It’s known as the Green Mountain State, a reference to the range that runs north to south for practically its entire length. Indeed Vermont is dominated by its hills and peaks as much as it is by its picturesque forests, which cover almost 80 percent of its landscape. Several mountain ranges are found throughout the state, including the granite Northeast Highlands and the Taconic Range in the southwest.
The question is, which of these ranges are home to the highest mountains in Vermont? That’s what we’re here to explore. Starting with a look at the most famous of them.
The Green Mountains
It would be no exaggeration to call the Green Mountains the backbone of Vermont. They extend some 250 miles through the heart of the state, spanning up to 35 miles across. Part of the Appalachian Mountains, the Green Mountains are among the oldest in the US. Initially formed about 450 million years ago, they’ve since been shaped by various events, including magma surges and erosion. Glaciers in particular helped sculpt their smooth slopes.
Many of the mountain slopes here are forested, with spruce, beech, maple, and birch trees providing a canopy of cover. What’s more, this is where one finds the very biggest mountains of Vermont, many topping 3,500 feet. And this is the only range in the state with mountains exceeding 4,000 feet, including the highest mountain in Vermont, Mount Mansfield.
It’s often said that, when viewed from the east or west, the series of gentle peaks of Mount Mansfield together resemble a human face in profile. Once pointed out, it’s certainly possible to assign each summit the role of forehead, nose, lips, and so on. It is the “chin” of the face that is the tallest of them all. Rising 4,393 feet above sea level, it is this which marks Mansfield as the pinnacle of Vermont’s highest mountains.
The mountain is located in Mount Mansfield State Forest in the northern county of Chittenden, just 20 or so miles northeast of Burlington. Its highest slopes and summit are one of only three locations in Vermont to retain alpine tundra around since the ice age. The top of this, the highest mountain in Vermont, is thus designated a National Natural Landmark and owned by the University of Vermont.
At 4,241 feet above sea level, Killington Peak is the second among the tallest mountains in Vermont. Like Mansfield, it’s one of the Green Mountains, but lies about 65 miles to the south in a town of the same name.
As one would expect of a mountain named Camel’s Hump, this is one peak – or rather two – with a very distinctive shape. In fact, it’s so recognisable, it’s on Vermont’s quarter coin. Its indigenous name, “ta wak be dee esso wadso,” has been translated variously as “sit-down place” and “saddle mountain.” Meanwhile, European explorers in the 17th century saw it as a sleeping lion.
At 4,083 feet, it’s the third of the tallest mountains in Vermont, a position it shares with Mount Ellen. Like fellow Green Mountain, Mount Mansfield, Camel’s Hump is home to alpine tundra, with around 18 rare plants near the summit. It lies within Camel’s Hump State Park.
Theories vary as to how Mount Ellen got its name, but the two main contenders seemingly agree it was inspired by a fictional character; either from Sir Walter Scott’s poem “The Lady of the Lake” or Joseph Battell’s book, “Ellen, or the Whisperings of an Old Pine.” Whichever is the case, it’s located in Washington County at the very northern edge of Green Mountain National Forest. There it rises to 4,083 feet, ranking third along with Camel’s Hump on the list of Vermont’s highest mountains.
The lowest mountain in the state above 4,000 feet and the fifth highest mountain in Vermont is named for President Abraham Lincoln. Rising to 4,017 feet, Mount Abraham, Abe to locals, is just a couple of miles south of Mount Ellen in the town of Lincoln. Interestingly, the town and the nearby Lincoln’s Peak are not named for the 16th president, but rather military hero Benjamin Lincoln. It’s the third of the trio of mountains that support alpine tundra vegetation.
The Biggest Mountains of Vermont
As we’ve seen, the tallest mountains in Vermont are all part of the Green Mountains. The highest mountain in Vermont outside this range is Mount Equinox in the Taconic Range at approximately 3,840 feet.