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Scenic Foliage Drives

A Recommended Drive: Vermont

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The 18-mile stretch of Route 108 that connects Stowe and Jeffersonville via Smugglers' Notch is a destination in itself, as well as a way to get from one town to another during the spring, summer, and fall. It starts out looking like any other easily negotiable Vermont road. But after it courses past the resort-area businesses that trail north out of Stowe and leaves behind the ski area, it's easy to see why no plow dares make the passage in winter.

Steep slopes crowd close once you reach Mount Mansfield State Forest, and Route 108 narrows to a blacktop corkscrew of a road with a 16 percent grade. On the Stowe side, there's access to the resort's gondola and auto road to Mount Mansfield's summit, along with picnic and camping spots.

Near the crest of the notch, where the dark walls of Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak loom above the road, you can pull over and hike to Sterling Pond, the highest pond on the Long Trail. Here it is never fully daylight, especially beneath the 1,000-foot rise that lofts to the stark rock formation called Elephant's Head.

Did smugglers really use this route more than two centuries ago to secretly transport supplies to the Canadian-based British army? If not, they should have: it's not only the most direct way through the northern Green Mountains, but it's also crammed with rocky nooks and crannies.

Vistas broaden after you navigate the sharp summit turns, and the road straightens on the way down past Smugglers' Notch ski resort and into Jeffersonville. Now you're in northern Vermont, where things are just a bit more rustic, and even a sizable ski area isn't beset by bistros and boutiques. Take time to relax before you make that drive back to the other side of the notch.

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Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Reader Comments

Comment from Rice Wales on June 24, 2008

I love Smuggler's Notch. Such a beautiful location!

Comment from Shirley Zeigner on August 9, 2009

I was born and raised in LaMoile County, VT. However, it has been many years since I have been there for the foliage season. We are planning a trip to New England, with the last two weeks of September in VT, and the first two weeks of Oct in NH. Will that have us in each region during the best of the season?

Comment from C. ANN BAXTERNICK on August 26, 2009

I have been there in fact i have skiied Mt. Mansfield when it was the village of MADONNA . also stayed for a weekend in the village. Beautiful sights

Comment from Julie Pierce on April 6, 2010

I love Southern Vermont. For years I vacationed in Northern, Vermont, then I discovered the Okemo Valley and Chester.WOW

Comment from Claire Albert on July 26, 2010

My husband and I celebrated out 50th anniversary on top of Mt.Mansfield at the restaurant. Wonderful meal and a beautiful ride up...coming down was pitch black until you could see the little lights in town...beautiful....would love to do again some day.

Comment from Greg Boyd on August 26, 2010

To: Shirley Zeigner - You may be a couple of weeks early in VT - it has peaked in Northern VT around October 4-10 for the past few years... If you can swap the visits (NH - VT) it might be better for the viewing - at least in VT - Greg Boyd - Northfield, VT

Comment from Laura Malieswski on August 26, 2010

You\'ll find lots of great foliage driving tours of Vermont\'s Northeast Kingdom along with biking, paddling, hiking, etc tours here http://www.travelthekingdom.com/trips-we-love.php

Comment from Lisa Vaillancourt on September 29, 2010

We are heading up to Burke Mountain this weekend to enjoy the Vermont foliage. If anyone out there has not been to Burke Mountain, put it on your bucket list! The mountain offers wonderful views of the Willoughby Gap and is truly a special place to go. We own a beautiful condo unit on Burke Mountain (Bear Path), which overlooks the gap. It is a very quiet & peaceful community. A great get-a-way!

Comment from Deborah Ebbeling on October 2, 2010

Took this route last weekend (9/24-25). Despite the foliage not even close to peak, it was amazing. The Notch was, well, amazing. What an awesome sight. Next year, I am definitely waiting at least another week before I go...I actually found the drive down through New Hampshire more colorful than Vermont was at that point...But, every year in New England brings new surprises, so keep your eye on the foliage reports and hope you can find a place to hang your hat that time of year. It\'s BUSY. I highy recommend touring this area. It\'s breathtaking.

Comment from Richard Curtis on October 13, 2010

We have been at Smugglers\' Notch Resort on VT-108 from 10-9-10 through this coming Saturday. I have been chasing the rangers\' predicted routes all over central VT all week without success. They seem inevitably to be premature. The color hit peak not only in the Notch but all over the Stowe area along VT-100 and down to VT-15 in the Jeffersonville/Johnson/Morrisville areas on 10/11-10/12. It\'s just past peak now but still colorful. I should have stayed local the whole week instead of futilely chasing color elsewhere. But VT\'s beautiful no matter where you drive -- just more driving and less photography than would have occurred if I had hung out here all week.

Comment from Cindy Cairns on September 18, 2011

The Stowe Community Church on Main St. has an annual Chicken Pie Supper served family style in Fellowship Hall on the Saturday of Columbus Day weekend. For $12 adults can enjoy chicken, biscuits,gravy,coleslaw,squash, beverage and homemade pie! Best dinner deal in Stowe. They seat at 5, 6, & 7 pm. Call the church secretary to reserve tickets 802-253-7257 or take your chances at the door. Bring back old time feelings in the historic church and your tablemates might be from all over the world.

Comment from Teresa Marino on September 25, 2011

People, my husband and I are planing our first trip to VT to see the foliage for the first time since I moved to US from Brazil 10 year ago. We are flying to Burlington on the 4 th and I was wondering if anyone could give us some recommendations. We have no idea where to start. We would appreciate some tips from you.

Comment from on September 27, 2011

Teresa - The Golden Eagle Inn on Rt. 108 just outside Stowe is a great value with many amenities. Their breakfast from local farms is the best. Staff vey friendly and accommodating. Good resource area/display for trips, restaurants, etc. in lobby. Bottomless Keurig coffee/tea in lobby and rooms. Get a room with a fireplace. Dinner at the Grey Fox Inn Pub was very good. You must take a ride up to Mt. Mansfield and ride the gondola to the restaurant at the top. Food was great and the view was breathtaking. Great foliage driving up to Jeffersonville through Smugger\'s Notch. Take day trips down Rt. 100 to Quechee ( Simon Pierce + restaurant + views at Quechee Gorge) and Woodstock ( great New England town). I\'ve done the fall foilage twice with my Dad and brother. My parents did it for many years using the Golden Eagle Inn as their base of operations. Alot to enjoy in this area of Vermont.

Comment from Cathy Blizzard on August 26, 2012

Can't wait to go there. Sounds just beautiful. Want to drive from Stowe to Jeffersonville.

Comment from Cindy Cairns on September 26, 2012

Hi folks. We are gearing up for this year's supper to be held on Saturday,October 6 on Main St at the Stowe Community Church. Our chicken and veggies have been ordered and the parishoners on our pie list are chilling their rolling pins. We are keeping the prices the same as last year (adults $12 , children 10 and under $6) even though our costs have risen. We will have our ladies famous cookbooks on sale as well as raffle tickets for this year's queen sized "Yellow Brick Road" quilt. The quilt will be raffled on Dec 1st at our Christmas Fair (See community calendar for details.) You need not be at the fair to win. We have shipped past quilts to the winners. Call our church secretary to reserve tickets for the supper or the raffle. We have high chairs and booster seats for the little ones. Hope to see you there!

Comment from Art Dremann on September 15, 2014

Seeking comments about driving 31 foot motorhome from Jefferson to stowe. Recommedations for campgrounds in the area.

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