises and switchbacks to the Long Trail. Go straight onto the spur trail down to Skyline Lodge and Skylight Pond. “The shelter is a lovely place to sit and watch the sunrise over the pond,” Miller says. “The pond at dawn is also a great spot to see some wildlife.” Find More Trail Details.
The Sunrise Trail in Fort Dummer State Park, Brattleboro
Distance: A one-mile loop, minimal elevation gain.
This easy one-mile loop starts from the campground at Fort Dummer State Park. That means you won’t have to do any early morning commuting to catch the sunrise. The Sunrise Trail is wooded, but a scenic view overlooks the Connecticut River about halfway through the loop. Find More Trail Details.
Vermont Sunset Hikes
Owls Head, Groton State Forest, Peacham
Distance: 3.6 miles round trip
The Owls Head trail in Groton State Forest is an easy walk to a scenic vista of Lake Groton, Kettle Pond, and the Green Mountains. Traversing level and moderate terrain, the trail bypasses a swampy area and then climbs to the parking area at the end of Lanesboro Road. The trail to the summit continues to the left, following the rock steps on a path built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
There are two parking areas, and one has a gate that closes at nightfall. For a sunset hike, park at the North Parking Lot on Route 232 (a day use fee applies). Find More Trail Details.
Sunset Ledge via the Long Trail near Lincoln Gap
Distance: 2.2 miles round trip, approximately 390-feet elevation gain
Sunset Ledge is a short, popular hike that leads to open ledges with sweeping views west to Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. From the parking lot on Lincoln Gap Road, follow the white-blazed Long Trail South. While this trail is short, be prepared for some rugged terrain as you ascend the mile to the lookout. Find More Trail Details.
Mt. Philo, Charlotte
Level: Easy, Accessible
Distance: Approximately 1.2 miles round trip, 600-feet elevation gain
This hike is familiar to many in the Chittenden County area. Still, the views are hard to beat, especially at sunset. Take the Summit Trail, freshly renovated and less than one mile long, to the top. For anyone with mobility challenges, you can also drive the access road to the top. No matter how you get there, soak in the views of the Adirondacks across Lake Champlain.
As darkness sets in, you can descend on the Mt. Philo access road to avoid rugged rocks and roots that may trip you up past nightfall (watch for vehicle traffic). There are also tents and lean-tos for camping on the summit. Day use fees apply. Find More Trail Details.
Safety Tips for Vermont Sunrise and Sunset Hikes
Vermont sunrise and sunset hikes come with some inherent risks as you will be hiking in the dark one way or the other. Know your limits before setting out on one of these hikes. Miller explains that as you get fatigued, it’s easy to stumble or roll an ankle. A hike is more difficult when you can’t see obstacles in your path.
Plan your timing to avoid rushing while hiking in the dark. Miller says the sky will start to come alive with light and color well before the official sunrise or sunset time (about 30 minutes is a good rule of thumb, she says).
You’ll hike more slowly in the dark, so leave yourself enough time to get to your destination with that in mind. It’s not a bad idea to start a Vermont sunrise or sunset hike on trails you are familiar with and have already hiked in daylight.
Use Two Sources of Light
The number one safety tip is to have at least two sources of light—and Miller says the flashlight on your cell phone doesn’t count. Pack a headlamp, extra batteries, and a backup flashlight or headlamp. Miller says to make sure everyone in your party has their own light source.
Cell phone batteries can die quickly in the backcountry. Miller says they are good to bring, but you should not rely on them for light, wayfinding, or communication.
Take note of the trail to your destination and ensure you return the way you came. Many scenic overlooks have multiple routes. If you are hiking on the Long Trail and take the “Long Trail South” to reach your destination (as with the Sunset Ledge and Puffer Shelter hikes mentioned above) be sure to seek out signs for the Long Trail North upon your return.
Search and Rescue personnel is limited in Vermont, and finding you in an emergency is extra challenging in the dark.
As with any hike, tell someone you trust about your plans, including where you are going and when you expect to be back. Remember to check in with your contact upon your safe return.
-See this Trail Finder story for finding ideal conditions for sunrise and sunset hikes.
-Read about the 10 Essentials for hiking trips on the Green Mountain Club’s website.
Photos provided by Green Mountain Club, Shutterstock and Unsplash