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Northern Vermont Guide

Only a 2-hour drive from Montréal QC, with Vermont's largest city (Burlington), largest lake (Champlain), capital city (Montpelier), and rural Northeast Kingdom, Northern Vermont has variety.

Burlington, Montpelier, Barre, Northeast Kingdom, St Johnsbury, Stowe, Smugglers Notch, Sugarbush & Mad River Glen.

Vermont Dairy Cattle
Church Street Marketplace, Burlington VT.



Interstates 89 & 91, US Routes 2 and 7 connection Burlington to the rest of the country (map). Ferries cross l-o-n-g Lake Champlain to bring cars from I-87 in New York state to Northern Vermont (see below).

From Boston, follow Interstate 93 north toward Manchester and Concord NH, then I-89 to White River Junction and Montpelier VT, then to Burlington. I-89 continues north to the Canadian frontier east of Missisquoi Bay.

From Montréal, take Route 15 south to the US frontier, continuing south on Interstate 87 to US Route 11 east via Rouses Point to US Route 2 south to Burlington.

Driving Distances to Burlington

Bennington VT: 133 miles (214 km) S, 2.75 hours

Boston MA: 225 miles (363 km) SE, 4 hours

Brattleboro VT: 154 miles (248 km) SE, 2.5 hours

Montpelier VT: 39 miles (63 km) SE, 45 minutes

Montréal QC: 98 miles (158 km) N, 2 hours

New York City: 300 miles (483 km) S, 6 hours

Rutland VT: 83 miles (134 km) S, 1.75 hours

Stowe VT: 36 miles (58 km) E, 50 minutes


Greyhound serves Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, White River Junction, Montpelier and Burlington (Airport) from Boston and New York City.

Megabus runs the route from Boston to Burlington, making a stop at Montpelier.

Vermont Translines runs regular bus service 365 days a year on the route from Albany International Airport to Albany, Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak station, and then along US Route 7 to these Vermont towns: Bennington, Manchester Center, Wallingford, Rutland, Brandon, Middlebury, Ferrisberg/Vergennes, South Burlington (for Burlington International Airport), Burlington and Colchester.

Green Mountain Transit runs routes in north-central and northwestern Vermont, Montpelier to Burlington and St. Albans.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation has more information on local services.


Amtrak's Ethan Allen express train from New York City serves stations in Castleton, Rutland, Middlebury, Ferrisburgh-Vergennes, and Burlington VT.

The Vermonter from New York City stops at Brattleboro, Bellows Falls VT, Claremont NH, Windsor-Mt Ascutney VT, White River Junction, Randolph, Montpelier-Berlin, Waterbury-Stowe, Essex Junction (for Burlington), and St Albans VT. More...


Patrick Leahy Burlington International Airport (BTV) in South Burlington is the airport of northern Vermont, with bus connections (see above) to Vermont towns.


The ferry route between Burlington VT and Port Kent NY suspended operations in 2019, and may never resume operation.

Lake Champlain Transportation Company operates car-and-passenger ferries between Grand Isle VT and Plattsburgh NY; and between Charlotte VT and Essex NY.

The Fort Ticonderoga Ferry sails between Charlotte VT and Essex NY and in the warm months (map). Ticonderoga NY is served by Amtrak's Adirondack train.

Where to Stay

Northern Vermont has fine groups of hotels, motels, inns, resorts and B&Bs in Burlington, Montpeiler, St Johnsbury, and in ski areas such as Stowe, Sugarbush and Bolton Valley.



The largest city in Vermont is a town of only about 45,000 population, but in this state, small is beautiful. Burlington is the closest you'll come to a "big city" in Vermont—and that's all to the good. Its situation on the shores of Lake Champlain (map) gives it extra attractiveness.

Church Street Marketplace, Burlington VT
Church Street Marketplace, Burlington VT

Of Burlington's native figures, the educator and philosopher John Dewey is the most famous, and Ethan Allen, while not born here, chose Burlington as his home in his later years. Today part of his farm is encompassed by Ethan Allen Park.

Besides being a college town (University of Vermont, alias "UVM"), Burlington is industrial: data processing equipment, textiles, and consumer products are all made here, and Burlington's medical facilities serve the northern part of the state.

What to See & Do

Downtown Burlington is a fairly compact area easily negotiated on foot.

Church Street Marketplace

The heart of town for visitors and locals alike is Church Street Marketplace, a four-block stretch of Church Street from Pearl Street to College Street closed to vehicular traffic, beautified with trees, benches, and sidewalk cafes, and busy with strollers, street vendors, shoppers, lovers, performers, and sidewalk bench conversationalists.

Holiday lights on Church Street, Burlington VT
Holiday lights on Church Street, Burlington VT

This is traditionally the place to go in search of Burlington's best dining. Old restaurants keep their customers, and new ones always want to open where the crowds are: on Church Street.

At the northwestern end of Church Street stands the pretty Unitarian church, built in 1816.


Much of Burlington's cultural life centers on the University of Vermont campus, and on the campuses of the other three colleges in the area: St. Michael's and Champlain.

Fleming Museum of Art

The Robert Hull Fleming Museum of Art, 61 Colchester Avenue on the University of Vermont campus not far from downtown Burlington VT, has a fine collection of 20,000 art, archeological and ethnographic objects giving visitors a broad view of what art has meant in the development of civilization.

Portrait of Elizabeth, by John Michael Wright, Fleming Museum, Burlington VT
Portrait of Elizabeth, by John Michael Wright, Fleming Museum of Art.

The collection spans culture from early Mesopotamia to the contemporary USA and includes works from ancient Egypt, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

Its European works include those by Max Beckmann, Jean-Baptiste Corot, Honoré Daumier, Albrecht Dürer, Hendrick Goltzius, Francisco Goya, William Hogarth, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, and Auguste Rodin. Strengths include 16th-and 17th-century Northern European paintings and prints, 18th-century British portraits, and a complete edition of the Napoleonic Description de l'Egypte.

A sampling of gems: a Kang Hsi vase, Wei terracotta, paintings by Hudson River School founder Thomas Cole, 17th-century Persian miniatures, early Roman glass, Coptic carvings, and a bona fide Egyptian mummy.

From the center of Burlington, go east on Pearl Street, which merges with Colchester Avenue, and look for the museum on the right-hand side (map).


Much of the lakefront land in Burlington is encompassed by parks (map), including Oak Ledge Park and Red Rocks Park in South Burlington, Battery Park near Burlington's center and only five blocks from Burlington Municipal Beach on Institute Road north of the ferry dock along the lake shore.

Ethan Allen Park is north of the center of town; take North Avenue (VT 127) starting at Battery Park.

In winter, Burlington is close to several northern Vermont ski areas, and the city explodes with activity and fun at New Year's with its First Night festivities.

Shelburne Museum

Shaker Round Barn, Shelburne Museum VT
The Shaker Round Barn at Shelburne Museum, south of Burlington VT.

The Shelburne Museum, 6000 Shelburne Road (map), Shelburne VT, 7.5 miles (12 km) south of Burlington, Vermont, has 37 historic buildings arranged on 45 acres, include an authentic one-room schoolhouse, six fully furnished early New England homes, a jail complete with stocks, an Adirondack hunting lodge, a print shop, and a lighthouse that once guided ships on Lake Champlain.

The structures date from the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries. Each was moved here from its original location in Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, or Massachusetts, and all are now filled with the artifacts of earlier American life.

There's obviously too much to see in one day, so plan your visit. Luckily, your admission ticket is valid for two days. Green Mountain Transit's Chittenden County Blue Line buses connect the museum with Burlington's Downtown Transit Center at Pearl and St Paul streets.

The Shelburne Museum is said to have about the best and fullest collection of Americana ever assembled.

Among the artifacts are a 1920s carousel, a round dairy barn (1901), a wonderful circus museum, and even the huge 220-foot sidewheel steamship SS Ticonderoga, docked here after its last run on the lake.

s/s Ticonderoga at Shelburne Museum, Vermont
SS Ticonderoga: not a model, a full-sized ship. Climb aboard!

Displays of folk art are both charming and authentic: quilts, decoys, glassware, and furniture, plus the tools used to make these items.

Fine Art Galleries

Pizzagalli Center

The Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education is a modern gallery for changing exhibits in two fine galleries.

Electra Havemeyer Webb Memorial Building

Ms Electra Havemeyer Webb, founder of the Shelburne Museum, arranged for the pre-Impressionist and Impressionist collection of her parents, Louisine and Henry O Havemeyer, to be hung in six 1930s period rooms moved here from the Havemeyers' New York City apartment.

Thus a visit to the Memorial Building is a double treat: among the sumptuous furnishings of a wealthy family's home of a century ago, you'll see works by Mary Cassatt, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, Charles-François Daubigny, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, and Claude Monet.

Several of these paintings were first exhibited in Paris in the famed Impressionist Exhibitions of the 1870s and ’80s.

Webb Gallery

On rotating exhibition in the modern Webb Gallery (1960) are 19th-century American paintings of Hudson River School landscapes, Luminist seascapes, portraits, still-lifes, and genre scenes including works by Albert Bierstadt, William Merritt Chase, Thomas Cole, John Singleton Copley, Martin Johnson Heade, Winslow Homer, Eastman Johnson, John Kensett, Fitz Henry Lane, John Peto, and John Quidor.

20th-century paintings are by Andrew Wyeth, Grandma Moses, and Carl Rungius.

Nancy & William Lawson, by William Matthew Prior, Shelburne Museum, Vermont
Nancy & William Lawson, by William Matthew Prior (1843).

Pleissner Gallery

Manchester, Vermont artist Ogden Minton Pleissner (1905-1983) was a WWII artist for LIFE magazine as well as a landscape and sporting arts painter. Pleissner Gallery, built in 1986, features 40 of the Museum’s 600 Pleissner works in a rotating exhibition.

The museum has a cafeteria and snack bars, picnic tables, a bookshop, stores, and free parking.

Where to Stay

Many of the rooms in the 3-star, 258-room Hilton Burlington Hotel have gorgeous views of Lake Champlain, while others open onto the indoor swimming pool. The more expensive rooms are those with a lake-and-mountain view. More...

The 3-star, 161-room DoubleTree by Hilton Burlington has comfortable rooms at the intersection of I-89 (Exit 14) and US Route 2, mid-way between Burlington International Airport and the city center. More...

The 3-star, 309-room Sheraton-Burlington Hotel & Conference Center, at the intersection of US Route 2 and I-89, 1.5 miles from Burlington airport, is the prime choice of business travelers and large meetings. The heart of the hotel is a 4-story space with translucent ceiling sheltering fountains, plants, and many hotel services. Higher prices are for the Concierge Level rooms, which have marvelous views of Mt Mansfield. More...

The 3-star, 161-room Courtyard Burlington Harbor, 25 Cherry Street, at the corner of Battery Street, is just north of the Hilton Burlington, sharing those spectacular views of Lake Champlain. It's less than a 10-minute walk to Church Street Marketplace. More...

Use this handy Hotel Map with Prices to find room rates and availability, and to choose the Burlington hotel for you:


Burlington Transportation

Northern Vermont transportation is detailed above, but note:

Two Train Stations

Burlington has two train stations: Burlington VT (BTN) at Burlington's Union Station, 1 Main Street (western end of Main St; map), serving Amtrak's Ethan Allen express; and Essex Junction VT (ESX), 7.4 miles (12 km) east of Burlington's Church Street Marketplace in Essex Junction VT (map), serving Amtrak's Vermonter.

Two Bus Stations

Burlington also has two bus stations: Greyhound buses use the one at Patrick Leahy Burlington International Airport (BTV), 1200 Airport Drive, 3.4 miles (5.5 km) east of Church Street Marketplace (map). The other bus station is the Burlington Downtown Transit Center, 45 St Paul St between Pearl & Cherry streets (map). Vermont Translines serves both bus stations, so make sure you know which one you'll be using for your particular departure or arrival.

MegaBus runs buses between Boston and Burlington VT. The Burlington stop is at 119 Pearl St, near the Downtown Transit Center.


Capital of the state of Vermont, Montpelier is a pleasant small city with an impressive capitol building and some good restaurants. Nearby Barre has great granite quarries and the most amusing cemetery in the nation.

State House, Montpelier, Vermont
The Vermont State House (capitol) in Montpelier VT.

Montpelier was settled in 1787 and named in honor of Montpellier, France, because of French aid to the American revolutionary cause.

Set by the Winooski River 8.4 miles (13.5 km) northwest of Barre and 39 miles (63 km) southeast of Burlington (map), Montpelier became the capital of Vermont in 1805, and government has been its main industry since then.

The Vermont State House will surprise you: it's so small, but then you'll notice that the capital city, Montpelier, is pretty small too—in fact, the smallest state capital in the USA (pop. 8000). This hints at the fact that you are in the midst of the most rural state in the Union, 49h in population (647,000 Vermonters in all, spread through almost 10,000 square miles/26,000 square kilometers).

A Vermont schoolchild once wrote that in Vermont "the trees are close together and the people are far apart."

The State House is constructed of Vermont granite from nearby Barre, but the dome is of wood covered in gilded copper. More...

While you're in Montpelier, it's worth going the few miles to neighboring Barre to visit a granite quarry, and also Hope Cemetery, filled with the fascinating, fanciful, artistic gravestone monuments created by Barre's master stonecarvers.


The first thing you must know about Barre, Vermont, 8.4 miles (13.5 km) southeast of Montpelier (map) is that its name is pronounced like the name "Barry," and not like a drinking place.

Welcome Sign, Barre VT
The "Welcome to Barre" sign is made from local granite—naturally!

The town was named to honor Isaac Barré (1726-1802), an Irish soldier, politician and member of Parliament who supported American aspirations to liberty and even coined the term "Sons of Liberty."


The next thing to know is that Barre, the 4th largest city in Vermont (pop. 8500), is all about granite, that granular, igneous rock that is so much a part of the landscape.

Barre sits atop a simply huge mass of granite estimated to be 4 miles (6.4 km) long, 2 miles (3.2 km) wide and 10 miles (16 km) deep. Barre granite is high quality, prized for its color, fine and even grain, and resistance to deterioration by weather.

With the coming of railroads to Vermont, Barre could ship its granite easily and cheaply to the rest of the nation, and Barre's boom began. Stonecutters immigrated to Barre from many European countries to fashion this basic building material for a young and fast-growing nation.

Guided tours of the granite quarries and the stonecutting workshops are offered daily, and prove a fascinating way to spend a few hours.

The Rock of Ages granite quarry in the Barre neighborhood of Graniteville (where else? map) is open for tours daily from the beginning of May through October.

Hope Cemetery

There's no more fascinating gallery of the granite artistry for which Barre is famous than in Hope Cemetery, where Barre's master stonecutters and carvers exhibited their expertise on their own gravestones.

Donati Monument, Hope Cemetery, Barre VT

Hope Cemetery, on VT Route 14 just 8/10 mile (1.1 km) north of US Route 302 in Barre VT (map), has two gates, and is open until sunset.

We speak of making "monuments to survive ourselves," and in Barre the phrase is literal!

Hunter Scene Gravestone, Barre VT

Stonecutters here create the monument of their dreams for their own resting places.

Auto Gravestone, Barre VT
"Old No. 61," a demolition derby car.

You'll see a balanced granite cube resting precariously on one corner, self-portraits and statues, a ponderous granite armchair, even a relief of a husband and wife sitting up in bed, hands joined in eternal friendship.

Typewriter Tombstone, Hope Cemetery, Barre VT

Hope Cemetery is more like a sculpture garden, a touching and artistic memorial to artisans and artists who came here from Scotland, Italy and other parts of the world to work the excellent stone.

Where to Stay

Here's a handy Hotel Map with Prices to find the lodgings you want.


Northeast Kingdom

Kingdom? In anti-royalist America? No, the name just testifies to the region's natural grandeur. There's nothing royal about this region's small, untouristy farming villages, but it is home to Circus Smirkus, Vermont's own internationally-renowned youth circus and summer circus camp.

Fields near Hardwick VT
Sweeping vistas of green fields and mountains are common in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.

Senator George Aiken coined the term "Northeast Kingdom" in 1949 for Vermont's Caledonia, Essex and Orleans counties in northeastern Vermont, and the name stuck.

Farthest from the cosmopolitan centers of Boston, Montréal and New York City, the Northeast Kingdom preserves best the life of old Vermont with its tidy farms, beautiful mountain vistas, village greens and town commons, and friendly, unhurried people.

Northeast Kingdom towns are small, and villages are tiny. There are no cities. St Johnsbury, the kingdom's largest town, has only 7,600 people.

The exotic Northeast Kingdom name helps to give a special feeling to this region of Vermont, a part of the state that is even more rural than the rest of this very rural state.

There's nothing royal about its small, untouristy farming villages, but they have their surprises.


One of them, Greensboro (population 771) is home to Circus Smirkus, Vermont's own internationally-renowned youth circus and summer circus camp.

Circus Smirkus, Greensboro VT

The youthful spirit, enthusiasm and joy in performing of the teenage troupers are contagious and exhilarating for audiences of all ages.

Based in tiny Greensboro VT, this acclaimed international youth circus began as just a fun idea in the mind of Rob Mermin, a professional clown and onetime head of Ringling Brothers' renowned Clown College.

After graduating from university, Mermin had vagabonded around Europe performing in a variety of small traveling circuses, an experience he came to cherish. He wanted to bring this rich and joyous experience to American youth.

Starting over two decades ago with a handful of local kids and a one-week tour of a few local parks, the Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour has grown into a professional-quality company giving 70+ circus performances in a 750-seat European-style chapiteau (circus tent) in towns across New England, delighting nearly 50,000 cheering fans each summer.

The young circus troupers, aged 12 to 18, are all amateurs, but passionate about circus arts. Professional coaches, program planners and costume designers help them make high-quality shows featuring top-notch artistic direction, tailor-made costumes, and live music.

Circus Smirkus Troupers
Circus Smirkus: the Troupers

Little kids attending the show get to sit on carpets right next to the circus ring (try that with any other circus!) so they can be as close as possible to the fun and the action.

Surprisingly, the largest number of people in the audience is adults—but, actually, that's not surprising given the quality and pleasure of the show.

Audience at Circus Smirkus, Greensboro VT
A dramatic moment just before the applause...

Circus Smirkus is a non-profit educational organization. Part of the proceeds from many of its performances goes to local charities that help to stage the shows in their towns.

For details of Circus Smirkus's July through mid-August touring schedule, see the Circus Smirkus website. Buy your tickets in advance if at all possible—many shows sell out!

If your child is interested in learning circus arts, you should know that Circus Smirkus also operates a summer circus camp in Vermont for kids (toddlers through teens), and a family camp. Many of the Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour troupers honed their skills at Smirkus Camp. More...

Where to Stay

The Northeast Kingdom has country inns, B&Bs, and ski lodgings scattered throughout. Use this handy Vermont Hotel Map with Prices to find the lodgings you want.


St Johnsbury

St Johnsbury, the largest town (population 7603) in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, lies just north of the intersection of Interstates 91 and 93 (map), where the Passumpsic and Moose rivers meet, giving the town its motto: "The city where people and rivers come together."

Main Street, St Johnsbury VT

Chartered in 1760, it was actually settled in 1787.

"Saint J," as townspeople often call it, prospered in the 19th century when inventor and industrialist Thaddeus Fairbanks invented (1830) the platform scale, a more accurate and easy-to-use weighing device than the common balance-beam scale, and one that that could be installed at ground level so that loads did not need to be lifted for weighing. (Trucks drive onto platform scales to be weighed.)

These Fairbanks scales were immediately popular.

When the Boston to Montreal railroad was built in the 1850s, St J and the Fairbanks Company got a big boost. Fairbanks scales were shipped around the workd, and St Johnsbury was named shire town (county seat) of Caledonia County.

What to See & Do

Follow US Routes 5 and 2 to where US 2 meets Main Street—that's the center of town, with its attractive buildings including the St Johnsbury Athenaeum (library and art gallery), Caledonia County Court House, Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium, and several architecturally interesting churches, as well as several cafés and restaurants. The St Johnsbury Welcome Center is to the east down the hill by the railroad tracks.

St Johnsbury Athenaeum

The St Johnsbury Athenaeum, in the center of the city at 1171 Main Street (map), is a combination library and art gallery founded in 1871 as a gift from Governor Horace Fairbanks of the famous St Johnsbury industrial and commercial family.

St Johnsbury Athenaeum Library & Art Gallery, Vermont

Apart from its role as the intellectual and archival center of St Johnsbury, the Athenaeum building is a beautifully-preserved treasure of New England Victorian architecture.

Within the proud red-brick, mansard-roofed structure, its finely carved and finished wood floors, stairways, bookshelves and other furnishings are a pleasure to see.

A substantial portion of the Athenaeum's interior space is dedicated to a gem of an art gallery boasting more than 100 works of art from the late 1700s to mid-1800s, gifts of the Fairbanks family, including original paintings by Hudson River School and Western artists Jasper Cropsey, Asher B. Durand, Sanford Gifford, James and William Hart, Samuel Colman and Worthington Whittredge.

There are also copies of works by Bonheur, Del Sarto, Dolci, Fra Angelico, Murillo, Raphael, Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Veronese.

Pride of place goes to the huge (10 by 15-foot/3 by 4.5-meter), dramatic painting by Albert Bierstadt: "The Domes of the Yosemite."

This painting alone is reason enought for a visit to the Athenaeum.

Art Gallery, St Johnsbury Athenaeum, Vermont
The art gallery at the St Johnsbury Athenaeum, with Albert Bierstadt's "The Domes of the Yosemite" on the far wall.

Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium

Founded by Franklin Fairbanks as the Fairbanks Museum of Natural Science, this gem of a museum at 1302 Main Street is Northern Vermont's finest natural history museum.

Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium, St Johnsbury, Vermont
Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium

The museum's collection of animals, birds, artifacts and natural history exhibits, many of them collected by the museum's founder himself, is the best in northern New England. Its planetarium is the only one in northern Vermont.

The substantial Romaesque museum building is a familiar landmark on Main Street in the center of St Johnsbury near the courthouse, St Johnsbury Athenaeum, police and fire headquarters, and other civic buildings.

It's not surprising that someone in the Fairbanks family wanted to establish such a museum. St Johnsbury's most famous family of inventors, entrepreneurs and industrialists, paterfamilias Thaddeus Fairbanks started out as a wheelwright, but soon established an iron works to make heating stoves.

Thaddeus invented a refrigerator and also a cast iron plow, patented in 1826, that was a substantial advancement in plowing technology.

(Another Vermonter, John Deere of Middlebury, made a similarly revolutionary advancement in 1837 with his invention of the steel moldboard plow strong enough to turn the heavy soil of the Great Plains, opening that rich land to cultivation and its role as the breadbasket of the USA.)

Where to Stay

For lodgings, there are numerous hotels, motels, B&Bs and inns in and around St Johnsbury. Use this handy Hotel Map with Prices to find the lodgings you want.



There is a whiff of Europe in Stowe, the feeling one has in some village amid emerald-green rolling hills, winding roads, and steep slopes.

Stowe, Vermont
Panoramic view of Stowe VT, with the church in the bottom center, and ski slopes of Mt Mansfield at the top.

In fact, the Trapp family of The Sound of Music fame chose Stowe as their American refuge in 1941.

Trapp Family Lodge Resort, Stowe VT
The Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe VT.

The mountain, Mount Mansfield (4,393 feet/1,339 meters), is certainly no Matterhorn, but it and adjoining Spruce Peak and Madonna Mountain give the valley an alpine air.

Not surprisingly, many of the resorts, hotels, inns and B&Bs around Stowe adopt alpine or Central European names.

Perhaps it is the lushness (in summer) of the lawns, forests, and wildflowers, or perhaps it is the rain and mists—Lamoille County is said to have the most precipitation of any Vermont county—which make everything so lush.

The frequent rain is not a liability, either, for local people learn to plan on it, and the earth scents after the rain are part of the pleasure of Stowe. And besides, it's all this precipitation which makes Stowe one of the best skiing areas in the East, with plenty of deep cover and a long season on Stowe and Spruce Peak ski areas.

Whatever, there is certainly an especially attractive air about Stowe.

What to See & Do

Mount Mansfield

At 4,393 feet (1,339 meters), Mansfield is the highest mountain in Vermont. Much of it is protected from development in the 34,000-acre (13,760-hectare) Mount Mansfield State Forest, which includes Underhill State Park.

You can drive to the top of Mount Mansfield on the Stowe Mountain Resort Auto Toll Road, climbing even higher into the mist, past bunches of exotic wildflowers, feeling the air get cooler.

The toll road base station is near the Stowe ski areas just south of Smuggler's Notch. You pay for your car and then proceed up the road, which is paved only for a quarter of a mile (the rest is stabilized dirt).

Or you can enjoy gliding to the top of Vermont's highest mountain in a cable-car gondola on the Gondola SkyRide.

(In some cases, the Stowe Mountain Resort's FourRunner Quad Lift may be running in summer instead of, or in addition to, the Gondola SkyRide.)

Both the gondola and the toll road are open daily from mid-June through mid-October, weather permitting.

Smuggler's Notch

It's hardly less exciting just to make the drive (in summer) or hike through Smuggler's Notch, the narrow defile between Mount Mansfield, Spruce Peak and Madonna Mountain, on its twisting one-land road.

Smugglers Notch Road, Stowe VT
The steep, narrow one-lane road through Smugglers Notch near Stowe VT. Snow closes the road during the winter.

In northern New England, a narrow mountain pass is called a notch.

The notch north of Stowe VT (map) got its name from smugglers running rum from Canada.

As you approach the mountains and the defile from the south along VT Route 108, on the left (west) is Mount Mansfield (4393 feet, 1339 meters); on the east, Spruce Peak (3320 feet, 1012 meters) and Madonna Mountain (3640 feet, 1109 meters).

Mansfield and Spruce are part of Stowe Mountain Resort; Madonna is part of Smugglers Notch Resort, and is reached from the northern side of the notch.

As you enter the notch, the road begins to twist and turn among tremendous boulders fallen from the steep sides of the defile over the eons.

Many of the corners are blind, so proceed slowly. Use your horn to alert oncoming drivers. Listen for the horns of others approaching from the north.

The foliage gets thick, trees block the sun's light, and as you grind along up the switchback slope, a sense of wildness and excitement takes over.

Just over the 2162-foot (659-meter) pass, on its north side, are parking places (you dare not stop unless you can pull off the narrow road) with benches, toilets, a snack stand (open in summer), and several hiking trails which invite one to clamber into the rocks.

Smugglers Notch is closed by snow in winter, and is not kept open for vehicles, so only those with skis or snowshoes can get through.

Smugglers Notch in winter, Stowe, Vermont
Smugglers Notch, a narrow mountain pass, closed in winter.

The Smugglers Notch ski resort is on the north side of the notch. To get there in winter you must drive all the way around the mountain, north on VT Route 100 to Morristown and Hyde Park, west on Route 15 to Johnson and Jeffersonville, then south on Route 108 via South Cambridge to the resort.

Want more notches? New Hampshire has them:

Franconia Notch, site of the (former) Old Man of the Mountain

Dixville Notch, with The Balsams Resort and "First in the Nation" ballot-counting

Pinkham Notch, beloved by hikers up Mount Washington



Underhill State Park has four hiking trails on Mount Mansfield, joining the route of Vermont's Long Trail which follows the ridge line of Mount Mansfield above tree line. The Sunset Ridge Trail is the most popular, taking you to the mountain's summit in 3.2 miles (5.15 km). Note that these trails are for experienced hikers in good condition. They are hiking trails, not walking paths.

The Stowe Recreation Path is a 5.5-mile (8.85-km) paved greenway path right from Stowe village north up the valley toward Mount Mansfield. Used by walkers, joggers and bicyclers, the path is easily accessible. Parts of it are reserved for walkers and joggers only.


The Stowe Country Club at Stowe Mountain Resort has an 18-hole golf course with all facilities. Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa has its own 9-hole course.


Many of the larger resorts at Stowe have their own tennis courts, and some offer lessons and tennis camps.


With the highest mountain in Vermont, Stowe is all about skiing in winter, on both the Stowe/Spruce Peak and Smugglers' Notch (north) sides of the mountain.

Special Events in Stowe

It's no exaggeration to say that something's always happening in Stowe in June, July, and August: antique car rallies, horse and dog shows, a craft fair, wine tastings, concerts, theater, even a fiddlers' meeting, and a surprisingly authentic Oktoberfest (in October, natch) crowd into the schedule.

Where to Stay

Stowe has lots of good skiing and lots of good summer activities, and therefore lots of good hotels, motels, inns, B&Bs and resorts. The broad range goes from spartan skier dorms to plush resorts with every luxury accoutrement and service.

Few of Stowe's lodgings are in town. Most are scattered on and off the Mountain Road (VT Route 108) which wanders for 10 miles (16 km) north of the town all the way to Mount Mansfield and Smugglers' Notch.

Luxury Resorts

The 5-star, 312-room Stowe Mountain Lodge is the grande dame of Stowe mountain resorts with two restaurants, a full service spa, an 18-hole golf course, and an indoor-outdoor swimming pool. The location is prime: right at the base of Mount Mansfield, and next to the gondola that takes skiers over to the Spruce Peak area. More...

At the 4-star, 176-room Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa, the emphasis is on spa: large, elaborate and full-service, with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, fully-equipped gym, massaging waterfall, and dozens of treatment rooms—just the thing to relax after tennis on the resort's courts, or a round on its 9-hole golf course. More...

The famous 4-star, 96-room Trapp Family Lodge is an elaborate hilltop resort with a long list of activities and pleasures: the Austrian theme (of course), three restaurants, three swimming pools, hiking trails (and cross-country skiing in winter), rock climbing, dance lessons, yoga and more. More...

The 4-star, 68-room Topnotch Resort & Spa is also for active vacations, with indoor and outdoor pools, tennis, a full spa, and two restaurants. More...

Country Inns

The 4-star, 9-room Stone Hill Inn, 2 miles (3 km) from Stowe village and 6 miles (10 km) from Mount Mansfield's ski slopes, is set apart on 9.5 acres (4 hectares) of fields, forest and gardens. Guest rooms have spa baths and fireplaces, there's a game room with billiards, and breakfast is served. More...

The historic 3-star, 107-room Green Mountain Inn is right in the center of Stowe village. More...


The 3-star, 61-room Stowe Motel & Snowdrift has comfortable rooms with kitchenettes, an outdoor pool, and rental bikes and snowshoes. More...

Bed & Breakfast

Aptly-named Timberholm is a 3-star, 9-room family-run B&B with a comfortable, rustic ambience, but all the comforts.

Use this handy Hotel Map with Prices to find the lodgings you want.


Sugarbush & Mad River Valley

The Mad River Valley along VT Route 100 just south of Interstate 89 near Warren and Waitsfield, boasts two good—but very different—ski resorts: Sugarbush and Mad River Glen. Although they are not so elaborate as the resorts at Mount Snow, Killington, or Stowe, well, perhaps that's part of the charm here—an absence of big-time crowds.

Where to Stay

Use this handy Hotel Map with Prices to find the lodgings you want near Sugarbush and Mad River Glen.