11.4 miles, Full day
"So many moose!" This thought resonated between my ears all day: I saw no one from Hogback to Worcester despite it being Memorial Day. This 11.5 mile round trip offers up stunning views, solitude and 6000' of elevation gain, though interestingly, the summit in question is about 300' lower in elevation than one of the trail junctions.
I started from the Pinnacle Meadow parking lot, but certainly one could start from the lower Pinnacle lot, which was full today; this will tack an additional mile (round trip) and an extra 500' of ascent. The first mile and half dissapeared for me in half an hour, during which I saw plenty of folks heading up Stowe Pinnacle. After the Pinnacle/Skyline trail junction, all people and evidence thereof was switched off. I saw no one from that point until I returned there.
What I did see was miles and miles of pure, peaceful, unadulterated hard woods and birches on the way up Hogback.
After picking up 1,000 feet in a mile heading over Hogback to the Skyline trail junction, which incidentally is the highest point of the trip at 3573', the trail morphs into slightly disturbed ground cover. Painted trilliums and other plants are growing in the middle of this non-compacted trail surface. Exposed leaf litter and duff are the only indications of where the trail goes apart from blue blazes.
Three miles now separated me from Mount Worcester. There is a significant hill in between too, a couple of hundred feet higher than Worcester. A cleared vista area is the only siginficant suggestion of its prominence. The trail very faithfully follows the ridgeline and as a result, the elevation profile at first glance only conveys half of the up and down involved. The southern half of the Skyline Trail has its share of rocky changes in elevation, but the admittedly smoother path of this northern half packs a bit more punch.
On to the moose element: scat and footprints lined the trail solidly between Worcester and the middle peak. I never was fortunate enough to see a moose, but it would appear that the principal users of this trail are moose. There was evidence of bear too, but only in one place. The trail is often wet in places and though the ridgeline is not a wetland, it is pretty soft in many places off trail.
Clambering up the false summit offers a decent view of the surrounding topography to the southwest including West Hill, which Google Earth mistakenly throws in the path of the trail. (it is actually the little bump to the southeast of the middle peak). You will find yourself on the summit in 20 minutes.
It is wet, higher topped waterproof boots are a plus, though it is not as wet as the southern half of the Skyline trail. The first section after the Skyline trail junction is downhill and much like the trail you just came up; steep, wet and slippery. Pack a few liters of water and plan for a long trip; it took me 4:45 to do this trip, but I typically take less time than most people, run in places and take very few stops.