Black Mountain rises abruptly from the West River in Dummerston to a horseshoe ridge with a summit of 1,280 feet. The mountain originated as a mass of molten rock deep beneath the surface of the earth between 345 and 395 million years ago. Magma rose from beneath the crust of the earth and intruded into the native rock, forming a granite dome. Over the past 350 million years or so, erosion has exposed the granite that forms the core of the mountain.
What to see: plants
The lower slopes of the mountain are covered by pine, hemlock, and hardwood forests. As you hike up the mountain the dominant tree species change with the geology, elevation, and soil moisture of the site. Near the top you’ll come across a 70-acre pitch pine-oak- heath rocky summit woodland community normally associated with the sandy areas of New England’s coastal plains. There is also a 100-acre red pine community clearly visible from the village of West Dummerston. A large population of mountain laurel produces a magnificent display of showy pink flowers in June.
Four plant species found at Black Mountain are very rare in the state of Vermont including pitch pine and scrub oak trees, which are at the northern end of their range here. Black Mountain’s high plant diversity is due in part to the horseshoe shape of the mountain, which creates a water collecting bowl that produces ideal conditions for moist forests, streams, and wetlands different from the drier portions of the mountain.
What to see: animals
Ravens, turkey vultures, and deer are commonly seen on Black Mountain. If you look closely you’ll find coyote tracks and bear scat. Moose have even made it this far south.
Why the Conservancy selected this site
The complex of dry ridgetop communities on Black Mountain’s rugged granite contours is exemplary for the region.
What the Conservancy is doing
The Nature Conservancy has protected 332 acres at Black Mountain Natural Area with fee ownership and conservation easements. In 2001, the stewardship team and a group of volunteers improved the trail system and built a 90-foot boardwalk over the wetland area at the base of the mountain.
There is a trail here with access from Rice Farm Road. The ascent to the summit is a difficult, 1.5-mile climb. Please read our preserve visitation guidelines.
From 1-91, get off at Exit 4 to Putney. Take a left off the exit ramp and go south 2.4 miles on Route 5 and turn right on the East West Road. Continue through East Dummerston and Dummerston Center for 4.5 miles and turn left onto Quarry Road (unpaved), just before the covered bridge over the West River. Go south on Quarry Road. At 1.4 miles the road becomes Rice Farm Road at an out-of-service, green steel bridge across the West River. From here keep going 0.5 mile to a parking pull-off on the right. The natural area is across the road from the pull-off, up a long grassy drive on the left. The trail is marked with a sign.
From Brattleboro, travel north on Route 30 about 6.6 miles to East West Road and take a right onto this road to cross the West River at the covered bridge. Just across the river, take a right onto Quarry Road and travel south on it, following the directions above from Quarry Road.