5 Easy Vermont Hikes to Try this Fall
September 29, 2023
Fall is the best time for easy Vermont hikes, especially with kids. The bright foliage and cooler weather make it an ideal time to climb the Green Mountains and enjoy incredible views.
But what if you have young kids in tow or want an alternative to hiking Vermont’s tallest peaks? Mount Mansfield, Camels Hump, Mount Abraham, and Killington—which all stand at more than 4,000 feet—are wonderful, popular hikes. Still, it’s nice to find shorter, easier trails that reward you with scenic views and a sense of accomplishment.
-Hiking this time of. year is an ideal way to see fall foliage up close. / iStock photo
Here are 5 easy Vermont hikes to enjoy this fall
At 1,647 feet, Putney Mountain offers panoramic views—on a clear day you can see Mount Snow, Stratton and Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire.
Putney Mountain includes 400 acres of conserved land belonging to the Putney Mountain Association. This area is part of the Windmill Ridge Nature Reserve, which includes 2,700 acres along a ridge stretching from Brattleboro to Athens (Vermont, not Greece).
It’s also where you’ll find volunteers from Putney Mountain Hawk Watch, the only autumn raptor watch in Vermont that is monitored daily between August and November.
Getting there: Take Putney Mountain Road from Grassy Brook Road in Brookline to the west or from West Hill Road in Putney to the east. Parking at the trailhead is available. The Brookline side of Putney Mountain Road is closed in winter.
-Lincoln Gap Road offers trail access to Sunset Ledge to the south and more challenging trails to the north.
Sunset Ledge near Lincoln Gap
Sunset Ledge is a 2.2-mile, round-trip trail that can be accessed from the top of Lincoln Gap Road by heading south on the Long Trail (across from the Mt. Abraham and Battell trailheads).
After an initial steep pitch, most of the hike is relatively flat. About halfway up, you’ll enjoy views to the east of the Mad River Valley before coming to the wide-open Sunset Ledge, which offers gorgeous views of the Champlain Valley and Adirondacks.
Obviously, it’s a nice spot to catch the sunset, too. Just be sure to wear headlamps on the hike back.
Getting there: From Route 100 in Warren, take Lincoln Gap Road west for 4.1 miles to the main parking area at the top of Lincoln Gap.
-Equinox Pond is located at the base of Mount Equinox in Manchester. / iStock photo
Equinox Pond in Manchester
Located near the base of Mount Equinox in Manchester, Equinox Pond and the surrounding land are part of the Equinox Preservation Trust, which was established in 1996 and includes more than 914 acres of protected land.
Pond Loop is an easy, three-quarter mile walk through the woods around the pond’s perimeter. Along the trail hikers will find red and sugar maples, paper birch, striped maples, and hornbeams. For something a little more challenging, but still relatively easy, try Robin’s Lookout. The half-mile hike leads to an overlook with views to the east of Equinox Pond, Hildene, the Battenkill Valley and the Green Mountains.
Getting there: Parking for Equinox Pond is available in a designated lot off West Union Street in Manchester Village, just south of Burr and Burton Academy.
-The view from the summit of Mount Philo is one of the best in Chittenden County.
Mount Philo in Charlotte
Mount Philo is located at Mount Philo State Park, the oldest state park in Vermont. With an elevation of just 968 feet, Mount Philo is tiny compared to other Vermont mountains. But what makes it so special are the extensive views of Lake Champlain, the Champlain Valley and the Adirondacks.
The 2.4-mile, round trip hike is great for families. The trail climbs steadily to House Rock, a large boulder that is hollowed out underneath. Many large trees make this section of the route a great spot for playing hide-and-seek while you hike. Once you get to the top, you’ll find a grassy lawn with Adirondack chairs and places to picnic.
Getting there: From the junction of Route 7 and Ferry Road in Charlotte, go south on Route 7 for three miles to State Park Road, which ends at the parking area and ranger booth at the entrance to Mount Philo State Park.
-Lake Groton in Groton State Forest.
Owl’s Head in Groton State Forest
Scenic Owl’s Head Mountain in Groton State Forest is popular for good reason. It’s a relatively easy Vermont hike to a stunning scenic vista overlooking Lake Groton and the Green Mountains.
With more than 25,600 acres, Groton State Forest is the second largest contiguous landholding by the state of Vermont.
Groton State Forest has an interesting history. The area was intensively logged in the late 1800s with the opening of the Montpelier and Wells Railroad that ran through the forest. The logging ended in the 1920s when most of the timber had been cut, and subsequent fires altered the landscape from evergreens to mostly maple and birch.
These days, the forest is home to an extensive year-round trail system in northeastern Vermont, with trails for beginner, novice and experienced hikers to enjoy.
Getting there: Take Route 232 east from Route 2 to Groton State Forest. The Owls Head Trail starts on the road between New Discovery State Park and the Osmore Pond scenic area.
Podcast Episode: Hawk Watching on Putney Mountain
-John Anderson looking for hawks on Putney Mountain in September.
Every fall, John Anderson and a group of volunteers from the Putney Mountain Hawk Watchers monitor birds that are migrating south for the season.
For decades, the hawk watchers on Putney Mountain have kept records of the number and kinds of hawks they see, all of which they report to Hawk Migration of North America. A variety species of birds can be spotted at the 1,647-foot clearing, including osprays, northern harriers, Cooper’s, kestrels, merlins and peregrine falcons.
Putney Mountain also offers panoramic views—on a clear day you can see Mount Snow, Stratton and Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire. Anderson occasionally leads an introduction to hawk watching workshop for beginners.
In this podcast episode of Happy Vermont, Anderson talks about hawk watching, how it has enriched his life, and the time he spotted more than 6,000 birds flying over Putney Mountain.