Mount Mansfield tops the Green Mountains and the State of Vermont at 4,393 feet. The trailhead begins at a campground off of Mountain Road and offers multiple route options to and from the summit. The Sunset Ridge Trail is a 3-mile exposed route to the peak with incredible views of the surrounding valleys that reach all the way to Burlington, Lake Champlain, and New York.
The name Mount Mansfield comes from the mountain’s resemblance to an elongated human face. Distinct compositions of mica-albite-quartz schist that form the outline of what would be the forehead (3,940 feet), nose (4,062 feet), lips, chin (4,393 feet), and Adam’s apple (4,060 feet) can be seen from afar when viewed from the east.
Begin your journey on Eagles Cut Trail and the Civilian Conservation Corps Road, a path under a mile long that shares a dirt road. The beginning of the Sunset Trail is marked by a kiosk and heads north through a wooded area. It climbs slowly until you breach the tree line and are welcomed by views of the surrounding valleys and the summit, which can appear deceptively close.
This path intersects the Long Trail, near the top, at about 3-miles in, and heads north through an alpine zone to the summit. Watch your footing as the last half-mile traverses crevices, boulders, and delicate vegetation. This is one of the three places in Vermont where Arctic tundra can be found.
At the summit, which is the chin formation of the imagined face, there are spectacular views in every direction. Weather in this region can change quickly, and sometimes you can get the chance to stand in a cloud as it rolls by! To the east you will look down upon Stowe Mountain Resort and the various snow-sport trails that cut through the trees. Some people ride the gondola from the resort lodge for a $25 round-trip fee and hike from the nose formation to this peak.
Most hikers make their descent on the Long Trail, a 5-mile loop along the ridge that intersects Wampahoofus Trail at the forehead, continues east down the Maple Ridge Trail, and intersects the CCC Road near the bottom, which leads back to the starting point of the Sunset Ridge Trail. A short and very steep option is the 2.5-mile Laura Cowles Trail, which descends the valley, shares a covered stream runoff bed, and ends back on the Sunset Ridge Trail.
Although this mountain serves several commercial purposes, it is definitely a worthwhile and rewarding hike for those visiting Northern Vermont.
This trail is exposed almost the entire time, so keep in tune with changing weather. Some of the trails are very steep and can become dangerous in wet conditions. You should always wear hiking boots with good treads and watch your step. Parts of Mountain Road may be closed at certain times or days due to weather.