Mt. Philo State Park
5425 Mt Philo Rd.
Charlotte, Vermont 05445
Park Phone: 802-425-2390
Open for day use:
10:00 AM - Official Sunset
Season: Memorial Day Weekend - Columbus Day Weekend
Please note: Caution: steep entrance and camp roads - not recommended for trailers. Buses and limos aren't permitted on the mountain road but can park in the lower lot.
Pets are permitted: Dogs must be leashed from 10 AM till sunset during the season
N44° 16.700' W73° 13.342' Directions/Map
About the Park: reprinted from the Burlington Free Press, 2014, by Molly Walsh
Mt. Philo hike is short, sweet, beautiful
It's easy to take good friends for granted. To forget they are reliable, beautiful and deliver on their promises no matter the day or the season.
Mt. Philo is this loyal friend.
The well-visited peak 14 miles south of Burlington in Charlotte is a diminutive 968-feet tall, not even one-quarter the height of Vermont's highest summit, 4,393-foot Mt. Mansfield.
Yet the smallish Philo attracts some 35,000 hikers, walkers, runners, skiers and sledders every year because it offers outsize views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks to the West, and dramatic views of Camels Hump and Mt. Mansfield to the East.
Old carriage trail
It helps that Mt. Philo is conveniently located in Chittenden County's side yard with a (steep, winding) road for walkers who prefer a smooth surface over the dirt paths up the mountain. The road also works well for parents pushing baby strollers. Added bonus: The snow-covered pavement doubles as a thrilling, serpentine sledding run in the winter.
The sloping spine of Mt. Philo juts up distinctively above the Champlain Valley floor below. Geologists believe the mountain was once an island surrounded by water left in the wake of retreating glaciers. Monkton quartzite, Stony Point Shale and Glens Falls limestone are among the rock types found on and around the mountain, which sits in the 168-acre Mt. Philo State Park.
It is Vermont's first state park, established in 1924, after the family who owned the Mt. Philo Inn donated the land to the state. The paved way up was once a carriage road. The buggies are long gone but much of land in the viewshed remains undeveloped. The neat geometric parcels spreading west toward Lake Champlain resemble a lush green carpet, with patches of autumn-colored forest here and there.
There are some dozen observation areas on top, including the primary one on the west side, known as High Rock. It is a beautiful spot to watch the clouds scud across the sky, admire the rays of the sun as they filter down in spotlight fashion on land or water, and see the sun slip behind the outline of the Adirondack Mountains in New York.
From Burlington the drive to Mt. Philo takes 25 to 30 minutes, heading south on U.S. 7 past the intersection with Ferry Road in Charlotte and turning left on State Park Road. From there it's just a few minutes to the parking lot at the base of Mt. Philo.
Park in the lot to walk up. Keep in mind that from Memorial Day through Columbus Day on Monday, the road up the mountain is open to traffic headed to the 10 camping sites on top or weddings/reunions in the lodge and pavilion at the summit. Buses and limousines are prohibited from using the road.
An entrance fee of $2 for children and $3 for adults is charged whether walking or driving to the top between 10 a.m. and sunset from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. There is no fee for use during the off-season and the state park continues to attract many visitors right through the depth of winter.
Expect to break a sweat on the 1.2 mile trudge to the top. Enjoy the peek-through views from woodsy surroundings, the exposed rock, rich green mosses and bird song.
Bird lovers are big fans of Mt. Philo year-round, and it is known as an especially good perch for watching migrating hawks in mid-late September. Some bird watchers report hundreds of hawk sightings in a single day.
This year the hawk migration is mostly over, but the Canada geese are flying south in large numbers right now, said Kim Frigault, Mt. Philo's assistant park ranger. They fly closer to the mountain top than the hawks. "I actually enjoy them more than the hawks because you get a good look at them," Frigault said.
The fall color at the top of Mt. Philo is past peak, but the color below is spectacular right now. "It's a beautiful view looking down into the valley," Frigault said. "It's definitely peak down there."