On the first day of winter vacation, Alex and I decided to hike our three favorite mountains around his hometown of Vergennes, Vermont. We started the day with coffee and delicious strawberry muffins from Three Squares Cafe before heading out to tackle the first and largest mountain of the day.
Snake Mountain: Snake Mountain, located in Addison, was our first stop of the day. This is a 4 mile very popular, moderately difficult hike. It can be completed as a loop, which will take hikers past Red Rock Pond, or as an out-and-back hike. The summit offers stunning panoramic views of the Lake Champlain Valley and the Adirondacks. Snake Mountain is so named because of its long serpentine ridge line. The trail head is located on Mountain Road and is well-marked. The primary trail is easy enough to follow, in spite of poor signage. To take the loop version of the hike, take the trail to the left at the “Don’t disturb the peregrines during nesting season” sign. Or simply follow the main unpaved carriage road to the summit and back down again. Hikers should be aware that while the main trail to the summit is simple to follow, the loop section of the trail is not well marked and is a much more rugged and steep hike.
In the springtime, look for an abundance of wildflowers scattered throughout the woods and in the autumn soak in the splendid fall foliage. The summit of Snake Mountain features a large concrete slab. Here, the Grand View House hotel was in operation from 1874 until its permanent closure in 1925. Alex and I completed this hike in a little under two hours and found it to be a leisurely and enjoyable way to get out and enjoy some of the best views in Vermont. After enjoying the 180 degree views, we set out to conquer our next mountain!
Buck Mountain: Buck Mountain, often referred to as Snake Mountain’s little brother, is one of Alex’s favorite hikes. Located in Waltham, this is a meandering 2.71 mile hike which is very poorly marked. Hikers should stick to the main trail, avoiding the multitude of trails which branch off. The summit of Buck Mountain provides views very similar to the ones that we’d enjoyed on Snake Mountain. The patchwork fields of Lake Champlain Valley offer a glimpse into the beauty of the Vermont agricultural community while the Adirondack mountains rising above Lake Champlain are sure to enthrall hikers. While Snake Mountain is heavily trafficked, Buck Mountain offers a serene solitude for much less effort. Shortly after we began dating, Alex took me to an outhouse which is located slightly off trail near the summit of Buck Mountain. When I swung open the door to the outhouse, I was greeted by a decrepit taxidermy bear head mounted to the door which caused me to jump with alarm! After enjoying the stunning views on the summit of Buck Mountain, we headed to our next hike.
Mount Philo: Mount Philo, at only 1.9 miles, was by far the most popular and easiest hike of the day. This heavily trafficked hike offers two options- walking up a paved road or hiking up the woods trail. Located in the quintessential Vermont town of Charlotte, this hike offers breathtaking pastoral Vermont views which are framed by the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain. Mount Philo became the first Vermont State Park in 1924 and remains one of the most popular to this day. At the summit Mount Philo offers picnic areas, a shelter with restrooms which are open in season, and multiple view points over the Lake Champlain Valley.
From the summit we were able to view both Snake Mountain and Buck Mountain, which were both illustrated on a map provided at the top.
Mount Philo is a state park, which means that during the open season visitors will be charged an entry fee. We completed this hike in February, which made for a more peaceful hike and was free of charge as it was out of season.
Nearby Attractions: Button Bay State Park offers a nature trail, pool, and campsites. The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum gives a glimpse into the history of the lake and its role in the Revolutionary War, including hands-on educational displays, unique boats, sunken treasure, and a replica or a Revolutionary War boat. The Vergennes Falls Park offers a delightful picnic area which overlooks the basin of the Otter Creek Vergennes Falls. The nearby Basin Harbor Club offers an 18 hole golf course, upscale dining, scenic views, and luxurious rooms. Dakin Farm offers a local array of smoked meats, maple products, Vermont cheese, and various locally sourced goods. The Vermont Teddy Bear CO., the Vermont Flannel Co. and many other wonderful Vermont businesses are located in this area.
The Lake Champlain Valley offers a plenitude of breathtaking hikes. These are just three of our favorites!