Adventure Guide to Vermont’s Green Mountains

Explore one of the Northeast’s most beloved ranges for year-round outdoor action plus electric fall foliage.

Picture Vermont, and you probably envision the Green Mountains. The state’s official nickname, after all, is The Green Mountain State, for the hardwood forests, quiet ponds, and rocky-topped peaks of this iconic range. Its line of 3,000-foot-plus summits runs for 250 miles north-south across the state, smothered with maples, beeches, and birches that turn the mountainsides an electric mosaic of color come fall. The country’s oldest distance-hiking trail, the Long Trail, traverses its ridgelines, as does the Appalachian Trail. Besides shady forest and mountaintops capped with alpine tundra, you’ll also find burbling trout streams, marshy wetlands, alpine sedge, and stony cliffs throughout the Greens. 

Much of the range is protected by the Green Mountain National Forest, a roughly 400,000-acre expanse that includes eight Wilderness areas (Big Branch, Breadloaf, Bristol Cliffs, George D. Aiken, Glastenbury, Joseph Battell, Lye Brook, and Peru Peak). It’s a paradise for hiking, cycling, fishing, camping, and skiing—no wonder it’s one of the Northeast’s most beloved ranges.

Field Guide

The Northern hardwood forest is a star attraction in the Green Mountains, particularly when fall foliage dominates the landscape. The color show is due to the mix of trees on the lower slopes, including sugar maple, hemlock, American beech, and yellow birch. As you go up in elevation, the forest transitions into conifers like red spruce and balsam fir. On the highest peaks, you’ll find rare patches of open meadow and alpine tundra. 

The mix of ecosystems in the Greens provides habitat for all kinds of wildlife. Moose favor wetlands, while peregrine falcons nest on high cliffs. Black bears roam the woods, beavers build lodges and dams along the creeks, and loons glide on the ponds. Peek under a streamside rock, and you might find a number of different species of salamander. 

Human History

Members of the Western Abenaki and Mohican tribes have called this area home for at least 10,000 years. They visited the mountains for hunting and gathering, and the high peaks held special spiritual significance. European colonists settled throughout the region in the 1700s, leaving their own historic structures behind—the Greens still hold the remains of farmsteads, mills, schools, and stone walls. Two fire lookouts from the 1920s and ’30s still stand on Glastenbury and Stratton mountains, built to scan for blazes during the era of unregulated logging. 

Things To Do 


The Green Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountain chain, may have relatively low elevations—but that doesn’t make them easy destinations. Many summits reach to 3,000 feet or more, and a handful make up the official Vermont “4,000-Footers.” Mount Mansfield, at 4,393 feet, is the high point of both the Greens and the state; its summit boasts one of only three surviving patches of alpine tundra in the region. There are several ways to get there, including a challenging 9.4-mile round trip from Stowe Mountain Resort. The other four 4,000-Footers—Killington Peak, Camel’s Hump, Mount Ellen, and Mount Abraham—also attract peakbaggers looking to tick off their list of the highest mountains in the Northeast. 

The Long Trail

When builders began cutting this 272-mile-long trail back in 1910, it was the first of its kind (indeed, it inspired the creation of the much more famous Appalachian Trail, with which it shares 100 miles of track). Tracing the ridge of the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts border to Canada, the Long Trail treats hikers to an epic journey through the Vermont high country. It’s steep, muddy, rocky, and difficult; you’ll earn every summit view, waterfall, and wildflower patch along the way. Don’t have three or four weeks to hike the whole thing? Try the 20-mile stretch from Clarendon Gorge to Sherburn Pass, which includes 4,229-foot Killington Peak. 


The Green Mountain National Forest maintains a network of developed campgrounds across the range. Most are small, remote outposts in the deep woods, such as the 11-site Greendale Campground (open on a first-come, first-served basis mid-May to Oct.) and the primitive, hike-in Silver Lake Campground. Backpacking opportunities also abound, some with primitive shelters and tent platforms, and a handful of rental cabins are available, too. More info:


The mountain streams in the Greens are full of brook, brown, and rainbow trout, delighting fly-fishing enthusiasts. Some favorite spots that contain all three species: the White River, West Branch of the White River, Bingo Brook, and Hancock Branch. Most anglers need a Vermont fishing license, available online or at town clerk offices and outdoor stores throughout the state.

Fall Foliage

The most famous views of the Greens come when the mountains aren’t green: In September and October, fall colors peak in a spectacular show. The region’s scenic byways offer one way to get an eyeful, but you’ll drop the crowds if you get off the beaten path and onto a trail. Hiking to the 3,936-foot summit of Stratton Mountain delivers panoramic views of the fiery mountainsides in all directions—all the better from the 70-foot firetower on top. Get there via the 7.6-mile (round trip) Stratton Mountain Trail starting in the town of Stratton, Vt., a three-hour drive northwest of Greater Boston.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.