If Vermont ever names an official state sport, it really should be hiking (sorry, skiers!). You can hike the entire north-south length of the state on the 272-mile Long Trail, which follows Vermont's Green Mountains spine, and branch off on 166 miles of side trails. You can continue east toward New Hampshire when the Appalachian Trail separates from the stretch that coincides with the Long Trail. You can day hike to waterfalls and mountain summits, along rivers and former railbeds. Here's your guide to 10 of the Green Mountain State's top hikes that promise the most reward for your effort.
Most travelers only see Vermont's Quechee Gorge, located in Quechee near Woodstock, from the bridge above on Route 4. There's a better way, though, to experience the natural landmark known as Vermont's Little Grand Canyon. Park at the Dewey's Mill Pond boat launch on Quechee Main Street, and walk the easy trail along the Ottauquechee River. It's just over a mile to the bottom of the gorge, and you'll love the waterfall view from the dam overlook along the way. You can also park near the Quechee Gorge State Park Visitor Center and walk a segment of the trail in either direction. Your leashed dog can tag along, too.
Vermonters might tell you this 3.5-mile round-trip hike to the top of Stowe Pinnacle is "easy," but don't be fooled. If you don't hike routinely, this relatively short but steep mountain climb can feel like quite a challenge. You'll find parking at the trailhead, located within C.C. Putnam State Forest on Upper Hollow Road near the intersection with Pinnacle Road in Stowe. Follow blue blazes for the first mile, then keep left when the trail splits. Save some energy for the final stair climb to the tree-less, rocky summit, where unobstructed views of surrounding mountains and the Lamoille River Valley will restore your energy for the descent. The wide-angle scene is particularly impressive in the fall.
The beauty of Camel's Hump State Park and its aptly named 4,081-foot-tall mountain in Waterbury, Vermont, is there are many trails up and around this distinctive slope in the Green Mountains including the famous Long Trail. The easiest route to the top is the Burrows Trail on the Huntington side. Perfect for multi-generational groups, this 4.8-mile round-trip hike inclines gradually and offers sneak peeks at the summit as you ascend. The Monroe Trail on the Duxbury side is 6.6 miles round-trip and more challenging. Make the climb more interesting by detouring on the Alpine Trail to see the remains of a World War II-era fighter plane or even more of a workout by branching off on the Dean Trail. Whichever path you choose, 360-degree views from the top of the hump are mesmerizing.
When you want your hike to feel more like a moving meditation than strenuous exercise, head to Ripton, Vermont, where the words of New England's most beloved poet will inspire you on a walk in the woods. At just over a mile in length, the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail tucked within the Green Mountain National Forest is a peaceful stroll—part boardwalk, partly packed path—that crosses a beaver pond and the South Branch of the Middlebury River and wanders by berry fields and wide-leaved trees. Poems by Frost, who summered nearby from 1939 to 1963 and took inspiration from the sights you'll see, are inscribed on plaques along this walking journey. To find the trail, drive south from Middlebury on Route 7, then east on Route 125 for 5.8 miles to a parking area on the right.
In the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area near Salisbury, Vermont, this choose-your-own-adventure hike can either be a short outing to a stunning waterfall or a longer cliff climb with magnificent views of Lake Dunmore. From the trailhead on Lake Dunmore Road (Route 53), you can reach the Falls of Lana—a two-tiered, horsetail waterfall—in just 0.7 miles via the Silver Lake Trail. In the spring, the water volume is at its most spectacular. Will you continue this moderate hike on Rattlesnake Cliff Trail and return via the Aunt Jenny Trail, completing the entire four-mile loop? If you do, you'll have a bird's-eye view of serene Lake Dunmore and may spy raptors in flight.
Scale this small mountain in Charlotte, Vermont, for incredible views of Lake Champlain and New York's Adirondack Mountains to the west. Mount Philo is the oldest state park in Vermont, and the three-quarter-mile trail to the summit is a moderately difficult hike that provides a high vantage point for admiring one of Vermont's most iconic scenes. There is also a paved road to the summit for cars, so if you're traveling with companions who prefer not to hike, you can still meet at the top and share the experience. During the fall migration, this is a prime hawk-watching spot.
New England's longest rail-trail will eventually extend 93 miles across scenic northern Vermont. For now, content yourself with exploring some of the 33 miles that are ready for use. The first is a 15-mile stretch from St. Johnsbury to West Danville, which wanders roughly the same course as Route 2 but ventures off through woodlands and farmlands. The second runs 17 miles from Morristown to Cambridge through pretty little towns with mountain views. Keep in mind that this is a multi-use trail, which hikers share with cyclists and horseback riders in the warm-weather months. Snowshoers, snowmobilers, dogsledders, and cross-country skiers are all welcome in the winter.
Situated within Vermont's only national park, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Mount Tom is a 1,357-foot-high lump in the landscape that practically begs to be climbed. The Faulkner Trail, completed in 1937 and accessible from a parking area on Mountain Avenue in Woodstock not far from the green and Middle Bridge, is the best route to the top. The well-worn trail makes gentle switchbacks as it ascends toward Mount Tom's South Peak. It's about a 30-minute trek for those accustomed to hiking. Wear sturdy footwear, as the last 100 yards to the summit are suddenly steep and more difficult.
At just two miles out-and-back, this moderate hike in Killington is family-friendly. Find the start of the Sherburne Pass Trail beside the Inn at Long Trail. You'll actually be on the Appalachian Trail for a short distance before you turn left onto Deer Leap Trail and continue onto the spur that dead-ends at this fabulous overlook. The view from here of lush hillsides and mountain silhouettes is eye-pleasing in every season.
The Appalachian and Long Trails coincide in southern Vermont, and you don't have to be a through-hiker to tackle the 22.4-mile out-and-back portion that leads to the summit of Glastenbury Mountain. But you do have to be fit... and kind of brave. From the trailhead on Route 9, about five miles east of Bennington, the first mile is practically straight up, and the balance of this wilderness trek doesn't get much less rigorous as you gain 5,400 feet of elevation. Consider camping overnight at the Goddard Shelter near the summit, which affords views of Mount Greylock to the south in Massachusetts. All in all, the thrill of this big-effort hike isn't the views: It's being able to say you climbed a mountain that's rumored to be haunted and where spooky sightings have included everything from UFOs to Bigfoot.