Groomed trail
No
Elevation Gain
741.00 ft (225.86 m)
Distance
4.00 mi (6.44 km)
Warming hut
No
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Sterling Forest is a true hidden gem in the Stowe-Mansfield area of Vermont. It is just far enough away from the ski area, down a dirt road, that it gets little traffic, yet offers breathtaking forests and beautiful scenery with well-marked trails and multiple options for backcountry and nordic skiing.

The Upper Gorge Loop is a 4-mile loop that leaves from the Sterling Gorge Falls parking lot on Sterling Gorge Road. The loop departs along Papa’s Trail, which heads northwest from the parking lot along the left side of a small field on the same side of the river as the lot (crossing the bridge leads to the southbound Catamount Trail and Maple Run). Papa’s Trail leads through pine forest gently uphill, crossing a snowmobile trail and passing two smaller connector trails, for about 1 mile, when it turns left across a bridge and starts climbing more steeply until around 1.5 miles, when it begins to level out. At 1.7 miles there is a short spur to a viewpoint. Shortly afterwards the Ruschp Sterling Ridge trail diverges on the left; the loop now continues straight/right along the Upper Gorge Loop. For skiers wanting more challenging terrain, difficult glades can be accessed by ascending the Ruschp Sterling Ridge Trail.

At the far end of the loop around 2 miles, the trail begins a fast and fun descent back to the Sterling Forest Parking lot. The trail is mostly gradual and relatively narrow with just enough room for frantic snowplowing on the occasional steep sections. The Upper Gorge Loop Trail passes a connector trail, then crosses the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers (VAST) Snowmobile Trail, before reaching the Sterling Forest Trailhead 0.1 miles down the road from the Sterling Gorge Falls parking lot. Turn right and follow a narrow but flat trail to return to the parking lot.

Cross-country downhill (XCD) skis with metal edges and a slight sidecut are a great choice for this trail; telemark skis with skins or scales would also work well. Classic skis without metal edges will also work fine on this trail, although the descent will be a bit more interesting. The Sterling Forest’s elevation means it can get more snow than the valley, and most of the trails can be skied with 6 inches or so of the right density snow. Expect a few rocks and roots poking out, but this skitour is a fantastic loop for getting active and enjoying nature.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Low crowds. Well-marked trails.

Cons

Icy conditions. Narrow trails.

Pets allowed

Allowed

Trailhead Elevation

1,582.00 ft (482.19 m)

Highest point

2,307.00 ft (703.17 m)

Features

Family friendly
Wildlife
Big vistas

Trail type

Loop

Access

Vehicle

Typically multi-day

No

Max slope angle

0-15 Degrees

Primary aspect

East facing

Terrain type

Trees

Snowmobiles allowed

Yes

Location

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Northern Green Mountains, Vermont
Northern Green Mountains, Vermont

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