Carleton Mountain via Long Trail

Mountain:  Carleton Mtn. (2670')
Trail:  Long Trail
Region:  VT - Northwest  
Location:  Jay, VT
Rating:  Moderate  
Features:  Summit, views, orienteering/route finding
Distance:  2.4 miles  
Elevation Gain:  830 feet (cumulative)  
Hiking Time:  Actual: 4:00   Typical: 1:40  
Outing Duration:  Actual: 5:45   Typical: 3:00  
Season:  Spring
Hike Date:  03/25/2008 (Tuesday)  
Weather:  20-50 degrees, sunny then hazy
Author:  Webmaster

Conifer along the ridge area under a hazy sun (photo by Webmaster) Route Summary   

This is an out-and-back hike to Carleton Mountain which offers some nice views.

  • Start at the parking area at North Jay Pass on Rt. 105.
  • Facing the gated road at the edge of the parking area, the Long Trail, heading north, starts towards the right of the gate. (The southbound Long Trail starts roughly opposite the gate on the other side of Rt. 105).
  • The northbound Long Trail runs along the embankment above the highway, crosses beneath some power lines, and then enters the woods on the opposite side.
  • Follow the white-blazed trail all the way to Carleton Mountain (1.2 miles). There will be a summit sign for the mountain as well as a sign directing you to the right for an outlook.
  • After checking out the outlook and summit area, retrace your steps to return to the parking lot.

Place         Split
Long Trailhead at North Jay Pass (2000') 0.0 0.0 0:00 0:00
Carleton Mtn. (2670') 1.2 1.2 2:45 2:45
Long Trailhead at North Jay Pass (2000') 1.2 2.4 1:15 4:00

Birch snag (photo by Webmaster)

Summit signs (photo by Webmaster)


Map of hike route to Carleton Mountain (map by Webmaster)

Trail Guide   

A side road with a gate leaves the parking area. I did see regular vehicles on this road but at some point I think it becomes or intersects with a snowmobile trail. I could see this snow-covered route a few times from the trail, and closer to the summit, I even crossed it. I also saw a couple snowmobiles and an ATV on it.

The tall snowbanks at the parking area almost hid the sign with the white arrow indicating which way the trail goes. The Long Trail, like the Appalachian Trail is blazed in white. The snow was deep and it appeared that no one had set foot on this route to Carleton Mountain during the entire winter.

Tree (photo by Webmaster) Under the blazing sun and a postcard-blue sky, I donned my snowshoes and set out across the pristine whiteness of the snow. Facing the gated road at the edge of the parking area, the Long Trail starts towards the right of the gate. I walked above Route 105 along the top of the embankment until reaching the power lines. Then I crossed under the lines and entered the woods at a "LT North" sign.

This hike went through mostly open hardwoods, but ran through conifers near the summit. Although the blazes were brightly painted, I had trouble spotting them. It could be that they were widely spaced and/or it could be that they were obscured by the snow: either buried beneath it or hidden by clumps of snow and ice that clung to the tree trunks and branches. With the woods being so open the problem was usually that there appeared to be too many path options to choose from as opposed to not enough. Compounding the issue was the deep snowpack that often necessitated a bent-over walk in order to avoid tree branches that would normally be harmlessly overhead. These branches crisscrossing the trail as well as trees stretching horizontally due to snow weight further confounded the route-finding challenge.

I slowly picked my way through the woods trying to follow the most obvious route and keeping my eye peeled for blazes. The trail veered to the left and climbed up a knob. I walked through a section with chickadees and one of them seemed as curious to check me out as I was him. He flitted from branch to branch and finally settled a mere eighteen inches from me, allowing me a nice close-up look.

The beginning of the hike roughly parallels the horseshoe curve of Route 105, visible below through the bare branches. In one place there was a nice view out to the east, showing a wide expanse of open land and distant mountains.

View to the east from the trail (photo by Webmaster)

It was here that I totally lost the trail. After a blaze it seemed the path switchbacked to the right which I was sure would put me in the wrong direction. Nevertheless I followed it and sure enough it came close enough to the route that I had just traveled that I could see my footprints to the right. It looked like a trail continued sharply downhill to the left, which would lead back to the highway. I suspect this may have been a swath that was open due to it being a boundary line. Throughout the hike I saw various markers indicating different land ownership.

View to the west from the trail (photo by Webmaster) I backtracked to the last blaze and explored several other options, all without finding any trail markers. Finally, I decided to make my own path. Luckily I had a topographic map with me and that combined with the readily visible terrain due to bare branches, made this option feasible.

To the east I could see Carleton Mountain and I saw a ridge that seemed to smoothly connect the knob I was on with the mountain that was my goal. The topo map didn't show any significant descents so I picked a route that would get me to the ridge with the least amount of elevation loss. I figured if I got hopelessly disoriented, all I would have to do is follow my footprints back to the parking area.

So I continued along in spite of the absence of blazes and before long I happened upon a blaze so I was back on the trail. The walk along the ridge was fairly easy. The snow was nice and soft - that made breaking trail a bit of work but was preferable to the hard, crunchy snow that was so prevalent this winter in the regions that had snowstorms interspersed with melting and freezing temperatures.

Through the bare branches were views on both sides of the ridge. The trail climbed smoothly across the ridge and came very close to the snowmobile trail at one point. I continued to lose and re-find the trail. Most of the blazes I spotted were between knee- and hip-height due to the snowpack, instead of at eye-level. I came upon a bloody spot on the snow where the surrounding animal tracks indicated that possibly a bobcat made a meal out of a hare.

View to the southeast from the summit lookout (photo by Webmaster)

After the ridge walk, the trail ascended the flanks of Carleton Mountain and the hiking was more difficult. One steep section required the use of both hands and feet. I reached a false summit plateau with views through and around the trees. Then I climbed some more and next encountered the snowmobile trail. I was tempted to follow it in hopes that it went to the summit but it's a good thing I didn't since it bypassed the peak.

Conifer, laden with snow and icicles, on Carleton's summit (photo by Webmaster) The Long Trail continued to climb on the other side of the snowmobile trail through conifers heavy with snow. Even in this section, there seemed to be several viable routes but the trail ended up going pretty much in a straight line. I had to duck through these conifer tunnels and some blazes could only be spotted by crawling under drooping limbs in order to glimpse the tree trunks.

Finally I reached the summit which was marked with a "Carleton Mtn" sign as well as a sign indicating that the outlook was to the right. By this time the blue sky had transformed to gray haze, my socks were soaking wet, and it was windy and cold (whereas earlier in the hike I was hiking in a single lightweight layer).

I headed to the lookout for a wide view towards the southeast stretching across open land to distant mountains. The outlook area is mostly closed in; I could see a nice panorama through the bare trees but had to move around to see unobstructed sections. By descending a bit, I could see nearby Jay Peak with its skiing trails and the Sky Haus at the terminus of the aerial tram which forms an odd bump at the very tip of the summit. There weren't really any good "sit-down" views.

The conifers were covered with snow and ice and the wind made the icicles tinkle like chimes. I returned to the tree with the summit sign, and behind the tree (if you were facing the direction you were when you ascended the Long Trail), there seemed to be more views so I walked off in that direction to explore. There were views to the northeast, although like the official outlook, they weren't completely unobstructed. And again, a fairly flat expanse of land was rimmed by more distant mountains.

View from Carleton Mountain's summit to the north (photo by Webmaster)

Because it was so chilly on the summit with no good sit-down views, I decided to skip lunch. I headed back down the same way I came up. The Long Trail does continue down the other side of the mountain so be careful to follow the correct trail back down.

The descent was a lot easier because I had partially packed the snow on the way up, the route was easy to follow since I only had to look for my footprints rather than blazes, and it was mostly downhill. It was also pleasant due to the many views through the open branches. When I reached the lower false summit, I explored a bit and by walking around was able to get several unobstructed views, including vistas that weren't as apparent when I was hiking in the opposite direction.

View to the southeast from the summit lookout (photo by Webmaster) Next I crossed the ridge then ascended the knob near the start of the hike. Here I found a blaze that I hadn't spotted before so I followed it to try to determine how I lost the trail earlier. I ended up at a spot not too far from where I lost the trail but there were no blazes or obvious trail connecting the two places - but with the woods so open I was able to see through a screen of trees back to the place where the trail originally disappeared. So on the hike to the mountain, at that last blaze before the not-a-trail switchbacks to the right, you should instead go straight (which on this day required climbing over/through trees) and then go left through a line of trees and then turn right. At that point you should see more blazes as the trail heads downhill to the ridge.

The rest of the hike back to the parking area was uneventful.

This hike was a fun adventure through pristine snow and pleasant woods. I plan to return in the summer to see how different everything will look and to extend the hike a bit farther (see Other Route Options).
Arrow sign almost hidden by the snowbanks at the parking area (photo by Webmaster)

View to the east from the trail (photo by Webmaster)

Bare tree shaped like a saguaro cactus with Carleton Mtn. in the background (photo by Webmaster)

Tree and the hazy sun (photo by Webmaster)

Tree branches shaped like a big clamp on Carleton's summit (photo by Webmaster)

White Long Trail blaze on tree (photo by Webmaster)


VT - Northwest

  Driving Directions   

Frozen branches (photo by Webmaster) Trailhead parking is located on Rt. 105 in Jay, Vermont at North Jay Pass.

From the West:
  • Trailhead parking will be on the left, about 7 miles east of the junction of Routes 105 and 105A.

From the East:
  • Trailhead parking will be on the right, 5.2 miles west of the junction of Routes 105 and 101.

From I-91:
  • Take exit 26 (Orleans).
  • Follow Rt. 5 North just long enough to pick up Rt. 58 West.
  • Follow Rt. 58 West until it meets up with Rt. 100.
  • Turn right and follow Rt. 100 North for 7.7 miles.
  • Get on Rt. 101 North and follow it for 4.3 miles until Rt. 101 ends.
  • Turn left onto Rt. 105 West and follow it for 5.2 miles.
  • Park in a roomy pull-off on the right, after traveling through a horseshoe curve and immediately after a gated side road.

Other Notes   

The trail is closed from April 15th through Memorial Day due to mud season. Heavy snowmelt causes trails to be easily damaged during spring so please wait until trails are dried out before using them.

Frozen conifer branch with icicles (photo by Webmaster) Other Route Options   

Hike to the Canadian border:
  • You may continue on the Long Trail beyond Carleton Mountain's summit for 1.4 miles to reach the Canadian border. There will be a boundary marker here and an open area providing views into Quebec.
  • At this point, turn around and retrace your steps back to the parking area, making the total hike distance 5.2 miles.

Point-to-Point hike:
  • From the summit of Carleton Mountain, continue on the Long Trail for 1.4 miles which will bring you to the international boundary with Canada. The cleared boundary area will afford views into Quebec.
  • This is the end of the Long Trail. Turn right and continue hiking on Journey's End Trail for 1.3 miles at which point you will meet Journey's End Road. About halfway along Journey's End Trail will be the Journey's End Camp which is a frame cabin with space for eight.
  • The total hiking distance from the parking area on Rt. 105 to the parking area at the end of Journey's End Road is 3.9 miles.
  • Before starting the hike, you will need to leave a vehicle at the end of Journey's End Road:
    • From the junction of Routes 105 and 101, follow Rt. 105 West for 1.8 miles and then turn right onto North Jay Road.
    • Follow North Jay Road for 2.0 miles and then turn left, opposite a dairy barn, onto Journey's End Road.
    • Follow Journey's End Road for 1.2 miles to a log landing where there is plenty of space to park. Or bear right downhill and continue for 0.1 mile on a narrower road to a small trailhead parking area. Note that the condition of this road may be poor through springtime (until June).

Woods (photo by Webmaster)



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