The 360 degree panorama from the firetower atop Gile Mountain is one of the areaâ€™s most extensive views, and most accessible. On a clear day, a half-hour walk reveals views of the White Mountains and much of the Connecticut River valley in between. Gile Mountain, with its proximity to Hanover, is worth climbing in all seasons to appreciate the variety of New Englandâ€™s landscape. From the flashy glory of fall foliage to the gnarled knobs of the winter landscape, and from the pollen-filled air of late spring to the sultry haze of summer, Gile Mountain is a local favorite.
How To Get There
Cross the Connecticut River into Norwich, and follow Main Street under I-91 into the center of town. Pass Dan & Whitâ€™s general store (0.0 miles) on the left and continue straight through town on Main Street. Turn left onto Turnpike Road at 0.6 miles. Stay left at the fork with New Boston Road at 1.5 miles. At 3.2 miles, stay straight on Lower Turnpike Road. The road turns to gravel here, as Upper Turnpike Road leaves to the right. At 5.8 miles, the road thins to a two-rut road. On the right, a veteran Norway spruce stands in the door yard of an old farmhouse. A sign to the left of the road says PARKING FOR TOWER TRAIL. Park here and check the kiosk before beginning.
EASY Hike: 1.4 miles (1 hour) â€” 7.3 miles from Hanover
The trail begins as a two-rut road heading gently uphill from the left side of the road (0.0 miles). A painted sign on the venerable white pine marks the way.
At 0.2 miles, the trail turns right off of the woods road and begins ascending through open hardwoods.
At 0.4 miles, the trail crosses straight under power lines carrying electricity from Wilder Dam. Re-entering the woods, the trail cuts to the right.
At 0.6 miles, after switchbacking left across the hillside, the trail turns back to the right through a recently logged area and ascends the summit ridge.
At 0.7 miles, the old fire rangerâ€™s cabin is reached. Late in the last century, eighty percent of Vermont was cleared land. Today the opposite is true â€” eighty percent of the land is forested. During this transition, as farms were abandoned and pastures became choked with saplings, forest fires were common throughout New England. Numerous fire towers were built on hilltops, with fire rangers monitoring the valleys below. Improved fire fighting techniques, however, and an older forest better able to retain moisture have made large forest fires increasingly rare. As a result, most of the firetowers and ranger cabins across New England have been abandoned.
A dozen yards behind and to the left of the cabin is the summit of Gile Mountain with its fire tower. The rocky ledges supporting the tower are known geologically as the â€œGile Mountain Formationâ€, which was first described scientifically on this spot. The Gile Mountain Formation originated as oceanic ooze that was squeezed up into mountains when Africa collided with North America almost 400 million years ago. This rock, which tends to break up into flat slate-like pieces, underlies much of Norwich and the towns to the north and south.
The panorama, in brief: standing alone in the south is Mount Ascutney. Killington, with its ski trails, is to the southwest. Ellen and Abraham, also with ski trails, are north of west. The upper knob of Camelâ€™s Hump just sticks up over the church steeple in South Strafford. Mount Lafayette in the White Mountains rises over the northern ridge of Moosilauke to the northeast. The long ridge connecting Mounts Cube, Smarts, Holtâ€™s and Moose lies to the east. Baker Tower is just visible over the trees at the foot of the Bloody Brook valley, stretching away to the southeast.
Return to your car via the same route.
Gile also makes for an excellent bike n' hike trip. The ride out is low in traffic, and largely on pretty dirt roads - and in the fall, you can find a number of good apple trees overhanging the road. Here are a few tips if you're planning on leading a biking trip to Gile:
- Bikes can be rented from DOR. Mountain bikes are preferable, as the road can be rather rocky in places.
- Helmets! Remind your trippees to bring helmets. These can also be rented from DOR, or the attic of The Rock, if need be.
- Don't forget to bring a few bike locks to secure your bikes at the trailhead.
- The ride back is mostly downhill and can be very cold. If the weather is at all chilly, remind your trippees to bring windbreakers, hats, and gloves - then go ahead and bring some extras yourself.
Group: 8: Sam Kernan (Leader), Adam Schneider (Heeler), Kimberly Strauch, Alexa Krupp, Hongyu Chen, Alison Helzer, Margaret Allyn and Betsy Winkle.
Weather: Partly Cloudy but fairly warm. The trail was mostly dry, but there were some brief muddy sections.
Time: 20 minutes ascending, an hour at the top drinking hot chocolate and watching the sunset, and 15 minutes back down.
Notes: The leaves have for the most part all fallen, but the view is still great from the top of the fire tower. It is definitely still a worth while trip, even in late fall. There are some dips in the trail that are muddy, but the trail is otherwise in very good condition.
Group size: 12
Leaders: Annie Laurie Mauhs-Pugh, Christopher Rhoades
Weather: Misty, temperature in mid-30s
The trail was covered with ~3in. of snow, but some sections were treacherous with ice underneath the snow. We had a themos of hot chocolate and Collis pastries at the ranger cabin.
NOTE: we originally reserved a microbus, but we had 17+ signups, so we decided to reserve 2 sprinter vans instead. Only 12 people showed up, though. Given the early departure for a sunrike, we should have just taken a microbus in anticipation of crumping
2/26/2012 Group: Farzeen Mahmud '12 (heeler), Max Deibel '14 (co-leader), Sam Kernan '14, Melinda Tascarella '14, Anabelle Ferguson '15 Weather: Clear, blue skies. Recent heavy snowfall on trail. What brought us there: We drove to the trailhead from Hanover via sprinter van (8 had originally signed up). In addition to the vehicle, our general desire to be outside and near the snow brought us there. Summary: The trail was covered in ~4-6 inches of fluffy snow, the sky was clear. We just walked in each others' footsteps. No hiccups. We walked up to the shelter near the firetower, sat in the hammocks, admired the semi-permanent semi-chair, Melinda climbed into the loft and poked her head out for us to take silly pictures from. We ate pears and dates and bread and there were Sunbelt bars in our presence. We walked up the firetower, after Max told an excellent story regarding a proposal that once happened on Gile Firetower. We stood atop the tower and identified Franc Ridge, Moosilauke, and could not pick out Baker Tower amidst the distinctive shades of winter gray in the distance. We climbed down and walked back to the parking lot, and drove home! All done between 9-12 PM. No crampons were needed. Conditions were totally mild.
5/25/2012 Leaders: David CS and Hannah McGehee (Heeler) Weather: Overcast but warm (not ideal for a sunrike, but lovely for hiking) Summary: The trail to the Gile firetower made for a nice and easy hike, perfect for a sunrike. We left at 4:35am from Robo, and made it to the tower by 5:15, the time when the sun was rising (a bit hidden by clouds). We then meandered back to campus and walked to Lou's for a lovely breakfast with great company. Overall, the trip lasted from 4:30-7:45am. Perfect way to start the day!
06/12/2012 Sunset Hike
- Group: 16: Paige Wilson (Leader), Kaila Pedersen (Heeler). Graylin Harrison; Catherine J. Meyer; Taha N. Adib; Blaine W. Ponto; Xinyue Guo; Steven A. Tebbe; Scott D. Nelson; Peter J. Barkat; Wei Wu; Katherine Tai; Malika Khurana; Shea Flanagan; Sean Hammett.
- Weather: Fairly warm and clear with some hazy cloud coverage up high.
- Time: Left Hanover at 7:45, reached the top around 8:20 and spent a while there chatting, enjoying the view, and watching the sun set. 20 minutes back down in partial light with a stop at the hut.
- Notes: The weather was close to perfect, albeit a little humid. Took the microbus to accommodate all trippees. Resisted the temptation to stop at the Norwich Fair.
3/29/2012 Sunset Hike
- Group: Eleven total. Steve Tebbe (leader), Hunter van Adelsberg (heeler), Diane Qi, Robert Greer, Rachel Gray, Christopher Dalldorf, Miranda Stein, Robert Herbst, Julia Zaskorski, Akash Kar, and Josie-Dee Seagren.
- Weather: Cloudy at first, but cleared up in time to see the sunset. Chilly, but not awful.
- Time: Left Hanover at 5:30, got to the top a little before 7:00, hung out for a while. The light faded as we hiked back down, and it was dark by the time we got to the van. Back on campus by 8:30.
- Notes: It wasn't too cold at first, but up on top of the firetower it was pretty windy, and the temperature dropped as the sun dipped. Long story short, make sure to bring a few extra layers if you're hiking Gile this time of year. Also, the trail was caked with packed snow/ice in many places, so snow shoes were a necessity for everyone.
- Group:10 total, Jamie Mercado (Leader), Kassie Amann (Heeler)
- Weather: Overcast, with a bit of snow near the end. The trail was well-packed snow with no mud peeking through.
- Time: 30 minutes up and about an hour at the top drinking hot chocolate, eating snacks, and talking and 15 minutes back down.
- Notes: The rocks near the top can be a little bit slippery in the winter, but other than that the trail is very manageable and without microspikes (but bring them, just in case!). It was cold, but the snacks kept morale up, and the view from the top was beautiful, as per usual.
- Group: 9 total: Fredrik Eriksson (leader), Diane Qi (heeler), Shannon Cleary, Veri Di Suvero, Sarah Watson, Jaclyn Kimball, Grace Davis, Dana Wieland, Rebecca Rowland
- Weather: Warm and a little humid but not too bad, good temperature for hiking. Very foggy near the top and the fog largely obscured the view from the firetower.
- Time: Left Hanover at 7AM. Reached the top around 8AM. Went down at 8:20 and reached the bottom at 8:40.
- Group: 10 total: David Polashenski (leader), Renata Hegyi (heeler), Livia Clandorf, Annika Roise, Christine Luu, Rachel Onserio, Connie Lee, Victor Borza, Abigail Chen, and Daniel Pomerantz
- Weather: Nice and warm, great for a jaunt into the woods.
- Time: Left campus at 4pm, we were back by 5:30. Definitely did not hurry, hung out at the fire tower to admire some early fall foliage.
- Group: 7 total: Eliza Rockafeller (leader), Jessie Colin (heeler), Kassaundra Amann, Livia Clandorf, Laura Jeliazkov, Priya Ramaiah, and Emma Sklarin
- Weather: Rain cleared up, a bit chilly but sunny
- Time: Left campus around 2:15 pm, we were back by 5:00 pm. Spent over a half hour doing nart (nature + art) at the firetower.
- Group: 15 total: Eliza Rockefeller (leader), Sophie d'Orchimont (heeler), Dan Pomerantz, Macy Ferguson, Priya Ramaiah, Christopher Park, Christine Luu, Gretchen Herrick, Jarrett Taylor, Emmanuel Kim, Roberto Lopez, Caroline Braun, Julia Granito, Cara Labrador, Hannah Nash
- Weather: Pretty cloudy, so the sunset wasn't super visible, but nice temperature (a little humid though). It had rained recently and some of the rocks near the top were pretty slippery.
- Time: Left campus around 7:30 p.m., were back by 9:30 p.m. Reached the top well in time for the sunset, stayed there for a while, and spent some time eating snacks in the building really close to the firetower on our way back down.
9/19/2015 - Sunrike
- Group: Fredrik Eriksson (leader), Adam Burnett (heeler), Aidan O’Day, Lex Foote, Evan Morgan, Alyssa Baker, Lindsey Hodel
- Weather: Pretty clear, with a few clouds high in the sky that only made the sunrise more varied and more beautiful. Copious fog filled the valleys, but we poked up above it, so we still got great views that stretched as far as Franconia Notch. The fog gradually climbed and moved toward us, and we left the top just as the fog was reaching us. Temperatures were in the mid-50s Fahrenheit, and things were generally pretty comfortable, although it became chillier when the fog moved in.
- Time: We left campus at 5:30 AM and were back at 7:50 AM. The hike was about 30 minutes up and 20 minutes down.
7/4/2016 - Sunset hike
- Group: Adam Burnett (leader), Robert Wright III (heeler), Michael Koshakow, Zoe Rivas, Cristel Callupe Chavez, Tom Schwantje, Mikiko Takato, Clare Carlile, Deana Chou, Kirstyn Coxen
- Weather: It was warm, with some clouds and no precipitation. We got clear views and a nice sunset.
- Trail Conditions: Perfect. No obstacles or problems with water flow across the path.
- Time: Left campus at 8:00 PM, back by 9:40. Ascending and descending each took about 20 minutes. We spent about 45 minutes on and around the fire tower.