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The Green Mountain National Forest, established in 1932, is Vermont’s only National Forest. It is managed in the spirit of multiple uses, including recreational activities, logging and watershed protection and management. An ecosystems management approach has recently been adopted by the U.S. Forest Service in maintaining the forest.
In 1964 the Congress of the United States passed the Wilderness Act in an attempt to set aside, in the words of the act, "an area where earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man"; the lands designated as wilderness areas were to be "affected primarily by nature."
Six areas, totaling 59,598 acres of the Green Mountain Forest were upgraded to Wilderness status following the 1964 Congressional Wilderness Act. These areas represent some of the best of Vermont’s outdoor world.
The largest of these wilderness areas is Breadloaf Wilderness, totaling 21,480 acres in the Middlebury district of the forest. The Long Trail crosses this wilderness for 17 miles, traversing 11 peaks measuring over 3000’.
The Lye Brook Wilderness encompasses 15,680 acres in the Manchester district, and boasts the stunning Lye Brook Falls as its centerpiece.
The next largest is the Peru Peak Wilderness, comprised of 6,920 acres, centered around the trail-less Peru Peak in the Manchester district. The Appalachian and Long Trails cross the southern tip of this wilderness for about 3 miles.
The Big Branch Wilderness is similarly sized at 6,720 acres, and is crossed by the Appalachian Trail. Big Branch is home to pristine banks of the Big Branch River and healthy stands of giant hardwoods. The eastern part of the wilderness is a large wetland ecosystem called Elbow Swamp.
The George D. Aiken Wilderness is a favorite among fishermen. Located in the Manchester district, the park boasts 5,060 protected acres. Be sure to bring rubber boots as the wilderness is almost entirely wetlands.
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The smallest of these areas is the Bristol Cliffs Wilderness. No established trails cross the 3,738 acres of the area, located in the Manchester district. The area is named for the cliffs that overhang high rocky slopes in the western part of the wilderness.
For more on the Green Mountain National Forest and Wilderness areas contact the USDA Forest Service.