Via. The Jerusalem Trail and The Long Trail 8.4 miles round trip
Mt. Ellen is one of Vermont’s five peaks over 4000 feet, and lies on the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail. Though the summit itself is wooded and marked by a small cairn. The ridge and the open ski trails near the top offer sweeping views of Vermont’s peaks, the Lake Champlain Valley, the Adirondacks, and, on really clear days, to New Hampshire and Canada. This mountain was named, as legend has it, in the 1920’s for Ellen Douglas, the heroine of Sir Walter Scott’s “Lady of the Lake,” by some of the young people working on the Long Trail. The east side of the mountain is developed into a ski area which is part of the Sugarbush complex.
There are three approaches to this peak. One can follow the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail from the south, picking up the trail in Lincoln Gap, or on the same trails from the north, picking up the trail from the Appalachian Gap. Either of these routes requires climbing other mountains along the ridge. Alternatively, from the west, the Mt. Jerusalem trail climbs to the ridge between General Stark Mountain and Mt. Ellen. This trailhead is off of Route 17 in Jerusalem.
Long Trail from Lincoln Gap. From the height of land on Lincoln Gap Road, travel north over Mt. Abraham and several minor peaks. One way distance is 6.3 miles. Round trip the elevation gain is about 1600 feet, and book time is about 7 hours.
Long Trail from the Appalachian Gap. From the height of land on the Sugarbush Access Road, travel south on the Long Trail. The trail goes over General Stark Mountain. One way distance to the summit of Mt. Ellen is 5.3 miles. Round trip the elevation gain is about 2200 feet and the book time is about 6 1/2 hours.
Jerusalem Trail. The little hamlet of Jerusalem is on Route 17. From the trailhead in Jerusalem, climb to the Long Trail, then south to the summit of Mt. Ellen. One way the trip is 4.3 miles. While this is the shortest approach, it also involves the largest elevation gain, about 2600 feet, and book time is 5 1/2 hours.
Other choices include a Gap-to-Gap hike from Lincoln Gap to the Appalachian Gap, or combining either Gap approach with the Jerusalem Trail, but obviously car spotting is required. I have written about the climb up Lincoln Gap in the post about Mt. Abraham. The mountain can also be reached by the access road from the Sugarbush Ski Area.
We chose to approach from the Jerusalem Trail located off Route 17. The trail head is located on the left side of the Dwire Road, there is a soft shoulder that will accommodate several cars. This trail begins on private land so respect land owners by sticking to the trail and be aware that this is an area of active forestry. There is a large scale sap harvesting area along the trail and various private roads that criss cross the trail, which is blazed in blue. Be aware that there may also be logging occurring in the area as well.
Hike up the Jerusalem Trail for 2.4 miles until you come to a junction with the Long Trail. The Jerusalem trail begins on relatively flat logging roads that are wide and easy to follow and walk. There is a gorgeous forest comprised nearly entirely of sugar maple, most of which have tap lines running from one to the other. In all of my years of hiking I had never seen such a large sap collecting operation. As you slowly gain in elevation the forest changes to mostly white birch and then spruce dominated. There are some steep sections higher up on the Jerusalem Trail but nothing overly challenging. Once the Long Trail junction is reached. Turn right onto the Long Trail. There are some ledgy areas just below the ridge that offer some views to the west. The Long Trail is a bit more challenging than the approach from the Jerusalem Trail as this is where most of the elevation is gained. Hike for 1.8 miles and you will reach an open area on the ridge where there is a chairlift and views down to Sugarbush ski resort and off into Vermont and New York. The summit of Mt. Ellen is just a short hike from here into the woods, the actual summit is marked by a small cairn and is completely wooded. From here you can choose to hike back down the way you came.
We hiked up in late October when all of the leaves were off the trees, this increased the views on the way up and left us fairly secluded for the day. The weather was not optimal as once we reached the summit it started to rain but much of the trail is under cover making it not so bad from an exposure stand point. Our dogs ran into no troubling spots on either the way up or the way down, and there was plenty of water. I will caution that there was a lot of broken glass surrounding the ski lift near the summit ridge so use caution there. Book time for this hike is 5-6 hours. It was enjoyable and fun. The diversity of the forested landscape and the land use in the area contributed to some of the adventure, at least for the humans.