Mt. Philo State Park

Tips for Birding

Birdwatching in Vermont, pp. 58-59.

The one-mile access road to the summit of Mount Philo makes for an enjoyable, uncrowded walk and there are plenty of birds to be seen along the way.

Mount Philo State Park is a renowned hawk-watching location and offers stunning views of the Champlain Valley. After many years of counting at the summit, a new count site has been built at the “North Meadow,” which you can enter via the blue gate.

This site offers an open view to the north, as well as a picnic table and extra space for setting up spotting scopes. This hawk counting site can get crowded with hawk watchers and official counters, making setting up and using scopes difficult.

This site can be reached by hiking up from the lower parking lot, which takes 20 minutes, or down from the top parking lot, which takes 15 minutes. However, there is no parking available at the blue gate.

Birds of Interest

Warblers, thrushes, grosbeaks, vireos, and flycatchers are common. On one bird walk, we discovered a Barred Owl nest. A bird list compiled in 2011 included 101 species observed at Mount Philo during the breeding bird atlas survey. Especially noteworthy in September is the annual migration of raptors through the Champlain Valley. Hawk watchers from Vermont flock to Mount Philo to observe this annual spectacle.

About this Location

Mount Philo State Park (237 acres), sitting atop 968-foot Mount Philo, became the first Vermont State Park in 1924. With breathtaking views of the Lake Champlain Valley and New York’s Adirondack Mountains, the park is a favorite of hikers and picnickers and includes a small campground.

G. Lewis and Associates, proprietors of the Mount Philo Inn, built the original carriage road to the top of Mount Philo in 1903. Inn guests were able to ride to the top of the mountain in horse-drawn surreys. Traces of the original road are still visible in sections along the current park road, and the inn still stands outside the park’s southwest boundary. Toward the end of the first decade of the 20th Century, Mrs. Frances Humphreys acquired the mountain property. In 1924 Mrs. Humphreys deeded the 150 acres to the State for use as a recreational area. In the early 1930s, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) unit was assigned to the mountain. This crew built the current access road, campground, ranger’s quarters, picnic area, and summit lodge. Subsequent donations have been added: John and Hobart Wells deeded 13.45 acres in 1969 and Charles and Gwen Allmon deeded 69 acres in 2009.

Today the park attracts hundreds of hikers, picnickers, and nature watchers each day during the busy summer months. The summit access road allows visitors to drive to the top, or a 0.75-mile hiking trail leads to the mountain’s summit for more ambitious visitors. Hikers are likely to see a variety of wildlife including white-tailed deer or moose. The park is an excellent spot to watch autumn bird migrations and is noted for raptor watching. A small campground is located on the north side of the park. Due to the steep grade and narrow width of the roadway, recreational vehicles are not suited to this park.

As at any trailhead parking lot, it is always wise to lock your car and keep your valuables out of sight.

The park also has a rustic, 1930s lodge that can seat up to 60 people and has electricity, grills, tables, chairs, and a nearby restroom.

Notable Trails

The TrailFinder website has a description and map of a hike at Mount Philo State Park.


  • Restrooms on site

  • Entrance fee

  • Wheelchair accessible trail

Content from Official Website, Top 14 Most Breathtaking Hawkwatching Sites in VT, Maine, and NH, and Bruce MacPherson, Green Mountain Audubon Society

Last updated September 14, 2023