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The Long Trail, “Vermont’s footpath in the wilderness”, is the oldest long distance hiking trail in the U.S.. The Long Trail was conceived on the peak of Stratton Mountain in southern Vermont by James P. Taylor (1872-1949) as he waited for a thick fog to lift. On March 11, 1910 twenty-three people met in Burlington and founded the Green Mountain Club, and the Long Trail was on it’s way to becoming real.
Work began on the trail in the Mt. Mansfield (highest peak in Vermont at 4383’) and Camel’s Hump areas, and connected the two by the end of 1912. Within only the first decade of the Green Mountain Club’s existence members had cleared over 200 miles of trail and provided 44 overnight sleeping accommodations. Of these, 14 were huts and shelters raised by the GMC. The final link of trail was cut to the Canadian border in 1930. The GMC celebrated its 21st birthday and the completion of the Long Trail with a chorus of flares erupting from mountaintops all along the spine of the Green Mountains.
In 1931 the GMC trustees approved the hiring of a paid Long Trail Patrol under the leadership of Roy O. Buchanan. This group worked on trail maintenance and the construction and repair of shelters and huts along the trail. During this time the GMC also brought strong opposition to the proposed Green Mountain Parkway, a scenic highway cutting across the length of the Green Mountain range.
Shelter construction increased during the period between 1950 and 1960, responding to growth in traffic on the trail. In 1958 the club was also instrumental in stopping an army plan to erect a missile communications tower on the Chin of Mt. Mansfield. Between 1966 and 1975 the GMC responded to new pressures caused by traffic by removing dumps from campsites, initiating “carry in- carry out” policies, education on responsible trail use and stationing of caretakers at the most high use areas and summits.
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In 1971 the Vermont legislature passed a resolution that recognized the GMC as the “founder, sponsor, defender and protector” of the Long Trail and delegated it official responsibility for the creation of programs aimed at the “preservation, maintenance, and proper use of hiking trails for the benefit of the people of Vermont”.
In 1986 the GMC initiated the Long Trail Protection Campaign to increase awareness and respect for the Long Trail.
In 1992 the GMC finally found their permanent home. After renting space first in Rutland, then in Montpelier, the GMC purchased the May Farm on route 100, a popular tourist road to house their administrative, educational and informational infrastructure.
Today the Long Trail stretches over 270 miles from Massachusetts to the Canadian border. On its way to Canada the trail is considered backcountry as it climbs rugged peaks, slides past crystal ponds, alpine bogs, hard and soft wood forests and swift streams and falls. The system boasts 175 miles of side trails and nearly 70 shelters and huts.