View of Vermont's Mount Equinox during Fall.
Mount Equinox View of Vermont's Mount Equinox during Fall. © Blake Gardener

Places We Protect

Equinox Highlands

Vermont

Experience New England’s largest contiguous rich northern hardwood forest community.

The Equinox Highlands, namely Mount Equinox (3,816 feet) and Mother Myrick Mountain (3,361 feet), are part of the northernmost sweep of the Taconic Mountains, and are considered one of the most important natural areas in the state. The largest rich northern hardwood forest in New England—over 2,000 acres—is located on Mount Equinox, and there is a smaller stand of this natural community type on Mother Myrick Mountain.

The deep humus soil that slowly slips down steep slopes into coves and pockets on these mountains provides a perfect environment for fast-growing hardwood trees and a wide array of spring ephemerals and other wildflowers—bloodroot, hepatica, Dutchman’s breeches, trillium, wild leek, wild ginger, squirrel corn and toothwort.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

The large expanse of rich woods and other natural communities including underground caves, calcareous fens and seeps found here are regionally significant. Botanists have long recognized the Equinox Highlands as a treasure trove of rare plants, and ecologists have recently begun to analyze the importance of this area for wide-ranging mammals like bobcats and black bears.

What the Conservancy is Doing

The Conservancy has been working to protect the rich woods in this area since the early 1990s. We continue to conserve land in conjunction with our partners, including the Vermont Land Trust, the Equinox Preservation Trust and the University of Vermont. In the spring of 2002, we produced a brochure for landowners that promotes sustainable logging practices, entitled Managing Rich Northern Hardwood Forests for Ecological Values and Timber Production.

There is no Conservancy trail on Mother Myrick Mountain. There is, however, a network of unmarked logging roads that can lead adventurous hikers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers to the summit of Mother Myrick or through the notch to Sandgate. If you walk a half-mile up Beartown Road from Three Maple Drive in Manchester, you’ll see the Conservancy’s boundary signs. From there you can orienteer to the top of Mother Myrick Mountain with a topo map and compass. 

Alternatively, you can hike the marked trails on Equinox Preservation Trust land at Mount Equinox. One place to catch these trails is the farthest parking lot behind the Equinox hotel in Manchester Village. At the back the parking lot is a kiosk with trail maps and information. Please read our Preserve Visitation Guidelines.

What to See: Plants

The rich northern hardwood forest is a distinct subtype of northern hardwood forest that includes sugar maple, white ash, basswood, black birch and many other tree species. The best examples of rich woods are located on steep slopes and coves with calcium-rich soils. The east flanks of Mother Myrick and Mount Equinox are ideal places to eye the profusion of spring wildflowers that covers the forest floor.

As you hike on the many old roads on Mount Equinox, you’ll come across a rich northern hardwood forest, and as you climb, you’ll enter a montane yellow-birch-red spruce woodland, which is a characteristic forest for this moderate elevation, consisting of paper birch, balsam fir, pin cherry, yellow birch and red spruce. A montane spruce-fir forest dominates the summit of Mount Equinox.

What to See: Animals

The Highlands are home to two species of globally rare bats (the Indiana bat and the eastern small-footed bat), the rare peregrine falcon and many common, wide-ranging species like black bear, bobcat, and neotropical migrant birds.