Those new to Vermont's Green Mountains, or those who are repeat visitors, are likely familiar with Smugglers' Notch State Park. As one of the most popular state parks in Vermont and the one that's most well-known, it's not surprising that it sees a relentless number of people year after year. Also known as a popular place to ski and snowboard thanks to the resort that shares the same name, Smuggs, as it's called by locals, has become a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

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During the summer months, though, Smugglers' Notch truly shines in all of its Mother Nature-given beauty. With an astounding number of hiking trails ranked from easy to 'not recommended for novice hikers,' there's plenty to see and explore. There's something for every kind of hiker here and though these trails exist in the Green Mountains, it doesn't mean that they all require technical skills and fast footwork. Here's what visitors should know about hiking the trails in Smugglers' Notch State Park.

It's Home To An Incredible Number Of Trails, Ranging From Easy To Hard

Smugglers' Notch State Park is home to a whopping 78 hiking trails. While it would be impossible to hike them all in one visit, some are more popular than others. With a variety of difficulty levels, it's easy enough to choose a hike based on one's skill level with a little help from an app such as AllTrails. All it takes is one look at this app to determine whether a hike is within one's skill set and, if it's not, there's likely another, easier hike with equally stunning views. From lakeside vistas - such as Sterling Pond - to summit views, there's no shortage of fun to be had in this beautiful state park. The park is also close to Mount Mansfield, which is the tallest mountain in Vermont and is a popular hike for those with experience.

  • Camping: The park is home to 20 tent sites and 14 lean-tos
  • Picnicking: A popular activity in the park, visitors can find these at the campgrounds and in other frequented areas
  • Mountain Biking: Along with hiking trails, visitors can also find mountain biking trails ranging in difficulty level

Related: A Brief History: The Story Of Vermont's Iconic Smugglers' Notch

Hiking In Smugglers' Notch State Park

The best part about visiting Smugglers' Notch State Park is that its hiking trails are self-guided. While those with moderate and hard ratings do require some knowledge of blazes and various rock scramble grades, the easier trails are well-marked and frequently hiked. During the peak summer season, it's rare that a hiker won't see another person on the trail, especially if it's a good-weather day. The hiking season begins on Memorial Day and continues until snow covers the ground; even after this, many people take up winter hiking and snowshoeing while the Notch is still open.

The reason hiking usually begins after Memorial Day is to allow the trails to dry out following Vermont's 'mud season.' If trails are heavily-trekked during mud season, it can lead to the deterioration of the trail itself and can cause damage to the surrounding environment. Therefore, the trails should be dry before attempting any hike in the park.

A general rule of thumb is that the higher-elevation trails are the last to be hiked, as they go through a thawing process following the winter, and water will continually run down from the mountain summits in Smugglers' Notch. If any trail is not open during Memorial Day Weekend, this will likely be specified on the Vermont State Parks website or on the AllTrails app.

Hikers should choose a hike dependent, first and foremost, on their skill level. It's especially easier for newcomers to the area to seek a peak that might be beyond their skill level, without considering easier hikes that have equal or comparable views with a more forgiving trail. Smugglers' Notch State Park is in the highest mountain range in the state, so it's important to remember to remain in one's athletic comfort zone unless they are specifically seeking a challenge.

Smuggs.com classifies its trails as follows:

  • Walks: A hike that feels more akin to a walk, with mild to moderate exercise. Usually takes no longer than an hour and a half to complete.
  • Wikes: Somewhere between a walk and a hike, this usually requires moderate effort to complete. Usually takes no longer than three hours.
  • Hikes: The toughest classification, usually taking anywhere from four to six hours. Requires sustained demand for moderate effort.

Those staying at Smugglers' Notch Resort can also take advantage of pre-outlined routes, some with scavenger-hunt-style goals to seek out along the way.

Additional activities at Smugglers' Notch State Park include:

  • Bouldering
  • Cave exploring
  • Ice climbing
  • Biking

Although they range wildly in difficulty level, there are several hikes that are more popular than others at and around Smugglers' Notch State Park. With its proximity to Mount Mansfield on one side and Sterling Pond on the other, hikers have a wide array of options.

Sterling Pond Hike

The hike to Sterling Pond is rated as 'moderate' on AllTrails and includes some scrambling in order to reach Sterling Pond, and additional mountain views beyond. This hike can be found about 3 miles south of Smugglers' Notch Resort, and the parking lot is right on Route 108. Hikers can choose to extend their loop by 1.4 miles in order to walk the perimeter of the pond. This hike will provide a workout during the first quarter-mile with its natural 'stairs,' but the views are worth the effort.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Length: 2.2. miles
  • Elevation Gain: 965 feet
  • Type: Out-and-back

Hike To Bingham Falls

This short and sweet hike is less than a mile but leads to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Smugglers' Notch. Some hikers visit to photograph the falls while others visit to take a dip on a hot Vermont day, but it's a stunning hike all the same. The pull-off for this trailhead can be found on Route 108, and the falls are a short distance away.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: .5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: None
  • Type: Out-and-back

Hike To The Summit Of Mount Mansfield

Rated, appropriately so, as 'hard,' the summit hike to the top of Mount Mansfield is a demanding one. This hike usually takes nearly five hours for experienced hikers, even though the distance from the trailhead to the summit is just under five miles. The good news is that there are many ways to reach the summit, including:

  • The auto-toll road, which can also be driven up via car
  • The Long Trail
  • Laura Cowles Trail
  • Sunset Ridge Trail
  • Haselton Trail
  • Hellbrook Trail

The most popular trail to reach the summit is the Long Trail, which begins at 1,600 feet in elevation, with an additional elevation gain of 2,800 feet. The trail starts out easy enough, then quickly increases in difficulty with a set of natural 'stairs,' before turning into some hefty rock scrambles during the last third mile of the hike. Thankfully, there are rock handles to steady oneself while climbing higher to the summit. Since this is home to Alpine Tundra, it's important to dress in layers because it will be colder at the top - and be on top of the weather in the event that it changes suddenly, as is known to happen at high elevations.