The warmer temperatures and the calendar indicate spring has arrived, which for many in the region means hiking season is right around the bend. But, as I recently found out, the last vestiges of winter on are the mountaintops.
From all indications at the base of Bald Mountain, this roughly 7-mile roundtrip hike to the summit was going to be a typical spring trek in the Northeast. But the sunshine and nearly 50 degree temperature fogged my short-term memory – the Bennington, Vermont area had received a fresh coating of snow the day before. And I was soon about to learn where it had stuck.
As I started out around 10 a.m. on the first Sunday of April, the initial stretch of the trail featured soft, mushy ground – the kind where a slow stream of water runs past your feet, but not enough to soak your boots. After a short climb, I encounter a unique feature of hiking in the interconnected Northeast.
A highway underpass serves as a reminder that modern civilization is never too far away. The words “Free Expression Tunnel” mark the entrance, and clearly spray-paint-armed artists took the message to heart. After passing through the tunnel, the noise of vehicles zipping by fades as your eyes trade power lines for pine trees.
In hindsight, using two wobbly branches to cross a well-flowy, relatively flat stream should have been an indicator of what lay ahead. With each step, snow started to encroach on the path. With the trail becoming more vertical, I was seeking out the tops of rocks to plant my feet on so I didn’t slip on the wet snow. That ended quickly.
Snow soon covered the entire trail as it repeatedly crossed over and ran in between two streams flowing much faster than their peer down below. This is the point where I really felt immersed in nature – its serenity and its motion. Sunlight was melting snow from the pine trees — dropping water pellets onto my hat. It was a steady beat accompanying the headline act of rushing spring streams.
It was nature’s oasis before some serious hiking. Well into the trail’s roughly 2,100 feet of total elevation gain, the route went from steady to rapid incline. Couple this with the more than ankle deep snow – knee deep at some points – it was tough going.
At this point, I wanted to reach the top and refuel with some granola bars and an apple. But, the 2,921-foot summit (according to the All Trails app) was elusive. A pile of rocks near a rockslide indicates the summit has to be near. At a clearing, a fire pit is just another tip. After dipping back into the woods for a slight descent and then another steady climb the mountaintop is within reach. While the actual summit is 0.1 miles off the main trail, the marker where the paths converge serves as a great outlook and photo opportunity. As others have noted, the top of Bald Mountain is not all that bald. Apparently a fire in the 1920s burned the summit, but trees have dotted the area once again. This limits 360-degree summit views, but nearby mountains can be seen in some directions.
So if you’re searching for a hike to take up a good portion of your day, that’s easy to get to and within an hour drive of the Capital Region and central Berkshire County, Bald Mountain is a good option. It works your legs with plenty of elevation gain and some steep inclines, making the serene forest streams and scraggly rocks near the summit even more rewarding. In addition, hiking this trail means you can cross a visit to the Green Mountain National Forest off your bucket list.
Click here for more information about Bald Mountain Trail.