Fortnightly Feature: Chipman Hill

By Morgan Perlman, Staff Writer

For an accessible, quick and nearby adventure in celebration of Vermont’s warmer May weather, Chipman Hill is a special place. Just on the outskirts of the northern part of town, Chipman Hill may just be the most prominent geographic feature of Middlebury. Rising 360 feet above the town and holding the spire of a cell tower on top, many recognize this little mountain as they see it walking by Ross or lounging in the blue chairs on the eastern side of Davis Library.

Others may know Chipman for the way it blocks the view from the top of Mount Abraham, where nearly the entire Champlain Valley can be seen on a clear day except for Middlebury, which sits under Chipman’s shadow. The hill itself has some unique trails and recreation opportunities that make this defining feature of Middlebury even more interesting to observe and wonder about.

As it turns out, Chipman Hill has a unique history as a recreation area. Back in the 1940s and 50s the western side (or front side) that abuts Route 7 was home to Middlebury College’s ski area. That’s right, before we had the Snowbowl, we had Chipman Hill. It featured a meager 360 feet of vertical drop and included a ski jumping facility. Today, Chipman Hill boasts a network of trails, which are all connected to the TAM (Trail Around Middlebury) and are well suited for a variety of outdoor activities, all within walking distance of the college and town.

With a large strand of older growth white pines and a beautiful mix of hardwood forests, this little land trust preserve on the outskirts of town is perfect for a local nature walk and a meditative escape from campus life. If you are a runner, the steep hill climb offers an excellent and grueling training route. For mountain bikers, the network of trails — including little side jumps and obstacles on the backside — is an enticing destination for a quick, thrilling ride. With its steep pitch, even a short downhill ski in the winter is not out of the question.

Accessing Chipman Hill is simple from three different Middlebury streets. On the front side, an old, degrading road rises up to the top from a gate at the end of Hill Street before the intersection of Route 7.  At the end of the steepest ascent on this trail is a clearing surrounded by towering white pines. And there is a conveniently placed picnic table and bench with excellent views of the town and the college.

The other access point is at the end of Springside Street, essentially forming a loop from Hill Street. This degrading road, now-turned-trail is likely the remnants of the old ski area. The third access point is via the TAM trail, which goes up the backside of Chipman Hill and can be, of course, accessed through the TAM.

The closest TAM trailhead is just off Washington Street, where there is a kiosk in an open field across from the intersection of Peterson Terrace Road. From there, the trail follows the mowed contours of a farmer’s field and into a hardwood forest on Chipman’s backside. This trail eventually intersects the old road at the top that connects to the trailheads on the Hill and Springside streets. Chipman Hill offers many options for a quick and nearby escape from campus. For further information, has a good map with detailed mileage information about the trails.