Wampahoofus Trail starts from Butler Lodge around 3,000 feet up the side of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, and continues until it meets the legendary Long Trail atop Mansfield’s generally comparatively unpeopled Forehead area. To get to Wampahoofus, you’ll first have to hike up the 1.8 mile Butler Lodge Trail. You can stay overnight in the lodge or continue directly to Wampahoofus.
The trail was named for a mythical creature of Vermont’s Green Mountains that predates even the yeti and Bigfoot in the Western consciousness. Also known as a gyascutus or a sidehill gouger, the wampahoofus was known for its uneven legs (a pair on one side was always longer than the other) that allowed it to move in only one direction around the mountain. If a clockwise wampahoofus met a counterclockwise peer on a ridge, they would fight to the death so one could pass. They could mate only when their circular routes intersected. Eventually, their shorter legs became so short that they couldn’t move or mate, and they soon died out. The trail was purportedly named by a Professor Ray Buchanan, who noted a rock formation that looked like the profile of the wampahoofus.
A short way along the trail you can take a detour down the short but aptly named Rock Garden Trail, which connects to Maple Ridge Trail. Otherwise, if you stay on Wampahoofus, you’ll soon find yourself clambering up some rugged, rocky faces to the top of the Forehead with spectacular views of the Champlain Valley behind you. The top has 360-degree views and room to picnic, and is one of the few places east of the Mississippi that can support rare alpine tundra, with stunted trees and plenty of delicate flora underfoot. From here, the Long Trail continues north to the Chin (the actual summit) or south toward Camels Hump, Mount Ellen, and Mount Abraham, thus connecting four of Vermont’s five tallest peaks.
Take care not to get lost, lest you end up like a wampahoofus yourself, stuck in a perpetual circle on the slopes of Mount Mansfield.
Know Before You Go
The trail can be accessed through the Butler Lodge Trail from the Stevensville Trailhead in Underhill Center. Like all Vermont mountain trails, Wampahoofus is either closed or discouraged from use during mud season (roughly April–May). There is likely to be snow or ice from October to May, and it is a possibility September–June.
Rock Garden and nearby Maple Ridge are not ideal for dogs, due to the frequent scrambling and clambering.