Pico Peak, in Central Vermont
I consider myself somewhat of a veteran of hiking in New Hampshire, having hiked the 48 4000-footers plus quite a few others in the past 5 years. In contrast, I have hiked very little in the neighboring state of Vermont. I recall having hiked Mt. Ascutney and Mt. Snow, but none others. So, when I was asked to spend the weekend camping in Vermont, I thought this would be a great opportunity to spend some time on the famous Vermont Long Trail. As it turned out, this hike did not exactly fulfill my goal, because the trail to the summit of Pico Peak is not actually part of the Long Trail any more. Some years ago the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail were re-routed to accommodate an expansion of the Pico ski area, which to this date hasn’t materialized. The closest I came to a real Long Trail was the brewery I visited afterwards that carries the same name.
Pico Peak, at 3960 feet, is the northernmost summit of the Coolidge Range in the Green Mountains. It is located just north of Mt Killington. The most direct route to the summit is via the blue blazed Sherburne Trail which has its trailhead at Sherburne Pass. When I was planning this hike, I considered including Mt Killington, which is an additional 3 miles to the south. But Saturday was forecast to be very hot and humid and I didn’t want to overdue it. I arrived at the trailhead at 7:30 am. There was only one other hiker there when I arrived and he was heading in the opposite direction. Just before heading out another 2 hikers drove in. I had the trail virtually all to myself. It was indeed quiet all the way to Pico Camp.
The lower part of the Sherburne trail was somewhat muddy and wet. I understand that this is quite common for Vermont in May to early June. Some areas contained wood walkways to span the worst of the wet. The trail itself was in very good condition overall. I do not recall encountering any blowdowns or other trail detours. Most wet areas could be avoided by walking along the trail edge. The first 2 ½ miles of the trail up to Pico Camp was a consistent climb with no real steep sections. At about 2 miles the trail exits the woods onto one of the Pico Peak ski trails. After walking about 50 yards up the ski trail the hiking trail re-enters the woods. At this point the trail is mostly flat and seems to hug the contour of the mountain. At 2 ½ miles the trail meets the Pico Peak spur. This is also the location of Pico Camp, a wood structure with doors and windows and a toilet that is utilized by through hikers or overnight campers. If you were to continue on the Sherburne Trail, in another ½ mile you would intersect the Long Trail as it continues toward Killington. I chose the 0.4 mile spur toward Pico’s Peak. This portion of the trail is much steeper. It also twice crosses ski trails on its way to the summit. Due to the haze, the views in the distance beyond 4-5 miles were limited.
On this toasty warm and humid day there was a very nice breeze at the top which made for a pleasant walk-around. The summit is the top of the highest ski trail so there is a ski lift structure and an accompanying building. Additionally, there are two sets of microwave/cell towers that share the summit. Due to these man-made structures there are enough trees cleared on the summit to provide some views, the best of which is Mt. Killington to the south. You can also see straight down the ski slope all the way to the Pico Ski Lodge and Vermont highway route 4 to the north.
After exploring the summit and taking a short rest, I started my descent back to Sherburne Pass. Along the way I encountered many more hikers on their way up the trail. It was a popular trail, but I guess not at 7:30 when I began my hike. I made it back to the trailhead without delay and was back in the roasting hot car by around 11:00 am. My hike covered about 6 miles in about 3 ½ hours. If you are in Central Vermont, I would highly recommend this hike due to its fine views, well maintained trails and relatively short distance to the summit of a ‘just under 4000ft’ peak.