This Place in History: The Long Trail

Vermont History

BOLTON & WATERBURY, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History’, we’re in Bolton taking a hike on the Long Trail with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“I feel a little weird talking about the Long Trail and nature surrounded by highways, but we’ve got this great historic marker behind us here. And I’ve made some arrangements to go talk to Mike DeBonis, the Executive Director of the Green Mountain Club up at their headquarters in Waterbury,” began Perkins.

“The Long Trail is the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the nation. And it spans the high peaks of the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian border. It started in 1910 and folks have been hiking and exploring this area for well over 100 years,” explained DeBonis.

“It was envisioned by this guy James Taylor, not the musician James Taylor but James P. Taylor, who was an educator in Vermont. His vision was to connect the people to the outdoors and make the mountains play a larger part in the life of the people. Really it was a way to promote the state of Vermont. He was a big promoter. He saw that New Hampshire and New York had these trail networks and he thought that if Vermont did too, it would be a way to bring people into the state and support the economy.”

“He came up with this vision and he has this map and he went around sold this idea and got people behind it. Over a few years, actually up until about 1930, it was built in pieces and finally got completed which was the success.”

“It’s 273 miles long and there are about a couple hundred miles of side trails that flow from the east and west. There are shelters. There are about 60 overnight sites and that’s the hallmark of the Long Trail. There’s everything from rustic three-sided structures to Taft Lodge, which is 99 years old. It’s the oldest shelter on the Long Trail. It’s a four-sided shelter that’s up on the side of Mt. Mansfield,” continued DeBonis.

“When the trail first was started the idea was just to get it on the ground. So it followed roads and it was a low-elevation trail. It followed some fire trails and fire roads. And then over time the club really wanted to achieve the mission of the organization and move the trail to the high peaks. There are still parts of the trail that are the same trail that was there well over 100 years ago. It always went over Mt. Mansfield. It always went over Camel’s Hump. You’ll see some of those shelters and some of the campsites are the same ones that were there in the early days.”

“[The members of the Green Mountain Club are] the maintainers and protectors of the Long Trail system. There are about 500 total miles in the system that we manage and so we mobilize an amazing corps of volunteers that go out and they do much of the maintenance of the trail. We have seasonal trail crews. We provide education and stewardship. We manage about 30,000 acres of land that host the trail. Every year, we get out there and do it again. We’re always looking for volunteers. So if you want to go carry some bark mulch up to a privy or clean out water bars, give me a call.

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historic markers, click here.

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