Submitted by guest blogger Leslee Mounger

I am always in search of a good short hike. The idea of a full-day hike sounds equally blissful and exhausting and sadly, there are always weekend chores to do so if I can get to the top of a mountain, eat lunch, and get back to my car in under three hours I’m sold. This is also an easier sell on my eight year-old, who is my most frequent hiking companion. On a friend’s recommendation we headed to Mount Gilligan this weekend and we were pleased to find even a short hike can be full of surprises.

Located in New Russia, the trailhead is located on Route 9 about 3.5 miles from the Rt. 73 junction (our famous malfunction junction). Turning right off Route 9 onto Scriver Road, there is a small but well-marked parking area. Once on foot you cross over the bridge and head up the dirt road toward a small house across from a man-made pond. The foot trail begins to the left of the house and heads straight under a canopy of oak, maple, and birch trees. The trail was covered by fallen leaves in many places so be on the lookout for trail markers. This is a great introduction for younger hikers to look for clues to find the right way along the trail.

The 1.1 mile ascent includes a number of nature’s trailside attractions. The first surprise you come to is a natural stone staircase. This is a fun little scramble for kids but very manageable even for less adventurous parent hikers. The trail continues through a pleasant stretch of woods and flattens out a bit where you will find the largest root system I have ever seen on a fallen tree. The root structure easily stretches over 30 feet across and is worth taking the time to stop and explore. A couple of lookout points give you the chance to pause and take in the view but don’t be fooled. 

It’s definitely worth it to get to the summit. As you near the top, there’s a short descent and then a final climb to a rocky top with great views of the Dix Range and Rocky Peak Ridge. The day we hiked was crisp but the rock top had been warmed by the sun and was the perfect place to sit and stretch our legs out with some peanut butter sandwiches. Even with short hikes do be sure to prepare yourself with plenty of water, snacks, and an extra layer. We put fleeces on at the top and ate everything in my backpack, including a broken chocolate bar that I must have hid in a pocket who knows when.

This little hike was bountiful from the get go. If you have them, nature guides are great to bring on shorter hikes where there is less pressure to keep moving and cover ground. Even without them it’s fun to stop and explore along the way. Mount Gilligan offered a variety of trees to attempt to identify, acorns to collect, lichen to inspect, and we saw three varieties of caterpillars. And we did it all, between going to the farmer’s market and getting home in time to watch football, making for a perfect early autumn day.

Elevation: 1,420 feet

Round-Trip Distance: 2.2 miles

Start planning your adventure the Lake Champlain Region today. Family-friendly activities and dining abound, and the approach of fall is exciting for everyone! Anytime you have an adventure outdoors, whether for a short visit or an overnight camping excursion, make sure to follow the principles of Leave No Trace, including planning ahead, not disturbing wildlife, and if you pack it in, pack it out. Learning more about Leave No Trace will help everyone enjoy the outdoors a little more and preserve wild spaces for others.

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