Using the traditional 1,000-foot measure, Philo stretches a bit calling itself a mountain. However, this compact and friendly peak is a gem of a short hike. It’s a quick drive from Burlington and the summit views are ridiculously good for minimal effort.
What Makes It Great
Got an hour? Then you have time to hike Philo. Got kids? This is an essential hike for Burlington-area families. Philo fills a space that few other peaks can: accessible, fun and quick. Plus, the views: more on that in a minute.
One really nice factor about Philo is that groups of mixed abilities can all enjoy it. Hikers can take the trail while others can drive up with the cooler. A picnic area, open lawn and several lookouts (some with chairs) make it great for kids and comfortable for grandparents.
Now, those views: because Philo rises straight out of the Champlain Valley, hikers have a clear view of the Lake Champlain shoreline and the Adirondacks beyond. A convenient map built into the fence at the summit matches and names each peak and island in view. To the west, look for Whiteface directly across the lake. To the southeast, look for the tall peaks in the Mad River region (Mount Abe and Ellen, in particular). But the best views are to the west.
Philo is a Vermont state park. During the season, all visitors are charged an entrance fee, and camping and picnicking facilities are available. There are two routes to the top: a hiking trail (recently rerouted), and a narrow paved road. Many hikers choose to take the trail up and the road down.
The trailhead leads to a gentle, carefully maintained path with big boulders and other fun formations for kids. The trail crosses the road; after this point it roughens and rises more steeply toward the summit.
The old trail offered a side route that passed through the Devil’s Chair rock formation. It’s less easy to get to now, but if your crew is up for it—and some backtracking, if you want to stay on the trail instead of popping out on the road—look for signs or ask the park attendant at the visitor kiosk for a map.
Steps before the top, the trail sweeps by a stunning overlook. Stop here to catch your breath and drink in the view; then finish the final few hundred feet for an equally gorgeous view from the top.
To get there: take Route 7 south from Burlington to State Park Road in Charlotte. Check in at the visitor kiosk if in season.
Who is Going to Love It
Except for maybe the most hardcore hikers, everyone has a reason to love Mount Philo. On a typical Saturday afternoon, Philo is filled with families with young kids, college students airing out after Friday night activities, Burlington couples on speed hikes, pairs of friends catching up, older couples walking dogs and at least one family reunion.
Like every Vermont hike, the most beautiful season on Philo is early fall. But hikers with snowshoes or good ice treads should consider a winter hike: while people visit all year, it’s significantly less trafficked—and more challenging—with snow on the ground.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The parking area is at the base of the mountain at the intersection of State Park Road and Mount Philo Road. Both the trailhead and access road begin at the parking area. The visitor kiosk is open from 10 a.m. until sunset, late May through Columbus day.