Nebraska Notch is located between the summits of Dewey Mountain and Mount Clark on the south end of Mount Mansfield. The 3.8-mile out and back trail climbs gently most of the way and offers breathtaking views of beaver ponds and distant crags. While popular during all seasons, this trail suits itself especially well to snowshoeing, as the usual dense canopy of leaves no longer hides the expansive views. The Taylor Lodge marks an excellent turnaround point with a great vista and a sheltered resting point before your return.
The hike begins at the end of the Stevensville Access Road, where snowshoers, cross-country skiers, and backcountry skiers share a parking lot. Those heading into the notch will follow the well-defined trail to lookers right of the trail register, taking a right at the well-marked intersection with the Overland Cross Country Ski Trail.
From here the trail sees less traffic, but it is still frequently packed. It follows a gentle uphill through a mix of hardwoods and pine until reaching the saddle between the neighboring peaks. The trail flattens, crossing a short footbridge, before reaching the first beaver meadow. Once the meadow is well frozen, most visitors choose to walk across it instead of following the trail as it wends its way through the trees.
The trail picks up again at the other end, climbing gently to another small beaver meadow. The Clara Bow Trail provides an option for extra adventurous souls just after the second beaver meadow. The Clara Bow Trail follows a steep and rocky route into the heart of the notch, requiring precise foot placement, and a subterranean journey through a boulder cave. At times the ladder exiting the cave may be completely iced over. The trail continues along the edge of the most scenic beaver meadow yet, with views of an enormous crag frosted with icicles. The Taylor Lodge is at the top of the rise on the east end of the Beaver Meadow.
Those not seeking the harrowing journey through the cave can follow the Long Trail up and over a moderate hill. Bear to the left at the clearly marked intersection to reach the Taylor Lodge.
The Taylor Lodge was originally built in 1926, and it was then called the Nebraska Notch Lodge. In 1951 it was lost in an accidental fire and rebuilt the same year, this time renamed after J.P. Taylor, who founded the Green Mountain Club. It again burned down in 1977 and was rebuilt in 1978. This third iteration is the one currently standing. Although the lodge is dry, there is no place for an indoor fire, and there is limited protection from the wind. As such, it is not a recommended overnight shelter in the winter, but it provides a great place to enjoy a snack or lunch.
There is a glimpse of Lake Mansfield visible directly in front of the lodge, but the best views are behind it on the last 200 yards of the Clara Bow Trail, which looks up at the cliffs above a beautiful beaver meadow.
Return via the Long Trail, bearing right at the fork to return to the Stevensville Access Road parking area.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.