You are here

Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
3.00 mi (4.83 km)
Warming hut
No
Please respect the outdoors and leave no trace. One tip how to dispose of waste properly: Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. For more information, visit https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles

Winter brings peace to Smugglers Notch. Despite occasional snowobile traffic, Vermont's most popular highway becomes a haven for human powered recreation. Backcountry skiers and ice climbers share lines, cross-country skiers zip up and down the winding road, and snowshoers explore caves of both ice and stone. Accessible from Stowe and Jeffersonville, it's the heart of winter recreation in the Northern Green Mountains. 

From the small parking lot on Route 108 near Smugglers Notch Resort, it's a 1.1-mile hike to the visitor center at the peak of the notch. While the buildings are all closed during the winter, the views only improve. Without the swarms of people, speeding cars, and thick foliage, visitors are free to stare skyward at the impressive cliffs rising precipitously above on the flanks of Mount Mansfield to the west and Spruce Peak to the east. In many cases, a closer look will reveal ice climbers working their way up one of the many chutes. 

Continuing south from the visitor center leads to the iconic boulder garden, where fragments of the mountain have tumbled down to the notch floor, creating a maze of house-sized boulders and small caves. In the early 1800s these caves were used by locals of dubious moral character to smuggle goods to and from Canada, violating the Embargo Act of 1807. In 1922, the already well trodden route was adapted into a road suitable for cars. The caves experienced a renaissance of use as a place to stash booze during prohibition, leading people to eventually name this craggy corner of Vermont "Smugglers Notch." 

The road continues south, dropping steeply toward Stowe before leveling out once again. The southern terminus is located adjacent to the parking lot for Stowe Mountain Resort's downhill area, about 3 miles from the parking area at Smugglers Notch Resort. It is common to see the occasional downhill skier skating through the flats on either side, returning from a trip down the Birthday Bowls.

Returning toward Smuggs, visitors will notice an especially impressive ice flow descending from the right side of the trail about three quarters of a mile from the Smuggs Trailhead. The adventurous can climb the short embankment up to the base of the ice flow where a small entrance to an ice cave can be found. Inside the light filters through the green tinged ice, making the walls appear to glow. 

Smugglers Notch is a great destination for cross-country skiers and snowshoers looking for a short hike with a big reward.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

Not Required

Pros

Great views. Other adventures nearby. Ice caves.

Cons

Snowmobile traffic.

Pets allowed

Yes

Trailhead Elevation

1,683.00 ft (512.98 m)

Net Elevation Gain

489.00 ft (149.05 m)

Address

VT-108
6001
Cambridge, VT 05464
United States

Features

Big vistas
Historically significant
Cross-country skiing

Snowmobiles allowed

Yes

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

Northern Green Mountains, Vermont
Northern Green Mountains, Vermont

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Northern Green Mountains, Vermont
Northern Green Mountains, Vermont

Comments

Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.