Outdoor fun, simplified for those of us who could use some simplicity.
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Outdoor fun. Simplified.
Subscribe to the Boston edition of Outdoor Fun Club and receive expert outdoor advice in your inbox every week. Be ready for the weekend.
July 11, 2012 / Issue #14
Spotlight On Stowe, VT
Most people associate Stowe, VT with skiing. With half a dozen ski resorts within 25 miles, that’s not so surprising. Stowe in the summer, however, is every bit as beautiful and a lot warmer. Great hiking, camping, biking, and swimming are all within your reach if you plan a trip to Stowe.
On your way into town, use your required stop at Ben & Jerry’s to pick up one or more four packs of Heady Topper Double IPA from the Alchemist Cannery. Trust us, it’s definitely worth it. This beer will make you consider relocating.
Indoors: There are plenty of lodging choices in and around Stowe but consider the Green Mountain Inn. It’s right in the center of town and you can gorge on the turkey dinner at The Whip after that crazy day outside.
Outdoors: Just a 20 minute drive past downtown Stowe, you will find Elmore State Park. We hesitate to recommend it because you may end up spending your whole time at the park! Great camp sites, a lake with swimming, boat rentals and fishing, and even a short hike up Elmore Mountain to the fire tower are just some of the options if you make your base here. It’s a guaranteed great time.
While everyone and their dogs will be hiking up the beautiful but crowded Sterling Pond Trail, we suggest you avoid the traffic jam and head over to the Stowe Pinnacle Trail instead. Only 2.8 miles from downtown Stowe, it’s such a great hike you might not be motivated to try anything else. A relatively easy 1.4 miles will take you to the 2,700’ summit (only 1,100′ of altitude gain from the base) with great payoff views of Stowe, Mt Mansfield and the surrounding area. Because this hike is so short, it’s a great hike to bring the kids and a lunch. The bald rock face and panorama will show the kids just why hiking is so great, but without too much of an effort to get to the top.
This hike is also a great candidate for a packed bottle of wine and some snacks. The sunsets are amazing and if you hustle you’ll still have time to scramble down before it gets too dark.
Where is it?
From downtown Main Street in Stowe, head south on School St for a quarter of a mile and bear right onto Stowe Hollow Road. Drive 1.5 miles and turn right on Upper Hollow Rd. From there it is half a mile to the trailhead parking area lot on the left.
Located off Rte 108 just a bit below the Stowe Ski Resort, Bingham Falls is a quintessential Vermont swimming hole. Park in the turn-around across the street from the trail. You will know you are on the right path because you’ll hear the growing sound of millions of gallons of water. The hike in is extremely short and not difficult. There is a huge (for the Northeast) 25’ waterfall and a large swimming hole with easy non-leaping access for all. If you are wondering what the hike looks like, here is a first person video of the short hike and pay off. Some locals like to go there to film techno soundtracked cliff jumping sessions-it’s agro, brah.
Short of a gondola ride, Hell Brook is the absolute shortest distance to the summit of Mount Mansfield. 1.3 miles of root grabbing, cussing and scrambling will bring you to the Lake of the Clouds. That’s a 2,600’ gain in 1.3 miles. Most trails would be three times as long for an elevation gain like this.
It’s not an easy hike, but you’ll be very proud if you make it to the top. If you have little ones, maybe this is one you do without them. If you have teenagers, take them with you and they won’t remember what they were complaining about before the hike. From Lake of the Clouds, follow the Hell Brook cutoff trail for .3 miles to Eagle Pass. From there it’s just .3 miles more to “The Chin” (summit) of Mount Mansfield. Do that, and you’ve just hiked the steepest route to the tallest peak in Vermont.
Where is it?
From downtown Stowe, take 108 north into the mountains. The trailhead is located approximately 1.25 miles north of the Long Trail South trailhead, which is about .5 miles past the Stowe Mounatin Ski Resort (It’s not as complicated as it sounds). There is a small parking area for the trail on the left hand side of 108 heading north.
The Notch Road (Rte 108)to the peak of Smugglers’ Notch in Stowe, Vermont is steep and winding. It is not for beginners. Think twice before attempting to conquer this with your single gear beachcruiser or even a mountain bike. However, if you are a road rider, this will be a killer morning.
The elevation gain is approximately 2,000 feet over a little less than 10 miles if you start from the junction of 100 and 108 in downtown Stowe. Consider a very early ride to minimize the number of cars you’ll share the road with. Regardless, take it slowly on the way down. The top bit is chock full of switchbacks and sightseers in cars not looking at the road.