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Womens History on the Long Trail

Vermont women are trailblazers. Just look at the Three Musketeers, the first women to through-hike Vermont’s Long Trail, and the women who followed in their historic footsteps.

It was July 1927 when Hilda Kurth, Catherine Robbins, and Kathleen Norris set out to hike the full length of Vermont’s longest trail, spanning from one end of the state to the other, and conventional wisdom at the time dictated that women wouldn’t be up to the challenge. Norris, a member of the Green Mountain Club, the Vermont organization that stewards and promotes the Long Trail, wanted to hike the trail before she started college and reached out to Kurth, her former high school teacher, and her friend Robbins to make the journey together.

Each woman carried between 20 and 25   pounds of food, water, and supplies, including hatchets, blankets, and compasses.

Though the Three Musketeers faced challenges along the way, including losing the trail outside Bennington and crawling across a rushing stream on their stomachs, they arrived safely in Jay, where the Long Trail terminated at the time, by late August, making their journey in under two months. (The Long Trail now ends at the Canada-U.S. border and is 272 miles long.) 

Read more about the Three Musketeers from Green Mountain Club.

Kurth, Robbins, and Norris broke ground for female hikers on their journey and were followed by other female through-hikers, trail crew members, and explorers. 12-year-old Mary Beardsley Fenn became the youngest through-hiker in 1932, and the first reports of solo female Long Trail hikers began  in the 1940s. 

Through-hiking isn’t the only way women have made their mark on Vermont hiking history. Katherine Monroe worked on the trails in the 1920s, and Shirley Strong became the first female president of the Green Mountain Club in 1969. Strong helped restore the shelter caretaker program which hired the first female caretakers, Wendy Turner and Susan Valyi, who staffed the Taft Lodge in Stowe during the summer of 1972. Caretakers maintain the trail and educate hikers about the natural area.

Read more about women’s history on the Long Trail from Green Mountain Club.

Hikers can take on the Long Trail all in one go, like the Three Musketeers did, or in pieces. Both approaches qualify you for your End-to-Ender Certification, provided you hike all 272 miles. As you get ready for your Long Trail adventure, brush up on Hiking 101 from the Green Mountain Club. Those who aren’t quite ready for the Long Trail yet can plan to visit one of Vermont’s 55 state parks, open year-round, or find accessible trails for those who use wheelchairs. Start planning to hike in Vermont today.


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