Discover Vermont’s Untamed Wilderness on a Historic Hiking Trail
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The Long Trail of Vermont is a 272-mile long-distance hiking trail that stretches from the Massachusetts-Vermont border to the Canadian border. It is the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States and offers stunning views, challenging terrain, and the opportunity to see a wide variety of plants and animals. On average, it takes roughly 19 days to complete an end-to-end thru-hike of this storied trail, making it an exciting and rewarding adventure for backpackers of all levels. Our guide will cover a variety of need-to-know topics for thru-hikers and and section hikers alike. We’ll discuss topics like planning your backpacking trip on the Long Trail, what you can expect to encounter throughout Vermont’s Green Mountains, the best times to hike the Long Trail as well as safety tips you should keep in mind.
Planning Your Hike Along the Long Trail
Before setting out on your Long Trail adventure, it’s important to plan ahead and be prepared for the conditions, including carrying appropriate gear, food, and water. Here are some key things to consider when planning your Long Trail hike:
- Time of year: The weather on the Long Trail can vary greatly depending on the season. In the spring, hikers can expect to encounter mud and cold, wet conditions, while summer is the most popular time to hike the trail, with warm, sunny days and cooler evenings. Fall brings beautiful foliage and cooler temperatures, while winter offers the opportunity to experience the trail in a completely different way, with snow and ice adding an additional level of challenge.
- Camping: Camping along the Long Trail is a popular option for day hikers and thru-hikers alike, with designated campsites available throughout the trail. Many of these campsites offer basic facilities such as fire pits and privies (outhouses), but hikers should be prepared to carry all of their own gear, food, and water. In some areas, campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, while in others, reservations are required. It’s important to plan ahead and check availability before setting out on your hike, particularly in the late spring and summer months when the Long Trail is most popular.
- Resupply: The Long Trail passes through a number of small towns along the way, offering hikers the opportunity to resupply and rest. Some of the towns that hikers will pass through include Manchester, Rutland, and Stowe. These towns offer a range of accommodations and amenities, including restaurants, supermarkets, and outdoor gear stores.
- Physical condition: Despite its beauty and natural attractions, the Long Trail is not for the faint of heart. The trail is challenging, with steep, rocky terrain and elevation changes of up to 4,000 feet. Hikers should be in good physical condition and well-prepared for the challenges of the trail.
Staying Safe on the Long Trail
One of the biggest hazards on the Long Trail is the presence of black bears. These animals are generally shy and not aggressive, but it’s important for hikers to take precautions to avoid encounters. Here are some tips for staying safe while hiking in bear territory:
- Store food and scented items properly: Properly storing food and other scented items, such as toiletries, to avoid attracting bears is crucial. You should become familiar with how to properly hang food when camping in bear territory.
- Make noise: Making noise while on the trail to alert bears to your presence and avoid surprising them is always a smart strategy when hiking in areas that are known to commonly have bears.
- Bear spray: Carrying bear spray is recommended, but be sure to understand how to use it properly before setting out on your hike.
Experience the Beauty and Challenges of the Long Trail
Backpacking on Vermont’s Long Trail is an exciting adventure that offers stunning views, challenging terrain, and the chance to see a wide variety of plants and animals. With proper planning and preparation, hiking the Long Trail can be a rewarding and memorable experience that you’ll surely cherish for a lifetime.
Along the trail, you’ll encounter a range of trees, including maple, oak, and birch, as well as a variety of wildflowers and other plants. Wildlife sightings are also common on the trail, with white-tailed deer, black bears, and coyotes among the animals that hikers may encounter. This diverse range of flora and fauna makes the Long Trail a true nature lover’s paradise.
Essential Gear for Your Long Trail Hike
When it comes to backpacking along the Long Trail of Vermont and being prepared for a successful thru-hike, having the right gear is essential. Here is a list of essential gear that every hiker should consider bringing on the Long Trail:
- Backpack: A high-quality, comfortable backpack is a must for any backpacking trip. Look for a pack that fits your body well and has enough space to carry all of your gear, food, and water.
- Tent: A tent will provide you with a dry, protected place to sleep each night in the event a shelter is full. Look for a tent that is easy to set up and provides enough space for you and your gear. It’s important to consider the weight of your shelter as well, with many hikers opting for a lightweight backpacking designed tent, or even a hammock setup.
- Sleeping bag: A warm, comfortable sleeping bag is a must for any backpacking trip. Look for a bag that is rated for the lowest temperature you expect to encounter on your trip.
- Sleeping pad: A sleeping pad provides insulation from the cold ground and adds comfort to your sleeping setup.
- Stove: A lightweight, compact stove is a great option for cooking meals on the trail. Look for a stove that is easy to use and has the ability to simmer.
- Headlamp: A headlamp is a must-have for any backpacking trip. It allows you to see in the dark and keeps your hands free for other tasks.
- First aid kit: A well-stocked first aid kit is essential for any backpacking trip. Make sure to include basic items such as band-aids, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any personal medications you may need.
- Water filter or purification tablets: A water filter or purification tablets are essential for ensuring that you have access to safe drinking water on the trail.
- Maps and compass: Having a good map and compass will help you navigate the trail and stay on course.
The Best Time to Hike the Long Trail of Vermont
The best time to hike the Long Trail depends on your personal preferences and what you hope to experience on the trail. Here are some things to consider when deciding when to hike the Long Trail:
- Spring: Hiking the Long Trail in the spring can be a challenging experience due to the mud and cold, wet conditions. However, it’s also a great time to see the trail when it’s less crowded and the wildlife is more active.
- Summer: Summer is the most popular time to hike the Long Trail, with warm, sunny days and cooler evenings. This is a great time to hike the trail if you’re looking for a more leisurely experience.
- Fall: Hiking the Long Trail in the fall is a beautiful experience, with the foliage changing colors and the temperatures cooling down. This is a great time to hike the trail if you’re looking for a quieter, more peaceful experience.
- Winter: Hiking the Long Trail in the winter is a challenging experience, with snow and ice adding an additional level of difficulty. However, it’s also a great time to experience the trail in a completely different way, with fewer crowds and a unique perspective on the landscape.
The Long Trail of Vermont is an iconic backpacking trail that offers stunning views, challenging terrain, and the opportunity to see a wide variety of plants and animals. With proper planning and preparation, hiking the Long Trail can be a rewarding and unforgettable experience. Whether you’re an experienced backpacker or just starting out, the Long Trail of Vermont is a must-visit destination for anyone who loves the great outdoors.