Rising above the heart of the Mad River Valley, two peaks south of Camel’s Hump by way of the Long Trail, Burnt Rock is one of Vermont’s most interesting day hikes—mostly because of a few memorable rock formations near the top.
Rising above the heart of the Mad River Valley, two peaks south of Camel’s Hump by way of the Long Trail, Burnt Rock is one of Vermont’s most interesting day hikes—mostly because of a few memorable rock formations near the top. Interesting terrain, multiple vistas at the summit and a peaceful trail should make Burnt Rock a favorite. At 5.2 miles round trip and about 2,100’ elevation gain, expect to spend close to three hours on the trail and to feel it afterward.
What Makes It Great
It also gets nowhere near the traffic seen by its better known neighbors. The parking lot at the trailhead is seldom even half full, and most cars have in-state plates. This may be for a few reasons. Burnt Rock is farther from the highway than Camel’s Hump or Mount Hunger, and it lacks an easy-to-identify profile like Camel’s Hump or Mount Mansfield. It has no corresponding ski area. And in recent years, the Green Mountain Club rerouted the bottom section of the trail to accommodate private land—instead of walking straight up a wide trail through the woods, hikers now start the trip by rock-hopping over Hedgehog Brook and following a winding connector path.
Low traffic is a clear bonus. But Burnt Rock is most memorable for its top section, after Hedgehog Brook Trail connects with the Long Trail. The trail enters a pretty hemlock grove, and rock formations create a tall-walled gauntlet and a couple of lemon squeezers that are great fun to shimmy through. Close to the summit, the trail cuts along a rock face with several different ledges and killer views. It’s possible to have a dozen different parties on and around the summit, all with their own private little vista.
An entirely different bonus: there is an Icelandic horse farm down the road. If you’re lucky, you may see a few ponies with heavy metal rock star manes on their way to a trail ride.
Who is Going to Love It
You’ll want a good set of knees for Burnt Rock. Bring poles if you use them. Seasoned hikers who just want an afternoon speed hike can knock this one out in close to 2-2 ½ hours. If you’re the type of person who thinks a day hike makes a great first date, you can’t do better. It’s not a bad choice for families, but try the kids out on Camel’s Hump’s Monroe Trail before moving to Burnt Rock.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Waitsfield, go north on Rt. 100 to Center Fayston Road. Turn left onto Center Fayston Road and stay on that to Big Basin Road. Turn left onto Big Basin road and park at the end.