Mount Ellen, home to Sugarbush Ski Resort, is one of only five peaks in Vermont to surpass 4,000 feet in elevation. Near its summit, great views can be had of the Green Mountains, Mad River Valley, Lake Champlain, and New York’s Adirondack mountains. The mountain can be accessed via the Long Trail from the south at the Lincoln Gap (5.6 miles) or from the north at the Appalachian Gap (5 miles).
From the parking area atop the Appalachian Gap, cross the road to find an unmarked trail on the downhill side of the western slope. After climbing a few hundred feet of the trail, come to the trail register and information kiosk for the Long Trail. Sign in and become familiar with the posted information. From here the white-blazed trail climbs for 2 miles past one of the Mad River Glen ski lifts and through a steep rocky section. This section has metal bars installed in the rock to assist ascending and descending. Continue past the Theron Dean Shelter and up another rocky section to where the trail merges with a ski run from Mad River Glen. Follow the ski run uphill to where you will come across the terminus of Mad River Glen’s Chair 1 and the warming hut/ski patrol building called Starks Nest.
Starks Nest remains unlocked during the summer and is open to hikers. It is a popular spot to overnight. A rain barrel rests outside on the deck with a hose and spigot if hikers need water. Note that the water should be treated before consuming.
From Starks Nest, follow the ski run south and keep an eye for the white blazes on the rocks and trees. There will be a signed intersection where the Long Trail darts back into the woods and away from the ski run. The trail climbs a bit more before it descends to the saddle between Stark Mountain and Mount Ellen. Here there is an intersection with the Barton Trail, which leads downhill to the Glen Ellen Lodge. Stay right on the Long Trail and continue past a trail intersection for the Jerusalem Trail and later a small spur trail that heads to a viewpoint called Orvis Lookout. The lookout has a nice view of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks.
After 1.6 miles from the intersection with the Barton Trail, the Long Trail enters the Green Mountain National Forest. This marks the start of a 54-mile section of the Long Trail that’s in national forest lands. Not too far after crossing this boundary the trail merges with a ski run from the Sugarbush Ski Resort and ends at the top of lift terminus. Here at 4,083 feet are the best views. To the north the Green Mountain range with the peaks of Camels Hump (4083 feet) and Mount Mansfield (4393 feet) can be seen. To the west is Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks beyond. To the east is the Mad River Valley and the base area of Sugarbush North. Note that this is not the true summit of Mount Ellen. The true summit is a few hundred feet up the Long Trail, which veers back into the woods. The summit is completely wooded and offers no views. It is unceremoniously marked with a small rock cairn.
To return to the Appalachian Gap, simply retrace the white-blazed Long Trail north back to Vermont Route 17 and the parking area.