Sterling Pond is a much loved classic in Smugglers Notch. The winding Notch Road sets the scene as visitors make their way to the parking area near the top of the notch. The 2.5-mile round-trip trail climbs steeply up the flanks of Spruce Peak, ending at a picturesque pond near the summit. Along the way, hikers will enjoy spectacular views of the dramatic cliffs in Smugglers Notch.
The trail to Sterling Pond begins across the road from the Smugglers Notch Visitor Center. It begins climbing steeply up hand-cut stone steps right away. The trail continues climbing steeply for much of the hike, although there are a few points where the grade evens out.
Dense forest can make the trail feel as though it is climbing through a tunnel. The deciduous leaves are especially stunning in the fall during peak foliage. Roots and rocks muddle the trail, but its popularity and the blue blazes on trees keep it clear which way to go. Occasionally, great views of the cliffs on the far side of the notch can be seen. These cliffs are popular with climbers, who are sometimes visible to the careful observer.
The trail levels out just before intersecting with the Long Trail. Turn left and descend the steep but wide trail to the shore of Sterling Pond. From here, it's possible to continue around the northwest side of the pond to reach a lean-to shelter. To reach the parking area, return the way you came, making sure not to miss the turn down the Sterling Pond Trail.