Driving (or biking) distance hikes

Hikes Within Driving Distance

A few miles out of town you’ll come across lots of spots to hike.  In fact, a car is not necessary- in most cases you can bike to the trail head.  Besides, if some kid on your hall has a car, you have a car.  So round up the troops and head out to the mountains.  For an afternoon sunset or a day hike, here’s a sampling of what’s available.

Rattlesnake Cliffs and Silver Lake
Length: 4.8 miles

Overlooking Lake Dunmore, the Rattlesnake Cliff provides a spectacular view of the southern Champlain Valley.  The trail climbs moderately from the parking lot, and forks left from the Silver Lake Trail.  To reach Silver Lake, just stay on this trail. The Rattlesnake Cliffs Trail brings you past the Falls of Lana and across a wooden bridge over Sucker Brook.  You will pass junctions with the Aunt Jenny Trail and the North Branch Trail.  After about 1.5 miles of fairly steady ascent, you will reach a rocky outcropping that seems to drop straight into Lake Dunmore.  Parts of this area may be closed in the spring and summer to protect nesting peregrine falcons, so pay attention to any signs denoting closure. The cliffs offer panoramic views to the south and west, and on a warm summer day you may be able to watch swimmers and paddlers enjoying the lake below.  On the way back down, you may wish to veer right onto the Aunt Jenny Trail, which provides a steeper, more direct descent.  Before you reach the parking lot, follow your ears to the Falls of Lana and take a dip in the pool at the base of the falls to cool off.

Directions: Drive south on Route 7 out of Middlebury and turn left onto Route 53.  Follow Route 53 to a parking lot on the left 0.4 miles past Branbury State Park.

Snake Mountain
Length: 3.6 miles, 1,287’

Rising over 1,000’ above the farms of Addison County, Snake Mountain is a distinctive north-south running ridge of hills.  The views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks from the cliffs at the summit are magnificent, especially in the late afternoon.  This is a great spot to watch the sun slowly sink behind the Adirondack backdrop, but remember to bring a headlamp or flashlight, because the trip down will get quite dark.  From the gate, walk up the pleasant woods road.  At the “T”, turn left and the route will steepen and zig-zag up the mountainside.  Once you are on the ridge, watch for the side trail to the left which leads out onto the top of the cliffs.  Here you will find the remains of an old hotel foundation that burned down at the beginning of the century.  Snake Mountain’s proximity to campus, relatively short hike, and rewarding views make it an ideal afternoon getaway.

Directions: Take Route 125 west to Route 22A, then drive north for 4.5 miles to Wilmarth Road.  Turn right and continue to end and junction with Mountain Road.  Turn left, parking area will appear shortly on the left.  A gated woods road to the right is where trail begins.

A Snake Mountain History

This area provides phenomenal views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. Snake Mountain consists of durable sandstone called Monkton Quartzite that was formed roughly 540 million years ago. Its name comes from the shape of the long, thin crest of the mountain.  Consisting of the same rock formation as Mt. Philo, these quartzite peaks are part of the Champlain Thrust Fault that was active 375 million years ago. Other rock types found on Snake include black shale and limestone.  On the summit there is evidence of previous glacier activity in the form of north/south running striations found in the quartzite.  Rocks carried by the glaciers sliced the quartzite marking the direction of their flow.  Roughly 12,000 years ago Snake Mountain was an island in the middle of Lake Vermont, a glacial lake that stretched from the Adirondacks to the Green Mountains.  The rich clay soil of the Champlain Valley can be attributed to this water body.  Over a century ago, in 1874, the Grand View House served as a hotel resort atop the mountain. The resort included a roller skating rink, croquet grounds, a dance hall, and a 68 foot observation tower. Evidence of previous human impact remains today. The concrete slab on top is evidence of the remains of an attempt to build another house, although the foundation of the original Grand View House can be discovered. The reservoir to the south of the concrete slab was created by the hotel using existing rock formations to provide a permanent source of water. Now Snake Mountain is part of a nearly 1,000 acre wildlife management area. From the top one can also see Dead Creek below which is another wildlife management area mostly concerned with waterfowl.

Mount Abraham
Length: 5.2 miles, 4,006’

Mount Abraham is one of just five summits in Vermont which rises above 4,000 feet- and one of just four which extend above tree line (the other three are Killington Peak, Camel’s Hump, and Mount Mansfield).  Pause at the top to take in the 360-degree view- south lies the Green Mountain chain to Killington, the Champlain Valley and the Adirondacks are to the west, on a clear day the White Mountains can be seen to the east, and to the north the high ridge of Mount Abe and its adjacent mountains form the predominant landscape.  Please keep in mind that the fragile alpine vegetation above tree line suffers under boots, so remember to stay on the marked trail or on rock outcroppings.  From Lincoln Gap the hike to the summit is a steep, 5.2 mile round-trip along the Long Trail.  The LT passes the Battell Trail 1.7 miles into the hike, which veers west for two miles to a road; and the Battell shelter, 0.1 mile to the east.  From Abraham’s summit, you can continue north along the ridge to 3,975 foot Lincoln Peak where an observation deck offers views in every direction (making this hike 6.8 miles round-trip).

Directions: Drive north on Route 7 out of Middlebury.  After 8 miles, turn right onto Route 17.  Continue east on Route 17 past the junction with Route 116 and through the town of Bristol.  After 6.8 miles you will cross a bridge and then turn right onto Lincoln Road Lincoln Gap, 4.7 miles east of Lincoln and 4.7 miles west of Route 100 in Warren.  There is parking two-tenths of a mile west of Lincoln Gap, as well as along the road in the vicinity of the trail crossing.

The Robert Frost Trail
Length: 1 mile

The Green Mountains do not boast to have spectacular and dramatic rises and falls like those ranges in the West that inspired such artists as Ansel Adams.  There is no Grand Teton shooting out of the Champlain Valley, yet one only has to take the twenty minute drive up to the Robert Frost Trail to see what is so uniquely special about the Green Mountains.  As Robert Frost knew and expressed in his poems, there does not need to 10,000 foot colossal mountains to make a place beautiful.  The mile long Robert Frost Trail is something that everyone should visit at least once.  No matter what season, the combination of Frost’s poetry along the trail and the natural beauty of the Green Mountains evokes a sense of wonder towards nature every one feels, but never quite realizes.  Take an hour or so to walk the trail and realize how special our surrounding environment really is.

Directions: Take Route 7 south to Route 125. Drive east on Route 125. Park about 2 miles east of Ripton on Route 125 just west of the Breadloaf Campus area and the Robert Frost Wayside Picnic Area.

Reluctance by Robert Frost:
Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended

Skylight Pond
Length: 4.8 miles

This hike can easily be done in a half day, but you just might be tempted to spend the night in the lodge at the summit.  If so, you will be rewarded because not only is the lodge one of the nicest cabins along the entire Long Trail, but the sunrises can be spectacular on a clear morning.  The mountain ridges and valleys come to life as the dawn fire is reflected in Skylight Pond.  There is also an excellent ledge for viewing sunsets that looks down upon Middlebury College’s Breadloaf Mountain Campus.

Directions: Start on Route 7 south to Route 125 east. From Route 125, 2.8 miles east of Ripton, turn north onto USFS Road 59 and drive 3.5 miles to the parking area for the Skylight Pond Trail.

Rules of the Trail

    * Bring food and plenty of water
* Wear clothing that is appropriate for the season
* Pack out what ever you pack in
* Keep dogs on a leash and avoid taking them on cross country trails
* Wear bright colors when walking along roads
* Lock your car at the trailhead and keep valuables out of sight
* Let someone know your plans, and then stick with them
* Use mountain bikes only where specifically permitted
* Stay on the trail

Additional Resources

Hiker’s Guide to the Mountains of Vermont, Jared Gange
Hiking, snowshoeing, and backcountry skiing throughout Vermont.  Includes maps and excellent trail descriptions of day and overnight trips.
New England Hiking, Michael Lanza
A complete guide to more than 350 of the best hikes in New England.
Fifty Hikes in Vermont, Heather and Hugh Sadlier
The Long Trail Guide, The Green Mountain Club