Visiting Camel’s Hump State Park - Old Stagecoach Inn

Visiting Camel’s Hump State Park: An Iconic Peak and Green Mountain Grandeur

Just south of the Winooski River and only a twenty-minute drive from our Waterbury bed and breakfast, Camel’s Hump State Park encompasses 33 square miles of well-maintained trails, protected waterways, wildlife, and the pristine beauty of the Green Mountains accessible in every direction. Known for its “four-season recreation,” you’ll find some of Vermont’s best hiking, biking, and fishing during the spring, summer, and fall, while the serene solitude of winter is perfect for exploring on skis or snowshoes.
A river in Camel’s Hump State Park - Old Stagecoach Inn
Camel’s Hump State Park’s History and Legacy of Conservation

Distinctive in shape and visible from a great distance, the peak of Camel’s Hump sits at 4,083 feet and is the centerpiece of a sprawling forest reserve. It’s a rugged and beautiful Vermont landscape admired by the Abenaki Native American tribe, early European explorers – who coined it “resting lion,” a historical detail preserved in the naming of the modern-day ranger cabin as “crouching lion” – and later by Colonel Joseph Battell, who made an initial land donation of 1,000 acres. In the early 20th century, trail access within the park expanded when the Green Mountain Club built the Long Trail, which traverses the entire state and crosses the Camel’s Hump summit along its 272-mile-long north-south route.

Over the decades and true to form for Vermont, a state known for protecting wild lands, the size of the Camel’s Hump State Park grew from the initial 1,000-acre gift to its current span of over 21,000 acres. As recently as 2016, the Vermont Trust for Public Land added 2,000 additional acres on the eastern Mad River flank, incorporating more trails, streams, and forests into the park’s impressive footprint.

Ascending Camel’s Hump – Multiple Trails, Gorgeous Terrain, and Breathtaking Summit Views

Summiting Camel’s Hump is one of the more memorable day trips in Vermont, with several hike options depending on how strenuous of an outing you’re looking for. Approaching from the western Huntington side, the Monroe Trail is the longest route (3.4 miles each way), but it’s also a gentler grade along the ascent with plenty of spots to stop along the way and admire the stunning views. On the eastern Dowsville side, the Burrows Trail is shorter, at 2.4 miles each way, making for a steeper ascent over the 2,500 feet of climbing. Please note: both routes are considered a difficult hike.

On either route, be prepared for sections with stairs built into the rocky terrain and moderate scrambling during the last half-mile leading to the summit. Both of these ultra-popular routes (be sure to arrive early in the summer, when crowds are biggest, to get a parking spot at the trailhead) lead through dense birch, maple, and red spruce forests, with several creek crossings as you make your way up. Especially for the steepest portions, hiking poles and shoes with firm traction will make your day smoother. Along the Monroe Trail, you’ll also have a few other route options, including the Dean and Alpine trails, which intersect with the Long Trail nearer to the top. As the most famous trail in Vermont, doing a portion of the Long Trail is a rite of passage among dedicated hikers.

Once you reach the summit – one of several Vermont hiking trails with stunning views near Waterbury – you’ll have 360-degree vistas of Mt. Mansfield and the surrounding Green Mountains, the gorgeous waters of Lake Champlain bordering Burlington, and far-off peaks like Mt. Marcy in New York and Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. Like nearby Mt. Mansfield (the tallest point in Vermont and slightly higher at 4,395 feet), the uppermost portion of Camel’s Hump is tundra, with fragile plants only found at that elevation, a rarified landscape and part of the inspiration for the peak being named a registered national landmark in 1968. Bring layers, as the summit is often windier, rainier, and more chilly than below (temps only get into the high 60s and low 70s up high during summer), and savor the panoramas stretching clear across the Green Mountain State.

If you’re not up for the complete summit outing or want a shorter hike, opt for the Camel’s Hump View Trail down below, starting from the first parking lot near Ridley Brook. The flat and paved 1-mile loop is ADA-accessible and ideal if you have a group of mixed ages and hiking abilities while still offering fantastic views of the Camel’s Hump.

Exploring Camel's Hump Park With Family - Old Stagecoach Inn

More Than Just Hiking – Year-Round Recreation at Camel’s Hump

In addition to hiking, there are countless other outdoorsy activities within Camel’s Hump State Park. Head out on two wheels connecting the miles of mountain biking trails that wind through the eastern portion of the park, stewarded and maintained by volunteer trail crews. Formed in 1986, Mad River Riders manages 60 miles of trails along the Mad River Valley, including some that extend into Camel’s Hump. Along with the popular biking routes at Perry Hill and Little River State Park, the mountain biking trails near Waterbury are some of the best on the East Coast, exhilarating for new and experienced riders alike.

Spring and summer are also prime seasons for fishing and bird-watching in the vicinity of Camel’s Hump. Secluded brooks and tributaries of Ridley Creek and the Mad River provide excellent opportunities to cast a fly for wild brook trout. As recently as 2023, the Vermont River Conservancy assisted in getting an additional 68 acres protected within Camel’s Hump, including a brook trout habitat along Ridley Creek – in any of the creeks and brooks, you’ll have good luck tossing a line in the clear, clean, high-mountain waters. Birders will be thrilled with the variety of species that make their home in Camel’s Hump or stop over during their spring migration. In addition to more common birds like warblers, bluejays, and ravens, keep an eye out for rarer species like the Bicknell’s thrush (listen for their high-pitched flute-like song as you explore the trails). Have your binoculars handy, as you may even see massive peregrine falcons on the summit, which often nest near the mountaintop.

Although the warmer months bring the highest visitation numbers, don’t miss getting out for some wintertime exploration at Camel’s Hump. The trails are well-marked, even when snow-covered, and backcountry skiers and snowshoers often use the Burrows Trail after a solid snowfall. Down lower, near the Camel’s Hump View Trail, you’ll also find the more beginner-friendly Ridley cross-country ski trail, where you can marvel at the snow-capped Camel’s Hump towering above.

Book your Vermont getaway and head out for adventures in Camel’s Hump State Park during every season!