As one of my sons was visiting over the Memorial Day weekend, we planned to do this hike on Saturday. But the weather turned out not so good that day, with rains and clouds, so we decided to wait for Sunday. That decision paid off, as the weather was almost perfect. Blue skies and in the mid 70s- a great day to walk up a hill.
Burke Mountain is located near East Burke village, and is one of the taller mountains in the Northeast Kingdom. It dwarfs what few neighboring mountains there are; its mass dominates the local views. This mountain has been a ski area for a while, passing through multiple owners and never quite making it. Perhaps it’s too close to other resorts skiers prefer, such as Jay Peak. Interestingly enough, the former owners of Jay Peak also owned Burke before their arrest, conviction and incarceration on Federal fraud charges. I believe the State of Vermont is managing Burke, and actively looking for a buyer for the resort property
Regardless of the ski business, the hiking trails up Burke have been there for a long time, and are very well maintained by the Northwoods Stewardship Center. The trailhead is easy to find, as all of the popular hiking sites have maps and directions. We were able to park on the doorstep of the trailhead.
The hiking guides say the trail is mostly level for the first mile of the 3.7 mile trip to the summit. It’s not. The trail goes gently uphill for perhaps 1000 yards, where it crosses a bike trail named the Kirby Connector. At that point it becomes more steep until you reach the CCC road, where the Red and Blue trails diverge. There’s a lean-to shelter at the trail convergence.
Choose either trail, as they both feature very steep switchbacks and end up at the top. We chose the Red Trail, as it’s advertised to have good Northeast Kingdom views along the way. With the trees in full dress this time of year, there aren’t any views until you near the top.
There were, however, plenty of bugs to go along with the switchbacks. This day in May we could choose to stop for a breather and be swarmed by black flies and skeeters, or keep plodding up the hill and not be swarmed so much. I’m glad I had my son along, as his endurance inspired me to stop less frequently than I think I would have. I still ate and inhaled more flying protein than I think I needed.
Burke Mountain plays larger than it looks. It is a challenging hike, and I think that was reflected in the very few number of fellow hikers we saw on such a fine day. From the parking area to the summit about 2100 feet of elevation is gained, and most of that in the last two or so miles of the hike.
When we arrived at the top, there were a couple of cars parked in the lot near the chair lift terminus. The driveable toll road to the top is still in operation, but wasn’t busy that day. We continued past the lot and rejoined the trail to the actual summit, which is denoted with a USGS marker beyond the fire and media towers.
The views are fantastic; some of the best in the NEK. If you can handle heights, go up the fire tower for the best views of the Northeast Kingdom to the east and north, the Green Mountains to the west, and the Presidentials and White Mountains to the south. Here are a few of the our photographs:
We caught our breath for a while topside, but didn’t tarry for long. Usually we have a lunch break on the summit, but the insects weren’t allowing for that today. Back on the trail downward. We’ll eat lunch back in the Jeep.
The trip down was as usual- quicker than up; easier on the wind; worse on the quads. But we made it down in fine fashion, seeing a chipmunk and this on the return:
For me, hiking Burke completes the list of the Northeast Kingdom mountains that I started when we moved here in 2017. To be fair, some of the hikes are not mountains, such as Stannard Lookout. And some of the mountains really aren’t- they’re hills. But it’s been fun, and there are a few I’ve walked more than once, and others I plan to do again, too. There is no shortage of nice walks here in the North; there’s always somewhere new to see.
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