Mount Equinox is one of the principal peaks of Southern Vermont, if not the principal peak. It is the highest mountain in the Taconic Range, and is second in height in the region only to the beautiful but far less dramatic Stratton Mountain
. It rises more than 3000 feet directly out of the floor of the Valley of Vermont, looming behind the town of Manchester. It's 3060 feet of vertical prominence put it at #7 on a variety of lists of "New England's Fifty Finest Peaks
" and "New England's Most Prominent Peaks
" based on topographic prominence. Like most mountains in southern Vermont, it has steep sides that lead up to a wide, gentle ridge around the summit itself. This allows both for an extraordinarily steep trail to ascend the mountain and a gentler road for cars to go up the ridge. Because of the road, the summit is cleared and complete with a parking lot, buildings, and coin operated binoculars. There is a big rundown building with what looked to me like hotel rooms in it that I think is some sort of monastery. The view includes the rest of the Taconic Range, the Green Mountains, the Valley of Vermont, and the Adirondacks on a clear day.
The mountain is also well known for being made of marble, and the hardwood forest on its slopes serves as a unique wildlife habitat.
Lookout Rock, an overlook .2 miles from the summit, gives a view directly down on Manchester Village. It also boasts a one-of-a-kind marble bench.
There are two systems of trails, plus the toll road.
One starts in the valley, and can be accessed from Equinox Pond Road and West Union Street, directly off of Route 7A in Manchester village. This includes a number of easy to moderate loops of various lengths, trails around Equinox Pond, a path to the Vermont Arts Center, and the only one that actually ascends the mountain. This one goes by a few names: The Burr and Burton trail, the Burr-Burton trail, or the Blue Summit trail. A map of this system is available at a kiosk near the trailhead and at the nearby Equinox Hotel.
The second system centers around the summit. It includes the route to Lookout Rock and a few other short trails. A map of this one is available at the building at the base of the toll road and online at the toll road's website (see External Links).
The main route up starts out gently ascending on woods roads, then becomes very steep as it goes directly up the side of the mountain in a small ravine. Towards the top starts to flatten out and climbs gently through a balsam fir forest, from which it emerges into the parking lot at the summit. In all it is about 4 miles long with an elevation gain of a little over 3000 feet.
The toll road starts right off of Route 7A in Sunderland, a few miles south of Manchester. It is 5.2 miles long and gains 3,248 feet of elevation. There are wide views from the side of the road as it goes along the top of the ridge. There is a parking lot at the top
No hiking or biking is allowed on the toll road, and buses and RVs are prohibited. The toll is $7 for cars and $6 for motorcycles plus $2 per passenger, and the road is open 9am to dusk May 1 through October 31.
As far as I know, nothing on the trails.
Camping and fires are not allowed.
When to Climb
Mount Equinox is accessible all year, though the toll road is closed November through April. In winter, snowshoes would probably be necessary, because there can be several feet of snow on the ground. Additionally, mud season happens in April and May, and climbing this mountain, or hiking in the area at all, is not recommended because the trail conditions are terrible. Climbing Equinox in the fall is probably the most popular, on account of the Vermont fall foliage .
Information about the Toll Road and the area's history, and a little bit of hiking info
Information about the Equinox Preserve, including hiking