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Backpacker Magazine – June 2008

Best Damn Weekend Ever: Vermont's Bourn Pond-Stratton Pond Loop

Hike this burly wonder to find out what inspired the Appalachian and Long Trail's founders.

by: Lisa Densmore (Photos and text)

Take the Appalachian Trail to Bourn Pond.
Take the Appalachian Trail to Bourn Pond.
Explore Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest.
Photo by Bourn Path
Explore Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest.

From Douglas Shelter to Bourn Pond, it's a rolling three miles through head-high goldenrod and prime moose habitat. With 5,000 of these large ungulates now roaming through Vermont's woodlands, it's hard to miss their scat and hand-size hoof prints. After a half-dozen stream crossings, you'll come alongside Bourn Pond. Drop your pack and go for a swim in the cool water, and then let the resident loons provide lunchtime background music.

Air dry, then continue east for 1.8 miles on Lye Brook Trail. Look for wild raspberries among the jumble of tree trunks as you pass through the remnants of a 2003 microburst. Stratton Pond lies over the next rise, just outside of the wilderness boundary. It's the largest body of water on the Long Trail, more like a small lake than a pond. The hulk of 3,936-foot Stratton Mountain looms large across the water. Head to the south side of the pond and drop your pack at the three-bunk-high Stratton Pond Shelter.

From the pond, it's a mellow 3.1-mile ascent on smooth trail through dense sugar maples to the top of Stratton Mountain. The fire tower on its summit is a national historic landmark, and is credited with inspiring two of the country's landmark paths: Vermont's Long Trail was conceived here in 1910 by James P. Taylor; and Benton MacKaye's AT vision followed in 1921. From 55 feet above the ground, the tower-top vista extends well into Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York. Return to Stratton Pond for another swim or to cast a fly. State officials stock Stratton Pond with brook trout, which get little pressure due to the trek to get there.

On Sunday morning, take the AT/LT south, back into the Lye Brook Wilderness. From here, it's a leisurely eight-mile finish as you meander through hardwoods and cross a footbridge over the Winhall River. Then close the loop near Prospect Rock and head downhill to the trailhead.

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Reader Rating: -


Star Star Star Star Star
Jun 05, 2014

Wow, crazy mud! It rained like crazy on our first night and turned all the trails into steams. Had to scramble over a beaver damn to cross a mini lake after the blowdown.
AVOID the North Fork at Stratton pond. The path from the West side of the pond to the campsite is OK, do not attempt to try and reach the AT from the campsite. It was pretty much easier to swim.
Overall, amazing adventure.

Star Star Star Star Star
Water Buffalo
Dec 19, 2013

This was my 2nd backpacking trip and it was awesome. Went with a great group of people and got me hooked into backpacking.

Sep 15, 2010

i would like to go to bourne pond on 10/8/10 for a couple nighter good foliage swimming hiking eating good food and end o the season sweet corn any single ladies interested blog the pilgrim trader ill

Paula Melton
Jun 03, 2010

My husband and I tried to do a loop up Stratton Mountain over Memorial Day weekend 2010, going to Bourn Pond via Stratton Pond, planning to camp at Bourn for the night.

We live in Brattleboro, so we knew there had been a really violent storm a couple days before (our power was out for 12 hours, and that never happens here). The upshot is that the Bourn Pond camping areas are totally buried under trees and/or water - maybe both. We could not find the Branch Pond trail to complete the loop. Not a blaze in sight! If you have a few hours to bushwhack, maybe try the loop (going out via Branch Pond trail from the Lye Wilderness trail), but otherwise I wouldn't recommend trying. We arrived at our purported campsite at 6:30 p.m. and had to book back to Stratton Pond for the night. This picture will give you a sense of its current state.

I have a friend who is in the trail club, and she said it may take years to re-make the trail, because it is a federally designated wilderness area and they can't use chainsaws.

May 27, 2010

We took this trip last weekend (5-21-10 thru 5-23-10) After speaking to the Rangers in Manchester and walking the Lye Brook Trail we decided not to do the loop. We hiked in Fridy afternoon from the Rootville Rd. and found the trail to be quite dry(to our surprise)all the way to Stratton Pond. If you are tenting take the long way around the pond to your left as the Beavers have been busy and you will find the short walk to your right flooded. We learned this first hand after trying to hop rocks and logs to stay dry and ended up with very wet feet and boots after slipping in and going almost knee deep. The hike to the fire tower was very pleasent and dry also. The shelter @ Stratton Pond has been rebuilt and is deluxe. It has been very dry as of late but the black flies are un-relenting. Bring head nets for hanging around camp. On Sunday we hiked back out the Long trail opting not to do the loop hike due to the stories of flooding down and around Bourne Pond. It would be a very long hike out with soggy boots and we didn't want to add 4 miles to the hike if we got turned back. It was a great hike in and out and I would do it again tomorrow.

Sep 09, 2009

Thanks for the update Keith! I will have to check it out!

Sep 05, 2009

After reading about the beaver induced flooding on the Lye Brook Trail (between Bourn Pond and Stratton Pond) and the Branch Pond Trail (between Bourn Pond and the Douglas Shelter), I decided to investigate these sites myself on 9/03/09. I confirmed that both are still flooded and staying on the original blazed trail is not advised unless you enjoy fording through water. There are however easy to follow alternative detours that are quite short and are now worn slightly from use. Both were marked with pink flagging and started where the flooding began and detoured around the flooding and connected back into the blazed trail. The detour on the Lye Brook Trail was south of the original trail for about 30 feet of ground covered by crossing logs and/or an existing beaver dam and the detour on the Branch Pond Trail was east of the trail and was about 200ft through the woods.
I would not deter people from making these hikes unless they are uncomfortable leaving the blazed trail or crossing over logs similar to puncheons. I made it around both sites without getting my boots wet and it was an enjoyable challenge. I have no complaints about trails and felt they were appropriately maintained especially for trails in a wilderness area.

May 28, 2009

Myself and some friends attempted this hike in October of 08. Like most of the other hikers we found the trail conditions to be very poor. It was difficult getting through the blowdowns with our packs on. Think of trees thrown down like matchsticks to picture the area. There were no "bog bridges" or "puncheons" and any water had to waded through. Not so enjoyable in mid october. We decided to return to Stratton pond and spend a second night there before hiking out the next day. I'd like to go back during warmer weather maybe the water crossings will be easier and warmer. Good luck to anyone attempting this hike.

Rich... NY
May 16, 2009

We attempted this hike on May 14th with intent to do 4 days 3 nights and as Tom stated in the previous post were basically screwed and took the same root he did. We were very disappointed when we got to stratton pond and found no way to cross the unmaintained trail that was covered with blowdown and flooded in about 6ft deep water. We had to take the lye brook trail back and hitch hike to old rootville road to the car. VERY VERY Disaapointing and I would never recommend this hike to anyone

May 11, 2009

I would strongly recommend calling Green Mountain National Forrest for a report on trail conditions before attempting this hike. I wish I had or had seen some threads on info I unfortunately learned first hand.

I attempted this hike this past weekend (5/8/09 to 5/10/09). The weather was great during the day and it only rained a bit at night. The scenery was beautiful and the trails were void of almost anyone.

That being said, trails are not maintained or inspected in any way, shape or form. As other posters have stated, the Branch Pond Trail was covered with about 4ft (waist deep) of water for approximately 400-500 yards due to blowdown and beaver activity. We waded through and made it to Bourne Pond by night fall. The following morning, we attempted to continue on the Lye Brook Trail headed east towards Stratton Pond, on the way we encountered many areas of blowdown that were hard to get around (especially wearing a pack), poorly marked trails, until we came to a meadow/marsh approximately .5 mile before Stratton Pond. The water was over 6ft deep (deeper than my hiking pole and my forearm) and stretched as far as the eye could see. Unlike the forge on the Branch Pond Trail, we couldn't see the bottom and the water was moving fairly quickly and we couldn't be sure how far it was.

We had no choice but to turn around, we picked up the Lye Brook Trail west towards Manchester and managed to hitchhike our way back to our car on Rootville Rd.

Had the trail conditions not been so poor, I'm sure this would have been a wonderful hike. Plenty of moose tracks and droppings, but no moose sightings.

Adam & Liz
Oct 14, 2008

We just arrived back having had two great days on this route (October 11-13th). We did the Prospect Rock trail, past the Douglas shelter on the branch pond trail to Bourn pond, then took the lye brook trail east to Stratton Pond and then returned via the Long Trail back to Prosepct rock.

The trip was spectacular and fairly challenging. The initial 1.8 miles is pure vertical gain. Warning, after Douglas Shelter we came upon about 50 feet of flooded forest thanks to those little beavers. Only one choice...plow through it. We made it through soaking wet to our waists. It was late so we 2.5 miles quickly to try and get dry. Got to Bourn pond too late to grab one of the tent sites on the lake. There were a fair number of campers there.

The next day we headed to Stratton Pond. About 3/4 of the way there, in the middle of the microburst, we came upon another on of the beavers jokes, a flooded area and no identifiable way to cross. Water looked deep and we finally found a way to cross on the 2 downed trees directly to the left of the end of the trail. If you make your way across slowly, it is not that bad. Keep going straight and you will see a small trail through the grass that will put you back out onto the main trail at the bridge.

Spent a night at the first tent site at Stratton pond. Spent some time with Matt the caretaker and some other folks who were there from Rhode Island and some seniors from Middelbury college. Enjoyed the warmth of the fire and had a great nights sleep. Woke up on Monday and packed up and headed out. Made it back to the parking lot at the bottom of the prospect rock trail, an 8 mile day, in about 3.25 hours. Was pretty easy going and a lot of downhill.

All around a truly amazing trip. The Lye Brook Wilderness was amazing and I would like to spend some more time on the trails there. Well worth it. As for nature, we saw 3 garter snakes (one about 3 feet), 1 grouse, 1 set of moose tracks, and some coyote scat (although we heard them all night).

Found this to be a great two night hike. We left at about 1:30pm on Saturday and returned about 1:15pm on Monday. My advice would be to leave earlier so you get to Bourne Pond with enough daylight to enjoy the area and grab one of the better sites on the lake.

Enjoy the trails. We did...And Liz, you were a little trooper, a great trail companion and a wonderful cook. Thanks for the love and the company. I love you!!!

Tom Yates
Aug 14, 2008

Beautiful country and GReat fishing, at least it was way back in the early eighties. I took my three sons to Bourne Pond and portaged a canoe to fish it. We stayed overnight on the island and caught so many trout we had to catch and release many. I waas told they were air stocked years ago. They were allaround the same size and weight. You have to have a boat to fish it then as the shore line was all grown over with reeds and grasses. Do you know if it is still fishable?

Jul 07, 2008

awesome trip--but just a warning, there were 2 spots where blowdowns turned into beaver ponds--one was just shin deep but the other was 3-4 feet deep (between bourn and stratton ponds). be careful and aware! there was a lot of rain in june, so that could be why it was particularly deep in that one section, but it's a wilderness area (ie no chainsaws) so it's probably not going to get cleared.


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