Long Trail Section 3

Appalachian Gap to Middlebury Gap (SOBO)

On this southbound (SOBO) hike from Appalachian Gap to Middlebury Gap, we tagged two more of the NE 4,000 footers, Mt. Ellen and Mt. Abraham, and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset at aptly named Sunset Ledge.


Note: This map is intended only to show the route. Mileage stats in section below were calculated using the End to Ender’s Guide from GMC.

Day 1: Appalachian Gap to Sunset Ledge

12.4 miles, 3,200ft of elevation gain

Hike Date: August 2020

Technically, this section is geographically before section 2, but with the amount of logistical work that goes into planning these trips, we cannot always go in order! Since we have to drive to a trailhead and then shuttle to our starting point, we like to give ourselves shorter hiking days after spending so much time and effort to get on trail. After the first day of our last section really crushed us, we decided to give ourselves an easier start this time around. We expected that this stretch of trail would provide a similar level of difficulty because it would go over two more 4,000 footers, Mt. Ellen and Mt. Abraham. While it was indeed tough, it thankfully was nowhere near as treacherous or jarring as the portion that went over Camel’s Hump and Mt. Mansfield! 

The Long Trail predictably climbed relatively steeply out of Appalachian Gap. Assisted by iron bars drilled into the rock ledges, we took large steps and made it through this part fairly quickly. Once at a little higher elevation, the trail passed over the top of two Mad River Glen ski chairlifts, including Stark’s Nest (where many hikers camp). We of course enjoyed the views, but continued on as we were just starting our hiking day!

Climbing up iron rungs
Taking a rest on a single chair lift
Roots and rocks
Perfect spot for a break and a view

Past those ski lifts, we traversed some beautiful sections of trail and entered Green Mountain National Forest. The bright sun filtering through the green foliage illuminated the trail with dappled bright spots. It was pretty magical. The fern-filled and moss-covered trail was surprisingly gentle, which made for an easy and quick ascent to Mt. Ellen. 

Entering Green Mountain National Forest
Beautiful and gently ascending trail

Mt. Ellen was our 51st New England 4,000 footer! With clear skies, we could see all the way to Camel’s Hump to the north, reminding us of our time on that gorgeous mountain the last time we were on the Long Trail. Here, we paused for lunch on the ski lift platform. The actual summit, however, is just a short bit into the woods marked by a tiny cairn.

Mt. Ellen summit selfie

As we continued through similar trail conditions to Mt. Abraham, we traversed the Sugarbush Ski Resort, first passing Castle Rock chairlift (another camping option for hikers). Next, Nancy Hanks Peak offered a small viewpoint for us to take in the scenery. Then, we paused for another rest atop Lincoln Peak. On Lincoln Peak, there is a large open area at the top of the Sugarbush ski lifts as well as a platform with benches, but the views from there are somewhat obscured by trees.

More fern-filled trails
View from Nancy Hanks Peak
View from Lincoln Peak

Next, we made our way to the summit of Mt. Abraham, our 52nd New England 4,000 footer. The views from here were astounding! We could see for miles in all directions, taking in the natural beauty and the best the Long Trail has to offer. The rocky open summit looks like a great place to relax, but it was pretty crowded so we didn’t linger very long.

Slabby rock ascent to Mt. Abraham
View looking South from Mt. Abraham

After Mt. Abraham, we dropped down some steep rock slabs and ledges past Battell Shelter to Lincoln Gap. The shelter offers a water source, but hikers should know that it is not along the actual Long Trail. You have to walk in front of the shelter to a small stream. We mistakenly walked down the trail past the shelter looking for the stream and were not happy when we had to backtrack, which is never fun. Once across the road at Lincoln Gap, we entered Breadloaf Wilderness and climbed the short trail to Sunset Ledge. Even though this was a brief segment, it included some switchbacks of eroded paths and steep rock slabs, which were tough on the legs after a long day of hiking. We momentarily thought about pushing for more miles to shorten the next day, but ultimately decided to spend the night there stealth camping in the woods so that we could enjoy the evening sunset. The ledge was just too perfect of a spot not to stop for the night.

Entering Breadloaf Wilderness
Steep and eroded dirt trail from Lincoln Gap
Wheel pose on Sunset Ledge

Sunset Ledge is only about a mile from the parking lot at Lincoln Gap, making it a pretty popular place for people to come just for sunset. Joined by a few groups, we watched the sun sink low over Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks, which were just visible in the hazy summer sky. These feel like the experiences that backpacking opens up for us. On our day hikes, we are typically out of the mountains or at least rapidly descending by this time of day. With extended time in the wilderness, we get to leisurely enjoy these moments and be fully present, with nothing else waiting for us to anticipate.

Orange sky from Sunset Ledge
Sun drenched Sunset Ledge

Day 2: Sunset Ledge to Middlebury Gap

16.5 miles, 4,000ft of elevation gain

We woke early and caught a little sunrise view through the trees next to our campsite. Then, we started hiking early knowing we had some long miles to cover. The trail crossed some open rock sections before entering a beautiful fern and moss covered forest that would continue throughout the day. Like all of the Long Trail, it was still beautiful, but there was nothing particularly memorable about this section.

Sunrise through the trees
Mossy trail

We passed Cooley Glen Shelter (which looked a little “rugged” and known to have a leaking roof, hence the tarp) and then traversed the undulating ridgeline to Emily Proctor Shelter. Along the way, we were treated to more sun-dappled greenery and a few outlooks. This portion was challenging at times, but nothing that we couldn’t handle. We are so appreciative of what our bodies and minds can accomplish when we push ourselves and how much physical and mental strength we can develop.

Cooley Glen Shelter
Sun-dappled trail
Outlook between Cooley Glen and Emily Proctor
Emily Proctor Shelter

Past Emily Proctor Shelter, the trail passes through a section with tons of downed trees on its way to Boyce Shelter. Not sure if it just got hit with a ton of wind or if there is a larger issue affecting the forest. Trail maintenance has made it perfectly passable, but it was a stark change from most of the rest of this section. Once we passed Boyce Shelter, we knew we were almost finished. From there, it was a brief climb up Breadloaf Mountain and then we picked up our pace to descend to Middlebury Gap, exiting Breadloaf Wilderness after 16.5 miles of hiking. We reached the road just before some afternoon rain started sprinkling – perfect timing!

Section with many downed trees
Boyce Shelter
Breadloaf Wilderness

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One Comment

  1. Terry Blackburne-Lee
    September 13, 2020

    Gorgeous pictures. You are both in such incredible shape and I applaud your continuing quest on the long trail.

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