Long Trail Backpacking Guide: Section 1 of 5

Long Trail Boardwalk

Long Trail Boardwalk

The Long Trail is a 272-mile footpath in Vermont. It runs the entire length of the state from the Massachusetts-Vermont state line all the way to the Canadian boarder, following the ridgeline of the Green Mountains. For most of us, including myself, we don’t have the circumstances to hike the entire Long Trail in one shot. The great thing is that this trail is easy to section hike because there are many road crossings near towns where you can gain access to the footpath. So, for this trail I’m going to brake it up into 5 sections, which allows you to plan for shorter 4-6 day hiking trips.

In this backpacking guide, I will cover the first section of the Long Trail from Route 2 (Williamstown/North Adams, MA) to Route 11/30 (Manchester Center, VT). On this part of the trail you will mainly be hiking through very dense forests and occasionally get to peak out above treeline to incredible views from fire towers on top of Mount Glastonbury and Mount Stratton. You will also pass by several ponds where you could possibly see wildlife like moose and beavers.

Trail Facts

  • Length: 58.2 Miles

  • Duration: 4-6 Days

  • Peak Elevation: 3940 Feet

  • Best Season to Hike: Late-Spring to Mid-Fall

  • Difficulty Level: Moderate-Difficult

  • Bear Canisters: Not Required

  • Permits: Not Required

Highlights

  • Dense Forests

  • Historic Fire Towers

  • Beaver Ponds

  • Variety of Wildlife

  • Trail Community

Mount Stratton Fire Tower View

Mount Stratton Fire Tower View

Maps & Information

  • Guthooks Long Trail App: This is a great hiking app for navigating the entire Long Trail. It uses your mobile phone’s GPS to locate and track your position on the trail. The app provides extensive information on elevation profiles, mileage, good campsites and shelters, water sources, and many more things.

  • Vermont's Long Trail 5th Edition Map: They say it’s always good to bring an actual hard copy map with you when hiking in case your phone stops working. The Green Mountain Club provides an excellent topo map that includes mileage points, elevation profiles, shelter locations, and it’s waterproof.

  • The Long Trail Guide Book: This book is a must have when planning your Long Trail hike. It’s designed to be used in conjunction with a map. It breaks down what you will encounter on the trail in great detail in the form of trail notes so you can prepare accordingly.

Parking

For this first section of trail you can park at the Greylock Community Club, for free, along Route 2 in North Adams, MA. It’s about 500 feet from the trail. If the parking area is full, you can also park your car at the Williamstown Motel along Route 2 in Williamstown, Massachusetts for a very small fee. It’s about 1.5 miles from the Appalachian Trail. For the exact locations of the parking areas and the trailheads, check out the interactive map below 

Long Trail Slideshow

Accommodations

  • Williamstown Motel: This modest motel is conveniently located right off of Route 2 in Williamstown, Massachusetts. It’s only about 1.5 miles from the Appalachian Trail. It’s an affordable place to stay the night and there’s also the added benefit that they will allow you to keep your car their for a small fee. Click the link provided for the latest price for a room.

  • Green Mountain House Hiker Hostel: This Hostel is very clean and a low-cost place to stay the night with many hiker amenities. The hostel is located about 5 miles from the trail in Manchester, Vermont. This is a good place to stay after completing the first section of the Long Trail or when you’re starting the second section of the trail. Click the link for up-to-date prices.

Shuttles & Buses

The Long Trail is a linear trail, so you will need transportation to get back to your car after you’re done with your hike. There are two options available to you. The first is using a private shuttle service. Below is the contact information for such services.

  • Mark Shaw (802) 477-2048 Trailhead10@gmail.com

  • Jerry Gross (330) 301-7591 JerryAT@ymail.com

The second option for transportation back to your car is to use the Green Mountain Express Bus system. This is what I recommend because it’s very affordable. From the trailhead you can hitch a ride to Manchester Center which is just a couple miles away. Get dropped of at the Rite Aid store where there’s a bus stop. Take the Orange line going southbound to Bennington. Once you arrive at the bus terminal, make a connection to the purple line from Bennington back to Williamstown, MA. The total cost for the bus ride is only $3. For more information check out the Green Mountain Express Bus website by clicking the link provided and also check out the interactive map below for the bus stop location.

stratton pond

stratton pond

Water Sources

For this section of the Long Trail there is an abundance of water sources in the form of streams, ponds, and springs only short distances apart. Because of this I would recommend only carrying 2 liters of water at one time and in some areas you could get away with even less to save weight in your pack. I have many of the water sources marked on the interactive map below so you can plan your hike accordingly. Make sure to always filter your water because giardia and bacteria are a concern. One of the best water filters on the market is the Sawyer Micro Squeeze because it’s lightweight and has a fast flow rate.

Terrain

The terrain on this section of the Long Trail is not overly challenging. But, there are some things to be aware of. In spring time, Vermont can become very muddy due to rain and snowmelt. The best thing to do is to hold off hiking till June and then the trail will have a chance to dry out.

Another area of concern to be aware of, is the section after Harmon Hill. At that area you will descend rapidly for 600’ on knee-grinding stone steps all the way down to Route 9. Make sure to take your time and maybe even rest your knees halfway down to prevent injury.

Also, in certain parts of the trail there are some decent hills to climb, like Mount Stratton at 3,940’, but as long as you’re somewhat in shape there is nothing to be overly concerned about.

long trail vermont

long trail vermont

Bugs

Spring time is black fly and mosquito season in Vermont. They can be a real nuisance and almost unbearable at times where you will not want to leave your protective tent. The best thing to do is wait till late spring or even summer to hike the Long Trail and the bugs should be less prevalent. Other precautionary measures that you can take is to wear a long sleeved shirt and long pants treated in permethrin (insect repellent for your clothing and gear), a head bug net, and bring some Deet bug spray.

Camp Spots & Shelters

There are some amazing tent sites and shelters along this section of the Long Trail. At mile 5.8 you will find a nice camp spot by a pond where you can watch beavers working hard on their dam. Also, there is great camping spots on top of Glastenbury Mountain where the fire tower is. The only down side is that the water source is 0.3 miles away. Not exactly convenient. But, on the plus side you will have an opportunity to enjoy a sunrise and sunset from the fire tower.

My favorite shelters include the Goddard shelter which is just before the summit of Glastenbury Mountain. It sleeps 8 people and has a nice seating area. I also like the Kid Gore shelter which has bunks for 8 people and it has views of the mountains and sunrises. Keep in mind all of these shelters are on a first-come basis.

Check out the interactive map below for exact locations of the tent sites and shelters

beaver pond camp spot

beaver pond camp spot

kid gore shelter

kid gore shelter

Trip Itinerary

Day 1: (9.6 miles)

  • Start at the parking area at the Greylock Community Center in North Adams, MA and walk 0.1 miles heading west on Rt. 2 towards the Phelps Ave intersection. Here you should see Appalachian Trail markers on utility poles.

  • Turn right at the intersection and in 0.1 miles you will be entering the forest. Hike north on the AT uphill following the Sherman Brook. After awhile you will bear left away from the stream and eventually arrive at the southern terminus sign of the Long Trail at mile 3.8.

  • Continue hiking on through terrain that has mild elevation changes. At mile 9.6 you will arrive at a very remote beaver pond. Here you will stay the night and enjoy the view of the pond and be able to see beavers working on their dam.

Day 2: (18.9 miles)

  • Start your day by hiking up Consultation Peak and then descending down to another beaver pond at mile 12.6.

  • After that continue on and at mile 13.2 you will follow the picturesque Stamford Stream for 0.2 miles. After awhile you will bear left from the stream and start to climb in elevation again. At mile 16.3 you will arrive at the overgrown summit of Harmon Hill.

  • Continue on by descending moderately and then at mile 17.5 the descent increases dramatically by an extensive rock staircase which continues all the way down to Rt. 9.

  • Cross Rt. 9 and hike up the other side of the valley. This is a decent climb including several switchbacks. At mile 18.7 you will pass between a large boulder split into two called Split Rock. After that you will eventually reach the top of Maple Hill at mile 20.4.

  • Continue on from Maple Hill by descending down to the Hell Hollow Brook at mile 21.3. After that you will climb gradually and reach a ridgeline with minor elevation changes.

  • The ridgeline will eventually lead you to the Goddard Shelter at mile 28.2 where you can find a camp spot nearby and stay the night or you can continue on 0.3 miles and camp on top of Glastenbury Mountain where there’s a fire tower with great views that allow you to see both sunrises and sunsets (water source is 0.3 miles away).

Day 3: (12.3 miles)

  • Begin your day by a steady downhill hike from the summit of Glastenbury Mountain and arrive at Kid Gore shelter at mile 32.5. This is one of the best shelters of the hike because of the view it has.

  • After that you will continue on through some really beautiful dense forest and then at mile 36.8 you will come to a beaver pond.

  • Continue hiking on and enjoy some relatively easy terrain with no major inclines passing by more beaver ponds.

  • At mile 36.8 you will come to Stratton Arlington Rd. Turn right onto the road for 0.1 miles and as you cross over the East Branch Dearfield River look for white blazes on the left side.

  • When you find the trail, hike on till you see a camp site. There should be one close to the East Branch Dearfield river. This is where you will stay the night. If that site is already taken there is one further up at mile 41.5 that’s close to a water source.

Day 4: (14.7 miles)

  • Start this day with a gradual climb up towards Stratton Mountain. At mile 44.5 you will have reached the summit and find a fire tower that offers amazing views of mountains and far off lakes.

  • After that you will hike down Mount Stratton by a series of switchbacks and go through an incredible spruce forest. At mile 47.7 you will finish your descent and arrive at the beautiful Stratton Pond.

  • Continue on through terrain that is fairly easy to hike and eventually make it to the Winhall River Valley at mile 49.6. Follow the river for several miles before bearing away from it at mile 51.5.

  • At mile 52.4 the trail will turn into a dirt road. Follow the road and at mile 53.4 look for a sign on the left side for the Prospect Rock overlook with a nice view of Manchester Center.

  • After enjoying the view, continue on by looking for trail markers on the other side of the road that lead you back onto the hiking trail again. Follow the trail and at mile 55.5 you will arrive at the Spruce Peak Shelter where you can find many tent spots and this is where you will stay for the night.

Day 5: (2.7 miles)

  • Begin the day with just a short easy 2.7 mile hike to Rt. 11/30. This will complete your section hike. Manchester Center is the closest town from the trail, which is about 5 miles away.

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