The Palisades, A Quick But Scenic Hike in Fairlee, Vermont

Even though it may be a relatively less-visited corner in Vermont, the Upper Valley has a lot of things going for it.

Particularly the area around Fairlee and Thetford (where I lived for almost two years before moving to Charlottesville, Virginia) is a hugely popular summer camp destination. There are several summer camps to be found there, most of them situated on the shore of the two lakes—Lake Fairlee and Lake Morey. It those lakes that make this area so attractive in the year’s hottest season. In addition to all kinds of water sports, from standup paddle boarding to swimming and canoeing, you can also hit some of the trails that crisscross the woods and mountains surrounding the lakes. A particularly scenic hike in this part of Vermont, albeit a short one, is The Palisades hike in Fairlee.

Interstate 91 and Connecticut River, seen from The Palisades, Fairlee
Interstate 91 and Connecticut River, seen from The Palisades, Fairlee

Scenic Views on The Palisades Hike in Fairlee, Vermont

The Palisades hike in Fairlee is a pretty short one. It is only 1.1 miles (1.8 kilometers) one way. However, there is a 400-foot (122-meter) elevation gain, which could make it a bit of a challenge for people not used to hiking. It must be said, though, that much of that elevation gain is covered in the first short section of the hike.

The hike starts off pretty steep, but kind of levels out as you go along, eventually running up and down through a typical forest in Vermont. It ends at The Palisades, which is essentially an overlook atop a sheer rock cliff behind the Fairlee town center.

Connecticut River seen from The Palisades hike in Fairlee, Vermont
Connecticut River seen from a clearing in the woods

There are no railings or any other form of protection at the tops of the cliffs, so you’re advised to keep your distance from the ledge. Also, this is an important nesting area for peregrine falcons and the trail might be closed, or access limited, from about mid-March to early-August, which is the falcons’ nesting season. Make sure not to disturb these vulnerable birds this time of year.

I can’t describe the views from The Palisades as anything else than impressive. Although this is not a 360-degree view, it takes in a lot—from the Fairlee town center with its iconic steel bridge and Interstate 91 to the Connecticut River and the mountains of New Hampshire beyond.

Fairlee bridge seen from The Palisades
Fairlee bridge seen from The Palisades

The Palisades hike in Fairlee takes about 25 minutes up and 20 minutes down, making for a scenic, short and easy one-hour hike (including some time to enjoy the views and catch a breath).

You can park your vehicle at the parking lot at the Fairlee Fire Station, on Lake Morey Road. The trailhead lies on the edge of the woods on the side of the Fairlee exit ramp on Interstate 91 South.

If you’re in the area and want more scenic views, definitely check out the hike to Bald Top Mountain. That trailhead lies behind the boat ramp on the shore of Lake Morey.

Panorama from The Palisades in Fairlee, Vermont
Panorama from The Palisades

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