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Summer Guide: Where to hike in Addison County

HIKERS WHO MAKE it to the top of Mount Abraham are treated to a wonderful 360-degree view of the Champlain Valley and points east and south. Independent photo/John S. McCright

Mud season is over and you will find that summer is perfect for enjoying Vermont’s landscape with a good hike — whether that is a 10-mile trek up in the mountains or a more modest ramble on some of the other low-key hikes in Addison County.

The Green Mountain Club (GMC) estimates that 200,000 people visit the Long Trail System each year. As official protectors and maintainers of the Long Trail, the 112-year-old GMC is the premier Vermont hiking organization. And there Addison County-specific trail organizations, too, like the Bristol Trail Network and the Middlebury Area Land Trust, which safeguards the Trail Around Middlebury, or TAM.

“We’re excited to see folks out on the trail as we continue with another productive trail season,” said Keegan Tierney, GMC Director of Field Programs.

Between the Long Trail, its side trails, the Appalachian Trail in Vermont, and trails in the Northeast Kingdom, GMC manages more than 500 miles of hiking opportunities. This is a wonderful time of year to get outside and enjoy a favorite hike or explore a new trail. Trail conditions will vary over the summer; if you encounter plentiful mud be prepared to turn around and give the trail a little time to dry out.

GMC urges hikers to plan with these tips:

  • Let someone know where you’ll be hiking and when you plan to return.
  • Pack warmer layers for mountain tops, as summits may be windy and Vermont’s weather can change quickly.
  • Walk straight through mud and puddles to avoid damaging the surrounding vegetation; waterproof boots are a great start.
  • GMC has a busy season of trail work planned, so please use caution around active work areas, including Camel’s Hump and Stratton Pond.
  • Carry a map and know which trailhead you need to return to. Cell phone reception is spotty on many trails.
  • Pack out your trash, food, dog waste, and gear to help protect Vermont’s special places.
  • Have a backup plan when parking lots are full. Taking the trail less traveled is less impactful to the trail environment and offers new views for trail users. Check the online Trail Finder — trailfinder.info/trails — for nearby hikes.

KEEP IT LOCAL

If you want to stay closer to home (or closer to your local lodgings if you are a visitor), we have some suggestions for a couple Addison County hikes.

Making the most of your summer days will make it easier to greet those changing leaves when fall comes around again.

Falls of Lana/Silver Lake. 1 mile/3.2 miles. Start at the trailhead on Route 53 in Salisbury  on the east side of Lake Dunmore, just south of Branbury State Park. The trail up to Silver Lake — a pristine mountain lake with lakeside picnic — is an easy-to-follow service road that is well-traveled by hikers, joggers and cyclists alike (and many four-legged friends).

From Silver Lake you can follow a 2.5-mile trail around the lake, which connects with the Leicester Hollow trail and Chandler Ridge Trail.

Falls of Lana is just a half-mile up the trail and is best viewed from below (a short and steep side trail can bring you down).

Snake Mountain. 4.1 miles. Traihead parking is located off Mountain Road in Addison and off Snake Mountain Road in Weybridge. This is a popular climb for families as well as folks looking for a great view of the Addison County farmland backed by the glistening Lake Champlain and the rising Adirondacks to the west.

The trail is clearly marked, though it feels distinctly like a trail versus a road, like several of the other shorter hikes around. The top offers a stunning panorama view, perfect for a summer sunset dinner. Just remember your headlamp for the way down if you’re there for sunset.

Buck Mountain. 2.3 miles. The trail starts off Route 66 in Waltham; be considerate of neighbors when you park.

Just a few miles north and east of Snake Mountain, the Buck Mountain trailhead is unmarked, but there are a couple of pull-offs in a cluster along Route 66 and trails lead in directly from each pull-off, meeting just a couple hundred yards into the forest.

The trail is gentler than Snake Mountain’s and the wildflowers are incredible, especially early in the season (trillium, hepatica and trout lilies galore). The trail forks a few times, meeting with other trails that are maintained primarily by maple sugarers in the area. Stay to the right on the main trail and you’ll find your way to the top.

Views from the top are equally stunning to those of Snake Mountain.

Robert Frost Interpretive Trail. 1 mile or more. The Robert Frost Interpretive Trail got a great makeover last year with boardwalks and bridges over the upper reaches of the Middlebury River that make it accessible to people with mobility issues. The trail features several poems written by Frost as well as sitting areas and viewpoints from which you can see a wide variety of wildflowers as well as wetland and woodland birds. A little later in the season, keep this retreat in mind for stunning foliage as the colors start to turn.

Trails meet the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail on the south edge of the loop, leading up the hill and into the Moosalamoo Wilderness Area. Following these trails you can make nice loops on the Water Tower Trails — but be careful, the Moosalamoo Wilderness Area is a 16,000-acre wilderness area with over 70 miles of trails throughout, so make sure you know where you’re going so you don’t wind up lost within.

Spirit in Nature. This series of short trails are nearby off Ripton-Goshen Road. The 10 trails of between a half-mile and two miles long lead you through a beautiful forest grove and along the Middlebury River. A great place for contemplation.

Trail Around Middlebury (TAM)/ Wright Park. 3.8 miles from Wright Park to Belden Falls and back.

The 18-plus-mile TAM is a network of trails that circumnavigate the town of Middlebury. Maintained by the Middlebury Area Land Trust (MALT), the TAM offers trails that are easy to follow and well-marked in most places by yellow tags along the main trail labeled with the TAM logo.

There are many places to jump on the TAM, but Wright Park at the end of Seymour Street Extension in Middlebury is one good starting point. Wright Park is about 150 acres of mostly forested land that follows the Otter Creek with Belden Falls on the north end. Choose between trails that hug the river and those that follow the ridge, or stay on the main trail down the center of the forest. Look out for beavers, turtles, otters, birds and ducks and other river wildlife, as well as many woodland flowers and tree varieties. Standing on the suspension bridge at Belden Falls and watching the water rush under you is always fun too, especially for kids.

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