I have been in a bit of a rut lately, doing relatively short, intense “up the hill and back down again” routes, and I am afraid this one is no exception. I am presenting another old favorite, however, Snake Mountain. For those very few locals who are not familiar with it, it is the long low ridge seen to the west from many high points near town, and is probably the most popular hiking spot in Addison County due to its proximity, relative ease, and incredible views of western Addison County, southern Lake Champlain, and the Adirondacks. Why would I bother running up such a well-traveled local hill? I love this run for its convenience – it takes less than two hours for me to leave my office, change, run, shower, and get back to work – AND I get the pleasure of standing on a rather dramatic summit. Not bad for a long lunch break (and I hope Ron doesn’t read this – If I take too many two hour lunch breaks the boss might get the wrong idea…)
To get to the trailhead, take Rt. 125 west of town, and shortly before entering the the village of Bridport (in other words, if you get to Bridport, you have gone too far), take a right turn on East St. After 4 miles on East St., there will be a parking lot on your left which is provided for those enjoying Snake Mt. I am told that if you are approaching this parking lot from the north, the same road is called Mountain Road. Some kind of turf war between Addison and Bridport perhaps?
Start the run, heading back south on East St./Mountain Road for a few hundred yards, passing by a small abandoned building on the left, and then take a left turn on the obvious trail by the gate. Pay no heed to the No Trespassing signs, as these are for the adjacent fields, not the trail! The first third of the run climbs gradually to the east. This section was pretty dry this August, but the numerous side trails attest to the quagmire status of the main trail earlier in the season. The second third of the run begins with a sharp left turn, and a rather relentless climb angling up the side of the mountain to the north. Make a mental note of this turn, as less alert runners and hikers sometimes miss it on the descent and end up much further from their parked car than they had hoped. A short dip as the trail reaches the summit ridge provides a moment’s relief, before heading up the last third of the run, consisting of a series of short steep climbs, longer flat sections, and a few switchbacks. As you run across the summit, the trail veers to the left to the outcropping leading to the summit’s famed views!
There is a large concrete slab on the summit, which was the result of an aborted attempt to build a private home on this great viewpoint in the 60’s or 70’s. If you look around in the woods behind the summit, you can find the small foundation which is all that remains from a turn-of-the-century (as in 19th and 20th) hotel. Most of the old summit hotels of New England eventually fell prey to fires, and this one was no exception, but in an atypical way. A friend who grew up in one of the older homes at the base of the mountain, and has visited the summit regularly his entire life, told me that the abandoned hotel was actually intact well into the 60’s, but was eventually chopped up piecemeal for firewood by snowmobilers fueling their midwinter summit parties. He also mentioned the existence of a summit swimming pond built for the patrons of the hotel, so I will have to search for this on my next visit.
After enjoying the view, reverse your path and let your legs move fast – you will get back down much more quickly than you ascended, but watch your footing in a few places. This run measures in at only 4.25 miles roundtrip (including a little messing around on the summit looking for old foundations), but involves a solid 1000 ft vertical climb and descent.
Playing around with the perspective on this one – the view is what it would be from a low flying airplane west of the summit
This is another mostly up and down run on a mix of forest service road and trail, which tops out at a rarely visited lake, the Sugar Hill Reservoir. This lake is in the hills between Goshen and Worth mountain, and is frequented by snowmobilers and skiers in the winter, but is not really on very many hikers’ radar screens, and even fewer runners head this way.
The run starts after a short drive out of Middlebury towards the Snow Bowl. Between Breadloaf and the Bowl, shortly before the serious climb to the top of Middlebury Gap begins, there is a dirt road on your right named Brooks Road. Take this about a quarter mile to the large parking lot where the run begins. This lot is used by many snowmobilers to load and unload their machines, and skiers frequent the nearby Widows Clearing Trail, but the lot is usually pretty empty in the summer. After parking, continue on the Brooks Road, which starts pretty flat, but soon begins to climb. While this road is open to the vehicular travel in the summer, and is passably maintained, I have never seen anyone driving on it. This, combined with its narrow and well-shaded character, give it the feel of a quiet forest path, rather than a road. Run up the the dirt road for 2.4 miles, until you get to a sign pointing to the right indicating the way to the reservoir. If you were to continue straight on the dirt road, it would go about another mile and a half until it intersects with the Blueberry Hill cross country ski trails, and eventually with the Long Trail, but we are not going that way…this time. Instead, take the right turn onto a true trail, which does a series of short steep ups and downs until it comes to the shore of the Sugar Hill Reservoir at 3.0 miles. There is a lovely little meadow here, with a campfire ring left by previous visitors. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera on this run, so a forest service picture of the lake, taken during the fall, will have to suffice.
For the descent and return to your car, simply retrace your steps for a great 6 mile “out-and-back”.