Big Jay herd path status

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Well-known member
Apr 9, 2004
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Boxford, MA. Avatar: I heart South Twin
Hi all,

Ray and I hiked Jay Peak and Big Jay in VT last Thursday, both which are New England Hundred Highest peaks. We discovered that the herd path to Big Jay was CLOSED. There was a sign and storm fence across the entrance to the herd path, indicating that it was closed for revegetation. We then noticed that the storm fence was busted up a bit so folks could easily squeeze under it. It was not clear whether this closure pertained to hiking as well as skiing.

Although ethically torn, we decided to hike the herd path. It was in good shape, except for some mud. There were about 9 or 10 other storm fences, all totally busted up. In a couple of cases, sections of the storm fences were placed as a bridge over the mud.

Apparently, the closure action was taken with backcountry skiing & riding in mind: article

There was also a recent resolution that appears to indicate that Big Jay will be opened to backcountry skiing & riding in 2008 & 2009 during times when snow cover is adequate: resolution

Neither article mentions hiking at all.

There are probably many logical, environmental and ethical considerations to all of this, but my primary purpose is to inform those folks looking to hike Big Jay in the future.

Best regards,
Having done the trip twice, I do not remember the herd path being in bad shape. As a matter of fact, it struck me as a fairly 'young' trail. I would really doubt that they are trying to keep hikers off the mountain.
It sounds exactly like they are trying to keep hikers off the mountain, no? I mean skiing doesn't affect the vegetation because it's snow covered. Having a trail closed due to "revegetation" sounds hiker-targeted.. ?? :confused:

I could be totally wrong. Has anyone contacted the Vermont Parks Department and asked this question?
Last edited:
leaf said:
It sounds exactly like they are trying to keep hikers off the mountain, no? I mean skiing doesn't affect the vegetation because it's snow covered. Having a trail closed due to "revegetation" sounds hiker-targeted.. ?? :confused:

I could be totally wrong. Has anyone contacted the Vermont Parks Department and asked this question?

The big problem though there is a lot of backcountry out-of-bounds skiing on Big Jay and there is was a problem a few years ago of some really major illegal chainsaw work on Big Jay of some locals who decided to make some ski trails without any permission. Skiers would just ski out to Big Jay and use the lifts on Jay Peak, so to attempt to stop the trend and to somewhat revegetate the area (if that is even possible) they put a sign saying the path to Big Jay is closed... take a read at Marty's link to the article so it's not the herd path, per se, that is the problem the folks at Jay peak are trying to solve, it's the illegal backcountry cutting of ski trails..


P.S. the herd path is pretty well established and still used by skiers and hikers alike in winter. The fences that they have up are simply cut or worked around....
The fences were put in place mainly to stop skiers. The problem isn't hiking out to Big Jay summit, that is a lost cause. The problem is dropping down the freshly cut slides which don't hold enough snow and will never grow back unless left alone.
Hello readers from VFTT.

I just got an email with a link to this thread and wanted to get a post up here to clarify the situation in regards to hiking Big Jay.

As was noted, in 2007, two individuals cut an enourmous "scar" of a ski trail on Big Jay - it is over 2000' long and up to 70' wide in places. The State (land owner), Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (easment holder), and Green Mountain Club (easement holder) were very concerned that there was going to be significant erosion to the scar. As a result we collectively decided to "close" the link from Big Jay to reduce the amount of skiing that could occur on the scar particulary during the shoulder seasons when snow pack was thin. We erected snow fencing and posted signs. We are taking a different approach this winter (see below) Unfortunatley the fencing is still up. We are working to get volunteers together to get it cleared.

All this said, the link trail is not closed to hikers. The snowfencing has been opened up and the trail is passable. We are in the process of getting the snow fencing removed and the signage changed to properly reflect the new situation.

The three entities above just recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Jay Peak Resort that spells out how we are going to work together to manage backcountry skiing on Big Jay. The upshot is that access will be restored to Big Jay year round, but we are still working to keep people off the scar so it can revegetate and we do not want to see continued cutting of vegetation for skiing on the mountain. In recent years there has been a marked increase in the amount of cutting of vegetation to facilitate skiing. In many places, the entire understory has been removed to create glades and has impacted the forest ecology.

Here is what hikers can expect to see in the short term and in subsequent hiking seasons.

This summer - "closed" signage will come down. Snow fencing will come down. Please go ahead and hike to Big Jay. However, please do not hike on the scar. It is steep and the soils thin and unstable - it is very vulnerable to the impact of hiking boots. While significant erosion has not occured yet, it is very fragile and could easily increase with use.

The future - When you hike on the Long Trail or head up to Jay via the resort with the intention of hiking the link to Big Jay you will encounter a very tall fence that obscures the entrance to the link trail. There will be no signs, but at the lower end of the fence look for an offset double white blaze. Look around the end of the fence and you will see a passage way between the fence and another fence that doubles back and leads you to the LT and the link trail. Once you are in then you will see signage. The goal of this fence or "stile" is to reduce casual ski traffic in winter and reduce the # of unprepared casual skiers from finding the link and heading to Big Jay.

Again - Big Jay is open for hikers. Please enjoy and Leave No Trace. Thank you.

If you have further questions, suggestions, ideas, or want more information please feel free to contact me at the Green Mountain Club (802) 244-7037 ext. 17 or [email protected]

Happy Trails.

Pete Antos-Ketcham
GMC Director of Stewardship/Facilities Manager
Thank you Pete, both for joining us here on VftT and for helping to manage a difficult situation.


Happy to be here Dave. I have enjoyed VFTT ever since I learned of it and met Darren back in '97 when I was winter caretaker at Gray Knob.


Pete, as the author of this thread, I also want to thank you for clarifying this.

I now feel much better knowing that my hiking partner and I did not break any rules. :)

Best regards,
Big Jay Herd Path Clarification

Hi Folks - here is a clarification to my last post concerning Big Jay.

The route to Big Jay is a herd path not a trail. It does get called the "link trail" but that is a misnomer - I call it that by mistake some times.

It is a herd path and not part of the Long Trail System and will not be maintained. It will be passable, but you may find it narrow, overgrown in places, and covered with blowdowns - just like any other herd path.

Thanks - let me know if you questions.

Pete Antos-Ketcham
GMC Director of Stewardship/Facilities Manager

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