Snake Mountain
GOOD FOR: Ages 5-8, Ages 9-12

Source:Outdoors with Kids Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont (AMC Books)
Address:Mountain Road, Addison VT
Hours:Sunrise to sunset
Fee: Free

The Nature Conservancy, 802-229-4425,; Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, 802-828-1000,

Bathrooms: None
Water/Snacks: None

USGS Snake Mountain quad;

This prominent serpentine monolith rises from Vermont’s farmlands, providing excellent wildlife habitat and spectacular hiking.

Snake Mountain rises majestically from the rural farmlands of Vermont, towering over the surrounding landscape and providing vital high-country habitat for falcons, deer, coyotes, and even the occasional bear and moose. Mountains that rise above surrounding flatlands like this one are said to have a high degree of “prominence,” as there are no other mountains surrounding it to obscure the view. The Nature Conservancy’s Williams Woods Natural Area protects about 81 acres of land near the trailhead; as you progress up the trail, you cross into Snake Mountain Wildlife Management Area, overseen by Vermont Fish and Wildlife. No dogs are permitted in Willmarth Woods, so make a plan to leave them at home. The mountain is an island of high county in the surrounding lowlands, which makes habitats it supports very rare and worth protecting.

In the early 1900s, the Grand View Hotel topped Snake Mountain, as was the fashion at the time. Dozens of high-country peaks throughout New England were host to grand, high-class summit hotels that offered overnight accommodations and fine dining to travelers. Vacationers could usually take a horse-drawn carriage to their summit accommodations. That’s why so many trails in New England are still identified as carriage roads and old bridle paths. Eventually most of these hotels burned to the ground because they were too far away from a source of water to save from fires; today only the foundations remain.

The trail, an old carriage road, starts across from the parking lot through a metal gate. After traveling a half-mile over gradual grades on what used to be a farm hundreds of years ago, the path starts to climb the southern ridge rather quickly. The northern hardwood forest surrounding the route is dotted with hemlock and oak groves. There are several unmarked trail junctions on Snake Mountain. Stick to the most heavily traveled path that will lead to the summit. When in doubt, stay left and head up! Eventually, the path tops out on the ridge and the climbing becomes more gradual and rolling until you reach the summit at 1.8 miles.

Near the summit, there is a lush, moss-covered wetland called Cranberry Bog. We’ve seen more blueberries here than cranberries. It was created more than 9,000 years ago as the glaciers melted out of New England and is a very sensitive wildlife habitat today.

Keep climbing the ridge until you emerge from the woods to see wide-open skies with stellar views of the surrounding farm country, the high peaks of the Adirondacks, and Lake Champlain. You can even explore the ruins of the foundation of the old Grand View Hotel.

When you need to leave, just head back the way you came.

Plan B:

The nearby Shelburne Orchards offers pick-your-own apples, peaches, grapes, pumpkins, and cherries; cider doughnuts; live music; and the most fun tree rope swing that we have ever tried. The excellent ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center in nearby Burlington is a great rainy day option. To the south, the alluring Falls of Lana (see Trip 59) and Branbury State Park offer swimming and waterfalls.

Where to Eat Nearby:

You’ll find many dining options on US 7 in Shelburne. Burlington a bit farther north has perhaps the widest array of eating opportunities in New England. Middlebury to the south also has excellent options.


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