Many people don’t realize that Stowe, Vermont, the well-known winter ski resort was originally a summer destination to many vacationers even before the Civil War. Surrounded by spectacular scenery and exceptional vistas, early summer visitors swam in the swimming holes, strolled the village walkways, and wandered the fertile hillsides with 8,000 sheep, thoroughly enjoying the cool mountain. Then as now, a favorite summer pastime was making a trip up the 4.5-mile toll road (now known as the Mountain Auto Road) to picnic at the summer of Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield.
At the turn of the century, together with the majority of small towns and villages in Vermont, Stowe turned to dairying. 2,800 dairy cows on more than one hundred family farms then joined summer visitors. At one time the cows outnumbered the residents and summer travelers together! Then, in the 1930’s, with the advent of downhill skiing, Stowe began to attract year-round visitors seeking four seasons of beauty and recreation atop Mount Mansfield.
Today, although the hotels outnumber the farms, visitors continue to be welcome in the unchanged setting of old. The mountain air is still crisp and clear, Green Mountains inviting and the townspeople eager to please every traveler.
Many years ago, according to Indian folklore, a giant headed northward on an exploratory journey. Growing tired, the giant laid down. With face upturned to the sky, he took a nap — and is still resting.
This is one of several legends that attempts to explain the uncanny resemblance between Mount Mansfield’s ridge line and a man’s facial features: forehead, nose, lips, and chin. The prominent chin is Vermont’s highest point of land at 4,939 feet above sea level. It is on this “face” that many vacationers explore a unique high-altitude ecosystem, seek recreation, and enjoy spectacular, panoramic views of New England countryside.
The Long Trail is a 260-mile footpath running the length of Vermont, from the Massachusetts line to the Canadian Border. This trail crosses the mountain’s ridge line and provides a path for visitors on which to explore Vermont’s highest mountain and its ecosystem: a picnic lunch in one hand and wildflower identification book in the other!
Smuggler’s Notch, elevation 2,162 feet, is a narrow pass through the mountains with 1,000-foot cliffs on either side. In the early days there existed only a footpath and trail for horses. In 1894, the first carriage road was built. In 1918, the first road opened. “Smuggler’s Notch” was so named because the forbidden trade with Canada passed through here during the War of 1812 at the time of Jefferson’s Embargo Act. Cattle were smuggled into New England through the picturesque gap beside majestic Mount Mansfield, remote from revenue officers.
Natural wonders abound throughout the “Notch.” Fun to spot rock formations include: Smuggler’s Head, viewed from Smuggler’s Souvenir House; Elephant’s Head, above King Rock, a 6,000 ton rock which fell from the mountain in 1910; Hunter and His Dog, most notable scenic feature of Vermont; Singing Bird, high on a cliff outlined against the sky; Smuggler’s Face, very high on the cliffs, a large face in relief.
The Ski Capital of the East is located at the base of Mount Mansfield. For those preferring an easier ascent up the mountain, it provides direct access to the summit via the Mountain Auto Road, a 4.5-mile road, and the either-passenger. Also available is the eight-passenger enclosed gondola as well as a zip line in the summer months. These attractions are open during the summer and fall.