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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Hiking Burke Mountain - East Burke, Vermont

Every year, we plan a mountain biking trip up to Kingdom Trails, Vermont with a group of mountain bike loving friends.  It is way up north near the Canadian border and is the northeast mountain biking mecca.  The usual plan is to bike one day and hike the other with Olive.  I always like to bring Olive (who camps without their dog?) but these mountain biking trails are insanely crowded, not ideal for dogs and are closed to dogs on the weekends.  So I have always installed the 50/50 plan... Bike a day Hike a day with O.  Last year, I took Olive to hike Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak. While that was a great hike and I was able to tack another summit on my New England Peak list, this year, I was going to find something closer. 

Picturesque views of Kingdom Trails
 Last years hike up Mount Mansfield

This year, I wanted to do something closer and decided to hike the local mountain right by the campground, Burke MountainA quick drive from the campground (less than ten minutes), almost no one on the trail, and some elevation make this a great workout with some amazing fall colors.  The only disappointing part was not reaching a true summit with 360 degrees of the area.  Instead, you reach the geodetic survey pin and there is a tower you can climb at the top of the mountain.  Nonetheless, this was a great hike I would recommend if you are in the area and looking for a dog-friendly hike with solitude. You start at the base of a ski lodge and work your way to the top.  Without the aid of a chairlift. 

Trailhead: Darling State Forest Trailhead off Sherburne Lodge Road
Route:  Heading Up:  Red Trail to the West Peak Trail. Follow any signs for the Summit
Trail. Heading Down: the Red Trail.  
Distance:  6 miles (round-trip)
Elevation:  2,100 ft gained
Summit Elevation:  3,267 feet 
Dog-friendly:  Yes! On-leash
Kid-Friendly:  Some steep and rocky sections so better with older kids
Parking:  Large dirt lot at the base of the resort, plenty of room. 
More Maps:  Primitive camping, trail and ski map


  • The trail starts out on a nice relatively flat double track trail
  • Soon enough, you head on to some thinner trails where there are some steep and rocky sections. 
  • You will also pass two shelters/ lean-tos on your way up the mountain. Behind the first lean-to (just after crossing the CCC road), the blue trail heads up to your left and the red trail continue on straight ahead. Both trails will get you to the summit. 
  • Other hikers in the past have missed a turn and started following the wrong trail (0.6 miles from trailhead).  The map on the left has a red arrow showing you the spot to pay attention.  Look for a red sign on the tree marking "red trail".  I had no issues and found the trail easy to follow.  
  • There are two points where the trail stops for a quick second and crosses a road or a parking lot:  Once when it crosses an old CCC road (the trail is fairly obvious across the road, it is marked up the trail map) and at another point you have to cross the parking lot and pick the trail back up (summit trail) at the top of the mountain/ski resort (also obvious). 
  • While the summit is underwhelming, you can climb the fire tower for amazing views around you.  I do not like heights and it was a windy day so I stayed at the bottom.  The views west show you famous Willoughby Gap while the view east will point you towards New Hampshire’s White Mountains. 
  • Your last option (if you prefer pavement) is to follow the paved CCC road up to the summit (you can even drive to the summit but what's the fun in that?)

Start of the Red Trail 

Turn for the red trail some people miss 

Start of Darling State Forest/Sign in sheet

Trail ethic! 

Olive and I on the trail

One of the shelters on our way up the trail

Views from the trail getting close to the ski lifts 

Mid Burke Express Lift
"The Darling Family donated a large parcel of land to the State in the 1930s, which became Darling State Park and, sometime in the 1930s, Burke Mountain was identified by local residents as a potential recreation site". 

At one point you have to cross the parking lot and pick the trail back up (summit trail)
"The early plan for this “forest park” included an auto road, ski trails, hiking trails, picnic facilities and running water. A Civilian Conservation Corps crew was employed to build the auto road to the summit and completed it in 1935. Interest in downhill skiing grew over the years with the first ski lift installed in 1953. A portion of Darling State Park has been leased to various entities over the years as part of the Burke Mountain Ski Area".

Geodetic survey marker marking the summit

Fire tower near the summit

"The fire tower erected on the summit of Burke Mountain (1912) is reported to be the first fire tower in the state of Vermont. From this vantage point, forest fires could be located and the proper authorities notified". Vermont State Park Website

Post-hike beer at the Bike Shop

1 comment :

  1. Wow. This is simply beautiful. Other than your red trail biking experience. I loved watching your pictures the scenic beauty is just breathtaking. Definitely gonna plan something


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