Best Backcountry Zones To Explore In The Northeast Near Burlington: The Full Scoop

Best Backcountry Zones To Explore In The Northeast Near Burlington: The Full Scoop

Best Backcountry Zones to Explore in the Northeast Near Burlington

While there are no “beginner” Level backcountry zones, there are some great places across the Northeast where you can start to learn how to safely navigate backcountry terrain. These are not your secret stashes, but places that we selected based on the fact they are mapped have access to mellow terrain, and good infrastructure (parking, etc) to make it a smooth experience. 
Now don’t think these zones are safe or boring. They still are backcountry terrain, not patrolled, and you can certainly find some rowdier lines if you know where to look. We hope you enjoy this guide and it helps you make the jump safely into the backcountry. 

Contributing expert:

  • Alex Showerman
  • Hometown: Waterbury, VT
  • Brand Strategist, Public Relations and Marketing consultant for values driven brands. 


Please Note: It's important to know that the backcountry is filled with hazards that go beyond what one might face at a ski area. There are many things to consider before getting into backcountry skiing like equipment, avalanche education, trip planning, and mentorship. Avalanche education is an important step to take for those that are interested in getting into backcountry skiing and riding. Plan to be self-sufficient with a beacon, shovel and probe for each member of your group, along with the knowledge of how to use them. Check out our previous blogs and Slay at Home Episodes for more details on all of these topics and get educated BEFORE ever venturing into the backcountry!


(Bolton Valley, VT)

Vertical Drop

Up to 1000 feet

Trail Types

Inbounds, historic backcountry touring trails access classic Vermont Glades

Tour Length

Less than an hour to all day


Bolton Valley Base Area

Opportunities for Touring at Bolton Valley

 1. The Bolton Wilderness lift is closed on weekdays which means you can have your own private mountain experience and easy fresh tracks if you have the day off. This makes for quick turns if you are tight on time (Under an hour per lap). 

 2. The backcountry terrain offers plenty of fun, but is relatively mellow and thoroughly mapped making for a great spot to begin to learn to travel in the backcountry of Vermont. Stop by the Backcountry Center for recommendations. One safety note, unless you are prepared for a long day and a technical skin avoid dropping down into Cotton Brook Basin as it is the backside of the mountain has a steep technical skin out.

 Local’s hang out:The James Moore Tavern is a classic Vermont Mountain bar. Grab a beer and some duck fat poutine after your tour. New this year they added the Mad Taco if burritos are your jam. 

Braintree Mountain Forest

(Randolph, VT)

Vertical Drop 

700 ft

Trail Types

Old Logging roads to access managed backcountry glades by RASTA


1.5 Miles. Requires a mellow approach and exit on old logging roads marked with blazes.


Riford Brook Road

Braintree is an absolute gem and a fantastic place to cut your teeth in the backcountry. Park at the trailhead on Riford Brook Road. Follow the blazes along Haul Rd. At the bottom of the Skidoo mountain zone you’ll be greeted by the Bell Gates cabin with a wood base of gorgeous gladed zone. A marked skin track gets you to the top of over 700 vertical feet of gorgeous hardwoods glades. This place takes you back to a simpler time. 


Stock-up: Head on down to the historic main street in Randolph and hit up the Chef’s Market to grab coffee and provisions before your tour. 

Locals Hangout:
Head on over to One Main Tap and Grill for some post-tour suds. 

Respect the neighbors!
Meet at “The Hub” in downtown Randolph, drop your cars and take one to the lot as parking is limited. This is right around the corner from one main for your apres later. 

Also, please respect the posted/no trespassing signs on the ski-out. Don’t skin down the driveway either. This is important to maintain access to this special place. 

Support your local trails: to support the continued work of the Rochester/Randolph Area Sport Trails Alliance here 

Brandon Gap

(Rochester, VT)

Vertical Drop

500-1300 feet

Trail Types

Set skin tracks, maintained glades


Bear Brook & Long Trail

Brandon Gap is the big brother to Braintree Mountain Forest offer backcountry turns across four different ski zones with two trailheads and tied together by a Long Trail connector. Brandon Gap represents the first-ever sanctioned vertical touring based gladeing projects on National Forest Land and is thanks to the pioneering partnership between RASTA and the USFS. My personal favorite tour is head up to the easily lapable sunrise bowl for a few laps, then continue touring to the top of Goshen Mountain.

The easiest to access zones is the No-Name bowl, which you can tour directly from the trailhead. This tends to be the busiest and most crowded so get there early if you want fresh tracks. 


Support your turns! These glades are maintained by the Rochester/Randolph Area Sport Trails Alliance. Be sure to become a member so they can keep making more like them!


Granite Backcountry Alliance: Ski Tow Glade

(Lancaster, NH)

Vertical Drop

700 feet

Trail Types

Set skin tracks, maintained glades and an old rope tow cut. 

Another opportunity to step back into time, and experience skiing how it used to be. This GBA zone exists mostly above the old ski two area, offering 700 feet of gladed terrain for you to enjoy for the day. Put in as many laps as you can hear and enjoy the sweet sensation of earning your turns. 


Apres: Rek-lis Brewing. This hidden gem is about 20 minutes from the trail head, but it has become a must stop on your way to the white. Refreshing suds, comfort food and a laid back vibe make this the perfect stop after a day of skiing. 


Support your turns! Don’t forget to get your membership to the Granite Backcountry Alliance so they can build more glades like this! 


Sherburne Ski Trail

(Mt Washington, NH)

Vertical Drop

2400 feet, 2.4 Miles 


Pinkham Notch Trailhead

This is a classic east coast run and great for people just breaking into the sport. It starts at the iconic Pinkham Notch and makes it way up the legendary Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail. You’ll make your way roughly 2.5 miles to the Hermit Lake Shelter (also known as HoJos) where you will have stunning views of Tuckerman Ravine and Hillman’s Highway. From there head over to the Top of the Sherburne Ski trail, rip skins and enjoy the over 2000 vertical feet back to the car. This trail twists and turns its way, and is the pitch of an intermediate ski trail. It is ungroomed, so expect, bumps, and variable conditions if its not a powder day!  


Note: Resist the urge to head up higher into the bowl until you have completed your AIARE L1 and have the necessary gear and knowledge how to use them. While the Sherburne is a great entry-level adventure, going above treeline is about as serious as it can get on the east and you should wait until you have the proper knowledge and gear. 


Support your turns! Friends of Tuckerman Ravine (link)


The Sherb is maintained by the Friends of Tuckerman Ravine, in partnership with the US Forest Service. Be sure to support them if enjoy these trails!


Mt Ascutney

(Brownsville, VT)

Vertical Drop

1,800 feet


Mt. Ascutney Base Area

Quickly gaining popularity as an accessible backcountry destination for backcountry skiers and snow shoe adventure, the upper slopes of the former Mount Ascutney Ski Area offer un-groomed snow and powder when conditions allow. You’ll come upon breathtaking views across the valley and beyond. Another popular area is accessible from the West Windsor Town Forest trailhead. Here you can venture up the Bicentennial Trail to explore open glades and find pockets of untracked powder.


This is an awesome place to bring the family as they have an outdoor center at the base, and a tubing hill. Fun for everybody!   


Support your turns! Contribute to Ascutney Outdoors to continue to support these trails!


Mad River Glen

(Fayston, VT)

This one is a controversial one, but one of my personal favorite places to skin before or after work. While snowboards are not allowed on the lift, MRG has a strong culture of earning your turns when the lifts are not spinning. 

While modern-day resorts offer wide cruisers that feel like super highways, MRG has a decided backcountry feel with narrow winding trails and ample gladed runs. They don’t make snow above 2500 feet, so they keep their trails tightly mowed and rock free making this a super fun place to snag early season turns on their grassy blue squares. 


IMPORTANT: Do not “poach” Mad River, both skiers and snowboarders are strongly discouraged from hiking MRG when the lifts are spinning. However there exists a friendly uphill vibe when the mountain is closed. Bring a positive attitude and your splitboard, and be off the mountain before the Single Chair starts to spin. Remember positive interactions will help to break down the skiers vs snowboarders vibe that MRG and its shareholders still foster. Be a positive ambassador for the sport. 


Stock-up:Village Grocery has fresh-made donuts every day that are a must on your way to the mountain. 


Apres: Head on to Lawson’s Finest Liquids for a Maple Nipple or Fayston Maple Imperial Stout and their pretzel’s with beer cheese dip. The Friday night fish fry at the General Stark’s Tavern is also not to be missed! 



Are You Ready for a Little More Challenge?

Granite Backcountry Alliance: Baldface

*Avalanche Education Required*

Vertical drop

2500 feet


Baldface Circle Trail (Rt. 113)

So you just got your AIARE Level 1, and you’re looking for your first tour in avalanche terrain that isn’t as intimidating as Tuckerman Ravine or other zones on Mount Washington, head to Baldface. 

Baldface is an ideal spot to dip your toe into the water of decision making in avalanche terrain as it has both above treeline options and below treeline gladed options. Here you can practice developing a tour plan, building in decision points with a plan A (Go for it!) or plan B (stick to the safety of the trees). Remember if you head here with intention of riding above treeline, beacon, shovel, probe and the knowledge of how to use them is a MUST. 

This also is an all day tour, so be prepared to spend a day in the backcountry and be self sufficient. 


Support your turns! Don’t forget to get your membership to the Granite Backcountry Alliance so they can build more glades like this!


Mt Washington: Hillman's Highway
& Gulf of Slides

(Sherburne Ski Trail, NH)

Vertical Drop

3,500+ feet 


Pinkham Notch Trailhead

If you are ready for a bit more adventure, this is the place to begin to tackle big mountain terrain. 

This is avalanche terrain and the weather on Mount Washington is notoriously fickle (the fast wind speed recorded on earth was on the summit). For your first time, the best time to visit is in April or even May after we have gone into a corn cycle. Ensuring safer conditions, long day light and milder temps. Be sure to pick a mild sunny day with low winds to ensure that you have safe conditions to ensure challenging terrain. Even during this spring time, make sure you have your avalanche education, and bring your beacon shovel probe. 


Get away from the crowds: In the spring time the bowl proper can get crowded, but a little bit of extra work and you can find yourself finding more peaceful lines. Hillman’s Highway is a classic that is just outside of the bowl and offers a longer descent. It can see some traffic in the spring, but avoids the congo line esque boot packs of Tuckerman’s Proper. 


If you want to find more solitude and are up for a bigger day. Boot pack up Hillman’s Highway, hike along the ridge over to the Gulf of Slides. Even on a busy weekend you can likely have the place mostly to yourself. After dropping into the Gulf of Slides, you’ll hike back up what you ski, then back into Hillman’s Highway, dropping that all the way into the Sherburne Ski Trail back to your car. 


Important to Note. Pay attention to the sun and temps. As soon as the sun comes off the face, that line that you were about to drop into will freeze up and become dangerous. Make sure in your tour plan you plan to be on top of the line. You intend to ski late enough that it has started to corn-up, but not so late that you risk wet slides, or skiing in slush. 


For more information on other zones in the Northeast like Mt. Katahdin and Black and White Glade in Maine watch the full Slay At Home Episode 10, Go Explore: Backcountry Touring Zones In The Northeast.

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