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Backpacking Camels Hump, A Side-to-Side Adventure

The Mont Clair Glen Shelter on Vermont’s Long Trail

The last time I hiked over Camels Hump Mountain, a 4000-footer in Vermont, was in 2008 when I hiked the Long Trail. Now in 2024, some 16 years later, my goal was to hike all the other trails that go up, down, and around Camels Hump because I’m pursuing the Side-by-Side patch given out by the Green Mountain Club for hiking all of the trails that lead to the Long Trail from the sides.

The Side-to-Side trail list is pretty modest by trail-bagging standards, with only 88 trails totaling 166 miles. But they’re distributed along the 273-mile length of the Long Trail and can require a lot of driving to get to. There’s the added challenge that many of their trailheads are on seasonal forest service roads that may be inaccessible during the winter, effectively limiting the portion of the year that they can be hiked. A few trails also require hiking portions of the Long Trail, such as shelter spurs, so I’ll have to re-hike portions of the Long Trail again to reach them, but it’s all good fun.

The Burrows Trail is a popular way to climb Camel Hump
The Burrows Trail is a popular way to climb Camel Hump

Camels Hump is a popular destination in Vermont, and while you can climb the peak via the Long Trail, there are several alternative routes possible as well. Some trails loop around the mountain, so you can create intricate routes that follow several trails. That was my plan for this trip.

Here’s a turn-by-turn route summary that lists the trails I followed, the distance in miles for each, and the direction of travel, which I needed to write down so I wouldn’t head in the wrong direction at some of the junctions. The goal of this game was to hike as many trails in their entirety without repeating sections. The total distance of this trip was just under 15 miles with 5200′ of elevation gain.

  1. Forest City Trail – 0.8 East
  2. Burrows Forest City Connector – 0.2 Northwest
  3. Burrows Trail – 2.1 Northeast
  4. Long Trail  – 0.8 North
  5. Alpine Trail – 1.8 South, then West
  6. Long Trail – 0.5 North
  7. Monroe Trail – 1.8 East
  8. Dean Trail 0.3 South West
  9. Hump Brook Tenting Area Spur – 0.2 Southeast
  10. Campsite
  11. Hump Brook Tenting Area Spur – 0.2 West
  12. Monroe Trail – 1.3 East
  13. Monroe Trail – 1.3 West
  14. Dean Trail – 0.8 Southwest
  15. Allis Trail – 0.3 Southeast
  16. Long Trail – 0.2 West
  17. Forest City Trail-  2.2 West

I had to ford a small stream crossing near the beginning of the Forest City Trail: the Green Mountain Club was building a new one when I passed. Not that it matters all that much because most of the trails I followed on Camels Hump had water streaming down them. This is Vermont, after all!

I followed that trail to the Forest City – Burrows Connector and then headed up the Burrows Trail, which is quite popular. It starts fairly easy and then becomes more difficult in terms of rockiness as you ascend, climbing steadily until you reach a clearing on the map labeled as Hut Clearing. From there, it’s just 0.5 miles to the summit of Camels Hump.

The Hump Tent Site has a bear box.
The Hump Tent Site has a bear box.

There, I ran into a thru-hiker named Garmin, whom I’d met two days earlier at the Birch Glen shelter when I’d hiked up the Beane Trail for my side-to-side. She was sitting on the summit for nearly an hour when I arrived. We said our hellos and chatted briefly before she took off and headed north. I soon followed, also heading north and descending to the Alpine Trail.

The Alpine Trail loops around the east side of Camels Hump. Although it’s not listed on my Avenza map, the trail signage lists an Alpine Trail North and an Alpine Trail South. The Alpine Trail North is quite ledgy with intermittent views to the east. Those ledges were slippery because they were wet, so I took it easy, not wanting to fall. The north section ends at a junction with the Monroe Trail before turning into Alpine Trail South, passing the wreckage of an airplane crash. You can still see where the landing gear was attached to the wing. The trail climbs back up to the Long Trail just south of the summit, and I continued to summit Camels Hump for the second time that day.

Airplane crash wreckage
Airplane crash wreckage

I felt tired, especially since I was carrying an overnight pack to sleep on the mountain. So I descended via the Monroe Trail and turned up the Dean Trail to reach the Hump Tent site. This is a large tent site with tent platforms, a bear box, and a designated eating area. I pitched my tent, ate a hot meal, and then dozed for a while before falling asleep until the next morning.

I was up early, ate a hearty breakfast, and followed the Monroe Trail down the east side, only to hike back up again. I still had to return to the peak’s west side to reach my car. I followed the Dean Trail again to the Allis Trail, which was the most beautiful trail in Camels Hump and one that probably does not get much use. it’s only 0.3 miles long but passes a fine viewpoint of the summit with a bench and a plaque honoring David Morse. It reads “1914-1999.  May all who pass this way be inspired to love this land as he did. Sept 2000. Montpelier section. GMC.”

Camels Hump from the Morse plaque
Camels Hump from the Morse plaque

I continued back to the Long Trail and followed it south to the Montclair Glen Lodge, where I’d spent the night when I hiked the Long Trail in 2008. Only that old shelter had since been torn down and replaced with a new one in 2009 (see top photo). From there, I hiked down the section of the Forest City Trail that I hadn’t hiked previously back to my car.

Montclair Glen Shelter
The old Montclair Glen Shelter before it was replaced in 2009.

What struck me on this backpacking trip, the first I’ve done in Vermont in nearly 16 years, is how well-maintained the Green Mountain Club trails are. While the GMC’s charter is to protect the Long Trail, it’s clear that they also put an enormous amount of effort into keeping the side trails in good shape, too, particularly in a high-use area like Camels Hump. Given the small size of the GMC compared to a massive organization like the AMC, that’s pretty impressive. I can’t wait to explore the rest of the side-to-side trails on future hikes.

Vermont Trail Guides and Maps

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