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Updated August 24, 2021
With its gorgeous rolling mountaintops and stunning fall colors, Vermont often gets overshadowed by neighboring New Hampshire and New York when it comes to outdoor activities. However, hiking in Vermont offers a variety of beautiful mountain views, stunning waterfalls, and interesting history for all who take the time to explore its trails. We created this guide to the best hikes in Vermont so you can plan an amazing outdoor adventure (no matter what your hiking experience level is).
One of our favorite things about hiking in Vermont is the variety of difficulty and terrain and the absolutely stunning views. Additionally, Vermont is generally a less crowded hiking destination, meaning you’re more likely to have trails all to yourself!
Things to Know Before Hiking in Vermont
Hiking in Vermont is pretty straightforward; trails are typically well-marked and there are plenty of state parks around with information on individual trails. However, there are a few things you should know before you set out on any hiking adventure in Vermont:
The best time to hike in Vermont is in the fall. Much like its neighbor, New Hampshire, Vermont has absolutely mind-blowing fall colors that typically peak in early October. Hiking in the fall is a wonderful way to experience these fall colors, both by walking through the forest and from a bird’s eye view.
Many trails can get very slippery or muddy during wet weather, so proceed with caution. Several of the trails on our list run through forests and rocky mountaintops, which can get hazardous and slippery during rainy days or after periods of wet weather. Be sure to keep an eye on the weather to maximize your hikes and stay safe.
Ticks are very common in Vermont’s forests. Ticks can spread all kinds of nasty diseases Be sure to bring strong bug spray, wear long-sleeved hiking clothes, and check yourself (and your hiking buddies) for ticks once you’re done hiking.
If you want a multi-day adventure, you can do an Inn to Inn Walking Tour. One of the coolest experiences for hiking in Vermont is the Inn to Inn Walking Tour, which is a guided multi-day hiking experience where you’ll sleep at local inns with full luggage transportation options. It combines the best of a hiking adventure and a charming New England getaway!
Easy Hiking in Vermont
Location: Smugglers’ Notch State Park
Trail Length: 0.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 144 feet
If you’re looking for something short and sweet with a wonderful reward at the end, Bingham Falls is one of the best easy hikes in Vermont. With a trail that’s just half a mile long, this forested pathway offers beautiful scenery and views of magical cascades and emerald pools. The finale, Bingham Falls’ 31-foot cascade, is a super picturesque spot for a picnic or a moment to breathe. This trail perfect for solo hikers of any level or families with children – just be careful of the fall leaves when it’s wet out, as they can get quite slippery.
Thundering Brook Falls
Location: Killington, VT
Trail Length: 0.4 miles
Elevation Gain: Minimal
The Thundering Brook Falls hike is a short, beginner-friendly trail that takes hikers of all experience levels to another one of Vermont’s beautiful and unique waterfalls. This one, Thundering Brook Falls, looks more like a staircase with water cascading down the steps. It’s a totally different scene than the 31-foot drop of Bingham Falls! The trail itself is easy and features a network of wooden boardwalks that take hikers through the forest to the falls. Once you get to the falls, you have the option to continue hiking on a very steep trail along the water to get some different views.
Location: New Discovery State Park
Trail Length: 3.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 475 feet
If you love the idea of climbing a mountain and are looking for a bit of a longer summit hike that’s accessible to all levels of hikers, Owlshead Mountain is another one of the most fantastic easy summit hikes in Vermont. With an out-and-back journey of 3.2 miles (nearly double the length of Mount Olga), you can enjoy this easy ascent to the top of Owlshead Mountain over a couple of hours. The view up here is, in our opinion, one of the prettier easy hikes, as it features lovely mountain views with the serene Osmore Pond in between.
Location: Molly Stark State Park
Trail Length: 1.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 508 feet
There are few places more beloved than Mount Olga for hiking in Vermont. This summit hike offers a 1.7-mile trail through the woods to an overlook with a tower you can climb to catch the best views of the surrounding mountains. Once you get to the top, you’ll be looking out at Vermont from a 2,418-foot elevation! This is a trail that locals hike year-round, even in the winter when the ground is covered in snow, so if you’re itching to get outdoors on a lower-effort hike, Mount Olga is a fantastic option.
Quechee Gorge Dewey Pond Trail
Location: Quechee State Park
Trail Length: 1.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 147 feet
One of the most stunning easy hikes in Vermont is the Quechee Gorge Dewey Pond Trail, a beautiful out-and-back short hike that overlooks a beautiful, rocky gorge and the river that runs through it. Starting off at scenic Dewey Pond, this easy trail winds through the forest to the gorge area, where you can climb over the rocks to get a closer look at the water. There’s also a very scenic bridge that spans the two sides of the gorge that you’ll get excellent views of from the trail. Beautiful, easy, and short, the Quechee Gorge Dewey Pond trail makes for a wonderful addition to any adventure in the Quechee State Park area.
Moderate Hikes in Vermont
Location: Ball Mountain State Recreation Area
Trail Length: 5.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 757 feet
If you’re looking for a beautiful waterfall hike that offers a little bit of challenge, look no further than Hamilton Falls. Located in Ball Mountain State Recreation Area, this hike combines the beauty of Vermont’s forest areas and some pretty unique rock formations, all with a lovely, picturesque waterfall at the end of the trail.
The beginning of the trail is easy and relaxed, and the last mile up to the falls gets a little more challenging in terms of ascent. However, the hard work is worth it when you arrive at Hamilton Falls and get to soak in the beautiful scenery and beauty of its surroundings. The waterfall itself is situated on a diagonal rock slab and it looks really unique from other cascades in the area.
Location: Underhill State Park
Trail Length: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,092 feet
One super cool, quick hike in Underhill State Park is the Cantilever Rock trail, which boasts 3 miles of hiking to get to one of the weirdest rock formations in Vermont. This forested trail traverses dirt paths and wooden bridges to get to a scenic, rocky overlook where the Cantilever Rock sticks precariously out of the side of a cliff. Perhaps equally (or more) beautiful is the rocky summit that greets you at the end of the trail, with breathtaking views of the mountains and surrounding landscape as far as the eye can see.
Location: Willoughby State Forest
Trail Length: 4.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,653 feet
Mount Pisgah is one of the most beloved hikes in Vermont for its stunning overlooks that offer views of the mountains and Lake Willoughby. Located near Orleans, Vermont, the views from this hike are some of the best in the state, especially during the fall when the foliage paints the forest shades of red and yellow. On the trail, you’ll walk on a somewhat steep uphill pathway to get to the summit of Mount Pisgah, with plenty of views at the top and along the way. One reviewer on AllTrails says that this hike has “one of the best beauty to scariness ratios” she’s ever seen – high praise for a state that has tons of scenic hikes!
Ice Beds Trail
Location: Wallingford, VT
Trail Length: 1.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 538 feet
Scramblers, rejoice! The Ice Beds trail in Wallingford, VT is the perfect place to get your scramble on and enjoy some spectacular views of the Green Mountain State. Don’t be fooled by the short length of this trail – the ending boasts a large boulder field where you can scramble to your heart’s content! From the top, there’s also a gorgeous overlook to nearby mountains and plenty of rocks to enjoy a picnic or some deep breaths under the sun. Note that there’s quite a bit of mud on this trail, especially after rainfall, so bring waterproof hiking boots and thick socks to protect your feet and ankles from slipping.
Mount Mansfield Nose to Chin via Long Trail
Location: Mount Mansfield State Forest
Trail Length: 2.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,053 feet
Many New Englanders dream of hiking Mount Mansfield, and if you’re not an experienced hiker, it may seem like a daunting feat. However, one way to get up to the “summit” of Mount Mansfield that’s easier and more accessible is by hiking from the Nose (the area where you can drive to and park your car) to the Chin (the highest point of Mount Mansfield). While it’s not a full summit hike, you’ll get to enjoy the views and explore the summit area without embarking on an extremely strenuous hike. Not a bad compromise for hikers who want a bit easier of a climb to the top!
Challenging Hikes in Vermont
Mount Mansfield Loop
Location: Underhill State Park
Trail Length: 7.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,880 feet
For experienced hikers, one of the most quintessential hikes in Vermont is the Mount Mansfield Loop trail, which brings you from the base of the mountain to the tallest peak in Vermont, all in one challenging, 7.3-mile trail. You’ll ascend 2,880 feet in just over 3.5 miles, traversing rocky areas, scrambles, and rock crevasses that will get your heart pumping.
At the summit, you’ll catch panoramic views of Underhill State Park, Smugglers’ Notch State Park, and many of the ski resorts in the area. You’ll also be standing at the highest point in the state of Vermont, at 4,393 feet of elevation.
Only experienced hikers who know how to scramble should attempt this trail – it is very strenuous and requires a lot of strength and stamina. We also strongly recommend reserving this trail for sunny, clear weather, as it can be very dangerous and slippery during wet or rainy times.
Location: Bristol, VT
Trail Length: 5.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,765 feet
For a shorter but equally as challenging summit hike, head to Mount Abraham near Bristol, Vermont. This gorgeous mountain peak trail is very strenuous, with lots of super steep areas and scrambling, but there are incredible views throughout the entire way, especially in the fall. To summit this mountain, scrambling is required, so be ready to use your hands and feet towards the top. Once you get up there, you’ll get a glimpse at one of the most beautiful views in the state of Vermont.
Note that this trail does get extremely crowded, especially during peak hours on weekends. We’d recommend trying to head out on weekdays or early in the morning for the best views and the smallest crowds.
Camel’s Hump Trail
Location: Camel’s Hump State Park
Trail Length: 6 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,578 feet
If you’re going to do any strenuous hiking in Vermont, we’d recommend the Camel’s Hump Trail. This summit hike is a popular one located in its namesake state park, and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. The first few miles of the trail are moderate, with a fairly gradual incline. However, when you reach the rocky sections, it gets much steeper and more intense, with some scrambling incolved. At the top, you’ll get extraordinary views from the third highest peak in Vermont – an incredibly special and unique experience that some would argue is the best hike in the state.
Equinox Mountain & Lookout Rock
Location: Green Mountain National Forest
Trail Length: 6.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,883 feet
For a leg burner that’ll give you a great workout, Equinox Mountain & Lookout Rock is one of the hardest hikes in Vermont. What makes it so difficult, you ask? The unrelenting uphill climb that takes you from the base of the mountain to the peak, with steepness grades of up to 48% in some areas. It’s definitely best suited for those looking for a “workout” hike rather than one for views and scenery alone, although the views from the top of Manchester and the nearby mountains are quite breathtaking.
Bucklin Trail to Killington Peak
Location: Green Mountain National Forest
Trail Length: 7.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,470 feet
Hailed as one of Vermont’s most famous skiing peaks, the Killington summit makes for a fantastic hike during the off season. The Bucklin Trail is a local trail that brings hikers to the summit of this well-known mountain. However, unlike many hiking trails that traverse popular ski areas, this one feels remote and forested, with little to no crossroads with the skiing runs. This classic, strenuous Vermont hike begins with a gradual uphill through the woods and tops off with a rock scramble to the summit, which boasts nearly 360 degree views of the area surrounding this famous peak/ski resort. Once you’ve hiked this mountain in the summer or fall, you can come back in the winter and ski it for a double-whammy!
Additional Resources for Hiking in Vermont
What to Bring
Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to wear a sweat-wicking shirt and breathable pants, like these Patagonia hiking shorts for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers for men and women, a down puffer jacket for men and women, and a Northface waterproof outer shell for men and women (a must for hiking in Seattle). And don’t forget a pair of the best women’s and men’s hiking socks!
Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we suggest throwing them in your car just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond Trail Ergo cork trekking poles, which are lightweight, easy to transport, and durable.
Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To limit disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask water bottles because they keep water cold for hours.
Sunscreen and bug spray – Sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects. Our favorite kind of sunscreen is Sun Bum, as it is free of harsh chemicals and safe for marine life, including coral reefs.
A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or capfor day hikes in the sunshine.
Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend the Osprey Tempest 20 or the Talon 22 day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes. For more information, check out our best day packs for any terrain guide.
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