The metal hut was erected about 1915. Pico is in the background.
By Karen D. Lorentz
Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a series on Killington’s first cabins for adventuring tourists.
When the hotel below Killington Peak closed circa 1910, the mountains didn’t lack for visitors.
In 1908 James P. Taylor, a Vermont Academy schoolmaster who enjoyed taking students on mountain hikes, took a group of boys up the washed out road to Killington Peak, and after spending a miserable night in the ruins of the hotel’s kitchen, tried to guide them to Pico Peak.
It was a tough night as porcupines gnawed at the greasy floor and destroyed their breakfast, too. The trip was made worse by the fact there was no trail to Pico. Defeated by the dense brush, it was “no go to Pico.”
The summer of 1909 found Taylor sitting on the side of Stratton Mountain waiting for the mist to clear and bemoaning the fact that there were only eight trails leading to Vermont’s mountaintops (not one to Stratton’s summit either). Wanting to offer the wonderful experience he’d had walking the
Black Forest hiking trail, he began to conceive of a trail that would connect Vermont’s mountaintops.
He was soon promoting “a footpath in the wilderness” with a goal to make the spectacular Green Mountains more “accessible to people” and “a larger part of their lives.”
He proposed to accomplish this by carving a trail that would surpass any in the Black Forest in Germany, the Alps, or the Adirondacks!
On March 11, 1910, the Green Mountain Club was formed to oversee the building and maintenance of that trail with Taylor its first president. The resulting Long Trail extended 265 miles through Vermont, from the border with Massachusetts to the Canadian line, and passed over both Little Killington and Killington Peaks. (This section was relocated to an alternate LT in the late 1990s from which a spur takes one to the Peak. The old Appalachian/Long Trail route remains an option.)
Rustic trail shelters were built for hikers on Killington Peak just below the summit near the old hotel site. They included a round metal shelter erected (1915) by the Green Mountain Club and the stone “Porky Shelter” (1926); both shelters succumbed to the ravages of time and the mountain’s porcupines, which, as Killington founder Preston Smith would learn 30 years later, love to nibble on metal as well as wood!
In 1939 the Forest Service built the large stone and wood Cooper Lodge, a porky-proof haven for hikers and visitors who are asked to treat it with respect and not leave anything behind.
Later mountain dwellers, visitors, developers
Killington was also the scene of a logging operation by the Vermont Marble Company from 1901 to 1918. The company, which had purchased 3,022 acres of “Killington” lands, logged this acreage and ran a sawmill near the present Basin Ski Shop complex.
A “board camp” was located at the present site of the K-1 Base Lodge and housed 25 workers. There were also barns and other buildings, including houses for two families.
On the ridge of what is now known as Skye Peak there was a “log camp” where logs were cut and hauled to the mill. Operations moved down to U.S. Route 4 to what was called the Pico Mill in 1918.
The log road from the mill to the board camp provided a path of transportation to the mountain, albeit a rough one, for both early 1900 excursionists to the Peak and, later, the ski area’s founders.
It wasn’t just loggers and hikers who visited the mountain, however. Winter snowshoeing parties were a popular activity in the early 1900s. In addition, parties of hikers of all ages would continue to climb up in summer and fall to visit the peak with its stupendous views. Outdoor adventures have long been Mount Killington’s calling card.
Later, when cutting trails for the ski area, Pres Smith and a small crew lived up on the mountain during the week and descended on weekends to clean up and revitalize.
Visiting Killington Peak today
To get to the pinnacle today is easy and really is a “must.”
You can ride the K-1 Gondola (or hike or bike up a ski trail) to the entrance of the summit trail — a stairway takes you to the short hiking path, which involves a moderate climb over rocks and through the woods. As you walk up the trail or back down, there are openings in the trees where you can spy Pico and also the top of Killington’s Cat Walk trail, which experts ski in winter.
You’ll come out at the 4,241-foot elevation and onto some of the oldest rock in the world at what geologists tell us is 900-million year old bedrock. Great spot for a picnic and photographs!
From the peak, you have views of mountain range after mountain range.
Shrewsbury Peak is close by to the southwest along the spine of the Green Mountain range.
Looking due west you can see Rutland city lying below in the Valley of Vermont, and the Taconic Mountain Range extending south just beyond Rutland.
Northwesterly, there’s Chittenden Reservoir and the mighty Adirondacks. Lake Champlain may be visible on a very clear day. Nearby to the north you’ll see Pico and then the Greens as they stretch north as far as the eye can see.
For those who are part mountain goat, from the summit you can follow a long and challenging rocky trail (it descends to the west) to the site of the old hotel and Cooper Lodge. There are a few butt-sitting descents, but it is doable in sneakers or hiking boots.
From the Cooper cabin (the hotel site is just above it) you can return to the peak via an easy walk out to the Ridge Run ski trail and hike up a short distance to the top of the Northridge Chair whence a boardwalk leads you back up to the gondola and Peak Lodge.
Alternatively, to reach the historical site, you can take the boardwalk down to the top of the Northridge Triple Chair. Proceed left down Ridge Run, watching for the trail to Cooper’s Lodge which will be on your left.
There’s an outdoor picnic area by the Peak Lodge, which is just below the K-1 top terminal. It has food service, restrooms, and tremendous views, too.