At 4,343 feet, Mount Mansfield measures in as Vermont’s highest peak. From the top you get a 360-degree view of the surrounding green mountain state, including the Stowe Mountain Resort to the east, and on a clear day Lake Champlain all the way to the west. There are numerous ways to reach the top. You could hike one of the trails, drive up the toll road, or even ride up in a gondola (those last two options don’t actually get you to the tip-ity top though).
As far as I’m concerned the very best way to conquer this mountain is by hiking the Sunset Ridge Trail. This classic Vermont hike starts at Underhill State Park and climbs steadily through the forest and then up above the tree line for the last mile or so. The parking area is about a mile from the official start of the trail which gives you a chance to warm up your legs.
Once on the trail things pick up quickly. The typical New England terrain of big roots and rocks requires a keen eye and sure step.
The forested setting is nice on a warm late-summer day, but when the trail climbs above tree level offering sweeping views of the surrounding area it’s obvious that this is the best part of the trail.
From here it’s a steady ascent up the exposed rock to the “Chin”. The trail is steeper than this photo makes it look!
Mount Mansfield is a wide topped mountain that stretches on for several miles. It’s said that the ridge of the mountain resembles the profile of a face, and therefore each section of mountain is named for a facial feature. Personally, I’ve always thought that you need to have a good imagination to actually see a face in this mountain top. But who am I to argue with this time honored legend?
If you travel from the Stowe side up the auto road or the gondola, you will end up near the Nose and can then hike north across the spine to the the highest point at the Chin. The hiking trails (regardless of which one you choose) all go to the Chin. Consequently, on a sunny summer day there will be lots of people perched on the Chin taking in the views.
We found a spot a little ways from the masses to enjoy lunch and the views.
On the way down we enjoyed a great view of the long spine that we had climbed up.
It’s been years since I last hiked Mount Mansfield and I’m happy to report that it’s as fun as I remember. Now we just need to make it up Killington, Camel’s Hump, Mt. Ellen and Mt. Abraham and then we can say that we climbed all five of the Vermont mountains over 4,000 feet. Hmmm…how long were we planning on staying here?