My father and I recently climbed Mount Mansfield to take on Vermont’s highest peak and to experience the last foliage that fall had to offer. This is a mountain that has it all with huge trail diversity and an exposed ridge traverse just outside the picturesque town of Stowe, VT. Mount Mansfield might be better known as Stowe ski area but if you haven’t climbed this peak then it needs to be on your list.
Please note that trail conditions have changed considerably since this hike. We planned to climb the mountain via the Haselton Trail followed by a ridge traverse on the Long Trail to the summit and to continue on the Long Trail for the descent. All of this adds up to about 6.5 miles with 2,800 feet of climbing which requires a moderate effort to enjoy some amazing alpine scenery.
The Haselton Trail literally starts in the parking lot for the Stowe gondola base lodge. We scouted around the parking lot for a few minutes looking for the trail head and found it clearly marked. OK this hike did not start with the wilderness experience I was hoping for but it got better quick.
Just a few hundred yards later we came to a more traditional trail head sign that actually led us into the woods and things got interesting. We knew there was only a short distance between us and the summit so the immediate climbing was no surprise.
We were amazed to encounter a knife edge portion of the trail in the middle of the woods; I had never seen that before and it was pretty interesting.
The Hasleton Trail briefly crosses one of Stowe’s ski trails which serves as a reminder that our wilderness experience had been occurring amazingly close to civilization. Thankfully we were back in the woods before we knew it but that didn’t last too long.
Eventually the Haselton Trail ascends on one of Stowe’s ski trails.
I didn’t mind this since the weather was perfect and the views were expansive. However I would definitely think twice about trying this route during the winter when the trail is full of skiers barreling down the mountain.
The Hasleton Trail eventually links up with the toll road which we had to follow for a short distance to link up with the Long Trail. Walking along a road doesn’t scream wilderness experience but it was scenic enough to keep my interest.
We soon came to a visitor center type building where the toll road ends. This is where busloads of tourists get dropped off to take on the 1.5 mile ridge traverse to the summit. Until this point we had only seen one other hiker but that was about to change.
The remaining 1.5 miles to the summit were on the Long Trail on a completely exposed ridge with amazing views of Lake Champlain. This is one of the most accessible above tree line traverse that I have ever seen. We encountered a steady stream of hikers and people who had just gotten off the bus as we made our way to the summit.
The summit was the most crowded mountaintop that I have ever seen; it was hard to find a place to sit. However, we had perfect weather and I couldn’t blame anyone for wanting to be on a mountain on a day like this.
We eventually found a place to site and have a relaxing lunch before beginning the descent on the Long Trail.
The initial descent was extremely rocky and steep; it almost felt like down climbing a rock slab.
We both took our time and chose solid hand and foot positions. I would not recommend this route in wet or icy conditions. After about .6 miles the trail took on a more reasonable pitch and we sped up our descent. There isn’t anything amazing between here and the road but it is always good to be in the woods.
The forest still had remnants of the beautiful New England foliage but the colors were just past peak.
We soon reach the road and followed it back for about half a mile to the car.
Mount Mansfield is not the most remote peak in New England and you will definitely encounter many fellow hikers on a nice day but it is definitely worth the trip.