The Long Trail, Vermont
Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bensalthouse/2451752047

The Eldest Trail in the USA...

The simply named Long Trail is the oldest long-distance trail in the United States. Located in Vermont, it runs the entire length of the state, weaving itself through towns and countryside, mountains and valleys. This brilliant footpath runs through all of Vermont's finest wilderness and has the perfect trek for any level of hiker. Many beginners and family choose certain sections of the trail for day trips, while the advanced hike the whole 273-mile expanse.

The trail was first conceived by the Assistant Headmaster of the Vermont Academy in Windsor, Vermont in 1910. He and other residents of Vermont wanted to achieve their dreams of making the Vermont mountains play a larger part in the life of residents. In 1912, construction began on the Long Trail, making it the oldest long distance trail in the United States. Construction of the trail continued onwards into 1930 when it was finally completed after begin delayed frequently by the sometimes rough and unpredictable terrain.

Quick Stats:

Trail Length: 273 miles City/State: Vermont Bikes Allowed: Yes
Elevation: Highest: 4,393 feet County: N/A Dogs Allowed: Yes

For those that begin their hike, they usually begin at North Troy. North Troy is the northernmost terminus in Vermont just a mile from the Canadian border. Those who seek to hike the whole trail start in North Troy before working their way to the southern terminus on the Massachusetts border at Route 9, many of which choosing to co-align their hike with the southern progression of fall foliage throughout the state. Along the way, long distance hikers will be able to stop at any of the 56 shelters located along the trail so there will be little need to lug camping gear like tents around.

Out of North Troy, the residential houses begin to fade into forest as hikers travel along an old jeep road over little creeks and springs as well as serene wilderness. Around the first camp at Journey's End, the trail transforms from gravelly jeep road to hard packed dirt trail. As the trail gains in elevation, hikers can see Quebec's Sutton Mountains in the distance. Due to the steep undulating terrain, the trail can get a bit slippery and has some exposed roots, so hikers should be wary.

The Long Trailhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/26176484@N08/2452583192/

As hikers finally descend around the Shooting Star Shelter, they are treated to handsome views of nearby Jay's Peak, which the trail creeps slowly towards, giving more impressive close up views. The hike continues low for awhile, but a sudden steep climb creeps up quickly. This climb usually takes hikers by surprise and can take a bit of effort to climb but it is worth it. From the top on clear days, hikers will be able to see for miles over the lushly forested rolling hills in the distance.

The trail has slowly crept up to Jay's Peak and has hikers climb up its summit primarily on ski trails but the end of the trail turns into occasionally slick rocks. After taking in the summit, it's back down to the rolling foothills before gradually heading up the smaller Gilpin Mountain. It is recommended to rest after Gilpin Mountain; however, as three very steep sections over Domey's Dome, Buchannan Mountains and Bruce Peak follow in quick succession to each other. After several mountainous climbs, weary hikers are walk through some small rolling hills, but they are a treat compared to the hard climbing that came before. The ground grows slowly flatter as hikers traverse through flat land with tall straight trees. This gap in between the mountains is known as Hazen's Notch after General Moses Hazen who built a military road through here during the Revolutionary War at the command of General Washington.

An incline in the trail begins to make itself apparent as the forest becomes dominated by red spruce trees. This marks the beginning of hiker's ascent over Haystack Mountain. The summit is covered in tree shade, giving home to all variety of forest ferns and mosses as well as displaying another sweeping vista over the area. After descending the mountain the trail is full of steep hills, not quite mountains, but close enough. They require quite a bit of precision to climb less hiker desire to take a nasty spill. The trail flattens out again and runs past a number of streams and babbling brooks before happening across Lockwood Pond, the first of many beaver ponds along the trail.

Eventually the flat land turns into foothills once more and leads to a mountain more challenging that Jay's Peak before it--Belvidere Mountain. The ascent onto this mountain is officially marked by a fire tower at its base. It's a tough climb, but the summit is by far the best on the trail so far, it even shows Jay's Peak looking small in the distance.

Almost immediately upon descending the mountain, the Long Trail leads into Devil's Gulch, a narrow rocky ravine. Inside of its high rocky walls, hikers become climbers as they scramble over, under and around the jumbled boulders in the area. After surfacing, the trail turns into a flat ridge walk filled with refreshing breezes and sunshine. However, that doesn't last long as the Long Trail yet again turns into forested thickets.

The Long Trail, Vermonthttp://www.flickr.com/photos/bensalthouse/2451752047

It continues on this way for some time, up small mountains and through forested valleys, until a marker named Plot Road. This paved road, briefly intersecting with the trail separates the forest from the meadows that lay head. It's pleasant walking with long grass and plenty of sunshine all the way to the town of Johnson. Johnson is a popular little farming town where most hikers stop to restock as well as visit the trail's favorite bar--The Long Trail Tavern.

The trail after Johnson turns back into forest as it prepares to ascend Whiteface Mountain. After descending Whiteface, the trails turn into ski trails for a few of the mountains afterwards before returning to the forest. However now it is time for the trail's biggest challenge, the highest peak in Vermont, Mount Mansfield. The trail leads right up to the open summit, but it is a tough climb full of rocks and roots. If the weather is bad, hikers may want to use the summit bypass trail, known as "The Chin," to avoid getting blown off a mountain top. The summit is, however, well worth the visit. The soft grass and random windswept rocks jutting from the ground is a bit like being in a scene from Lord of the Rings. Heading down the mountain is as tough as climbing up, but in a different way. There are a variety of ladders and rickety wooden bridges to help hikers bypass the larger rocks making it feel much like an obstacle course.

After Mount Mansfield, hikers have cleared the "hard part" of the trail. There will be a few smaller mountains to climb but nothing as taxing as what came before. Many hikers describe the southern part of the Long Trail as being rather suburban compared than the northern parts. Hikers are now in beaver pond country there will be one pretty much about every hour of hiking. Eventually the forest gives way to meadows and farm land. It will lead through small towns like Jonesville and past idyllic farms. The remainder of the Long Trail stays like that, separated only by smaller mountains making it easy to see why it is called suburban.

As the trail reaches the southern terminus, visitors who have hiked the Appalachian Trail before this will notice some shelters and trail markers that coincide with their trek. The southern Terminus is where the Long Trail connects the Appalachian Trail running north and south until the trail itself runs into Route 9 and Massachusetts, signalling its end.

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