Hiking Vermont's Long Trail

The challenge of Vermont's Long Trail will cure what ails you.
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The challenge of Vermont's Long Trail will cure what ails you.

Vermont hosts the oldest long-distance hiking path in the country. Efforts to build a trail spanning the length of the state began in 1910, and the final links of this 270-mile trail were in place by 1930. Of course, age alone isn't everything; time makes antiques of some things, and junk of others. But this definitely is a treasure to behold.

As it traces the spine of Vermont's Green Mountains, the trail passes features graced long ago with colorful names—Devil's Gulch, Paris Skidway, Needles Eye, Camels Hump, The Subway, Mt. Horrid, Lake of the Clouds—that hint of their geography. Over its long history, the trail has accumulated top-notch signage, camps, and shelters (70 primitive structures dot the route).

Readers insist that the quality infrastructure has not pasteurized the Long Trail's difficulty as it traverses jagged ridgelines, rock ledges, steep ravines, dank bogs, foaming rivers, and vegetation-choked forests. Boulders, scree, puncheons, roots, mud, and ladders are the norm. And that's why readers rated this trail—which yo-yos in elevation between 200 feet in southern Vermont to 4,393 feet at the summit of Mt. Mansfield—one of the toughest in the country. Says one backpacker who walked it with her foster son and, in retrospect, truly appreciated the travails, "The Long Trail did what no therapist or self-help book could do: It brought together two people who were on an extremely difficult journey."

For best information:

The Green Mountain Club, (802) 244-7037; www.greenmountainclub.org; www.hikevermont.com. Ask for the Long Trail Guide.

"A Creature With Many Faces," Backpacker, October 2000.