Pico peak

A glorious afternoon snowshoe up to Pico Peak.

I count myself lucky to spend a day snowshoeing through fantabulous deep powder snow in the Green Mountains of Vermont, as I did last Thursday on Worcester Mountain. But I count myself uncommonly lucky to spend another day snowshoeing through spectacular deeper powder snow, exactly one week later, as I did today on Pico Peak in Vermont. Read on, and don’t miss the photo gallery!

The trail up Pico Peak crosses an access road and dives back into the woods in deep snow. Photo by Ken Kaliski.

At 1pm Ken and I each pulled into the parking lot at Sherburne Pass, the high point on Route 4 as it crosses the backbone of the Green Mountains in Vermont. I have driven over this pass countless times in the past three decades, but have never once stopped to hike up or down the Long Trail as it passes by this point. Big mistake. Today, as the clouds scattered from this week’s snowstorms and the blue sky spread across the horizon behind the mountain tops, we strapped on our snowshoes and headed up the trail.

Snowshoe hike up Pico Peak from Sherburne Pass.

It was immediately clear we were in for a real treat. The sun was low in the southwest, casting shadows across the pillows and texture of the new-fallen snow. We were perhaps the second and third persons up this trail today, but were pleased to see that others had broken the trail yesterday – because Tuesday’s nor’easter had dumped almost two feet of fresh powder here in the mountains. We made good time, as the trail climbed steadily up the ridge, stopping often to marvel at the way the powder snow had covered the trees, bending many young firs right over.

David notes how the recent deep snow has bent young fir trees fully over. Photo by Ken Kaliski.

Eventually we popped out onto a ski trail, with snowboarders and skiers whizzing by. I must say, it is an odd sensation to be hiking up a trail, one eye on the footsteps below you and one eye on the trail ahead, and to see through the trees ahead a colorful blur of ski jackets zipping by. Still, the wide opening of the ski trail granted us some spectacular views to the west and into the Adirondacks.

David enjoys the view along the trail up Pico Peak. Photo by Ken Kaliski.

The trail turns back into the woods, following contours over to Pico Camp – an old cabin now used as a hiker shelter. The snow was especially deep now, and from this point the trail turns straight up the steep hillside. We were surprised to see fresh ski tracks here, from an intrepid morning skier who dared to ski down this steep and narrow trail. Following his tracks, including where he’d lost the trail, we found ourselves wallowing in deep powder… but soon emerged onto another wide opening where the trail crosses a maintenance road. Here we had broad views of Mount Killington and its ski area.

A grand view of Killington where the Pico Peak trail crosses an access road.

The trail dived back into the woods, even more narrow. The trees, heavy with snow, hung so low we had to duck and crawl in a few places. Steep, but short, this trail soon brought us back onto the open ski trails and to the top of the ski lift, with the summit close behind. Sunny, nearly windless, and 20 degrees; it is hard to imagine more perfect summit conditions. We enjoyed the views, shrugged off the crowds of lift skiers who sat on their butts to reach this same elevation, and returned the way we came. We reached the trailhead just after sunset, with the rocky outcrops of the pass reflecting the glow of the western sky. Not a bad way to spend four hours of a winter’s afternoon! don’t miss the photo gallery

Hike stats:
Time: 3h59m
Distance: 8.89km (5.52 miles)
Gain: 538m (1765′)
Route is shown below in purple.

Both this and the Worcester Mountain hike are written up in the Green Mountain Club‘s excellent book, Snowshoeing in Vermont, second edition. Highly recommended!

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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