The summer of 2016 was when I really began hiking and exploring the world around me more than I ever had before. It was a time where everything was changing in my life and I wanted to find a hobby that my boyfriend and I could enjoy together, so hiking was just that. We did a few short hikes in the Lake George, New York area after I moved up to Albany this past June and soon enough I was hooked. I purchased my first hiking boots from LLBean and bought an inexpensive hydration pack to use on moderate day hikes and we began planning a more challenging hike up Mount Mansfield, the tallest mountain in Vermont. I was so excited to accomplish a hike that would lead me to the highest mountain in a state that I never thought I would have the opportunity to travel to in my entire life. I hope you enjoy this overview of that trip report below:
Weather: 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the Green Mountains National Forest, chillier at the summit due to wind
Elevation: 4,393’ (gain was 2,600’ from the parking lot)
What I wore: cropped leggings, synthetic tank top, LLBean Hiking boots, thin wool socks, sunglasses
Extra Gear I brought: hydration pack with 1.5L of water, dried fruit and granola bars, an extra bottle of water, an extra long sleeve tech shirt for the summit, extra socks, GPS watch, and my phone for pictures
Total mileage: 6 miles (3.3 miles to summit via the Sunset Ridge Trail and 2.7 miles back to parking lot via the Laura Cowles Trail)
Total Time: about 5 hours total including stops at various lookout points and about 45 minutes spent at the summit
The Green Mountain National Forest was about a three and a half hour drive from my apartment near Albany, New York, but the views along the way were beautiful to say the least. My boyfriend and I left relatively early on Saturday, July 30, 2016 and enjoyed a very scenic drive that neither of us had ever done before. The state of Vermont is full of trees, streams, gorgeous rocky vistas, and even moose crossing signs! We stopped in a small town to pick up some sandwiches before we began hiking and soon spotted Mount Mansfield in the distance overlooking the Vermont countryside. By the time we arrived at the parking area in Underhill, Vermont at around 11:30am it was packed! There were cars parked all the way down the windy mountain road and we thought we were going to have a long walk up to the trailhead. By chance though, we managed to snag a spot in the parking lot where there was an $8 admission and parking fee ($4 per person for us). There were bathrooms near the parking lot and some very knowledgeable people that work in the park if you had any questions about Mount Mansfield. The weather was beautiful on this July mid-morning and we soon got situated with our gear on and our boots tied. We were ready to start our hike on the most popular trail up Mount Mansfield. We walked along the old CCC Road before coming up to the start of the Sunset Ridge trail that would take us to the summit.
The CCC Road was relatively flat and wooded and only about a mile before the Sunset Ridge Trail started. The Sunset Ridge Trail featured some stream crossings with lovely bridges and a beautiful waterfall along the route making for a very peaceful beginning to the hike. Because it was completely wooded it thus offered great shade from the sun as well. The trail is moderately difficult though, because it soon ascends to a rocky ridge all the way to the summit called “The Chin”. We stopped several times along this rocky ridge to drink some water and eat a snack or two and the views were breathtaking the entire way. We encountered all different kinds of people (and dogs along this trail as well). From experienced hikers to families with young children and even a dog who was able to climb the rocky scrambles better than I could! It’s definitely a doable hike for many, but is still rather strenuous.
Some shots of me hiking along the rocky ridge on the way up to “The Chin”.
As “The Chin” comes into view, the conditions get rockier and you have to scramble up many steep rock slabs. Then, there is a narrow trail lined with trees up to the alpine zone of the summit. This was one of the coolest parts of this hike because the alpine zone has many interesting plants that are not found anywhere else in Vermont. There are wooden walkways to the summit over these plants so they do not become damaged from hikers trampling over them. Theres one final push to the summit after this alpine zone and then you are there! The views are amazing from “The Chin”. You can admire the other Green Mountains in the distance as well as Lake Champlain which is gorgeous. It was a little chillier on the summit, so at this point I put on an extra layer and enjoyed some snacks and a lot of water while taking in the view and snapping tons of pictures on my phone.
There are some beautiful views from the summit!
After exploring the entire summit as well as the alpine zone some more, we decided it was time to make our descent. Instead of following the Sunset Ridge Trail back down the mountain we opted for the Laura Cowles Trail without doing much prior research. This trail was a lot harder than either of us expected. The Laura Cowles Trail is much steeper and rockier than the Sunset Ridge Trail and basically entailed of us scrambling down rocks for the entire 2.7 miles down the mountain. My knees and ankles were killing me by the end that it honestly felt better to sprint back to the car than to walk slowly. I don’t recommend this trail unless you feel comfortable sliding down huge rock slabs and using your hands to constantly support yourself. It was a very beautiful, secluded, and wooded trail, just a lot more challenging than I was ready for.
Overall, Mount Mansfield was my favorite hike to date. It was challenging, but not more than I could handle and offered spectacular views of Lake Champlain and Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest. I definitely recommend it if you are near the area. Burlington, Vermont is also only a 40 minute drive from the mountain making it the perfect place to stop and stay overnight after a long day of hiking. Burlington has tons of shops, restaurants, and amazing views of Lake Champlain. Vermont has since become one of my absolute favorite places to be.
What is your favorite mountain to hike in the summertime?