The Green Mountains dominate Vermont, and Vermont dominates the Green Mountains. No other state and mountain range have such a close, symbiotic relationship--the word Vermont is even a French contraction for "green mountain". A long, straight range of gentle, rounded peaks running for 155 miles from Quebec to Massachusetts, the Greens are not as high or rugged as the White Mountains to the east or the Adirondacks to the west, but no one really minds, since the Green Mountains' rolling, forested hillsides provide the perfect backdrop for Vermont's picture-postcard rural villages. They also serve as ideal terrain for easy long-distance hiking on the Long Trail, downhill skiing at a huge array of first-class resorts, and driving hundreds of miles of soothing country roads, especially in autumn when the mountain's namesake green turns into an incredible display of reds, oranges, and yellows.
Although basically a range of rolling swells of forest, there are a few spots in the Green Mountains where the summits rise above the trees as impressive peaks, most notaby, by far, at Mount Mansfield (4393'). Four other mountains rise above 4000 feet, and although their above-timberline area is miniscule, they still provide fine hiking objectives and excellent scenery in the overall context of the Appalachians; compared with most of the Southern Appalachians, for example, the Greens and their relatively low timberline look pretty impressive. And unlike the nearby Adirondacks and White Mountains, the Green Mountains remain relatively high much further south. Killington Peak (4241') is the southernmost 4000 footer in New England, and 3500 footers are found right up to the Vermont's southern boundary, a latitude at which the both the Adirondacks and Whites have disappeared entirely, making these peaks much more accessible to the huge populations in the Mid-Atlantic area.
The backbone of the Green Mountains is the Long Trail, a 270-mile footpath running the entire length of the chain from Quebec to Massachusetts, climbing over virtually every major summit. The Appalachian Trail uses the southern half of the Long Trail before, leaving it to head towards New Hampshire just north of Killington Peak. Hiking the entire Long Trail, a trip of about three or four weeks, is an alternative to through-hiking the A.T. for those who can't take off four to six months or would enjoy a slower-paced, smaller-scale, yet somewhat similar adventure.
Despite the excellent hiking and backpacking opportunities on the Long Trail, skiing is the reason most people visit the Green Mountains. The major ski areas of the state--from north to south: Jay, Stowe, Sugarbush, Killington, Okemo, Stratton, and Mount Snow--present a formidable lineup of the finest downhilling in the east. This is in large part due to the Greens' mountainous yet gentle terrain, which is not as steep or craggy as in the Adirondacks or White Mountains, making it perfect for the masses seeking long but easy runs. The southern Vermont resorts also benefit from closeness to large cities like New York, while the northern Green Mountains receive heavy "Champlain Powder" snowfall from clouds that have passed over the Great Lakes (Lake Champlain itself is too small to generate much lake-effect snow). However, before any of you western skiers get too excited, please realize that Vermont skiing is still eastern, meaning that man-made snow, icy conditions, relatively narrow trails, and bitter midwinter cold are all frequent hazards. Still, the northern Green Mountains may be your best bet in the east for western-style powder skiing.
Cross country skiing is also very popular in the rolling foothills of the Green Mountains, and the now-complete (as of 2008) Catamount Trail, roughly paralleling the Long Trail from one end of the state to the other, is perhaps the premier long-distance skiing trail on the east coast.
Car tourists will find Vermont's winding back roads, punctuated by quaint little towns dominated by white church steeples, a real pleasure. VT Route 100, like the Long Trail and the Catamount Trail, runs the entire length of the Green Mountains, near their crest, and connects most major ski areas as well as providing a scenic drive. The fall foliage in the northeastern United States is possibly the most spectacular in the world (along with that of Hokkaido, Manchuria, and southeastern Siberia in Asia) and the extensive, rounded, forested, and largely rural hills and mountains of Vermont are the ideal place to take in this spectacle.