Want to visit an awesome fire tower in Vermont? In this guide we’re sharing how to hike to Bald Mountain in Vermont’s beautiful Northeast Kingdom.
For our final adventure in Vermont we headed to the Northeast Kingdom, a region in the northeastern part of the state, which is not only home to small towns, forests, farmland, mountains, and beautiful Iakes, but it’s also home to a fire tower on top of Bald Mountain!
After spending a morning hiking to Mount Pisgah, which overlooks the stunning Lake Willoughby, we decided at the last minute to add on a hike to Bald Mountain. We love visiting fire towers and despite not seeing many recent reviews on the hike or even many photos, we figured it would be worth the trek. And we couldn’t have been happier with our decision…it was one of the best decisions and best surprises during our time in New England.
Watch our experience hiking to Bald Mountain in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom!
While the hike to Bald Mountain isn’t too exciting, the destination itself is not only unique with the fire tower, but features jaw dropping and endless views of the area that far exceeded our expectations!
And in this guide we’re sharing everything you need to know to hike to Bald Mountain, including some interesting history, what to expect along the trail, and more!
Looking for more things to do in Vermont and New England?
- 7 Day Vermont Road Trip Itinerary
- Hiking to Mount Pisgah in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom
- How to hike the Franconia Ridge Loop in New Hampshire’s White Mountains
- The BEST Things to do in New Hampshire’s White Mountains
- The ULTIMATE Guide to driving the Kancamagus Highway
- How to Backpack the Cutler Coast in Maine
- About Bald Mountain in Vermont
- Bald Mountain Trail Stats
- How to get to Bald Mountain in Vermont
- When to hike to Bald Mountain
- What to Bring to Bald Mountain
- Things to know before visiting Bald Mountain
- Our Experience hiking Bald Mountain in Vermont
- Where to stay near Bald Mountain
- Other things to do near Bald Mountain in Vermont
Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!
About Bald Mountain in Vermont
As we mentioned above, Bald Mountain is located in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom (abbreviated NEK), which got this nickname from a former US Senator and governor, George Aiken, who loved the area and thought it should be a kingdom. And we couldn’t agree more…it is magical!
One of the stars of this area is Lake Willoughby, which is a glacially formed lake that is the second deepest lake in Vermont. It looks like a mini Norwegian Fjord and is absolutely stunning! While this lake may bring many people to the area, if you drive less than 10 minutes east of the lake, you’ll find Bald Mountain, with its historic fire tower and cabin.
Back in the 1920s, Vermont began building fire towers across the state, as well as cabins to accompany them. There were 38 of them during their peak, but over the past 100 years, many have been lost to damage, fires, or have become inaccessible to the public on private land.
In 2000, the state purchased Bald Mountain’s fire tower and cabin, which is now managed as part of the Willoughby State Forest. And according to Luke O’Brien, who is the Project Coordinator for the Bald Mountain Restoration effort, it is “believed that Bald Mountain is the only remaining lookout in northern Vermont where both the original tower and summit cabin still stand.”
However, unlike the tower, which is a bit rough around the edges, the cabin was recently renovated in 2013 by the Northwoods Stewardship Center. Volunteers hauled 435 pieces of wood, plus tools and hardware, up the mountain, taking them 240 trips and a total of 1,200 miles, which is crazy! If you’d like to see photos of the cabin before and after, as well as the hard work that went into it, you can check out this powerpoint of the project.
Hikers can now stay the night in the cabin, which makes this hike even more unique, and while we didn’t get to experience this for ourselves, we will share more in a bit about how you can!
Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!
These seven principles include planning ahead and preparing, hiking and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly (pack out what you pack in!), understanding campfire rules and always fully extinguishing your fires, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors.
Bald Mountain Trail Stats
Elevation gain: 1,463 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions
The Bald Mountain Trail begins from the Long Pond Trailhead and is a relatively short hike, but as you’ll notice on the map above, it has a bit of an incline, especially towards the end.
The first 0.6 miles is on what seems to be a forest service road. It is smooth and even terrain, with a gentle grade and minus one open field that has some small views, it is mostly forested. After 1.5 miles, the trail continues in the forest and gets steeper and steeper, eventually turning into a rocky and root-filled stairmaster towards the end.
While the hike itself doesn’t offer much scenery besides a pretty forest, the views at the end make up for it!
How to get to Bald Mountain in Vermont
With its location in the northeast corner of Vermont, Bald Mountain is a bit remote and harder to get to, but trust us, it’s worth the trek! Assuming you’ll be visiting while in Vermont or New Hampshire, here is how long you can expect to drive from other popular spots in the area:
Stowe, VT: 1 hour, 16 minutes (51 miles)
Montpelier, VT: 1 hour, 25 minutes (58 miles)
Lincoln, NH: 1 hour, 23 minutes (69 miles)
Burlington, VT: 1 hours, 58 minutes (88 miles)
Boston, MA: 3 hours, 29 minutes (199 miles)
You can either hike to Bald Mountain as a day trip, or stay in the area for a night or two, hiking more trails and visiting Lake Willoughby. If you’d like to make it an overnight trip, we’ll include some suggestions of places to stay at the end of this guide, plus more things to do.
When to hike to Bald Mountain
While you can hike to Bald Mountain year round, we highly recommend hiking in the summer or fall. But here is what you can expect during each season!
It will be very cold, but you can hike to Bald Mountain in the winter. Seeing the endless mountains from the top, covered in snow, would be magical, plus the crowds will be very light. Just make sure to pack microspikes or snowshoes to ensure you can safely hike the trail. We can only imagine how slick and icy the steps up to the top of the tower would be!
Spring in Vermont is known as “mud season,” which is when the snow melts and makes the trails nice and muddy. While the hike would be doable during this time and would be less busy, it may not be as enjoyable, especially on the steeper parts of the trail. Also, since a lot of the view includes tree covered mountains, it may not be as scenic hiking when the trees are without leaves.
Summer is a gorgeous time to visit the area, but also the busiest, so prepare to encounter more people. The trees will be nice and green, making the views extra pretty and with warmer weather, Lake Willoughby will be a refreshing reward after completing the hike.
We hiked to Bald Mountain in the fall and HIGHLY recommend it! The orange, yellow, and red trees that we could see in every direction from the top were breathtaking and in our opinion, made the views even more gorgeous and interesting than had it all been green.
Peak fall foliage is typically in late September or early October in this area, which can make things a bit busier. However, we visited on a Friday afternoon in early October, close to peak foliage, and only encountered one group coming down and a group staying in the cabin at the top, which was surprising!
What to Bring to Bald Mountain
To see everything we take hiking, check out our hiking gear as well as our guide about how to make a 10 essentials kit. And if you’d like to stay the night at the cabin, you can see all of our backpacking gear, plus a packing list here.
Things to know before visiting Bald Mountain
Before heading to the trail, here are a few more things to know to ensure you’re prepared and have a fun hike.
The trailhead is located just past Long Pond and has a small dirt parking lot, which can fit a handful of cars. If this lot is full, there is an additional parking area about 0.1 miles away at Long Pond (you’ll drive by this on your way) that you could park at and walk to the trailhead.
There are no restrooms or porta potties at the trailhead, but there are some restrooms at Lake Willoughby’s North Beach if you need somewhere to go before your hike.
The hike is dog friendly
Dogs are welcome on the hike to Bald Mountain, but your dog may or may not like the climb up the stairs to the top of the fire tower, especially getting into the actual lookout at the top, which is steep and tight. Our pup Kona didn’t enjoy the stairs or being at the top and we had to carry her a bit. So in the future, we would take turns going up.
Our Experience hiking Bald Mountain in Vermont
We headed to the Bald Mountain trailhead around 3:30 PM and despite not seeing too many people the entire day, we were nervous that this hike would be busy, but to our surprise, when we arrived at the trailhead there were only a few cars, with one person leaving.
The trail starts out on a relatively flat forest road, which is wide and spacious as it goes through the trees, before reaching an open field area. We continued towards the right where we reached a log book for the hike and then entered what was more of an actual trail.
This is when the trail starts to get a bit steeper. At first it’s more gradual, but as we got closer to the summit, around 1.5 miles in, it got a LOT steeper. The trail also gets rockier and rootier, so it’s definitely more difficult and had us breathing a bit harder, but it wasn’t too crazy.
Shortly after this section we made it to the base of the tower (and where the cabin we mentioned earlier is) and holy cow, it was a LOT taller than we thought it would be! Unlike the Fremont Lookout Tower in Washington, which is shorter and made out of stone and wood, the Bald Mountain Fire Tower is made out of metal and is very thin and tall, with wooden stairs to the top.
We climbed up the stairs and we’re not going to lie, it made us a tad nervous. The stairs are pretty exposed and steep, so if you don’t like heights, this may not be the best hike for you, especially since to see the view, you must climb the tower.
Once at the top of the steps there is an opening to get into the cab. This part was a bit tricky for Kona (we had to lift her up there) and it was also hard for us with our bulky backpacks. But we made it!
And WOW, the views were insane! We had 360º views of the entire Northeast Kingdom, with mountains, multiple lakes, and forests all around. The fall foliage was close to peak, so we were surrounded by yellows, oranges, and reds.
It was a bit cloudy, but the sun was illuminating the clouds and peeking through at times, which gave the area a golden glow and made the fall colors pop even more. This hike was a last minute addition to our plans and we hadn’t seen many photos, so we were totally blown away by the views. We couldn’t stop smiling and saying how incredible it was!
A couple things to note though is that the cab is not a very big space, so if others are up at the top when you make it to the base, we’d suggest waiting until they are done to go up, as it may not be as fun of an experience. Luckily for us, the only other people around was a family staying in the cabin, so we had it all to ourselves.
It also was very windy this day, especially that high up, so we had cold wind ripping through us while in the tower, which made it feel like it was swaying a bit. It was kind of scary!
After enjoying the views for as long as our cold bodies could handle, we made the climb back down the tower. We had to carry Kona the entire way down due to how steep the stairs were, but we thankfully all made it back down okay.
Once at the base of the tower, we quickly chatted with the family staying in the cabin for the night, who had just arrived shortly before us, making us wish we would’ve arrived earlier and thought to stay here. They said the inside was pretty bare bones, but they definitely made us want to come back and stay the night up there. We can only imagine how cool it would be to climb the tower on a clear, starry night and wake up for sunrise at the top.
It was getting darker, so we booked it down the trail. But once we reached the open field towards the beginning, the sunset colors were starting to get beautiful, so we flew our drone to see more and were treated to some vivid foliage and views of Long Pond. It was the most magical way to end our hike!
Between this hike and Mount Pisgah, we fell in LOVE with this region of Vermont and look forward to many more trips to the Northeast Kingdom in the future. It’s a very special place!
Where to stay near Bald Mountain
While the Northeast Kingdom does have some towns, the area is still a lot less developed than the more touristy areas of Vermont, so lodging options are more limited. But if you’d like to stay near Bald Mountain before or after your hike, here are some suggestions.
Stay in the cabin!
As we mentioned earlier, you can stay in the cabin that is located at the bottom of the fire tower, which would be so fun! The cabin is first-come first-served, so we’d suggest arriving earlier in the day to ensure you don’t lug extra gear up there for no reason. During our visit, there was a family staying in it and they had arrived just 30 minutes before us in the late afternoon on a Friday in early October.
The cabin is rustic, so you will want to make sure you bring sleeping pads, sleeping bags, cooking items, and anything else you would normally take backpacking, minus the tent.
If you want to camp in the area, here are a few options, which offer sites for both tents and RVs.
The Whitecaps Campground is just across the street from Lake Willoughby’s South Beach. They have a variety of accommodations like full RV hookup sites, water & electric hookups, cabins, and tent sites. You can also rent kayaks, canoes, and stand up paddleboards here and they have a country store with any last minute provisions you might need.
Will-O Wood Campground
The Will-O Wood campground is just north of Lake Willoughby’s North Beach and offers sites for both RVs and tents. The property has a pool, basketball court, volleyball court, recreation hall, and more!
The Belview Campground is about a 20 minute drive to Lake Willoughby and the wooded property offers RV sites, tent sites, and a cabin or cottage to rent.
This is a new campground, established in 2020, and is located 15 minutes south of Lake Willoughby. They have secluded, large sites with full RV hookups, a pool, playground, and offer a shuttle service for kayaking and river tubing.
Here are some great Airbnb options in Barton, which is close to Lake Willoughby and Bald Mountain!
Cozy Cottage in the Northeast Kingdom (1 bedroom, 1 bathroom): This renovated cottage is only a 5 minute drive from the north beach of Lake Willoughby. It has everything you’ll need for a comfortable stay including a rock labyrinth in the yard!
Waterfront Lake House on Crystal Lake (2 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms): The location of this lake house is unbeatable. It’s right on Crystal Lake in nearby Barton, VT and has an amazing outdoor space including a deck and firepit with seats around it.
Remodeled 2 bedroom + loft lakefront cottage (3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom): This lakefront cottage has an amazing outdoor space with room to sleep four. Lakefront with mountain views…how can you beat it?
There aren’t many larger hotel options nearby and the closest option is the Comfort Inn & Suites Near Burke Mountain, which is 30 minutes away.
Other things to do near Bald Mountain in Vermont
Looking for more to do before or after your hike? Here are some ideas of things to do nearby!
Hang out at Lake Willoughby
Lake Willoughby has two beaches, with the North Beach being much larger and more of a “lay out” kind of beach, while the South Beach is more of a cove for boats, but in our opinion has the better view. There is also a clothing optional cove near South Beach.
If you want to kayak on the lake, White Caps Campground offers rentals to the public, as does Clyde River Recreation, which is located north of the lake, but they can drop off the kayaks for you!
Check out the other trails in the area
There are so many amazing hikes besides Bald Mountain in the area! If you have more energy or time after hiking up Bald Mountain, we suggest checking out these trails:
Elevation gain: 1,653 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions
Mount Pisgah is one of the towering peaks along Lake Willoughby and is one of the most popular hikes in the area. There are a few overlooks along the trail that provide incredible views of the lake and surrounding mountains. It is truly breathtaking and if you only have time for one other activity while in the area, this is a MUST!
To learn more about this hike, including the two route options, check out our guide to hiking Mount Pisgah!
Herbert Hawkes Trail
Elevation gain: 859 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions
The other peak that towers over Lake Willoughby is Mount Hor and to get to the top you can hike the Herbert Hawkes Trail, which takes you to multiple overlooks of Lake Willoughby and the surrounding area.
Elevation gain: 1,233 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions
A little bit west of Lake Willoughby is Wheeler Mountain and if you hike to the top you’ll get a different perspective than Mount Pisgah or Mount Hor, with a further away view of Lake Willoughby, but additional views of the area as well.
Bike the Kingdom Trails
The Kingdom Trails are over 100 miles of non-motorized trails in the Northeast Kingdom. These trails are popular with mountain bikers, but can be used by runners or hikers as well (and cross country skiers in the winter).
You can see the map of the routes here, as well as current conditions.
Ready to experience part of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom?
Pin this guide to hiking to Bald Mountain to help plan your trip!