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ADDISON — With a wide and well-marked trail and a rewarding view after a relatively moderate ascent, Snake Mountain is the ideal cold-weather hike for those looking to get outside this winter.
Driving north or south on VT Route 22A, Snake Mountain can be seen rising out of the Champlain Valley from the west, its cliffs prominent in the stillness of the valley.
Snake Mountain Wildlife Management Area includes 1,215 acres and spans the upper slopes and summit of Snake Mountain. The area is owned by the State of Vermont and managed by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
Formerly known as Grand View Mountain, Snake Mountain was home to the Grand View Hotel until the early twentieth century.
Where to hike
From the trailhead on Mountain Road, the hike to the summit is approximately 2.25 miles. The first half mile is relatively flat, before the trail steadily gains about 1,000 feet of elevation.
Once a carriage road that brought visitors up to the Grand View Hotel, the trail is wide and heavily-traveled. Recent snow and rain will have made it slushy and muddy, so be sure to break out your highest boots, and don’t be surprised if a few splashes catch your pant hems.
Even when the trail is muddy, it’s good practice to walk straight through, instead of walking off to the side. Doing so widens the trail and could harm the area’s sensitive brush and vegetation.
“Snake Mountain is a super sensitive area,” John Austin, the land and habitat program manager at Vermont Fish & Wildlife, said. “There are many rare plants, amphibians and reptiles.”
Once the trail begins to switchback, zig-zagging its way upwards towards the summit, look out for patches of ice that might have formed at the higher elevation.
As you ascend, stop to read the interactive signs along the way that share information about the area’s wildlife and history. You’ll find information about the woodland mammals, like gray and red fox and cottontail rabbit, that call the mountain home.
Hawks are also commonly seen on Snake Mountain. Peregrine falcons nestle on the cliffs while woodland songbirds, like woodpeckers and owls, sit high up in the trees.
Take in the view
Snake Mountain is the perfect hike to bring a summit breakfast or lunch to. The concrete foundation of the former hotel provides an excellent spot for unwrapping your sandwich and enjoying the view.
Be sure to carry out any trash you bring in.
“We want people to visit and explore Snake Mountain,” Austin said. “But it’s also important for people to pick up after themselves.”
At the summit, the Champlain Valley unfolds like a patchwork quilt. Squares of farms and fields are stitched together and unfurl all the way to the edge of Lake Champlain. On the clearest of days, see the Adirondacks and the ski slopes of Whiteface Mountain in the distance.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, guests at the Grand View Hotel would have woken up to see this extraordinary view from their window. The hotel closed in 1925 before burning to the ground.
Advice from an expert
The key to staying warm during a winter hike is staying dry, so it’s important to dress in layers. Layers allow you to sweat while providing dry layers to start and end with.
The Green Mountain Club suggests:
Starting with a
- base layer, like a thermal long-john. Choose clothing made of quick drying materials like wool or synthetic.
- A fleece pullover makes a great mid-layer. These trap in body heat.
- To insulate, use a puffy jacket or vest.
- Throw an outer shell, like a raincoat, in your pack in case of snow, rain or wind.
See a map of the Snake Mountain Wildlife Management Area
This article was updated at 11:21 a.m. Dec. 23 to include hunting as one of the recreational uses allowed in the Snake Mountain Wildlife Management Area. Mountain biking is not allowed.