Mount Killington Backpacking Guide
The Green Mountains in Vermont are some of the oldest and most beautiful mountains in North America. Mt. Killington stretches to 4,236 feet, making it the 2nd tallest mountain in the state.
The Bucklin Trail, located on the western and undeveloped side of the mountain, offers a wilderness hike to the peak. The entire hike is 7.2 miles round trip, which takes between 4-6 hours to complete. There is an elevation gain of 2,447 feet, making the hike steep and slow going, especially toward the end.
How to Get to Bucklin Trail
The Bucklin Trail starts on the well maintained but unpaved, Wheeler Road. Getting there is as easy as driving East from Rutland, where a small airport and a train station shuttles tourists from the East Coast Metropolis.
Drive time is about 23 minutes. If you’re staying in town, I would recommend waking up early to enjoy hiking with no one else around. 4-wheel drive is only necessary if you’re visiting during the winter time, snow can be deep and plows are infrequent near the trailhead. I will say, snowshoeing to the peak is a great way to experience the mountains, plus you don’t have to pay for a ski lift once you’re up there.
The trailhead is well marked and there is a small parking area (see map on the right). Killington Peak is part of the Appalachian Trail and if you time it right, meeting thru-hikers is almost guaranteed.
How to Download the Trail from Cal Topo
The Bucklin trail is not as well known as others in Vermont but it is readily available from the open source mapping project, CalTopo. You can download it as a GPX file and use it with any GPS app on a smartphone. Service is not a guarantee, except for the peak of the mountain, so it is highly advisable to download an offline version of the area you will be hiking.
You can see the Bucklin Trail in red below – this is using the USGS 7.5” base map.
The trail is well marked and maintained with ample signage throughout its entirety. A designated state wilderness area, the western side of Killington is home to black bears, moose, and recently, Canadian lynx.
Weather in the Green Mountains
Latitudinally equivalent to Madison, Wisconsin, the Green Mountains have the same temperature pattern of Northern Ontario, thanks to their elevation.
Spring: Warm days and cold evenings, spring is also referred to as “mud season”. The trail will be soggy in lower elevations and black flies will be plentiful. Deciduous trees will not yet have complete foliage and views of the mountains with trees covered in fresh buds is an unforgettable view.
Summer: Long days and a good chance of T-storms when temperatures reach the upper 80’s. The good news is you can be assured the mud will have dried out. There is also 100% chance of mosquitos and ticks, be sure to bring bug spray.
Fall: Perhaps Vermont’s most beautiful season, the trees resemble fireworks with their colors. If you wait to do the hike until after the first freeze, most of the insects will be dead.
Winter: Killington is one of the snowiest mountains on the East Coast and a winter hike will be hard going. Snowshoeing up and then skiing down the other side is the preferable method for completion, but it’s not for beginners.
What Gear to Bring to Mt. Killington
Pack a small daypack and bring a rain jacket. It’s wet in the mountains and even if it’s sunny in the valley, rain clouds are always a possibility. Bug spray is essential, as are comfortable hiking shoes that allow for comfortable walking in steep terrain.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Do I need bear spray?
No. Black bears do live in the Greens and especially on and around the Bucklin Trail. They grow fat on Beechnuts, which are extremely common in the forests of Vermont. You might see a bear but they are not aggressive and will most likely run away from you as fast as possible.
- Is mud season really that bad?
Depending on your hiking experience mud season can be like any other hike or the worst experience of your life. The trail will be soft, its soil saturated by snowmelt and spring rains. Shoes will quickly cake up and your legs will get dirty. The black flies that breed in the muck will also be looking for a tasty treat. All these challenges can be planned for but getting your car stuck in the mud is bad news. Every year, tow trucks are called out for vehicles that stray from the roads, some by as little as 6 inches.
- How can I prepare for bugs?
Vermont is well known for its plentiful water supply which makes the mountain forest famously lush. However, it’s also the perfect breeding ground for ticks, mosquitoes, and biting flies. Use bug spray and bring the bottle to re-apply liberally as it wears off. Incorporating a mosquito headnet and long, lightweight pants are excellent clothing choices for Vermont hiking. The head net prevents flying bugs from biting your neck and face while the pants keep ticks off your skin. Furthermore, showering after every hike is the best way to prevent Lyme disease. Ticks breathe oxygen, submerging yourself underwater will force them to jump off and look for an easier host.
- Is there any good fishing nearby?
Yes! While the streams along the trail are too shallow for any good fishing, two nearby lakes offer plentiful opportunities. Kent Pond is a small lake that provides good brook trout and bass fishing. Chittenden Lake is larger and deeper, it provides good perch fishing, bass fishing, and a small population of walleye.