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What Makes a Favorite Hike? (11/01)


Is it the weather? The time of day? The view? The challenge? The company? Or something within us? I asked some well-traveled hikers to tell me about their favorite hikes in Vermont. Their answers are as individual as they are.

From Dana Baron

There are so many good hikes in Vermont: Butler Lodge, Nebraska Notch, Mount Abraham and many more. My favorite hike, at least for now, involves snowshoeing. For the past few years, I've led a snowshoe outing to Spruce Ledge Camp in Eden. We start at the Long Trail crossing on Route 118; the trail climbs gently along a wooded ridge before plunging to the edge of Ritterbush Pond. It then continues through Devil's Gulch, follows a brook, and eventually winds up at Spruce Ledge Camp, which is arguably the prettiest shelter site on the Long Trail. For a little variety, we hike out the Babcock Trail.

Everything about this hike is just right. It’s not too easy, not too difficult. It’s quiet, uncrowded, but not far away. Mostly, it takes you to one of the most beautiful spots in Vermont, especially in winter when the leaves are gone and the snow is deep. Maybe I'll see you on my next Spruce Ledge outing.

From Walter Lepuschenko

The one in particular that stands out is a short hike from Lincoln Gap, two or three miles south on the Long Trail. There is an open area on Mount Grant with a good view south before the trail drops into a col. I hiked this on a clear, crisp day last fall when the leaves were in full color. I dozed in the warm sun for over an hour on the ledges. Since It’s not a summit, you are less likely to meet large groups and your chances of solitude are good if you seek some quiet time. This isn't a long hike, so you have time to sit back, relax and appreciate the day.

Both Sarah Berger and Chris Hanna prefer the loop on Mount Mansfield which begins on the CCC Road in Underhill, connects with the Maple Ridge Trail to the Forehead, continues across the ridge to the Chin and rejoins the road by way of the Sunset Ridge Trail. Each varies the trip according to personal whim.

From Chris Hanna

The key to enjoying this hike on a summer weekend is to avoid the masses of Mansfield tourists by hiking it in late afternoon. Beginning at 2 pm or 3 pm, you will encounter only a few hikers descending Maple Ridge as you climb. By the time you reach the Chin, you will have it to yourself, except for the ravens that gather to scavenge crumbs left by hikers.

The descent of Sunset Ridge offers spectacular views of Lake Champlain as the sun drops behind the Adirondacks. (Always carry a flashlight in case night catches you on the trail.) This hike is challenging enough to test even seasoned veterans but is one of the few in Vermont that has long, open vistas similar to the Rockies.

From Sarah Berger

Scrambling across the top of Vermont's highest peak to reach the Chin is always a thrill for me, especially the great views of the towns on both sides of the mountain. Sometimes, there are plenty of people to say “hello” to and on other days, it may be just you and an occasional glider. The highlight is a late afternoon descent of Sunset Ridge. When I see the sun setting over Lake Champlain, I know exactly why I get out and hike almost every weekend.

Recently, my nephew joined me on this hike and we spent several hours talking, surrounded by the peace of the mountain. By late afternoon, he had an expression of accomplishment and optimism on his face that mirrored my own. The perspective hiking gives me has gotten me through the worst storms in my life and I know it will get him through his. We both feel better just knowing “our loop” and Mount Mansfield will always be there.

From Llyn Ellison

A favorite hike? All my hikes are favorites. Nothing I have done compares to the natural high I get while standing on a mountain peak gazing across the tree tops with nothing but wilderness as far as I can see.

This experience is even more rewarding when I share it with friends. Len Carpenter's Winter Solstice hike to Butler Lodge provides that opportunity every year. As the sun sets we gather in a circle sharing our thoughts and hopes for the future. In the gathering darkness, as we wend our way down the mountain, streams of light from headlamps and flashlights dance across the snow and guide us through the woods.

It is a moving experience for me, one that I look forward to every December. Come join us on December 22.

    Are not the mountains, waves and skies a part of me
    and of my soul, as I of them.
    (Lord Byron)

Do you have a favorite hike in Vermont you would like to share with readers of Ridge Lines? Please send it to me at for possible inclusion in a future issue.