By Dan Dickson
The gorgeous Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont is the setting for an unusual yet wonderful group travel experience: hiking on trails with experienced naturalists by day and staying at historic, charming country inns by night.
“You leave the door of one country inn, walk through the forests and show up at the door of another country inn,” explained Seth Hopkins, owner of Country Inns Along the Trail. “Your luggage is moved for you. You just walk in and are greeted with authentic hospitality and good food. That’s the real attraction for our folks.”
With 900 miles of trails, including part of the famous Appalachian Trail and Long Trail, the forest welcomes extended families, class reunion groups, corporate retreat participants and every other group. There are 20 inns in the network, every one historic. The oldest inn dates to the 1760s; the newest, to 1900.
“The door-to-door experience is one of the best around in terms of hiking. Many people have done similar things in England, like coast-to-coast walks. In America, this is about as close to that as possible,” said Hopkins.
His hikers are generally in their 40s to 60s, Hopkins surmises. Most are established with a little more time and disposable income and no young children at home.
But if it’s a challenging hike in rugged terrain you desire, Yosemite National Park in California is it.
“Most trails are steep, some up to 2,000 feet in elevation,” explained Lisa Cesaro, who works for a hospitality management company supporting Yosemite. “Or there are milder, flatter valley hikes that are easy-going and leisurely. You see the Yosemite flora and wildlife. An interpretative guide teaches the history of Yosemite,” she added.
Some hikers attempt the mist trails, which rise to two waterfalls: Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. It’s an iconic trip, eight miles roundtrip, and yes, the word “mist” is appropriate; you get drenched. “They’re beautiful waterfalls, especially in the spring,” said Cesaro.
Many families go to hike Yosemite, staying at the housekeeping camp and doing group hikes, six to 20 at a time. It’s a popular summertime focus. There are also church groups and, recently, a group of interns from a technology company.
“People are amazed at Yosemite’s scenery. Every trail presents itself with completely different views. It’s a great way for people to connect,” Cesaro said.
Ever dreamed of hiking the legendary mountains of the world? One tour company, Alpinehikers, offers a beautiful European experience.
“We focus on Switzerland but also offer tours to the Dolomites of Italy and the Mont Blanc region, which crosses through parts of France,” said Troy Haines, owner and guide.