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03 July 2014

My First Hike to Mt. Mansfield: Vermont's Tallest Mountain


Recently, I spent a few days hiking to various locations near Stowe, VT.  One of my many adventures included a hike to Mt. Mansfield.  It is one of the numerous peaks in the Green Mountains which form the spine of Vermont by running south to north through much of the State.  Standing at 4,393 ft above sea level, Mt. Mansfield is the highest mountain in VT.

Especially when viewed from the east, Mt. Mansfield's summit ridgeline resembles the profile of an elongated human face.  The facial features have been named as follows (from south to north): Forehead (3,940'); Nose (4,062'); Chin (4,393', highest point); Adams Apple (4,060').  These features are labeled on the following photo which was taken from Stowe Pinnacle on the day following my trek to Mt. Mansfield.
Labeled "facial features" of Mt. Mansfield's ridgeline
For about 2.3 miles (from the Forehead to the Adams Apple) the ridgeline is almost entirely above treeline.  It's the longest stretch of alpine zone in Vermont.  And actually, Mt. Mansfield is one of only three spots in the State where true alpine tundra survives from the Ice Ages.  Camel's Hump and Mount Abraham are the other two.

Mt. Mansfield is used for various recreational and commercial purposes.  Located on "The Nose" are transmitter towers for a number of regional radio and TV stations. There are several hiking trails on this mountain, including the Long Trail, which traverses the main ridgeline. The east flank of the mountain is used by the Stowe Mountain Resort for alpine skiing.  And, there is a toll road which enables you to drive from the Stowe Base Lodge to "The Nose".  The road is steep, mostly unpaved, and has several hairpin turns.


As indicated in the title of this report, this was the first time I'd ever hiked to Mt. Mansfield.  My route of travel consisted of a loop of about 6.5 miles which included a traverse of Mt. Mansfield's ridge from "The Nose" to "The Chin", plus a short side trip to Adams Apple.  The loop involved the Haselton Trail and the Long Trail (northbound) to Rt. 108, then a 0.5 mile road walk back to my starting point.
The route of my loop hike is highlighted in yellow (click to enlarge)
The Haselton Trail provides a lot of diversity.  It ascends steadily through an attractive forest with numerous crossings of small streams.  At the upper end of the trail, it joins the Nose Dive ski trail for a short distance before eventually intersecting the Auto Road which is used to hike the remaining 0.5 mile to "The Nose".

From "The Nose", the Long Trail can be followed either north or south.  For my loop, I used the northbound segment of the trail to hike along Mt. Mansfield's ridgeline.  The portion of the Long Trail between "The Nose" and "Adams Apple" is simply stunning!  For readers who are familiar with New Hampshire hiking, it is comparable to trekking along the Franconia Ridge.

Although the Long Trail itself doesn't go over "Adams Apple", it's definitely worthwhile to take the 0.1 mile spur trail that will lead you there.

Before showing some photos taken during my hike, here are some brief thoughts about the loop that I did.  Without going into excruciating detail, I feel that a strong case could be made for doing this loop either clockwise or counterclockwise.  Personally, I'm very content with having done it clockwise.  If for no other reason, I enjoyed the more pristine view while hiking northbound along the ridge.  If hiking southbound,  the transmitter towers on "The Nose" would be visible for much of the time and would mar the view (at least for me it would).

Shown below are some snapshots taken during my Mt. Mansfield loop hike.  If you're interested in seeing photos from 5 other hikes that I did while in the Stowe area, they are contained in a separate report (click HERE). 
Most of the Haselton Trail is a wooded corridor.  This photo shows a segment known as the Knife's Edge.
A portion of Mt. Mansfield ridgeline as viewed from upper end of Haselton Trail. Seen in the distance are the Cliff House and "The Chin".
Smuggler's Notch as viewed from upper end of Haselton Trail
Looking west from the portion of the Long Trail that runs along Mt. Mansfield's ridgeline. Through the haze on distant horizon, can just barely make out Lake Champlain.  There are very faint outlines of Adirondack peaks beyond the lake.
Looking southward down the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline toward "The Nose" which has been pierced with antennae jewelry!
Nearing final climb to "The Chin"
"The Chin" is a favorite hang-out spot for hikers!
Peering over edge of "The Chin" before starting steep descent toward "Adams Apple". VT also has a body of water named Lake of the Clouds. It's seen just left of center.  At far right is "Adams Apple" with its large patches of exposed rock on top.
Photo was taken early into the steep descent from "The Chin", before the real action began!
A particularly challenging spot along the Long Trail between "The Chin" and "Adams Apple". It's probably about an 8 ft vertical drop, but there are enough hand/foot holds to negotiate it with care. (Photo taken from base of this 'chimney-like' formation after having slithered down it!)
Looking back at "The Chin" from "Adams Apple" before beginning the long and wooded descent to Rt. 108
And to sum it up, it's worthy to mention that Steve Smith has posted a terrific narrative and photos about a trek that he and his wife Carol did from "The Nose" to "The Chin" about 2-weeks prior to my trek.  I would encourage you to check out his report by clicking HERE.



Steve Smith said...

Great photos, John! Especially enjoyable since we just did the traverse from Nose to Chin two weeks ago (though we "cheated" by driving up the toll road!). That is one of the most spectacular walks in New England. And it looks like there are many interesting (and difficult!) side trails. That spot coming down off the Chin looks pretty hairy. What a dramatic view of the Chin from the Adams Apple. Viva Vermont!


1HappyHiker said...

First of all, thank you so much for posting your comments.

And secondly, I must say that there is way too much stuff to read on the Internet nowadays! So much so that now and then, something will be overlooked. And that’s exactly what happened to me by failing to see that you and Carol had hiked from Nose to Chin just 2-weeks prior to my hike! I recall seeing on Facebook that you two had hiked to Camels Hump, and that you had also driven up the Mt. Mansfield Auto Road. However, I failed to see that once you arrived at the top of the road, you then hiked the ridge from ‘The Nose’ to ‘The Chin’.

Regardless, your blog report about your ridge traverse was truly terrific, and I’ve added a sentence to the end of my blog to include a link to your Nose to Chin adventure.


Ellen Snyder said...

Hi John,

Thanks for this nice and timely post. We have a family reunion in Charlotte, VT in August and we were thinking of hiking Mt. Mansfield. If we do, we now have a nice loop to try thanks to you. Two years ago my nephew and I hiked Camel's Hump so this year it is Mansfield. I'm hoping the dogs can maneuver the 8' drop that you mentioned. Any additional guidance there is appreciated. The route looks beautiful in your photos. Based on your account I too would go clockwise to enjoy a wilder view.

Thanks as always for your hiking guidance.


1HappyHiker said...

Hi Ellen,

The loop that I did on Mt. Mansfield’s east side was truly enjoyable, and I would recommend it. However, as you likely know, there are a number of loops that can be done from the Underhill State Park on the west side of Mt. Mansfield. I don’t know if this is a consideration for you, but perhaps coming from Charlotte, VT the Underhill trail system might be a closer drive??

Here is some additional info regarding that 8-ft drop that I mentioned in my report. First of all, it’s not quite as vertical as it appears in the photo. There is a bit of a backward slant to it. And, for what it’s worth, I witnessed a dog coming up it just before I went down it. Also, I met a couple on Adams Apple who had a dog with them, and they had descended via the same route as me. Perhaps this will provide some reassurance that the steep and rugged descent from The Chin to Adams Apple could be “dog-doable”!

Some other trail guidance that comes to mind is as follows. Finding the trailhead for the Haselton Trail can be a bit tricky. It’s located near the base of the gondola at the ski resort’s main mountain. Park at the Midway House lot and then walk under the gondola cables, keeping the Midway House on your right. The trail is signed, and is located just to the left of the work road. On the day I was there, blue-tipped stakes marked the way to the trailhead.

And lastly, the road walk between the Haselton Trail and the Long Trail isn’t a typical road walk. There is a ‘trail-like’ pathway that runs along the shoulder of Rt. 108 which makes for an easy connection between those two trailheads.

Happy trails, and best wishes for a great family reunion!


Summerset said...

Great trip report, John! Brings back a lot of memories from our Long Trail hike last summer. We ended up having to cross the ridge in and out of clouds, but it cleared just enough on the chin to enjoy some views. To be honest, I can't even remember that chimney, which is really odd for me, because I normally would remember a trail feature like that. I suppose after quite a few miles, for us, it was just like anything else in the trail, we had to keep going and do whatever the trail gave us for the day. Looks like you had a picture perfect day, perfect for enjoying the views!

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Summerset,

Glad my report brought back memories of your Long Trail trek with your son Cameron last summer. Actually, as I was trekking along that segment of my loop, I thought about your adventure and realized that I was following only one small portion of the “long” corridor that you had hiked.

Regarding that ‘chimney-like’ feature mentioned in my report, there are plenty of hand/foot holds which allow it to be negotiated without too much in the way of heroic efforts. And so, this might be a possible reason why it didn’t stick in your memory bank. It was a noteworthy feature for the short mileage of my loop. But considering the huge mileage that you covered when hiking the entire length of the Long Trail, this particular feature was probably relatively insignificant as compared to other hurdles you encountered during your epic journey.


Rita Wechter said...

Hi John,

This hike looks like and sounds like a great one, as it has many of the features that I like on a hike—interesting terrain, lush vegetation, and killer views (especially if you're hiking away from the antennae!).
I suppose this is one of the more enjoyable hikes in the "50 State Summit" series. Did you meet any state "high pointers" during your trek?
Thanks for showcasing another hike that should be on all of our bucket lists!

1HappyHiker said...

Thanks for your reply, Rita.

For certain, this was fantastic hike. Regarding meeting any "high pointers", I spoke with a number of hikers that I met along my route. However, the topic of "high pointing" never came up, and unfortunately I never thought to ask any of them about this.


Larry "City Slicker Hiker" Wood said...

Hey John,
I have enjoyed your posts for years and glad that you have decided (for now) to keep your blog going. Living in Manhattan, I’m a long way from the Adks, Green and White Mountains and get to travel up north once or twice a year at best; so I do very much enjoy reading posts of hikes–to recall past adventures or imagine new ones. Your posts, pictures and tid-bits of history never fail to entertain and impress!
It’s rare that I can share a bit of advice to a prolific hiker like yourself but I have hiked Mount Mansfield a number of times and have done some of the side trails. I hiked with friends a loop route up from Underhill State Park which was spectacular. On other occasions, with my family and young children (now in college), we would drive up and hike the ridge, which I found a great way to introduce my son and daughter (5 and 8 yrs at the time) to the joys of hiking–without the grueling uphill climb. I digress.
I know you like to hike trails new to you, but what I wanted to recommend if you ever decide to make a return trip (Ever present, never twice the same!) is to try the small loop trail off the ridge that is called the “Subway”. As a regular rider of NYC’s subways, I was intrigued by a subway in Vt. It’s a really cool feature that runs about 100 ft long, accessed by going down a ladder (20 rungs?) into a semi-enclosed fissure varying about 6 to 15 ft wide, with a narrow “doorway” on the other end. On a hot sunny day, it feels air-conditioned to sit inside Mansfield for a nice little break. My kids loved it.
You can Google Mount Mansfield and “the Subway” and lots of links will pop up. Following is one link that indicates where to find the entrance to the Subway, no Metro fare-card required! :) Excerpt below:
Continuing north form the Frenchman's pile, the LT reaches Drift Rock and the north end of the Amherst Trail [14] on the right (4.6 m.) and the Canyon North Trail [17] on the left. The LT ascends the Upper Lip (4.8 m.) with its Rock of Terror. The Lower Lip is bypassed on the left and just beyond is the north end of the Cliff Trail [15]. To the left at this junction are the Canyon North Extension [18] and the Subway [19].

Best wishes and peace!

1HappyHiker said...


Thank you so much for such a thoroughly delightful reply to my report, and for your kind words about my blog overall.

I’m unsure as to when I might make a return visit to Mt. Mansfield, but you can be assured that your terrific suggestions will most likely be incorporated into my trek.

It’s sort of amazing that you should mention the “Subway” trail, and the fact that your kids loved it. As you might recall, there is a small ledge at the junction of the Long Trail and the Subway. While sitting on that ledge eating my lunch, a dad with his two sons emerged from the Subway and his kids were raving about how much fun it was !


Anonymous said...

Hi there - just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this hike description! We are heading to VT for a family hiking/biking vacation in 2 weeks and while I really, really want to hike the ridge of Mt. Mansfield, I wasn't sure if it would be too much for my kids (two outdoorsy boys, 8 and 12). The detailed information and awesome photos you posted here have really helped me in my trip planning. Thanks very much! Great blog. --- G from Ohio

1HappyHiker said...

Hi ‘G from Ohio’,

Just a short note to thank you for taking time to post such a thoughtful comment letting me know that my blog provided you with some useful information. That is so very gratifying to have this type of feedback!

Best wishes to you and your family for a thoroughly delightful trip!