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01 July 2014

Five Hikes in the area of Stowe, VT

Recently, I spent a few delightful days of hiking in the area of Stowe, VT.  My longest trek was a 6.5 mile loop hike over Mt. Mansfield, which is the tallest mountain in Vermont.  That adventure will be the topic of a future blog posting.  This particular report provides a few snapshots and brief descriptions of five other hikes that were done in this very picturesque region of Vermont.

1) Spruce Peak

Spruce Peak is located on the east side of Smugglers Notch, almost directly across from Mt. Mansfield.  There is a terrific ledge just a few hundred feet off the summit of Spruce Peak.  If you were to look at a trail map for the area, you would see that Spruce Peak can be accessed via a somewhat roundabout route off the Long Trail, or off the Sterling Pond Trail.  However, there is another route that is more direct, and perhaps lesser known, as described below.

You can walk up the top of the mountain via the service road (a.k.a. Sterling Trail) at the Spruce Peak Ski area.  As you're headed north on Rt. 108, make a right at the main entrance to Stowe Mountain Resort.  Continue onward and after a short distance, turn right onto Big Spruce Road.  Where this paved road turns to gravel, there is a large parking lot on the right.  Park here and then walk up the gravel roadway to the left of the Mt. Mansfield Ski and Snowboard Clubhouse.  After about 10 minutes of walking, you will pass under the Sensation ski lift.  Follow signage for the Sterling Trail all the way to the Spruce Summit Hut, which is located near the top of the mountain.  Continue walking uphill beyond the hut.  You'll soon see a connector trail off to the right which leads to the Long Trail.  Continue walking uphill and soon you will see two other pathways leading off to the right.  I don't know where they go, but you want the third pathway on the right.  On the day I was there, a cairn was located near the entrance to this path.  After walking this path for a very short distance, you will arrive at a large flat ledge with extraordinary views.

This route is about 3 miles (round-trip) with an elevation gain of about 1,600 ft.  It took me just slightly over 2 hours to do the entire hike.

View from ledge on Spruce Peak looking SW.  Some of more notable peaks visible include (left to right): Camels Hump; Bolton Mtn; the 'Nose' on Mt. Mansfield
This view from ledge on Spruce Peak is looking westward at Mt. Mansfield's ridgeline with the Forehead, Nose, Chin and Adams Apple visible
Seen nearly dead center in this zoomed photo is the ledge atop Spruce Peak.  It was taken from the Haselton Trail when doing my loop hike over Mt. Mansfield

2) Stowe Pinnacle

There are two trailheads for the hike to Stowe Pinnacle.  Rather than using the somewhat more traditional trailhead on Upper Hollow Road, I used the Pinnacle Meadows Trailhead on Upper Pinnacle Road.  This allows you to more easily incorporate the Pinnacle Meadows viewpoint into your trek up to Stowe Pinnacle.

Apparently this is a very popular hike.  At the top, nearly every square inch of real estate was occupied by fellow hikers!  And just as a side-note, this is my second foray into the Worcester Range.  A few years ago I hiked to Mt. Hunger, and it too was a terrific adventure!

The route I used for the trek to Stowe Pinnacle was about 3.0 miles round-trip, and took about 1.5 hours.
Shown here is the vista from Pinnacle Meadow.  Just left of center is the long ridgeline of Mt. Mansfield, and to its right are peaks in the Sterling Range (Spruce Peak; Madonna Peak; Sterling/Whiteface Mountain).
Lighting conditions on this particular day were less than ideal for taking photos.  Nonetheless, there are nice views of notable mountain peaks such as Camels Hump and Mt. Ethan Allen, as seen in this snapshot.
As mentioned above, lighting conditions were less than ideal.  However, Stowe Pinnacle is an ideal spot for viewing the anatomy of the 'face' on Mt. Mansfield.  (Facial features are labeled on this photo).
Map showing two routes to Stowe Pinnacle

3) Moss Glen Falls

This is a very short, but scenic, hike to a spectacular waterfall.  Although the trail isn't well marked, it is well-traveled and easy to follow.

To get to Moss Glen Falls head north from the center of Stowe on Rt. 100.  After about 3.0 miles, turn right onto Randolph Road.  Almost immediately, turn right again onto Moss Glen Falls Road and drive about 0.5 mile to the trailhead on the left.   Round trip, the hike is less than a mile, and it can easily be done within 30 to 40 minutes.
Moss Glen Falls
4) Bingham Falls

Bingham Falls isn't as dramatic as Moss Glen Falls.  However, it's a worthy destination, especially if you're staying in the Stowe area and/or if you plan to travel through Smugglers Notch.  The trailhead on Rt. 108 is located just a few tenths of a mile south of the Smugglers Notch State Park Campground.  There are obvious pull-offs for parking on both sides of the road.  However, the trailhead sign isn't visible from the highway.  The trail begins on the west side of the road.  It runs downhill to the top of a gorge where you can see potholes in the brook bed that were carved out by glaciers.  The trail then descends steeply to the base of the falls via a flight of stone stairs.

Round trip, this hike is about 0.6 mile, and it can easily be done within a half hour.
Bingham Falls
Potholes in the brook bed that were carved out by glaciers
5) Sunset Rock

The most direct way to access Sunset Rock is to find legal parking somewhere in the village of Stowe, and then walk to the end of Sunset Street and make a short, but steep ascent to Sunset Rock.  However, I opted to drive to the trailhead parking lot on Taber Hill Road and then do an out and back hike that included the Upper Overlook, as well as the vista from Sunset Rock.   Be advised that to access Sunset Rock via this route, the trail descends a few hundred feet, and you then need to climb back up to return to the trailhead parking lot.

The route that I followed is about a mile (round trip), and can be done within about 30 minutes.
View from Sunset Rock showing church steeple in Stowe, VT.  At upper right is Mt. Mansfield's "Forehead" and "Nose" looming on the horizon.
Map showing routes to Sunset Rock



Steve Smith said...

What a great few days you had in Stowe, John! That ledge on Spruce Peak looks fantastic, the views from Stowe Pinnacle look superb, and the waterfalls are beautiful. Carol and I really enjoyed our quick one-night trip to Stowe a couple of weeks ago and are already plotting a return. We hadn't hiked in the Green Mountains since 2005, way too long. Thanks for showing us some more spots to explore over there.


1HappyHiker said...

Thank you for your comments, Steve! Once I sat down and looked at all the hiking possibilities around Stowe, I was blown away! There are still many days worth of hiking to do in that general vicinity! Best wishes to you and Carol for many happy hiking adventures when you return to that area.


Rita Wechter said...

John, this post provides a nice overview of a variety of hikes in the Stowe area. That view from the ledge on Spruce Peak is post-card-worthy. I also liked the two short waterfall hikes you describe.
Wish I was going to Vermont again this summer—I would use this blog post as a guide to hiking around Stowe!

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Rita,
There are so many enjoyable places to hike in Vermont. It was terrific to be able to experience some of them during the brief time I had in the Stowe area.

Thank you for reading my report and posting a reply!