Mt. Ascutney via Windsor Trail

Mountains:  Mt. Ascutney (3144'), North Peak
Trails:  Windsor Trail, Brownsville Trail, Blood Rock Trail, Castle Rock Trail
Region:  VT - Southern  
Mount Ascutney State Park
Location:  Windsor, VT
Rating:  Moderate/Difficult  
Features:  Summit, views, fire tower, shelter, brooks, cascades
Distance:  5.6 miles  
Elevation Gain:  2520 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Typical: 4:10  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 4:30   Typical: 6:00  
Season:  Fall
Hike Date:  11/01/2008 (Saturday)  
Weather:  Clear
Author:  Diane King
Companion:  Ten SDHers

SDH relaxing on the rocks (photo by Mark Malnati)


Route Summary   

This is a hike to Mount Ascutney's North Peak and the observation tower near the summit from which there are 360-degree views to Vermont's Green Mountains, New Hampshire's White Mountains, and Massachusetts' Berkshires, in addition to New Hampshire's Mounts Cardigan and Monadnock. For those not wishing to climb the 24.5-foot tower, there are good views available from some other lookout points.

This hike follows the steadily uphill Windsor Trail, blazed in white, all the way to the summit with an option to take a small detour on the descent (making the return trip 0.2 mile longer) for an additional viewpoint.

Ascent:
  • Start on Windsor Trail.
  • After 0.8 mile, look for a spur on the left and take this short path to check out Gerry's Falls on Mountain Brook.
  • Return to Windsor Trail and continue climbing.
  • After 0.8 mile you will reach a trail junction - both branches rejoin after 0.2 mile although the left-hand leg is the official Windsor Trail. If you take the left-hand "1903" segment, you will encounter another junction, at which you should turn right to avoid Blood Rock Trail (we will check this option out on the way down). SDH on the observation tower (photo by Dennis Marchand) But we took the right-hand "1857" leg in order to check out the log shelter built in 1968 which is on the right side of the trail shortly before this branch rejoins the main trail.
  • Upon reaching the junction, 0.2 mile later where the two branches rejoin, if coming from the "1857" leg, turn right to continue the uphill climb on Windsor Trail; when coming from the "1903" segment, turn left to continue the climb.
  • After 0.2 mile, you will go by the upper junction for Blood Rock Trail on the left, which we will check out on the way back.
  • Continuing on Windsor Trail, you will pass by Futures Trail coming in from the left after 0.2 mile.
  • Still on Windsor Trail, and another 0.2 mile later, will be another junction, this time with Castle Rock Trail, which leads left. If you wish, you can take a small detour on this trail reaching Castle Rock in less than 0.1 mile where there are views over the Connecticut Valley (Castle Rock Trail continues beyond this point soon meeting Slot Trail). Return to/stay on Windsor Trail and continue upwards.
  • Less than 0.1 mile later will be a junction with Brownsville Trail. To the right, Brownsville Trail runs by itself; to the left it runs in combination with Windsor Trail. Bear left/straight to follow the combined Windsor / Brownsville Trail.
  • In less than 0.1 mile there is a short spur to the right leading to Brownsville Rock which is an open ledge with northerly views towards the Green Mountains.
  • After checking out the spur, keep going on the combined Windsor / Brownsville Trail. At this point you are only 0.2 mile from the summit.
  • Very soon you will pass a junction on the left with Slot Trail.
  • Next you will encounter the observation tower.
  • And finally Windsor / Brownsville Trail ends as it runs into Weathersfield Trail which climbs the mountain from another side. At this point, there is a short spur to the left which leads to the official, viewless, summit of the mountain where there are communication towers.

Stay overnight in a tipi - Tipi Lodging

Trail sign (photo by Mark Malnati)

SDH on Windsor Trail (photo by Dennis Marchand)
 

SDH enjoying the outlook at Brownsville Rock (photo by Mark Malnati) View from the observation tower (photo by Mark Malnati)

 
  Descent:
  • From the summit area, retrace your steps on the combined Windsor / Brownsville Trail (being careful not to descend on the Weathersfield Trail).
  • Go past the junction with Slot Trail on the right and the Brownsville Rock spur on the left, and about 0.2 mile from the summit area, turn right onto Windsor Trail.
  • You will quickly pass the junction with Castle Rock Trail on the right and then 0.2 mile later the Futures Trail junction also on the right.
  • Continue on Windsor Trail for another 0.2 mile and then turn right onto Blood Rock Trail which will bring you past a viewpoint before rejoining Windsor Trail farther down.
  • Follow Blood Rock Trail for about 0.3 mile where the trail bends to the left. Just beyond this elbow is an open ledge on the right providing a view.
  • Continue on Blood Rock Trail for about 0.2 mile at which time it will meet up with the lower part of the "1903" branch of Windsor Trail.
  • Keep straight (the left-hand turn leads back up the mountain) and in 0.1 mile you will be at the base of the spot where Windsor Trail splits.
  • Continue straight down Windsor Trail for 1.6 miles to return to the parking lot. Halfway through this segment, you will again go by the spur for Gerry's Falls on the right.
 
 

Claudette and Mark at a brook crossing (photo by Dennis Marchand) Waterfall (photo by Mark Malnati)

 
 
Place         Split
Miles
     Total
Miles
Windsor Trailhead 0.0 0.0
Gerry's Falls 0.8 0.8
Shelter 1.0 1.8
Brownsville Rock 0.7 2.5
Mt. Ascutney North Peak summit (3144') 0.2 2.7
Brownsville Rock 0.2 2.9
Blood Rock 0.7 3.6
Gerry's Falls 1.2 4.8
Windsor Trailhead 0.8 5.6
 
 




 

Map of hike route on Mt. Ascutney (map courtesy of Vermont Forests, Parks, and Recreation)


Trail Guide   

For this hike we ascended and descended Mount Ascutney located in Windsor, West Windsor, and Weathersfield, Vermont via Windsor Trail. Since it was the day after Halloween, some of us dressed up in costumes.

Ten Seacoast Dayhikers (including a pirate and a genie) hiked 2.7 miles up the leafy Windsor Trail to summit Mount Ascutney. The weather was clear and beautiful, although there was a thin layer of ice dotting the trailway, just after the shelter but before the peak, which was easily avoidable.

We stopped at the shelter about mid-way to view the rustic lean-to which was well stocked with firewood, pots, pans and coffee mugs. One end of the hut was built into the side of the hill with the fireplace right against the mountain and the rest of that wall consisting of ledge/boulder. There were three bunks.

SDH (photo by Mark Malnati)


I did some "reverse trick-or-treating" handing out candy from my felt pumpkin bag to all kinds of hikers along the way. There was some type of military detail just below the shelter on a break but they are trained not to accept such amenities–oops! One of our group got a chill and departed the shelter ahead of us leaving a trail of colored candy kisses along the path to mark the way and hid a couple at the junction and we had to find them–a scavenger hunt!

We were able to get a 360-degree view while on the observation tower viewing several Vermont ski mountains. The true summit had no view except for its radio towers. We spent quite a bit of time at the rocky summit/tower area sprawled out enjoying the sun, a little bit of a view, and conversation.

We carefully hiked down with a little slipping over the dry leaves and detoured to view Brownsville Rock which had a nice lookout over the town. We encountered a Boy Scout troop and I had to tap into Dennis' candy stock from there on.

We were down by 2:30 so the hike took about 4.5 hours. Eight of us drove to Claremont with dueling GPS's to take us to Ramunto's which had been recommended. We all loved the restaurant and departed taking scenic Route 103 instead of the interstate.
 


White Mountains elegant vacation rental
 

Shelter built into the hillside (photo by Mark Malnati) Fireplace and rock wall of the shelter (photo by Dennis Marchand)

 


VT - Southern

  Driving Directions   

The Windsor Trailhead is located on Route 44A, also called Back Mountain Road, in Windsor, Vermont.

From I-91 Northbound:
  • Take Exit 8 (Ascutney) off I-91 to Rt. 131.
  • Head east on Rt. 131 for about 0.4 mile until reaching a traffic light.
  • Turn left onto Rt. 5 North.
  • Follow Rt. 5 North for 1.2 miles, then bear left onto Rt. 44A.
  • Follow Rt. 44A for 2.8 miles then park on the left at the Windsor Trailhead opposite an "ATA" (Ascutney Trails Association) sign on the right-hand side of the road. Along Rt. 44A, you will pass by Mountain Road–the state park's auto road–after 1.2 miles; and then reach the Windsor Trailhead 1.6 miles after that.

From I-91 Southbound:
  • Take Exit 9 (Harland-Windsor) off I-91 to Rt. 5.
  • Follow Rt. 5 South for 4.1 miles through downtown Windsor.
  • Turn right onto Rt. 44 West and follow it for 3.3 miles until reaching a junction with Rt. 44A.
  • Leave Rt. 44 and turn sharply left onto Rt. 44A.
  • Travel 0.2 mile on Rt. 44A to find the Windsor Trailhead and parking area on the right, opposite an "ATA" (Ascutney Trails Association) sign on the left.
  Trail sign (photo by Mark Malnati)

 

The pirate (Diane) and the genie (Rose) (photo by Mark Malnati) Windsor Trail (photo by Mark Malnati)

 



  About Mount Ascutney State Park   

Mount Ascutney State Park is located on the eastern slope of the mountain and its 3,000 acres encompass North Peak and South Peak as well as most of the trails leading up to both North Peak and West Peak. Mount Ascutney is a monadnock made up of various granites and rises to 3,144 feet. It was once a volcano reaching 20,000 feet in elevation but has eroded away with time.

Windsor Trail (photo by Dennis Marchand) Located in Windsor, Vermont, Mount Ascutney State Park offers opportunities for hiking, snowshoeing, camping, picnicking, and hang gliding. In fact this spot is a favorite with hang gliders who, from the launch area on West Peak, end up flying cross-country to the Atlantic Ocean with trips sometimes exceeding 100 miles. The launch site itself is located within West Windsor Town Forest but the most popular access (because it's the shortest) is from the top of the state park's toll road.

There are four hiking trails leading from the base of the mountain up to the summit area and each of these trails are contained almost entirely within the state park. The summit proper (North Peak) doesn't hold much interest since views are limited and it's populated with various communication devices. However, less than 0.1 mile north of the peak is a 24.5-foot observation tower which affords excellent views of the Green Mountains to the west, Mount Monadnock to the southeast, Mounts Sunapee and Cardigan to the northeast and the White Mountains beyond that. The base-to-summit trails average about 6 miles round trip and traverse moderate grades.

If you're looking for something easier, drive up the state park's 3.8-mile toll road (about $3/person) which puts you within 0.7 mile, via hiking trails, of the summit as well as various other points of interest. Along the road are parking areas, picnic areas, bathrooms, vistas, and campsites. In the winter the road is unplowed and used by snowmobiles.

Ascutney State Park
1826 Back Mountain Road
Windsor, Vermont 05089
802.674.2060

Auto Road Season: Memorial Day to Columbus Day

Please note: The summit road on Mount Ascutney may be closed occasionally for park events.

View from Brownsville Rock (photo by Mark Malnati)


Mount Ascutney State Park Guidelines and Regulations   

  • Overnight camping and campfires are allowed only at designated sites in the developed campground. Inquire at the park office for more information.
  • Stay on marked hiking trails. Hiking off trails causes erosion and destroys vegetation.
  • Keep the trails free of litter. Carry out what you carry in.
  • Keep pets on a leash at all times.
  • Trails are for foot travel only. ATVs and mountain bikes are not permitted in the park or on the trail system.
  • Leave all wildflowers and plants in their natural environment for others to enjoy.
  • For your safety, keep away from all transmitter towers and buildings located on South Peak and North Peak of Mount Ascutney.

More Mt. Ascutney Trail Reports   

  Kristin on Mount Ascutney's observation tower (photo by Mark Malnati)

SDH on Mount Ascutney's observation tower (photo by Mark Malnati)

 

Claudette laughing at the shelter's bunk bed (photo by Dennis Marchand) Windsor Trail (photo by Dennis Marchand)

 

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