Mt. Ellen is one of Vermont's five peaks over 4000 feet, and lies on the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail. Though the summit itself is wooded, the ridge and the open ski trails near the top offer sweeping views of Vermont's peaks, the Lake Champlain Valley, the Adirondacks, and, on really clear days, to New Hampshire and Canada. This mountain was named, as legend has it, in the 1920's for Ellen Douglas, the heroine of Sir Walter Scott's "Lady of the Lake," by some of the young people working on the Long Trail.
The east side of the mountian is developed into a ski area, part of the Sugarbush complex.
There are three approaches to this peak. One can follow the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail from the south, picking up the trail in Lincoln Gap, or on the same trails from the north, picking up the trail from the Appalachian Gap. Either of these routes requires climbing other mountains along the ridge. Alternatively, from the west, the Mt. Jerusalem trail climbs to the ridge between General Stark Mountain and Mt. Ellen. This trailhead is off of Route 17 in Jerusalem.
There is one trail over this peak, the Long Trail, which is also the Appalachian Trail. The summit can be approached from the north, south, east or west, as follows:
Long Trail from Lincoln Gap. From the height of land on Lincoln Gap Road, travel north over Mt. Abraham and several minor peaks. One way distance is 6.3 miles. Round trip the elevation gain is about 1600 feet, and book time is about 7 hours.
Long Trail from the Appalachian Gap. From the height of land on the Sugarbush Access Road, travel south on the Long Trail. The trail goes over General Stark Mountain. One way distance to the summit of Mt. Ellen is 5.3 miles. Round trip the elevation gain is about 2200 feet and the book time is about 6 1/2 hours.
Jerusalem Trail. The little hamlet of Jerusalem is on Route 17. From the trailhead in Jerusalem, climb to the Long Trail, then south to the summit of Mt. Ellen. One way the trip is 4.3 miles. While this is the shortest approach, it also involves the largest elevation gain, about 2600 feet, and book time is 5 1/2 hours.
Other choices include a Gap-to-Gap hike from Lincoln Gap to the Appalachian Gap, or combining either Gap approach with the Jerusalem Trail, but obviously car spotting is required. The mountain can also be reached by the access road from the Sugarbush Ski Area.
No permits, fees, or parking passes required. Mt. Ellen is home to the Sugarbush (Glen Ellen) ski area, so be aware that you will not have the summit to yourself in the winter.
When To Climb
As with New England's other peaks, this is a four season climb. Spring brings mud; early summer means bugs; winter means bring snow shoes and crampons and the rest of your usual winter gear. As always, prepare for changing weather. In particular, parts of the ridges are fairly exposed to weather even though they are not above treeline. Strong northwesterly winds are common. These are delightfully refreshing in summer. There are no difficult stream or river crossings, but there are some steep sections on the trails.
Between General Stark Mountain and Mt. Ellen there is the Glen Ellen Lodge which fits 8. There is a fee. Closer to the Appalachian Gap there is the Theron Dean shelter (a lean-to). Water seemed limited here. There is a terrific view from a nearby look-out. More details on camping on this trail and on other shelters along the Long Trail are available from the Green Moutain Club.
Vermont has a large number of campgrounds, but none right at the base of this particular mountain. Find a campground from the Vermont State Parks website.
The privately run Maple Hill Campground is close to the trailheads.
Local weather from the National Weather Service.
Extensive weather links from the Green Mountain Club.
For the latest on trail conditions, check the bulletin board at Views from the Top.
You may also wish to check out the Green Mountain Club website for extensive information about the Green Mountains.
Other information about Mt. Ellen, the surrounding peaks, routes, and peak-bagging in New England can be found on Mohamed Ellozy's fantastic website.