Camels Hump

Camel's Hump (Vermont)

Camel's Hump is Vermont's third highest mountain and highest undeveloped peak; moreover, because of its distinctive profile, perhaps the state's most recognized mountain. Part of the Green Mountain range, it is one of the oldest mountains on Earth. With its neighbor to the north, Mount Mansfield, it borders the notch that the antecedent Winooski River has carved through this area over eons. The hiking trails on Camel's Hump were among the first cut in the Long Trail system, and Camel's Hump remains a popular summit for through- and day-hiking.


Camel's Hump is more notable for its shape than its height of 4,083 feet. Isolated from neighboring peaks by the Winooski Valley and glacial action, the mountain's conical silhouette is distinctive, if misleading. It has two "humps", with the southernmost being the higher, and a steep drop to the south as a result of a quarrying action of the ice passing over it. While it looks somewhat volcanic from the east and west, the movement of glacial ice created its current form and the National Park Service names the peak as "an exceptional illustration of the complex anticlinal deformation which formed the Green Mountains".


The summit of Camel's Hump is home to 10 acres of alpine tundra vegetation. Plants found in this region include: bigelow sedge, alpine bilberry, mountain sandwort, crowberry , mountain cranberry, Labrador tea. A direct result of glacial formation, these alpine species were once widespread but as the lower elevations warmed, only the very peak of Camel's Hump remained hospitable to the fragile plants. Camel's Hump also supports a significant population of red spruce trees which have been under decline. The Forest Decline Project at the University of Vermont published a study in 1991 citing acid rain as a culprit of the reduced seed production and germination.


The Abnaki name for the mountain was "ta wak be dee esso wadso," or "tahwahbodeay wadso" (wadso meaning mountain), which has been variously translated as "resting place", "sit-down place", and "prudently, we make a campfire in a circle near water (and rest) at this mountain.

Since Europeans first saw the mountain, probably on Samuel de Champlain's 1609 trip down Lake Champlain to the west, the mountain has had a number of names related to its distinctive shape. De Champlain named the mountain "Le Lion Couchant", a heraldic image which roughly translates as "The Resting Lion". Ira Allen later referred to the mountain as "Camel's Rump" on a map from 1798. It was not until 1830 that the name "Camel's Hump" came into usage.

In 1905, publisher and philanthropist Joseph Battell donated 1200 acres (5 km²) of virgin forest, including the summit of Camel's Hump, to the State of Vermont. The bequest was intended to form a state park to be kept in a "primitive state" and in 1911 the state forester was given charge of the area who managed the land in accordance with Battell's wishes. Since then, Vermont has adopted new legislation to preserve its natural areas and in 1969 created a Forest Reserve enclosing the mountain. Camel's Hump State Park has grown since the original bequest and in 1991 totalled approximately 20,000 acres (81 km²).

In October 1944, during World War II, a B-24J bomber plane on a training mission crashed into the side of the mountain, near the summit. While most of the plane was salvaged and removed, portions of the wreckage (principally a wing section) still remain. The Alpine Trail passes by the site.

Though protected, the Camel's Hump area is a favorite recreational venue for hikers. Trail work began on Camel's Hump at the formation of the Green Mountain Club (GMC) and by 1912, a trail had been constructed between the mountain and Sterling Pond. This initial trail would later become a high point in the "footpath in the wilderness" known as the Long Trail. In the 1950s, the GMC constructed shelters along the trail and at the summit. The GMC now trains and pays a caretaker to reside at the summit and educate hikers to respect the fragile alpine ecosystem that exists on the mountain.

In 1999, an image of Camel's Hump was chosen as a prominent feature for the Vermont state quarter. While many other options were considered, including covered bridges and the snowflake photographs of Wilson Bentley, the seven-person panel ultimately decided on Camel's Hump stating that it was "perfect for the quarter." The panels findings explained the choice: "It's wild and natural, like the Vermont countryside. It's unique and asymmetrical, like the independent and quirky reputation Vermonters have." Many notable Vermont institutions have adopted its memorable name, including the children's radio show "Camel's Hump Radio" hosted by Bill Harley on Vermont Public Radio. The profile of Camels Hump appears in the Vermont coat of arms on the Vermont flag.

Hiking Camel's Hump

"With the only undeveloped alpine area in the Green Mountain State and a skyline that sets it apart from everything else, Camel's Hump may be Vermont's finest peak," says Michael Lanza in his guidebook for New England hiking enthusiasts. The views from the summit are panoramic, and on a clear day one can see Mount Marcy in New York, Mount Washington in New Hampshire and Vermont's Mount Mansfield, the highest peaks of the three states.

Lanza recommends the Burrows Trail. Burrows ascends the west face from the end of Camel's Hump Road taken east from Huntington and is roughly 2.5 miles from trailhead to summit. The Burrows Trail is also used in the winter as a snowshoe and ski route.

An alternative trailhead approximately 0.5 mile downhill from the Burrows trailhead on Camel's Hump Road, the Forest City Trail heads further south, passes some very picturesque streams and waterfalls, and meets the Long Trail at Montclair Glen Lodge. From this location, the Long Trail climbs the south face, which is steep and mildly technical towards the summit. There is a short connector trail, connecting the bottom of Burrows Trail to the waterfall bridges at Forest City, for those choosing to use the Burrows Trail upon descent.

The Monroe Trail ascends the east face, which is an easy to moderate trail, like the Burrows Trail but slightly longer.

The Long Trail continues north from the summit, and there are numerous sidetrails around the summit itself that are good for exploration in the summer.

There is a clearing approximately 200 yards north of the summit, where the Burrows and Monroe Trails intersect the Long Trail. The clearing is the last protected environment one faces when climbing the mountain from the north, and once above treeline winds and temperatures can be severe at times.



  • Huden, John C. (1962) Indian Place Names of New England, Museum of the American Indian Heye Foundation ISBN 0-934490-18-X
  • Johnson, Charles W. (1980) The Nature of Vermont: Introduction and Guide to a New England Environment, The University Press of New England ISBN 0-87451-856-3
  • Meeks, Harold A. (1986) Vermont's Land and Resources, The New England Press ISBN 0-933050-40-2
  • Morrissey, Charles T. (1984) Vermont A History, W.W.Norton and Co. ISBN 0-393-30223-7

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