While visiting Vermont recently, we had the chance to scale two different mountains. Well, by car, that is, since mountain climbing of any sort is not on my “Easy Walks” skill list. We were in the Burlington area, and when headed down Rt. 7 south of Burlington, we spotted the sign for Mt. Philo State Park, and my husband thought there was an auto road to the top of this rather small (968 ft. in elevation) mountain.
Indeed, there is an auto road, and we soon found ourselves, along with many other summer visitors, wandering about the well-worn paths at the top of the mountain, and stopping at the several vantage points that allowed for stunning views of Lake Champlain, the sounding countryside, and west toward the Adirondacks.
The state park has deck chairs waiting for visitors next to many of the lookout spots, and since it was a warm day, we moved some of the chairs into the shade and simply sat for a while, taking in the views. Young and older visitors joined us at these lookout spots. A real treat for me, since it is summer, and even in Vermont, the weather was pretty warm and sunny. But we managed, thanks to the work of the Vermont Civilian Conservation Corps, (CCC) which transformed the carriage path into a road to the top of the mountain and back down (it’s one way, so be sure to take the correct turn. No room for passing traffic!)
On our way home from the Burlington area, we headed to Stowe, hoping to explore the paved Stowe Recreation Path we had heard about, that offers views of Mt. Mansfield. For several reasons, we chose not to ride this day, but checked and learned of a toll auto road in the same area, up to the top of Mount Mansfield.
After paying our “toll” we headed up. Campers and trailers are not permitted on the road, which is maintained, but still a rough, packed-dirt road to the top. Several spots along the way to the top allow for views, and we found a great picnic spot below the summit where we enjoyed a simple lunch of cheese and crackers and apples.
A small museum awaits at the top of the dirt road. A weather station operates at the summit, and we were able to wander up the service road to the station, which made for a very easy walk to some stunning views.
Summer flowers lined the path, and we spotted butterflies flitting from flower to flower along the way.
360 degree views from Mount Mansfield are possible for the more intrepid travelers, but since that’s not me, I stayed in the shade while my husband made his way along the ridge line,
where he found wild blueberries, wild cranberries and some lovely views.
Throughout our travels in Vermont, we encountered purple flowering raspberries, and since it was summer, the flowers were easy to spot, and many berries were ripe for the picking. We found the berries along the Island Line trail (on the South Hero Island side) as well as on our way down from Mount Mansfield. And yes, in the late afternoon, when traffic had slowed on the auto road, we found a safe place to park and picked (and quickly ate) handfuls of berries that grew along the road.
Mountains are not typical places to find easy walks, but a handful of places offer roads to the top mountains, so those of us who will otherwise never get a chance to enjoy the views from the top of these heights can enjoy the wonders of the mountains.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are.
She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.