A Traveler’s Guide to Hiking in Stowe, VT
Stowe, Vermont is a four-season destination that’s perfect for spring sojourns, summer getaways, fall vacations, and winter retreats. With just over 4000 people to its name, it’s by no means the kind of buzzing metropolis that offers 24/7 thrills and spills. It does, however, do a great line in outdoor recreation. If your dream vacation involves sturdy boots, walking poles, and Gore-tex layers, you’re going to love it. Regardless of when you visit, you’ll find plenty to keep yourself busy in the trails and forests of the surrounding landscape. Before you head off, be sure to check out the suggestions in our traveler’s guide to hiking in Stowe, VT.
As Stow Country Homes notes, one of the most standout features in Stowe is the majestic Mt. Mansfield. In addition to boasting the title of Vermont’s highest peak, Mt. Mansfield has the distinction of being home to the largest alpine ecosystem in the state. Hikers are blessed with several equally worthy trails. Cliff Trail is a long, challenging path that sweeps from the top of the gondola to the peak. Stowe Hiking Trail is a gentler but no less rewarding hike that stretches for half a mile from the Visitor Centre on Auto Toll Road to the summit. Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll be blessed with sweeping views of Lake Champion, the White Mountains, the Adirondacks, and the Green Mountains. Those with eagle vision might even be able to make out Mont Royal just across the Canadian border.
If you’re short on time but desperate to stretch your legs in stunning scenery, try the short but surprisingly steep Stowe Pinnacle. As stowevtproperties.com notes, the 2.8 mile round trip features stunning views and beautiful wildflowers. The first half of the trail passes through pastures: follow the path long enough and you’ll eventually land on the equally noteworthy Skyline Trail. To get to the trail, turn into School Street from Stow Village and head north. Once you reach the split in the road, bear right and continue for two miles until you reach the small parking area midway up the hill.
If you’re looking for a little more adventure than Stowe Pinnacle provides, you might want to take the advice of edsonhill.com and take the short trip out to nearby Waterbury to try out the challenging 4 mile Mount Hunger trail. As part of Putnam State Forest, the trail is a glorious combination of sweeping views and forestland. Providing the weather is for you and not against you, you might be able to see the White Mountains of New Hampshire and even Mt. Washington in the distance. Although the hike is worth your time regardless of the season, be mindful that snow can linger near the summit until around mid-May. If you’re planning on visiting beforehand, make sure to wear sturdy footwear and warm clothing.
Sterling Pond Trail may be steep, but it’s short and easy enough to be tackled by most skill levels. With stunning panoramas over the Smugglers Notch ski area and its own alpine pond, it’s one of the most beautiful hikes in Stowe. The trail can be accessed off Route 108: park at the Smugglers’ Notch Park visitor center parking lot to access the trailhead. If you want to keep things short and sweet, the main trail’s easy 2-mile round trip can be completed in just an hour. If you want to extend the experience by a further 1.4 miles, take the trail around the pond.
Moss Glen Falls
Despite being relatively short (just 2.9 miles all-round), Moss Glen Falls is big on rewards. The trail meaders alongside the Moss Glen Brook, offering a pleasant walk with plenty of opportunities for paddling in the water. Once you reach the end, you’ll be rewarded with the site of a majestic,125 foot 4 tiered waterfall. To get to the trail, head north on Route 108 for around 3 miles. Turn right onto Randolph Road and then right again onto Moss Gelen Falls Road. The trailhead is around half a mile down the road on the left-hand side.
Bingham Falls offers plenty of bang for your buck. Hiking, snowshoeing, ice climbing, skiing, and swimming are all available, depending on both the season and your own taste for adventure. To get to the trailhead, drive just a little south of Smuggler’s Notch State Park Campground on Route 108. There are pull-offs on both see of the road but you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for the well-hidden signs signaling the start of the trailhead. Although short (1.2 miles there and back), the trail packs plenty of scenic panoramas and a fair few challenges besides. The trek downhill to the top of the gorge is easy enough, but the steep incline down to the base of the falls will challenge even the fittest on the ascend. As the trail can get wet in parts, be sure to wear appropriate footwear with non-slip soles.
If you want to experience some great Stowe hiking without breaking too much of a sweat in the process, Kirchner Woods comes highly recommended. Located on the grounds of a former maple sugaring house, the woods include three main trails during the summer and a few more during winter. With gentle elevations, gorgeous terrain, and some breathtaking views once you reach the summit, it’s a great hike that offers plenty of fun for very little effort. Dogs are welcome, but be sure to keep yours leashed if you bring them along.
Sunset Rock might be one of the most underused trails in Stowe, but that’s in no way to suggest it’s not worthy of a visit. In fact, many people consider it to be something of a hidden gem. Located just a short way from Stowe Village, you can access it by walking a quarter of a mile up from the village to the end of Sunset Street. As there’s no parking available at the trailhead, drivers will either need to park on Main Street or at the parking lot off of Tabor Hill Road. Once you’re on the trail, watch out for the Glacial Kettle Hole, a natural landmark that was created over 10,000 years ago when small pebbles swirled together to create a circular hole. Around 0.25 miles from the hole is the Upper Overlook, a great place to stop and admire the breathing views over Mount Mansfield.
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