One of the most iconic mountain ranges in the Northeast is the Green Mountains, with only the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the east, and the Adirondacks to the west with which to compete. This mountain range extends nearly the full length of the state of Vermont, making it visible to the Southern, Central, and Northern parts of the state. Due to its unique accessibility, it's also a very popular destination for hikers both in and around Vermont - especially one mountain, in particular.

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Mount Mansfield is known as the highest point in the state, topping out at 4,395 feet at its summit. Luckily, for those who would rather not hike it, there are two alternative ways to reach the top - and they're equally as rewarding.

One: The Classic Hike

Those who wish to have the full Vermont experience, wildlife, and alpine plants included, should go with the classic Mount Mansfield hike. While this hike is rated as difficult, it can be done by those with less hiking experience as long as they take their time. The toughest parts of the trail occur at the top, where hikers might need to use some upper body strength in order to hoist themselves to the top of certain boulders near the summit.

  • Distance: 7.3-mile loop
  • Time to Compete: 6-8 hours
  • Total Elevation: 4,393 feet

Those hiking up to the summit of Mount Mansfield will quickly learn how the mountain got its name. Along the ridgeline, the shapes of a man's nose, chin, Adam's apple, and forehead seem to be visible, which are also the names for each point on the exposed summit. This peak is also home to Arctic tundra plant life, making it one of only two locations in the state where it grows. The easiest, and most scenic routes up and down the mountain are the Laura Cowles trail on the way up, and Sunset Ridge on the way down.

The Laura Cowles is steep at many points and takes hikers through areas of lush vegetation, but it's not exposed which makes it a great option for those who want to take their time without interference from the elements. With that being said, it is a tougher route than the traditional southbound Long Trail. Sunset Ride on the way down can easily be seen on the mountain from a distance; its exposed rock face makes for the most scenic descending hikes in the entire state. However, if the weather takes a turn for the worst or there's rain or snow in the forecast, this should be avoided due to its exposure.

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Two: The Auto Toll Road

Starting from Stowe, the Auto Toll Road up to the summit of Mount Mansfield is truly a wild ride. Drivers should know a few things before tackling this drive, though:

  • No trailers, RVs, campers, or vans converted to RVs, dually trucks, mopeds or scooters, motorcycles, or bicycles
  • The drive is a switchback which means good breaks and swift steering are absolutely necessary
  • It's a two-way road so drivers will occasionally need to pull all the way over (carefully) to allow for passing cars
  • Payments are through credit cards only as all transactions are cashless

Drivers should also be aware that this road ends at a parking lot that sits at 3,850 feet. From there, visitors will have the option to remain at the parking area or hike the roughly 1.5-mile trail to the summit of Mount Mansfield. While this hike is less strenuous than a full hike up the mountain, it still requires tactical footwork to navigate the summit ridgeline.

Visitor Information

  • Hours of Operation: Open Daily from 9:30 am - 4:30 pm (weather permitting) from Friday, May 28 to Sunday, October 17
  • Cost: $26 for the toll road + $9.50 for each passenger

Three: The Gondola

The best option for those who don't want to hike or drive, but still want the views that Mount Mansfield promises, is the Stowe Gondola, known as the Gondola SkyRide. This option is also available all year-round (weather permitting) and allows visitors to simply sit back and take in the view. The gondola can be found at the end of the winding, switchback road that runs through Smuggler's Notch (take care when navigating this as it has blind turns and very sharp turns, and it closed during the winter season) at the resort. At the top of the gondola stop, visitors can dine at the Cliffhouse Restaurant or pick up a snack at The Waffle. There's also a warming station for chilly days, as well as restrooms and a gift shop within the gondola building.

Gondola SkyRide Information

  • Hours of Operation: Dec 11, 2021 - April 3, 2022 (weather permitting), Monday - Friday 9 am-3:30 pm | Weekends & Holidays 8:30 am - 3:30 pm
  • Cost: $37 for adults, $26 for children ages 5 - 12

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