Enjoy autumn’s reds, oranges, and golds amid two deep-forest ponds on this two-night, 22-mile loop in southern Vermont. From the gate on Old Rootville Road (1), climb 1,000 feet in 1.5 miles up the dirt road toward Prospect Rock (2) and take the 150-foot spur for a western view of 3,850-foot Mt. Equinox. Continue up the road (now the Appalachian Trail/Long Trail) to a bridge over a tributary of Bourn Brook, and leave the AT by turning sharply right (south) onto the Branch Pond Trail (3). At mile 2.8, reach Douglas Shelter (4). Crash here if you got a late start, or continue south another 2.9 miles through moose-crossed bogs (look for hand-size hoofprints) to 48-acre Bourn Pond (5). Head south along the western shore to join the Lye Brook Trail (6) and turn east. At 7.5 miles, reach an area flattened by a microburst (“See This,” next page) (7). The jumble of fallen trees and tricky water crossings—some are impassable after spring runoff—make for slow progress to Stratton Pond (8), which emerges beyond the storm wreckage. Bear left onto the North Shore Trail (9) and camp .2 mile later in the tent site; listen for loon calls and look for brook trout snapping at bugs atop the water.
Next day, leave your stuff in camp, pick up the southbound AT/LT at the southeast corner of the pond, and truck 3.3 miles to the fire tower atop 3,875-foot Stratton Mountain (10). The four-state view includes the Green Mountains to the north, the White Mountains to the northeast, the Berkshires in the south, and the Adirondacks to the west. Inspired? You’re not the only one (“Locals Know,” next page). Retrace your steps back to Stratton Pond (11) for the second night.
On your final morning, follow the AT/LT north into upland forest. At mile 17, take a footbridge over the Winhall River (12), which is skinny and more mossy rock than water in the fall. After one last view from Prospect Rock 3.6 miles later, descend Old Rootville Road to your car.
Get there From the ranger station in Manchester, go .6 mile west on VT 30/11. Bear left at the fork, then left on Old Rootville Rd. Park at the gate.
Permits $6/night per person paid to the Green Mountain Club caretaker at the Stratton Pond sites.
Gear up Eastern Mountain Sports, 263 Depot Street, Manchester, VT; (802) 366-8082; ems.com
Map Vermont’s Long Trail Waterproof Hiking Map 4th Edition ($10, greenmountainclub.org)
Trip data backpacker.com/hikes/1222893