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Green Mountains

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It's tempting to think of Vermont hiking as rather tame compared to the Rockies and Southern Appalachians with their much higher peaks and larger national parks. That is a mistake. Green Mountain trails are extremely tough and the weather can turn hostile in just a few minutes. The peaks here may be lower but the trailheads are only slightly above sea level, whereas out West the trailheads are at 7000 ft., so your elevation gain is often about the same. Trails elsewhere zigzag up steep gradients, sometimes switchbacking back and forth many times. Here, trails go straight up. Down South and out West you're hiking on dirt with an occasional rock or tree root. Here, you're hiking on a never ending array of boulders, football sized rocks, gravel, granite slabs, tight squeezes and sometimes problems to solve (photo, right). This is why sprained and sometimes broken ankles are so common here and why so many hikers have to be helicoptered out. And it's why locals don't use the word "trails" but instead talk about "routes." While a good day's hike down South or out West is 8-10 miles, a good day's hike here is 5-8 miles. You can't make much time scrambling over rocks, pulling yourself up granite slabs and navigating gnarled roots and steep slopes of gravel. Terminology changes here. When you're travelling on mostly level land on mostly dirt, the locals say you're "walking," as in "out for a walk." It's not "hiking" here until you're going UP, on mostly rocks. "Hiking" here is not a relaxing activity. Instead, it's a real athletic event, intense, requiring a solid hiking staff or hiking sticks. You have to be in decent condition and expect to return to the trailhead exhausted. You don't see many fat people here. Do not bring quasi basketball or tennis shoes. You need real hiking boots or trail shoes, like the Vasque Sundowner, made of high quality leather, with a scree collar and Vibram sole. The sharp rock edges here will shred a nylon or canvas boot in just a few days. Faced with this array of challenges, we've assembled a set of easy to moderate hikes that are a gentle introduction to the Green Mountains. Rather than alphabetical order, they're arranged in order of difficulty. These hikes are all a short drive from Stowe. Once you've completed these warm ups, you can advance to the the more challenging hikes on a future trip.

BinghamFalls MossyGlenFalls Pinnacle MountHunger Mt.Elmore LongTrailNorth LongTrailSouth SunsetRidge SterlingPond
Sterling Falls Gorge      

Bingham Falls is a beautiful waterfall only a quarter of a mile off Route 108 in Smugglers Notch. There's a 15 car parking lot at the trailhead. It's an easy hike in, on mostly dirt through a beautiful forest, steadily down hill. At the quarter mile point you reach the overlook at the top of the falls. This is where you face choices. The trail down to the bottom of the falls is very steep and involves navigating a series of rock ledges, steps and tree roots. Then you can see the falls but only partially from an angle. To get out to where you have the view at right, you need to inch across a series of wet, slippery, algae covered rocks. It's doable, and lots of people manage it every day. But a staff or set of sticks, a good pair of boots, and a sense of balance helps. In July and August you'll find locals swimming in the pool or sunning on the rocks.

The return trip is more challenging. First, the climb back up to the main trail is steep, sometimes more of a scramble than a hike. Then you face the long uphill walk back to the parking lot.

This is a hike best done in midweek. On weekends it gets crowded, as it's one of the easiest hikes near Stowe. Plus, there's a growing group of water fall lovers who travel around the country visiting and photographing them and this is one of the prettiest and most accessible in Vermont

The other easy waterfall hike near Stowe is Mossy Glen Falls. This is a perfectly level quarter mile walk from the trailhead to the base of the falls. Then, to get to the upper viewing area, which includes a nice bench, you must climb a very steep trail over tree roots, rocks and switchbacks.

The hike in is interesting. Beaver have dammed up the stream in several places and converted the valley into a wetland. You hike on a long boardwalk to keep above the water. Around you are tree stumps gnawed off by the Beaver, and Beaver trails criss cross the area. You are very likely to see at least a few, as they have lost all fear of humans. Their lodges will be off to your right as you walk in. Because of all the water, wildlife of all kinds is common, especially early in the morning and just before dark.

This is the tallest waterfall in Vermont at 85 feet. It's especially spectacular after a few days of rain, although that also makes the trail to the upper viewing area slippery and treacherous.

To reach the trailhead, drive out of Stowe northeastward on Route 100 for three miles and bear right onto Randolph Road. The first road on the right is Moss Glen Falls Road. Proceed about a half-mile to a small parking area on the left. Follow the trail signs. 

Once again, this is best done in midweek. Since it's the closest trail to downtown Stowe and the tallest waterfall in Vermont it gets very crowded on weekends.









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