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Section Hiking The Long Trail

I plan to hike the entire length of the the Long Trail in Vermont this spring, summer, and early autumn. The Long Trail is a 272 mile trail that runs from the Massachusetts-Vermont state border through Vermont to the Canadian Border. It was established before the Appalachian Trail and is said to have been the model upon which the AT was based. The first 100 miles of the Long Trail coincide with the Appalachian Trail, but the LT keeps going north at White River Junction as the AT breaks east and heads into New Hampshire.

Map of Vermont's Long Trail
Map of Vermont’s Long Trail

On average, it takes backpackers 27 days to thru-hike the Long Trail. Since I have to work during the week, I’m going to section hike it over a series of long weekends that I have pre-negotiated with my wife. Luckily she’s a fanatical Red Sox fan and will hardly notice that I’m gone during the baseball season.

Section hiking the Long Trail is arguably harder than doing it all at once in a thru-hike because you need to find a way back to your car after the end of each section. I will probably end up doing most of the trail solo and I am counting on a lot of trail magic when it comes to hiker shuttles.

The first third of the Long Trail is much less difficult than the northern two-thirds which are said to be harder than the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire. If you’ve ever hiked the granite peaks of New Hampshire, you know that is saying something. After passing the northern junction of the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail after Mt. Killington, I will need to climb up and over 26 mountains before I get to the Canadian Border. There are only 16 peaks in the first third of the trail and they are relatively small peaks.

Here is a list of the sections I’ve scheduled so far.

Rt 9 to Rt 11/30
Days: 3
Distance: 40 miles.
Hiking direction: NOBO

Rt 11/30 to Clarendon Gorge
Days: 3
Distance: 32 miles.
Hiking direction: NOBO

Journeys End to Vt 118
Days: 3
Distance: 30 miles.
Hiking direction: SOBO

Vt 118 to Smuggler’s Notch
Days: 3
Distance: 35 miles.
Hiking direction: SOBO

US 4 to Middlebury Gap
Days: 3
Distance: 30 miles.
Hiking direction: NOBO

Middlebury Gap to Appalachian Gap
Days: 3
Distance: 30 miles.
Hiking direction: NOBO

Smuggler’s Notch to Appalachian Gap
Days: 4
Distance: 46 miles.
Hiking direction: SOBO

I’ll probably have to do 2 more weekends to make up some smaller sections that I plan to pass up for logistical reasons.

Each of these sections lets me leave a car close to a trail head and end at a major mountain pass with a reasonably sized road that goes through it. The plan is to hitchhike or try to plan a ride from these endpoints in order to make my way back to my car. Vermont natives are known for giving rides to people hiking the Long Trail so I hope this will work. Otherwise, I will probably miss a few Mondays at work!

I’ve based my plan on being able to hike about 10 miles a day. My plan is to do 2 of the southern sections to get in shape and then to start hiking southbound from the Canadian Border, called Journey’s End, as soon as possible after than. The reason for this is that the Long Trail hiking season is very short. The trail is closed until Memorial Day at the end of May due to muddy conditions that arise from snow melt. The season ends by the end of October when temperatures get too cold to hike in and the chance of snow increases.

So that’s the plan. If you can give me a ride back to my car on a Sunday this summer, please contact me. I’d really appreciate the help and I will buy you a beer or two for your trouble.

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8 comments

  1. I enjoyed hiking with you and hope to join you for a bit of the LT before I head to Colorado for the Colorado Trail late this summer.

    I spent the best part of a month really enjoying the Long Trail last year. Sure, it's possible to do the entire trail in less than three weeks, but there's just too much to see and do along the way to rush the hike. The LT has a little bit of everything including above tree line peaks, wilderness areas, and even some great little towns to visit if you get the chance while sectioning. Have a great hike.

  2. I used a shuttle for a section of the AT in MA this summer and it worked fine. However, I parked my car at the end of the section and got a ride to the beginning. That way, the car was there waiting for me when I was done. Being tired after three days from Dalton to North Adams, I was happy not to have to wait or figure out how to get back to my car.

    Not sure if some of the AT shuttles included the LT – check out outdoors.org to see.

  3. I do the same thing – always hike back to my car on solos where I keep clean (dry) clothes and food.

  4. Oh yeah. I finished my end-to-end this year. Here's a link to my trip summary – http://sectionhiker.com/2008/10/22/trip-summary-r

  5. Thanks for posting your plan. I am section hiking this summer and will certainly tap into your wisdom. How did it all work out?

  6. Here is the link to my trail journal – the plan changed rather dramatically – as well as other useful resources. http://sectionhiker.com/the-long-trail/

  7. Quoddy – I'm thinking about hiking The Long Trail again and like your advice about taking it slow. There are a lot of good side trail to explore and the towns can be quite pleasant. Thx!

  8. [email protected]

    Let me know details for a 58 year old man with no experience

    Wenbin Yuan

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