EASY Hike: 1.4 miles (1 hour) — 7.3 miles from Hanover
The 360 degree panorama from the firetower atop Gile Mountain is one of the area’s most extensive views, and most accessible. On a clear day, a half-hour walk reveals views of the White Mountains and much of the Connecticut River valley in between. Gile Mountain, with its proximity to Hanover, is worth climbing in all seasons to appreciate the variety of New England’s landscape. From the flashy glory of fall foliage to the gnarled knobs of the winter landscape, and from the pollen-filled air of late spring to the sultry haze of summer, Gile Mountain is a local favorite.
How To Get There:
Cross the Connecticut River into Norwich, and follow Main Street under I-91 into the center of town. Pass Dan & Whit’s general store (0.0 miles) on the left and continue straight through town on Main Street. Turn left onto Turnpike Road at 0.6 miles. Stay left at the fork with New Boston Road at 1.5 miles. At 3.2 miles, stay straight on Lower Turnpike Road. The road turns to gravel here, as Upper Turnpike Road leaves to the right. At 5.8 miles, the road thins to a two-rut road. On the right, a veteran Norway spruce stands in the door yard of an old farmhouse. A sign to the left of the road says PARKING FOR TOWER TRAIL. Park here and check the kiosk before beginning.
The trail begins as a two-rut road heading gently uphill from the left side of the road (0.0 miles). A painted sign on the venerable white pine marks the way.
At 0.2 miles, the trail turns right off of the woods road and begins ascending through open hardwoods.
At 0.4 miles, the trail crosses straight under power lines carrying electricity from Wilder Dam. Re-entering the woods, the trail cuts to the right.
At 0.6 miles, after switchbacking left across the hillside, the trail turns back to the right through a recently logged area and ascends the summit ridge.
At 0.7 miles, the old fire ranger’s cabin is reached. Late in the last century, eighty percent of Vermont was cleared land. Today the opposite is true — eighty percent of the land is forested. During this transition, as farms were abandoned and pastures became choked with saplings, forest fires were common throughout New England. Numerous fire towers were built on hilltops, with fire rangers monitoring the valleys below. Improved fire fighting techniques, however, and an older forest better able to retain moisture have made large forest fires increasingly rare. As a result, most of the firetowers and ranger cabins across New England have been abandoned.
A dozen yards behind and to the left of the cabin is the summit of Gile Mountain with its fire tower. The rocky ledges supporting the tower are known geologically as the “Gile Mountain Formation”, which was first described scientifically on this spot. The Gile Mountain Formation originated as oceanic ooze that was squeezed up into mountains when Africa collided with North America almost 400 million years ago. This rock, which tends to break up into flat slate-like pieces, underlies much of Norwich and the towns to the north and south.
The panorama, in brief: standing alone in the south is Mount Ascutney. Killington, with its ski trails, is to the southwest. Ellen and Abraham, also with ski trails, are north of west. The upper knob of Camel’s Hump just sticks up over the church steeple in South Strafford. Mount Lafayette in the White Mountains rises over the northern ridge of Moosilauke to the northeast. The long ridge connecting Mounts Cube, Smarts, Holt’s and Moose lies to the east. Baker Tower is just visible over the trees at the foot of the Bloody Brook valley, stretching away to the southeast.
Return to your car via the same route.