Near-Canadian on Jay Peak & Big Jay - two more down on the NE 100

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Feb 28, 2012
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New Boston, NH
Jay Peak (3,858') & Big Jay (3,786') - Monday, August 22, 2016
  • 2:50pm Long Trail North from Route 242
  • 3:05pm took spur path 0.2 mi to the Jay Camp cabin
  • 4:05pm reached Jay Peak summit, 1.7 miles from Route 242
  • 4:15pm reached fence downhill from the summit along the Northway ski trail (passing signs for the Face Chutes and Tuckerman's Chute on the right)
  • 4:55pm reached summit of Big Jay, about a mile from Jay Peak summit
  • 6:30pm arrived back at trailhead/Route 242

Photo Library:

I took a couple days off work to venture up into Vermont for more New England 100 Highest peak-bagging. Tim Lucia's NE 100 map has been my go-to source for a quick view of the peaks. Looking at Vermont, I'd completed the 5 4000-foot peaks, and Killington and Pico. I felt adventurous, so I decided on two pairs that could each be done in a day: the Jay Peak and Big Jay, and Breadloaf/Wilson. (I'll cover the latter with a different report.)

Jay, VT, home of the Jay Peak ski resort, lies just 10-15 miles from the Canadian border. But, from my home base in southern NH, on the eastern edge of the Monadnock Region, the drive to Jay, VT would only take three hours, thanks to major highway access. As I approached the area, in fact, my phone received the multiple texts you often do about cell phone plan changes were I to cross the border; didn't think I was quite that close!

The trailhead lies at the pinnacle of Jay Pass (~2,250'), on Route 242 just a mile or so southwest from the resort. Here, the Long Trail crosses Route 242, and you hike north along it, following the white blazes to the summit of Jay Peak. Just into the woods, there's a small shelter, one of many shelters and cabins along the LT; they provide ample opportunity for those that are thru-hiking this 272-mile footpath that spans the entire length of the state of Vermont.

A short distance up, a spur path leads 0.2 miles downhill to Jay Camp, a small cabin built in 1958 and often used by LT thru hikers. Rustic and well-used, it's like many I've seen along the LT and features bunks on either side of a narrow table, and a window opening that can be latched shut (no window panes, just a sheet of solid wood).

I worked my way back to the Long Trail North and continued up the steady, moderate climb, working up a nice, high heart rate. While ascending, I crossed paths with a couple college-age (or similar) groups of hikers who looked like they were heading south on the AT. This was the time of college starting up, groups doing ice-breaker, interpersonal development-type trips, and the LT looks to be a popular way to do that.

Within an hour or so I came up and out onto a ski trail, crossed it, and completed the ascent onto the Jay Peak summit, which lies near the ski area summit building. It's a great area, mostly-open ledges, with views all around. I was very thankful the earlier summit cloud cover cleared; I spoke with an older gentleman who had just come down and wasn't able to continue from Jay Peak to Big Jay due to the dismal visibility. Now, though, the summits were totally in the clear, but still with mostly cloudy skies.



I could see the Big Jay summit to the west. I knew this would be herd path, and had instructions to hike down along a trail that travels in back of the summit building toward Big Jay, then look for a tall fence with an opening in it. This wasn't hard to find, but without having done the homework ahead of time, it might have been tricky. The New England Hiking site was particularly helpful, with descriptions, specific photos, and maps.


I read that this herd path that leads from Jay Peak to Big Jay was very muddy. It was indeed that, a herd path, with lots of sections not cleared back at all. You could make out the trail, though, so it wasn't that hard to follow (I do have my doubts, however, hiking at night or even in the winter...).

But the mud: yes, there was mud for sure, but even worse than that, there was water. Soaked, spongy ground that got my boots wet over and over again. I wasn't wearing waterproof boots, so my feet and boots did get very wet. Several sections did have alternative paths leading off-trail and back on to avoid these "traps," which helped, but there's just really no avoiding the mud and water in some way. This, combined with the unrelenting branches you had to deflect as you walked along the trail, made this tough-going.


The summit of Big Jay is wooded, no real views, but does feature a small jar attached to a tree with a hiking registry log you can sign, and an old, large medical stretcher tied to a tree. I swore at nature to bring me into view of these things as I ascended the summit cone; I was very ready, and my mind was tried by a couple minor false summits along the way.

But there they were, soon enough, and I declared victory on Big Jay. Of course, I'd need to get back, so I spent several minutes taking a break, eating/drinking a bit, and mustering up the energy to begin the trip back to the "civilization" of Jay Peak. I encountered no one on the herd path to or from Big Jay.


As it usually is, the return trip seems faster than the one in, and I made good time on the descent. Adversity is always a good thing, helping develop coping mechanisms and teaching at least one lesson or two. This one reminded me that these lesser-known mountains that make up the New England 100, are a little more remote, and thus less-traveled, so you're bound to run into paths that are not as well defined or trodden. It's all good - it's been great overall to explore these roads less traveled.

Back down at the trailhead, I changed into some soft cotton and got the wet boots/socks off, then made my way down to the Jay hotel and conference center, a new-ish complex that features multiple restaurants. I had a great meal at the Foundry restaurant there: a local whiskey with cherries, some poutine, and a pulled pork/gruyere sandwich. Really nice place, and must be really hopping in the winter months!

I headed out, satisfied from a day with two more NE 100 peaks checked off, and excited for the following day when I'd take on two more!


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