The end of summer is a perfect time to go hiking in Central Vermont. The days are warm, but the air has got just that edge of chill to it that says fall is on the way. Go in late August and you might just see some of the leaves starting to change color. The towns of Stowe as well as Warren and Waitsfield near Sugarbush all offer a number of family-friendly hikes that are perfect even for younger kids. Take advantage of the waning days of summer to enjoy spectacular views of the Green and Adirondack Mountains and beyond. Here are a few favorites:
Sunset Ledge. My family has hiked this portion of the Long Trail (which runs from the Canadian to the Massachusetts borders) numerous times starting when my sons were very young. It’s steep at the bottom, but not too steep, and offers a couple of fun rock faces that kids can easily scramble up. The best part about this hike is that it’s only about two miles round trip and offers the reward of great views at the ledge – which is also a perfect spot for a picnic.
Sterling Pond. Starting at the top of Smuggler’s Notch near Stowe, this is the steepest and most challenging of the hikes listed here, and is probably best for families with school-age children. The challenge of the hike is rewarded with a beautiful pond (it is in fact the highest stocked trout pond in the state) as well as views galore. The trail is well maintained but can be slippery when wet.
The Pinnacle. This hike just outside Stowe offers what may be the best views of the Green Mountain Range that you’ll find anywhere in Vermont. It’s steep enough to feel like a legitimate hike to kids, but short enough at just under three miles that they won’t get too tired. The bottom can be muddy after rain; you may choose to park in the upper parking area (called The Meadow) and skip the muckiest portion of the trail.
The Enchanted Forest. This trail in Camel’s Hump State Forest in Waitsfield is actually officially named the Dana Forest Trail and it’s a great nature walk with kids. Starting in a meadow, it traverses a forest that’s home to woodpeckers (and black bears, so be on the lookout) as well as sap lines for a local syrup maker. The highlight of the hike is a huge stand of pine trees whose beauty has earned the trail’s nickname. For more information about where to find all these hikes and many others see the Green Mountain Club and Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce websites. The weather can change quickly at this time of year, so be prepared for your family hike with warm, waterproof layers and sturdy shoes. And be sure to celebrate your completed hike with an ice cream at the Sweet Spot in Waitsfield or I.C. Scoops in Stowe.