The Hell Brook Trail is a beautiful but grueling hike that offers hikers the shortest route to the 4,394-foot Chin (summit) of Mount Mansfield. At only 1.5 miles from the trailhead just off of Highway 108 near Smuggler’s Notch, this trail goes up—straight up. It is possibly the most technical trail on Mount Mansfield, and because of this it is usually less crowded than the Long Trail or the Sunset Ridge Trails.
The trail, marked by blue blazes on the rocks and trees, wastes no time and starts climbing steadily following the brook. There are a few small waterfalls to be seen from the trail. Much of the trail is composed of large slabs of rock and exposed tree roots. Both are very slippery when wet (which is often) and require careful foot placement and balance constantly. There are a few rocky portions that are more of a scramble and have metal bars to help assist in the climb.
After .06 mile there is an intersection with the Hell Brook Cutoff. This trail traverses south and links up with the Long Trail at Taft Lodge. This can be a good exit point if one wishes not to continue up or to make a shorter loop. Stay right to continue up.
Much of the same continues with rock scrambling and careful foot placement. Views east to the Stowe Valley and brief glimpses of the rock formations of Smuggler's Notch can be seen through the dense mix of maples, birch, and firs. As the trail nears the ridgeline it will start to level out.
This area is an arctic-alpine zone. This area is very sensitive to human footsteps, and it is asked that people hike only on rocks or the provided wooden pathways. There is an intersection near Lake of the Clouds with an option to continue climbing up and over Adam's Apple (.02 mile) or wrap around it to Eagle Pass. Eagle Pass is where the Hell Brook and the Long trails intersect. It is recommend to climb up and over Adam's Apple.
The dense mix of wind-sculpted firs and spruce start to give way to open vistas in every direction. Over the shoulder, Lake of the Clouds is visible. The rocky summit of Mount Mansfield appears as one crests the Adam's Apple. After taking in the views follow the rock trail down to Eagle Pass.
At the intersection of the Hell Brook, Adam's Apple, and Long trails, follow the signage for the Long Trail South. Notice that the blaze markers are now white. Thereafter, Long Trail is always marked with white blazes. The next .03 mile is more or less a scramble on the rock faces.
Once atop, 360-degree views of the area greet you: The Green Mountains run both north and south; Stowe Valley is to the east; the city of Burlington, Lake Champlain, and the New York Adirondacks are in the distance to the west.
It is advised not to descend on the Hell Brook Trail because the route is very steep and rocky. Opt instead to use the more popular Long Trail North. From the Chin, head 0.2 miles south on the Long Trail until the intersection with Profanity and Sunset Ridge trails. Veer sharply left onto the Profanity Trail and follow the blue blazes. The Profanity Trail is a bad-weather bypass of the Mansfield summit and heads sharply downhill toward the Taft Lodge, where it intersects with the Long Trail North.
After descending half a mile, there will be an intersection with the Long Trail North, the Hell Brook Cutoff, and an access trail to Taft Lodge. Turn right onto the Long Trail North (white blazes) and continue hiking down for another 1.7 miles.
Taft Lodge is a primitive cabin that can sleep up to 24 people. It is the oldest and largest lodge on the Long Trail. There is a small $5 fee to stay during the summer and fall months. Also located at the site is a water source and privy.
The Long Trail North ends up at the Highway 108. From here hike the road back to the parking area of your choice. The parking area at Big Springs, which is near the Hell Brook Trailhead, is about 1 mile from the intersection of the Long Trail and Highway 108. It is recommended to park at Smuggler's Notch Picnic Area, which is closer to the intersection of the Long Tail.