Vermont Self Guided Hiking Details
Just what exactly is the best trail for each day?
The “best trail for the day” concept means you should make your final choice of trail at breakfast the day you plan to hike that trail, considering your physical condition from yesterday’s hike, today’s weather forecast (which may well differ from the forecast on offer when you nodded off to sleep last night), news of trail work or ground conditions from your innkeeper, and your other goals for the day (perhaps visiting an interesting village or historic site). With all these in mind, you can make the best choice about the best trail for you on that particular day.
There are, however, trails that consistently are our hikers’ most-enjoyed. For the inns hosting the 2024 season, our recommendations for the “usual” top choice near each inn are as follows:
- Fox Creek: There is one trailhead that offers a multitude of options for Fox Creek hikers: a short 3-mile loop to a bare summit, which trail can be expanded into a full-day 9 or even 12 mile circuit taking in some significant elevation gain and loss. This is your chance to experience some really special Appalachian Trail distance without committing to the whole two thousand miles.
- Mountain Top: Most of our guests lucky enough to stay at Mountain Top, the only full-service resort on our tour, don’t leave the property at all but enjoy hiking the onsite Nordic ski trail network (40 miles of meandering woodland and meadow paths) and other amenities like kayaking on the large lake (use of kayaks included with your stay), disc golf, tennis, and add-on services like clay bird shooting, a guided pontoon boat outing on the lake, and spa services.
- Lilac Inn: Hands down, the best option is from a nearby trailhead that offers a figure-eight. You’ll hike up easily within the first mile, viewing a waterfall rated among the best in New England, then choose either — or both! — of the loops from there: a rigorous 3-mile loop to a cliff overlooking a thousand-acre lake and the valley beyond; and/or an easier ascent to a hidden mountain lake inaccessible to motorized traffic. A swim at the beach picnic ground beckons on hot days, and there is an additional 3-mile loop footpath around the lake.
- Swift House: This Select Registry property sits at the bottom of Chipman Hill and on the in-town portion of the 18-mile Trail Around Middlebury which wends through the village (sidewalks) as well as woodland, riverside, and meadows, and the spectacular Middlebury College campus. Alternately, a very short car hop into the hills will get you to the Blueberry Hill trail system, which is open to the public. Trail notes for both will be provided.
- Blueberry Hill: The onsite trail system offers any combination you wish of a most pleasant 3-mile loop around the base of a small mountain with a rewarding view; a 4-mile loop around a water body home to a colony of loons; or a nearby full-day 9-mile loop taking in the vista from a prominent summit after a stiff ascent.
Tell me more about Vermont’s Long Trail.
Our inns are convenient to Vermont’s Long Trail as well as its many side systems and other enjoyable hiking options. The Long Trail, Vermont’s famous 250-mile footpath in the wilderness, is in a remote location along the main ridgeline of the Green Mountains. The words of one of our earliest brochures from the 1970’s are still true today: “The Long Trail is classified as a wilderness trail and is by turns steep, boggy, and difficult … the Trail is forested, within the treeline of the Green Mountains, and offers limited views. Less monotonous and more rewarding hikes can be taken within its side systems, with options for waterfalls, hidden lakes, stunning vistas, historical and cultural highlights, steep but short hikes to mountain overlooks, and so forth. These trails have the advantage of being located closer to our inns in many cases.” While the Long Trail holds attraction for serious hikers, more casual hikers and walkers will wish to consider day-hiking from our inns on the LT’s scenic side trails, even if challenging hiking is desired.
This excellent post-trip report gives a candid and unbiased assessment of the Long Trail’s features by a pair of through-hikers from California who did the entire trail in the autumn of 2013 (not through Inn to Inn). For reference, the inns in our network are positioned to enable you to hike segments within Divisions 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the 12-division Long Trail, so about the middle third of Vermont. This means it is neither the easier southern third where Appalachian Trail management ethos prevails, nor the more rugged and intentionally-neglected northern third from Camel’s Hump to Canada.
I want to be in Vermont to see the trees turn during foliage season. When is peak foliage?
Just kidding, Leaf Peeper! It is impossible to know when the leaves will start to change color, when the foliage will be at its peak, or how long the foliage season will last. The first two weeks of October are generally considered peak foliage for most of our inns. The State of Vermont has an excellent foliage forecaster here; most of our inns are in the second and third counties from the south on the west side of the state. The color generally comes earlier in the north than in the south, and to higher elevations before lower elevations. Don’t try to finesse it too much, just plan your trip for that general timeframe: the state is so small you’re never really too far from spectacular color. And it’s worth seeing.
Bonus for reading to the end:
Vermont Public Radio’s All About Foliage discussion: