We hiked the Long Trail in Vermont, USA, in July 2018. We hiked northbound (from the Massachusetts-Vermont state border to the USA-Canada border) end-to-end.
Check out our blogs from the hike (we split into two groups occasionally so there is some cross over – with very different experiences – in the days before Stowe):
- Part one: Williamstown, MA, to Manchester, VT
- Part two: Manchester, VT, to Rutland, VT
- Part three: Rutland, VT, to Stowe, VT
- Part four: App Gap, VT, to Stowe, VT
- Part five: Stowe, VT, to Canada
The Long Trail is the oldest, long-distance hiking trail in the USA. It runs north-south through the Green Mountains of Vermont and was constructed by the Green Mountain Club between 1910 and 1930. The trail is 272 miles (that’s 434km), the southernmost 100 of these are shared with the Appalachian Trail (AT), and has 166 miles of side trails to explore.
It is a great challenge. Travelling northbound, it starts off fairly well-graded and maintained, with lots of water to drink and to swim in. It can be a bit busy with AT hikers, however, when the AT peels off the quality of the Long Trail starts to deteriorate. Large sections are not well maintained (e.g. lots of blown down trees blocking the path, generally overgrown, poorly marked) and the trail is very steep, narrow and uneven in places. This meant that we weren’t able to up our mileage as we got stronger, but it probably made the first section or two much easier and more pleasant. Water also became less reliable and there certainly weren’t as many washing/swimming opportunities. The hiking was very pleasant in July – it was hot and humid in the lower elevations, but the extensive tree cover gave us a lot of shade and kept the heat down by a couple of degrees.
Many of the summits are wooded and thus without views, but when a vista opens up, it is incredible. We loved having lots of time in nature and we got to make new friends along the way too. We were also touched by the kindness of strangers, especially when needing to hitch a ride in or out of a town.
The trail is marked by a vertical white ‘blaze’. Sometimes these appear frequently, at other times the markings disappear for a long time.
We chose to use the mobile app Guthooks, in addition to following markers and it was very useful. The app gives useful information about all of the major milestones and waypoints, including shelters, water sources, road crossings, peaks etc. It also integrates maps and elevation profile with your GPS and hikers can leave comments about waypoints.
There are also maps and guides of the whole trail if you’d like to carry a paper copy, and take a regular old compass too.
Depending on the time of year the weather varies dramatically. Over winter, much of the trail is covered in thick snow, whereas when we hiked, in July, the weather was predominantly hot and humid.
Over the three weeks that we were hiking there was a little rain: a few hours of warm rain on two different days, plus two or three days of cold, heavy rain that lasted all day. Daytime temperatures were mid-high twenties (Celsius), and nights didn’t go below 10. The trail is almost all through the woods so in summer there is constant shade. We therefore decided not to carry sun hats, and didn’t need lots of sunscreen (but still take some!).
Along the trail there are shelters every five miles or so for resting or sleeping. These are usually made of a raised platform with three walls and a roof. The fourth wall is a large open front, so if there is heavy rain with a strong wind the front of the shelter can get wet.
Some solo hikers risk not carrying a tent or shelter, banking on sleeping each night in a shelter. However, it is important to keep in mind that the shelters are limited in size and there may not be space unless you arrive very early. This is especially true in bad weather, at busy times of the year, or on popular sections of the trail (especially the southern 100 miles that is shared with the Appalachian Trail).
There are plenty of towns along the route that you can drop into to stock up on food, have a bed for a night and deal with anything else you want to do. You can hitchhike to and from these towns fairly easily.
There are no fees or permits required to hike the Long Trail.
Carry as little as required. The lighter your pack, the happier you will be!
- Backpack and pack liner and/or pack cover
- Hiking poles – strongly recommended, the trail can be challenging.
- Walking shoes – we went for trail runners over boots because we prefered something lightweight and breathable in the heat.
- Gaiters – we wore short fabric gaiters (Dirty Girl gaiters) to keep dust and debris out of our shoes. Longer gaiters weren’t necessary for our summer hike.
- Rain coat
- Warmer jumper/thermals for night-time, plus other warm things for cooler months
- Swimsuit (optional!) and small towel
- Hiking clothes (for us: undies, socks, shirt and shorts) – most of the time things dried quickly, so we just took two of everything, rinsed them when possible and dried them off of our packs. Plan your clothes depending on the weather you expect.
Other important things:
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- First-aid kit
- Navigation tools – a phone with the app, phone charger and power bank, plus a regular old compass for us. Trail guides and maps are also available.
- Toilet paper, hand sanitiser and a hand trowel
- Water purification method – we use a Sawyer Squeeze filter, but purification tablets, UV lamp or other sort of filter would be fine. Something you can use to collect/scoop water from small trickles or small pools is also useful.
- Insect repellent – in the summer months biting black flies can be a real pain, plus there are often mosquitoes
- Any other toiletries or valuables that you will need. Places in towns will almost always have ATMs and accept card payments.
Camping and cooking items:
- Sleeping mat
- Sleeping bag and liner
- Stove, gas, lighter/matches
- Cooking pot, utensils, sharp knife
- Water bottles and/or bladder – water sources are reasonably reliable so 2 litres capacity per person should be enough
- Paracord (10m for hanging food bags at night)
- Food bags