Adventure, camping, Destinations, hiking, New England, State Parks, United States, Vermont

Vermont’s Mighty Monadnock: Exploring Mt. Ascutney

Mt. Ascutney State Park

Back Road Ramblers has partnered with Vermont State Parks this summer to photograph and write about as many of the parks as we can reasonably visit.  We explored Mt. Ascutney State Park in July and fell in love with it. The post below was originally published on the Vermont State Park blog, but I’m including it here as well to inspire my readers to visit Vermont’s fabulous natural areas. 


Gorgeous mountain vistas, an array of unique hiking trails, and a beautiful family-friendly campground – Mt. Ascutney State Park is a playground for nature lovers, history buffs, and outdoor adventurers. It’s close proximity to Wilgus State Park on the Connecticut River means you you can hike to spectacular vistas in the morning and paddle the meandering river in the afternoon. What more could you ask for?

Mt. Ascutney Summit

Built between 1935 and 1938, Mt. Ascutney State Park was one of the very first state parks established in the Vermont. The mountain’s first hiking trail was created way before that — in 1825. It was the very first organized mountain hiking trail in Vermont, and some accounts suggest it was the first in the country. Today, hikers can scale the mountain from one of four trailheads, or they can explore a series of summit trails after driving up the 3.7-mile toll road (free for campers and other park visitors).

Mt. Ascutney trails

Mt. Ascutney is unique as far as Vermont mountains go. It’s a monadnock — an isolated mountain of erosion-resistant rock, in this case, granite. It’s a conspicuous mountain, towering 3,144 feet above the Connecticut River Valley below, but it’s not part of Vermont’s Green Mountains. Geologically, it has more in common with the Whites of New Hampshire, but geographically, it stands alone.

Mt. Ascutney view from the summit.

I’ve explored lots of Vermont State Parks, but I’d never been to Mt. Ascutney before until this summer. I hate to pick favorites, but this mountain has totally stolen my heart, and I’m already planning a camping trip for the fall. Here’s some of our favorite things about Mt. Ascutney State Park.

Highlights of Mt. Ascutney State Park

There are four trails heading up to the summit of Mt. Ascutney, and everyone I talked to had a different opinion as to which one was their favorite. I can’t call myself an expert, because we didn’t have time to explore them all, but here are some highlights.

Futures Trailhead Mt. Ascutney

Futures Trail and Bare Rock Vista – At 4.6 miles, the Futures Trail is the longest trek up to the summit and the only trail the begins in the campground. This was a plus for us, so we decided to give it a go. Like many mountain hikes, this trail is characterized by moderately strenuous switchbacks through mostly hardwood forests, which transitions to evergreens as you gain elevation. If you’re looking for a shorter hike, perhaps to watch the sunrise, the Futures Trail will take you to Bare Rock Vista after a mile. The views here are incredible, and there are lots of great spots for a picnic.

Summit Trails – After driving up the toll road to the parking lot near the summit, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the eastern mountains. Take any of the boulder-encrusted trails that meander around the summit and you’ll find yourself in a dark, enchanting forest that smells like Christmas because of the abundance of spruce and fir trees. Every trail leads to more incredible views, and as you hike, a thousand birds will serenade you with their sweet songs.

Mt. Ascutney Summit Trail

The Observation Tower – For a 360° view of the Green Mountains and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, climb the 24.5-foot high observation tower. Interpretive signs name the distant peaks in all directions, and it’s a pretty good spot for a selfie.

Mt. Ascutney selfie

The Hang Gliders – Mt. Ascutney is one of the top hang gliding destinations in New England, with a launch on the west and south peaks. I imagine it’s pretty thrilling to ride the thermals, but for me, it was enough to watch the hang gliders soaring across the clear blue sky. We didn’t get to witness a launch while we were there, but we’ve heard that it’s a pretty common occurrence on just about every nice day.

Hang gliders on Mt. Ascutney

Tips for Visiting Mt. Ascutney State Park and the Surrounding Area

Get your game on. There’s a lovely rec field just below White Birch, Cherry, and Cedar lean-tos. For some reason it’s not on the map, but it’s a fantastic place for a game of Frisbee or football, and the stargazing is pretty amazing from here.

Porcupines are plentiful! We saw two porcupines on our recent visit. They’re cute, but can be a real danger to to dogs who don’t know better. Keep your dogs on a leash at all times.

Did someone say swimming? While there’s no place to swim on the mountain, you’ll find a pretty magical swimming hole just a short drive from Mt. Ascutney State Park. Twenty-Foot Hole in Reading is the perfect place to cool off after a long hike.Twenty Foot Swimming Hole

You can paddle too! Wilgus State Park, just 4 miles from Mt. Ascutney State Park, is perched on the slow-moving Connecticut River. Rent a canoe or kayak to explore the shores of Vermont and New Hampshire. This was our base camp when we paddled a short section of the Connecticut River with Great River Outfitters. 

canoeing the Connecticut River

Vermont’s only monadnock, Mt. Ascutney is a wild and enchanting mountain. Whether you visit for the day or spend the weekend with your family, you’re sure to fall in love with Mt. Ascutney State Park.

Mt. Ascutney

Want to learn more about Vermont’s enchanting state parks? Check out these posts. And if you enjoyed reading about Mt. Ascutney, please pin this post and share the love!

Mt. Ascutney rises up over the Connecticut Valley on the eastern side of Vermont. This gorgeous mountain is crisscrossed with hiking trails leading to amazing views, but there's also a road to the top, a small campground at the base, and even a hang glider launch. It's one of my favorite state parks in all of Vermont

It’s been a while, and I’m thrilled to share this post with the Photo Friday link-up over at Pierced Wonderings. It’s a great community for photography inspiration!

Pierced Wonderings

19 Comments

  1. Such an interesting history! It looks like a beautiful park to visit as well. I’ll definitely have to add it to my list for my future visit.

  2. I always wanted to visit that part of the world, but never quite made it. Thanks so much for sharing. The scenery is so fabulous.
    bettyl – NZ recently posted…off-beat historyMy Profile

  3. Every photo is stunning but my fave is the first one as its so dramatic =) #photofriday
    Merlinda Little ( @pixiedusk) recently posted…Train To Backwell LakeMy Profile

  4. Hang gliding! Now that sounds like an incredible time. I would love to try one day but just watching them as you mentioned is a lot of fun.

  5. Thanks for sharing! I’ve never been to a state park in Vermont and I’ve never heard of Mt. Ascutney, so I was glad to hear about it. The only part of Vermont I have been to is Stowe. The swimming looks beautiful and I don’t have any dogs so I’d love to see the porcupines! I think they are so cute especially the noises they make.

  6. Looks stunning! I would definitely have to take the side trip to 20 foot hole! You’ve got me wanting to go back to Vermont like crazy! Thanks for sharing!
    Paige Brown recently posted…Would You Give Up Your Regular Life for A Year?My Profile

  7. I’m so excited to read this post! We travel to Vermont often from our home in Massachusetts, but we’ve never been to this mountain. It’s so helpful to hear the descriptions of the different trails since I’m usually hiking with my kids. This is going on my list!

  8. I’ve always heard great things about Vermont and now I know why! This post reminds me that the U.S. has some great places to visit that I obviously NEED to visit! Great post.

  9. Wow I could spend endless hours hiking and swimming here. What a fantastic place and how lucky that you are close enough to go visit it. i bet in Fall the leaves just look beautiful here. Probably not appropriate for swimming but the hiking and kayaking would be awesome. Thanks for sharing.

  10. And now I know were to look for information before I visit Vermont! It sounds as though you had a very busy summer! Love all your photos and information, as always.
    Tonya recently posted…Why the Hyatt Regency Chicago may be the Best Place to Stay in the Windy CityMy Profile

  11. The park looks amazing! Didn’t know there was so much to do!

  12. This is an absolutely beautiful park! It seems USA is full of these! I’ll have to head over there soonish and check these places out!
    Travelling Tom recently posted…Best time of the year to visit New ZealandMy Profile

  13. Gorgeous! Friends of mine are vacationing in Vermont right now and their photos are really piquing my interest. It’s not so far from Toronto…
    Cori recently posted…Figuring out the monarchyMy Profile

    • Well, it’s probably more than a day’s drive, Cori, but there’s some beautiful parks along the way! I’ve been close to Toronto, but have never made it into the city.

  14. Ami

    How do you actually choose on which trail to take? Each of them look amazing. And that magical water pool looks so refreshing. I like the idea of paddle boats too…Sigh! Hope that I can make it someday .

    • It’s a lot of guesswork, Ami, but I tend to start with the easiest trail. My knees are getting creaky!

  15. Vermont is a part of the USA I’ve always wanted to visit but never quite got there. I think I’ll be putting it on my list!

  16. Ahh I love spending time in nature and your photos and words are convincing me to go here! I haven’t canoed in quite a while so I’d like to do that too! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
    Cynthia recently posted…4 Places You Have to Visit in IndonesiaMy Profile

  17. I have yet to explore Vermont but have heard that the scenery is spectacular. Great pictures. It is easy to understand why Mt. Ascutney has a special place in your heart.

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