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1 Jun 2007
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Two of the Best Scenic Drives in Vermont

View looking east from the top of Mount Mansfield, Stowe Vermont

There are many hundreds of miles of scenic drives in Vermont but two of my favorites are Route 108 through Smuggler's Notch, and the Mount Mansfield Toll Road, both in Stowe.

The section of Route 108 that runs from the village of Stowe to the village of Jeffersonville includes a memorable drive through smuggler's Notch. This Notch Road is narrow (no edge marking and no center line), tight, and twisty. You will be driving up a steep grade with deep forests on each side. There are several hairpin turns where you will be going five or ten miles per hour. Unfortunately, the driver won't get to see as much as the passengers because you have to keep your eyes closely on the road. The passengers will have a great time viewing the scenery which becomes more enhanced at the slow driving speed. One of the features of the drive are massive boulders right alongside the road, some of them the size of a small cottage.

At the road's peak, there is a small parking area on the left (coming from Stowe) where you can stop and get out of the car to admire the scenery. There is a hiking trail on the other side of the road. We hiked it once and I did not care much for it. During busy periods, it will be crowded with people and the hike itself is really like a climb up a one mile staircase. However, at the top is a beautiful mountain lake - you can see a picture on the Scrapbook page of the Grunberg Haus web site. A much better hike is along the Long Trail running over Mount Mansfield which you can get to from the Auto Toll Road.

The Stowe Auto Toll Road starts at the parking lot behind the Stowe Inn and rises several thousand feet to the top of Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in Vermont. To get there, drive on Route 108 from the village of Stowe toward the ski area. About five miles from town, watch carefully for the Toll Road sign which will be small and included with other items of interest at the Stowe Inn. A landmark just before the left turn into the parking lot are some tennis courts also located on the left shortly before the parking lot. Here is a link to Google Maps. Go to the rear of the parking lot and you will see a slim toll booth.

The road starts out on paved road but soon becomes a dirt road. The drive to the top is very twisty and takes about 20 minutes. There are a few pull-off areas along the drive where you can stop and admire the view but the best view is from the top. The photo at the beginning of of this article was taken from the top of the Gondola which stops are few hundred feet short of the toll road parking lot elevation but it gives you a good idea of what the view will look like.

Thee will be a ranger at the building next to the upper parking lot. I suggest you ask him or her the location of Frenchman's Pile. (No, I don't know why it's called Frenchman's Pile. It's just a three foot high pile of rocks.) It's about a 15 minute walk along the mountain ridge hiking trail to Frenchman's Pile and the view from there is truly magnificent. You can see in 360 degrees. To the west you will see the Adirondack Mountains of New York and to the east you will see the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Burlington and Lake Champlain will be right below you and they'll look like a very tiny, miniature town and lake. If you know the villages in the area, or if you have a map, you can pick those out too.

To my mind, this is one of the best things to do in Vermont.

Unfortunately, the road is for cars and pedestrians only. Bicycles and motorcycles are not permitted.

The toll is $21 per car unless you have more than six people in the vehicle, in which case the toll is $6 per person.

(c) 2007 Jeff Connor
posted by  grunhaus at  16:06