Hiking The Long Trail in the Heart of Vermont
August 29, 2023
Hiking the Long Trail might mean seeing an old stone wall, a cellar hole, or an abandoned road.
On mountains like Camels Hump—where the century-old Long Trail crosses its peak—nearby wreckage from a 1944 bomber plane crash has fascinated historians, hikers and locals for decades.
But hikers can also find smaller pieces of history on the Long Trail. Between Chittenden and Pittsford, hikers can cross the abandoned Green Road, used as early as 1796 and now a snowmobile trail. Near Pico Camp is Jungle Junction, named after the abandoned West Side Trail, where the 1938 hurricane left behind a “jungle” of blowdowns.
The History of Hiking The Long Trail
-A section of the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail in Southern Vermont.
The Long Trail is a 272-mile footpath that follows the main ridge of the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts-Vermont state line to the Canadian border. Built between 1910 and 1930, it’s the oldest long-distance trail in the United States and inspired the development of the Appalachian Trail. The Long Trail includes six dozen backcountry campsites, shelters and 225 miles of side trails—including 43.5 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Vermont.
In the early 1900s, only a handful of Vermont mountains had summit trails. In 1909, while sitting in a tent in the rain near Stratton Mountain, James P. Taylor came up with an idea of a “long trail” to run along the ridges of the spine of the Green Mountains. A year later, the Green Mountain Club formed. With just 23 members and $100 in the bank, the club began cutting the trail.
Early on, the club’s purpose was to build trails, camps and shelters, to issue maps and literature, and to have the mountains play a more significant part in the state’s life. Before the Green Mountain Club, Vermont’s mountains were largely un-named, unmapped and under appreciated.
The first Long Trail Guide was published in 1917—and some of the earliest trail sections listed in the guidebook included Prospect Rock in Manchester, the Stratton Mountain trail, the Monroe Trail in Duxbury and Stevensville Trail in Underhill.
In the second edition of the Long Trail guidebook, published in 1920, the introduction interestingly states: “Vermont is so completely mountainous that its mountain area exceeds the combined area of the White, Adirondack and Catskill Mountains. It has always been claimed that if Vermont could be pressed out smooth its area would probably exceed that of Texas!”
-Charity Clark hiking Camels Hump; her first hike on the Long Trail as a child; a winter hike on Laraway Mountain. Courtesy /Charity Clark
Happy Vermont Podcast: Charity Clark
The summer she turned seven, Charity Clark’s first outing on the Long Trail was at Little Rock Pond in Mount Tabor. Her dad was an avid hiker, and climbing the mountains around Ludlow, Londonderry and Manchester became a regular family activity. Over the years, Clark has continued her love for hiking in Vermont and eventually completed the Long Trail. While hiking, she’s come across stone walls, old farmsteads and apple trees—and been fascinated by what she finds.
Clark is Vermont’s first female attorney general—a race she won handily in November 2022. Even with a busy schedule in Vermont’s highest law enforcement office, she spends as much time as she can outside—hiking, skiing or exploring the woods.
“When I’m out hiking by myself, I’m thinking of things that are more about feelings or philosophical,” she says, “A classic example would be, ‘Should I run for attorney general?’ That’s literally what I thought about (in 2022) when I was hiking.”