Backpacking in Vermont: Tips & Trails

Backpacking in Vermont: Two backpackers and a dog enjoying a trail view

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Backpacking in Vermont is a breeze as the state is a backpacker’s paradise with its rugged Green Mountains, abundant forests, scenic vistas, pristine waters, and plentiful wildlife.

The diverse terrain offers options for all skill levels, from gentle trails through maple-filled valleys to challenging alpine ridgelines.

In this post, we’ll delve into the world of backpacking in Vermont through an ultralight lens, offering crucial information for your upcoming outdoor journey.

We will highlight the TOP 5 trails in Vermont across two categories: day hikes under 25 miles, and multi-day trips with opportunities to resupply your water every couple of days.

Key Tips for Backpacking in Vermont

  • What to expect: Be prepared for steep, rocky trails, changeable weather including sudden storms, remote isolation on longer trails, primitive campsites and lean-tos at designated areas, as well as spectacular scenery.
  • Essential gear: Key backpacking gear for Vermont includes bear canisters required in some areas to protect food, water filters to draw from backcountry sources, quality rain gear for frequent storms, and warm layers for fluctuating temperatures.
  • Wildlife: Vermont’s backcountry hosts wildlife risks, including black bears, coyotes, and moose. Bears are attracted to food smells, coyotes pose a small risk, and moose can be aggressive during mating season. Stay alert, give moose space, and be cautious to minimize potential wildlife encounters.
  • Wild camping: Dispersed backcountry camping is restricted in Vermont, with options limited mainly to designated sites along the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail corridors in the Green Mountain National Forest. Permits are required and camping duration is capped at 1-2 nights before breaking camp. Some state forests allow primitive camping in specified areas. Compared to western public lands, Vermont has tighter regulations.
  • Best times to go: Best Vermont backpacking times: late spring (May-June) for pleasant weather, fewer bugs, and lighter crowds; early fall (September-October) for cooler temperatures, fall foliage, and fewer people post-Labor Day. Summer has long days but may have lightning storms and bugs. Late fall in November offers open vistas but requires cold weather prep amid limited windows between winter storms.

Top 5 Day Hikes (Under 25 Miles)

Explore these prime day hikes to elevate your adventures with ultralight gear:

  1. Mount Mansfield Loop Trail (7.7 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Killington Peak via Bucklin Trail (7.2 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Equinox Mountain and Lookout Rock (6.3 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Camel’s Hump via Long Trail Loop (6.5 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Bald Mountain (7.9 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Top 5 Multi-Day Trips

Top multi-day trails for backpacking in Vermont with water resupply options every two days:

  1. The Long Trail (245.6 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Smugglers Notch and Sterling Mountain (26.7 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. The Long Trail: VT 125 to US 4 (28.7 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Lamoille Valley Rail Trail (95.5 miles)
    See on AllTrails.
  5. The Long Trail (Division 11) (25.9 miles)
    See on AllTrails.

Annual Weather Averages

Weather conditions can vary widely depending on the time of year and the specific region within Vermont. Here’s a general overview:

  • Spring (March-May): Unpredictable with possible snow in March-April, becoming milder in May (50°F to 70°F or 10°C to 21°C).
  • Summer (June-August): Popular due to warm temperatures (70°F to 85°F or 21°C to 29°C), longer daylight hours, occasional afternoon thunderstorms.
  • Fall (September-November): Best time with vibrant foliage. September is mild (50°F to 70°F or 10°C to 21°C), October peak foliage, November cooler.
  • Winter (December-February): Cold and snowy, less common for backpacking. Daytime temperatures (20°F to 40°F or -6°C to 4°C), significant snowfall in mountainous areas.

Before making your gear selection, take a look at the weather statistics for Vermont (Montpelier):

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High °F273039546674787668564332
Low °F111322354554595749392918
Rain/Snow (D*)76891112131110988
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.
D* – Days of rain or snow.

FAQ

Can I have a campfire while backpacking in Vermont? 

When backpacking in Vermont, campfires are strict. No fires above 2,500 feet, and only in established rings below that. Get a permit first. Only use dead wood. Cook with portable stoves, not fires. Be cautious, as fires might attract bears.

What are some safety tips for backpacking in Vermont?

When you backpack in Vermont, get ready for changing mountain weather, remote areas, wildlife, and tough trails. Bring maps, a compass, and GPS to navigate primitive and uneven paths. Pack extra layers, food, and a headlamp. Always hike with a buddy and let someone know your plans. Look out for signs of bears, moose, and deer. Avoid hiking during hunting seasons. Use a water filter to avoid giardia in streams. Be careful around steep edges and avalanche-prone slopes. Check the forecast, and head back if storms are coming. Know your limits on challenging high elevation hikes.

How to deal with wildlife encounters while backpacking in Vermont?

Be careful if you run into animals while backpacking in Vermont. Make some noise to avoid surprising bears or moose. Keep your distance and don’t try to get too close. Look for signs like tracks to avoid active areas. Know how to use bear spray just in case. For bears, make yourself look big, back away slowly, and speak firmly. If a moose charges, run behind a tree. Leave beavers, porcupines, and other small critters alone. Never feed wild animals. Tell rangers about any tricky encounters. Hike in groups, keep your food securely stored, and be extra careful at dawn and dusk when animals are active.

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