Mount Ascutney, located southeast of us on the New Hampshire border, is a lone mountain rising up out of nowhere to a surprising peak of 3,144 feet. Views near the summit of this, the second-highest peak in Windsor County, are expansive, breathtaking … and reachable by paved road!
In recent posts, we told you about the Hall Art Foundation, and Saint-Gaudens. What we didn’t mention is that, as you head south towards these two amazing places, you may notice an odd, single peak rising up out of the surrounding flat near the NH border.
This is Mt. Ascutney, the second-highest peak in Windsor County VT. The mountain is what is known as a monadnock or an inselberg. A lone, isolated peak surrounded by otherwise level terrain.
The mystery of the peak’s solitude isn’t all that deep, though, even if the mountain’s roots must be. The peak is actually the weathered core of an old volcano. If you think the mountain looks odd and impressive now, just imagine when it 20,000 feet tall and belching smoke and ash. Yikes!
Reaching Ascutney’s Summit
Luckily, the mountain’s rowdy days are long passed and now the peak is known for its views and excellent biking and hiking trails. For those who’d rather not hike, you can get quite near the summit without leaving your car via Mountain Road.
Mountain Road leads up the mountain to a parking lot located in the saddle between the mountain’s south peak and summit. The road gains nearly 2,300 feet in the climb to the park’s upper lot. Is it any wonder the views from this point are so amazing?
The summit of Mount Ascutney is less than a mile’s hike from this upper parking lot. Slab Trail offers the least strenuous route but you will still be gaining nearly 350 feet in elevation during a hike that requires water and proper footwear.
Slab trail leads to a 24 foot tall observation tower, made of sections from mountain’s original fire tower, and offering even greater panoramic views.
Trails and More
Slab Trail isn’t the only trail on Mount Ascutney. Not by a long shot.
More than 12 miles of trails criss-cross the park and mountain, including a trail for mountain biking. Many of the trails lead to former quarries, logging areas, and other abandoned sites. Many of the trails intersect and there are at least three different base-to-summit trails to choose from.
The park also features a number of camping site loops with restrooms and coin-operated hot showers. Mountain Road passes by three picnic areas on its way to the upper parking lot, including one with a shelter and restroom.
Mount Ascutney was one of Vermont’s very first state parks, built between 1935 and 1938 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. All of the stonework in the park is Ascutney granite and hails from this era.
Mount Ascutney State Park
1826 Back Mountain Rd, Windsor, VT 05089
Park hours are 10am to 9pm or sunset, whichever comes first. Mountain Road is open between late May and mid-October. Visit the park website for directions and more details.
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