We’re big fans of the Appalachian Trail—like 250,000 acres big—so of course we had to catch a showing of A Walk in the Woods. Based on Bill Bryson’s book of the same name, the movie stars Robert Redford and Nick Nolte in a comedy of errors as the odd couple attempts the ambitious “AT” thru-hike.
We’ll admit we preferred the book to the movie, but the beautiful landscape shots did inspire us to take our own walk in the woods. If you find yourself in New England this fall season, consider these two hikes for a view of the Appalachian Trail’s brilliant fall foliage—in true technicolor!
Velvet Rocks—Hanover, New Hampshire
For a mellower option, head to Bill Bryson’s onetime home of Hanover, New Hampshire—where we’re currently working to protect an AT access trail at Hudson Farm. Our featured hike begins right in town: you can make it a short stroll out to the trail shelter or a five-mile round-trip to a moss-covered outcropping called Velvet Rocks. This hike includes many of our favorite things about New Hampshire: gorgeous hemlock forest, healthy wetlands, and spectacular fall colors.
Trail notes: Follow the gravel road behind the Hanover Co-op on Park Street until it enters the woods and becomes the Appalachian Trail. Bearing right at the trail junction 1.5 miles will take you directly to Velvet Rocks—or go left to reach the shelter in 0.2 miles. From the shelter, you can head back the way you came for a 3.4-mile round-trip, or follow the trail directly behind the shelter to rejoin the main trail.
Look for the orange signs. Photo: Christina Dulude/Flickr
Once back on the AT, it’s about 0.5 miles to a steep hill, where you’ll see a climbing rope attached to a tree. You may not need it—the hill flattens out after about 200 meters. At the top, keep your eyes peeled for a spur trail on the left (it’s easy to miss) that will lead you to the mossy field this section of the trail is named for. From here, either turn around and follow the AT’s white blazes back to Hanover or continue on the AT across a swampy boardwalk and follow Trescott Road west back to town.
Glastenbury Mountain Loop—Bennington, Vermont
If you’re looking to get away from it all and are in pretty good hiking shape, Glastenbury Mountain is the perfect place for a challenging overnight backpacking trip. After hiking to the summit through Green Mountain National Forest, you’ll reach an old fire tower, where you’ll be treated to 360-degree views of the Green, Taconic, and Berkshire ranges—including areas protected by Trust for Public Land. This is one of the most remote places in all of Vermont, providing intrepid hikers a good look at the Appalachian Trail’s wild side.
Autumn looks good on Vermont. Photo: Zdenek Svoboda/ Flickr
Trail notes: The trailhead is on Route 9, 5 miles east of downtown Bennington and 8.8 miles west of Wilmington. The parking lot is on the north side of the highway and the white-blazed Appalachian Trail (in this section, also part of the Long Trail) is just to the east. Follow the white blazes north across the William A. McArthur Bridge 7.4 miles to the ridgeline of Glastenbury Mountain. Goddard Shelter is at the 9.8-mile mark–a perfect halfway point to pitch a tent.
The fire tower is .3 miles from the shelter. From just west of the shelter, take the West Ridge Trail, marked with blue blazes, to the summit of Bald Mountain. Descend on the West Ridge Trail to the Bald Mountain Trail and bear left for a steep, rocky descent past a Forest Service Trail Sign and a spur trail to a natural spring. Here, the trail follows woods roads. When you reach the red-blazed National Forest Boundary, go right to Bald Mountain Trailhead at 19.5 miles. A right here will take you to Route 9 in less than a mile. Follow Route 9 left for one mile to complete the 21.8-mile loop.
Read more about our work along the Appalachian Trail.