Green Mountain National Forest Hiking and Backpacking Overview

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Green Mountains National Forest
Green Mountains National Forest (James P. Blair/Photodisc/Getty)

Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont

  • The forest follows the backbone of Vermont north from the Massachusetts border for 100 miles, all the way to Appalachian Gap.
  • Explore sugar-maple, white birch, and conifer forests on the same paths that were walked by Native Americans and French/Canadian fur trappers. Test your bike-handling skills on the rocks and roots of 19th-century carriage paths gone utterly to seed. And ski narrow, twisty trails that tumble down the mountainsides' natural contours.
  • Twenty-two miles of the Long Trail traverses Glastonbury Mountain near Bennington, Vermont. The hike can be broken up by spending the night at Goddard Shelter right on the 3,340-foot summit.
  • The 14-mile, out-and-back Lye Brooke Trail in the Lye Brook Wilderness features a waterfall and some of the most scenic pondside campsites in southern Vermont.
  • Try hot-air ballooning at Vermont's annual balloon festival, held in the town of Quechee, just east of the Green Mountain National Forest.

Vermont's National Forest comprises 50 percent of the state's public land. Private lands exist within the Proclamation Boundary, which establishes the perimeter of the GMNF. Some private property owned by utility companies or timber firms is open to recreation uses. A few places, however, are closed to the public and some landowners forbid certain activities.

Two of the nation's most beloved hiking trails wound their way along the central ridge of Vermont long before the Green Mountain National Forest became a reality in 1932. When President Hoover signed the paper establishing a Proclamation Boundary for the GMNF, the mountains were already split north to south by the Appalachian and Long Trails.

The Long Trail runs 265 miles between Vermont's borders with Massachusetts and Canada. It and the Appalachian Trail are the most famous and most popular trails in Vermont. (For more information on Appalachian Trail day hikes in the Green Mountains, see "Green Mountain Gambols.") But those trails, as inspiring as they are, are just a fraction of what is available to the hiker and walker who seeks remoteness, wildness, and natural beauty.

As the Green Mountain National Forest grew in size during the past 60-plus years, its popularity among hikers kept pace. Linking trails or spur trails, most of them lovely in their own way, sprouted from the main arteries like limbs on trees. Thus it is possible to investigate, explore, and enjoy the trail system piece by piece or in one big bite.

Hikers unacquainted with National Forest trails ought to purchase a guide book; several good ones are available. Some of our spur trails will take you to peaks, others lead to lakes, ponds, and tarns scattered like jewels along a trail system necklace. If you assume a serendipitous attitude toward hiking in the National Forest, you won't be disappointed.

Main trails are marked with white blazes, the spur or secondary trails with blue blazes. For persons on extended hikes there are overnight shelters spaced along both the Long Trails and the AT, about one day's hiking distance apart. Some are cabins, others lean-tos. Campfires are permitted. We prefer that hikers cook over backpack stoves. Firewood, especially near the shelters, is scarce.

In all seasons be aware that the Green Mountains are subject, like most of New England, to sudden and dramatic changes in the weather. Be prepared, bring warm clothes, and never forget that hypothermia can strike in any month.

The founder, sponsor, and protector of the Long Trail is the Green Mountain Club, formed in 1910. Its Guide Book, containing detailed information on distances, altitude, and other data is available from the club (Headquarters: 4711 Waterbury-Stowe Rd, Waterbury, VT 05677, 802-244-7037) or Green Mountain National Forest offices. Many trails are cooperatively maintained among the Forest Service, the Green Mountain Club, and the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers.

Warning: In recent seasons, vandalism of cars parked at trailheads has climbed sharply; remove valuables. Also, please do not block driveways or roads. One last reminder: Boil drinking water.

Enjoy walking and hiking in the Green Mountains. They are a national treasure we are trying to maintain in top environmental health for everyone's pleasure.


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