The last three days of my trip I stayed in Stowe, VT. This part of the trip was all about the hiking and I was in the absolute perfect location for it. About 15 minutes from my hotel was Mount Mansfield, the highest point in Vermont. Across from that, Sterling Mountain, which has a great hike to the pond located at the top.
When I was researching my trip I found it absolutely impossible to find any information on hiking. There were sites that said the name of different hiking trails but not the location. Frustrating to say the least for an ultraplanner like me.
Here what I recommend. Before you set out on your hike, stop by one of the two stores along Vt. 108 heading North toward Smuggler’s Notch that say “Hiking Information” on a sign outside. Pick up a map it will show you all of the trails, and the staff is super helpful.
The first day I started out a bit late and decided to do what I thought would be a short trek up to Sterling pond. The hike clocked in at about 1.4 miles to the pond, so close to 3 miles in total. The only problem- it was constant climbing to the top, the full 1.4 miles, challenging to say the least. On top of that it was raining on and off and 3/4 of the trail followed a stream bed, sometimes it was in the stream. So I was happy that my hiking boots were waterproof.
The rain actually had a really cool affect making the trail misty at parts.
The pond at the top was eerie. With all the fog on the surface I couldn’t see more than maybe 50 yards in. Beautiful!
The second day I got an early start and set out to make it to the top of Mount Mansfield for what would soon come to be known as my first all-day solo hike.
The entrance to the trail is a bit tricky to find. From Stowe, head North on Vermont 108 toward Stowe Mountain Ridge. Pass Smuggler’s Notch State Park, the resort, and look for a very small maybe 8 car parking lot right past the Gondola’s. The start of the trail is actually a couple yards off the road and super easy to miss if you don’t know where your looking. From the parking lot, walk back down the street as if you were going to Stowe, and keep a look out for a sign on your right hand side, it’s big and white (you’ll see it!). Be sure you go on a clear day!
You hike on Long Trail for about 2 miles. Some of it’s steep, but a pretty relaxing hike. Oh- and did I mention gorgeous…
I found a shoe along the way. tehe And was on the lookout for a one shoe hiker the rest of the day. First there was the sole, then a couple yards later, the boot.
A perfect place for lunch is Taft Lodge, at the point where Long Trail branches into three different trails. There’s a picnic table and a great overlook. Take a break for a bit and enjoy the view!
At this point you have two choices to get to the top aka. The Chin. You can continue along Long Trail or take Profanity. They are completely different. Profanity follows a dry river bed the whole way up, it’s shorter but a bit more tedious, and a straight climb up to the top. The Long Trail has stents of flat bits where you can catch your breath as you make your way up. It’s longer. There are sections where you are bouldering – seriously climbing over massive boulders – and right before you make it to the top some free form mountain climbing. The foot holds and hand holds are well used and easy to find but for a first time mountain climber, it was terrifying! No pics. Sorry- but I was a bit preoccupied. haha
Here’s what I did, take Long Trail to the top, and Profanity down. The mountain climbing was a lot of fun going up but there was no way that I was going to attempt it going down. By taking Profanity down, I was able to hop skip and skid down the super rocky trail and make it down in half the time and without a panic attack.
And drum roll! Here’s the top:
The top was full of people even though I’d barely seen anyone on the trail. I later found out that there’s a way to drive to the top on the Toll Rd.
Once on the top you can hike along the ridge line making your way to the different features of the mountain named because of it’s shape similar to the profile of a face. From the Chin you can go to The Nose and the Forehead. These are a super easy stroll along the rocky top of the mountain.
Off the Long Trail are tons of little trails. On my way back from The Forehead I decided to take one to see a little different view of the mountain so I headed down Canyon North Extension. It ended up to be the most difficult and best hike I have ever taken. Hands down. It was even the perfect break from the swarm of people on the top. I didn’t see a single person along the entire trail.
You hike down a bit, the trail is narrow, than it levels out going over boulders, through open caves, then back up, through another cave to the top. Absolutely awesome!
Here’s some pics:
Follow the Yellow Brick Road!
Totally recommend it!!
Then it was back down the mountain. This time taking Profanity. To find the trail look for a sign on your right hand side (if your walking back from The Forehead) a little ways from where you first got to the top from Long Trail. Not a lot of people take it and for me it was the perfect descent.
– Fuel up before you go with a big breakfast. Carbs and some protein are a must here.
– Always Always bring water. On hikes like these it’s easiest if you carry it to where your hands are free – be it a backpack or strapped around your waist. On these trails, and all of the trails outside of Stowe, there is no place to refill. You can drink from the springs along the trail – I did this twice but of coarse be careful, and do so at your own risk. A great idea is to pack your own water bottle and fill it up before you head out at the hotel.
– If your prone to getting lost (me me me!), stop by one of the two stores that say “Hiking Information” along VT. 108 as you head North outside of Stowe and pick up a map. I had one and still managed to get lost on both of my hikes, which brings me to tip number 4.
– Look up every couple of yards from the trail and find the blaze marking the path. In the pic above they’re blue. Different trails have different colored blazes and should be marked every couple of yards. This should keep you from getting lost.
– Take an energy bar or two. I love Raw Revolution Bars- the Chocolate Cashew flavor is awesome. Cliff Bars, Kind Bars, and Luna Bars are all great choices too.
– Sign in at the head of the trail. This is really important if you’re hiking by yourself, just in case anything happens and bring your phone!
– Wear good hiking shoes that are preferably waterproof. It rains a lot in Vermont and most of the trails follow river banks at some point. Wool socks are good too – insulating and quick drying.
Have fun out there and happy hiking!