Let’s HikeVT! This week, we’re exploring the best foliage hikes in the Stowe area. This popular hiking destination offers a range of trails with amazing leaf peeping opportunities in the mountains. Check out our fall hiking safety tips, grab your camera to share your photos online (#HikeVT), and have fun hiking out there!
Foliage Hikes in the Stowe & Smuggler’s Notch
- Mt. Elmore, Morrisville
- Stowe Pinnacle, Stowe
- Elephant’s Head, Stowe
- Barnes Camp Loop, Stowe
- Smuggler’s Notch Boardwalk, Stowe — Easy, Accessible
Elmore Mountain, Morrisville — Moderate
» 4.4 mi round trip, approx. 1,438 ft elevation gain
Elmore is a great moderate hike option. The fire tower at the top provides the perfect place to view the fall foliage found within the Worcester Range. A loop can be hiked by following State Park Road from the trailhead for 0.3 mi to the junction with the Ridge Trail. Follow the more difficult Ridge Trail to the summit of Elmore. After soaking in the views from the top of the tower, follow the more moderate Fire Tower Trail back to the trailhead.
Driving Directions: From Stowe, take VT-100 north and continue for 8.1 miles. Turn right onto Historic VT-100 and continue for 0.7 miles, then stay straight onto Upper Main Street. Continue straight onto VT-12 south (Elmore Road). The park is on the right after 3.6 miles. Map it.
Stowe Pinnacle, Stowe — Moderate
» 3.6 mi round trip, approx. 1,476 ft elevation gain
Although this trail is extremely popular and can be crowded, it cannot be excluded from a list of foliage hikes. Follow the Stowe Pinnacle Trail as it steadily climbs through the woods past junctions with the Pinnacle Meadow Trail and then the Ridge Trail to the open, rocky outcrop known as Stowe Pinnacle. At this viewpoint, you feel as though you are immersed in the beautiful fall colors. Some of the best views in Vermont can be found here. Be diligent to stay on the Stowe Pinnacle Trail as you head back to the trailhead.
Due to the busy nature of this trail, try visiting on a weekday, or around sunset. The lighting near the end of the day cannot be beat!
Driving Directions: From the intersection of Route-108 and 100 in Stowe, head south on VT-100. Turn left onto Gold Brook Road. Bear left at the four-way intersection to stay on Gold Brook Road. At the next junction, continue straight onto Stowe Hollow Road, then right onto Upper Hollow Road to the parking area on the left. Map it.
Elephant’s Head via Long Trail North, Stowe — Difficult
» 6 mi round trip, approx. 1,254 ft elevation gain
To reach Elephant’s Head Cliff, follow the Long Trail North as it crosses a snow cat bridge behind Barnes Camp and ascends past the trail kiosk into the woods. Follow the white blazes as the trail steadily climbs almost 3 miles to the spur trail for the cliff. Take the spur trail 0.1 mi to the top of Elephant’s Head where you will find sweeping views through Smuggler’s Notch. This is a great place to get photos of the foliage through the notch.
Driving Directions: From Stowe: From the intersection of VT-100 and VT-108 at the center of town, head north on VT-108 for 7.7 miles. Barnes Camp will be your next right after passing under the Stowe Mountain Resort cross-street gondola. For Elephant’s Head, park in Stowe Resort Parking Lot D1. Across the street from Barnes Camp on 108, you will see a Stowe Resort entrance sign, with a hiker parking sign hanging below it. Turn into the resort and take an immediate left into the parking area. Map it.
Barnes Camp Loop, Stowe — Moderate
» 1.5 mi round trip, approx. 360 ft elevation gain
The Barnes Camp Loop Trail starts on the Long Trail at the boardwalk at the northern end of the parking lot. Proceed along the boardwalk where you will find amazing views of foliage through the notch. Be sure to then continue into the woods on the white-blazed Long Trail. In 0.3 mi, you will come to an intersection for Long Trail South and Picnic Area. Turn right toward the picnic area, now following blue blazes. The trail continues for 0.3 mi to the next intersection where the Smuggler’s Notch picnic area is straight ahead 0.1 miles. To continue the Barnes Camp Loop, turn right to follow the blue blazes and descend steps to the West Branch Waterbury River, which you will cross. There is no bridge for this crossing; in high water conditions it can be difficult, although it is usually safe this time of year. After crossing the river, the trail becomes moderately steep and in 0.3 miles, you come to a junction with the Long Trail. Bear right at the junction following the sign saying LTS, Barnes Camp. Trail blazes are white now. The trail continues as a moderate descent for 0.5 mi back to Barnes Camp.
Driving Directions: From the intersection of VT-100 and VT-108 at the center Stowe, head north on VT-108 for 7.7 miles. Barnes Camp will be your next right after passing under the Stowe Mountain Resort cross-street gondola. Map it.
Smugglers’ Notch Boardwalk — Easy / Accessible
» 0.25 mi round trip, approx. 2 ft elevation gain to viewing platform
You can explore wetlands, see a beaver dam, and admire a unique view of Smugglers’ Notch from this 660-foot accessible boardwalk on the Long Trail. Several informational panels with facts about the local wildlife and geology are located along the boardwalk.
Driving Directions: From the intersection of VT-100 and VT-108 at the center of Stowe, head north on VT-108 for 7.7 miles. Barnes Camp will be your next right after passing under the Stowe Mountain Resort cross-street gondola. Map it.
Foliage Hikes in the Northeast Kingdom
- Brousseau Mountain, Norton
- Bluff Mountain, Island Pond
- Haystack Mountain Loop, Westmore
- Wheeler Mountain, Barton
- Sentinel Rock Trail, Westmore — Easy, Accessible
Brousseau Mountain, Norton
» 1.8 mi round trip, approx. 592 ft elevation gain
The trail begins by taking hikers through an open meadow before leading into a recently cut forest and winding through the woods for a time. Near the summit, the trail winds over granite bedrock and then to the forested peak. A short distance further, there is a cliff lookout that provides extensive views to the south and east.
Please note that this trail passes through private property. Please respect the landowner and protect future access by staying on the marked trail and following all rules.
Driving Directions: From Norton, drive east on VT-114 N for 2.9 miles. Turn right onto Brousseau Mountain Road and continue to the gated terminus. Parking is limited, so please pull off the road completely without blocking the gate or camp access. From the gate, continue straight up the access road where, shortly, trailhead signs will appear on the left. Map it.
Bluff Mountain, Island Pond
» 3.1 mi round trip, approx. 1,074 ft elevation gain
A lollipop loop can be made by following the Bluff Mountain Community Trail to the Lookout Trail to the summit; then follow the Bluff Mountain Community Trail all the way back to the trailhead.
The Bluff Mountain Community Trail steadily winds its way up over small ridges and outcrops to the Lookout Trail. Follow the Lookout Trail as it climbs more steeply over rocks and boulders past a stunning lookout on the way toward the summit. From the summit, follow the mellower Bluff Community Trail back to the trailhead.
Driving Directions: Take Moscow Road west from VT-100, south of Stowe. Follow the paved road, which turns into the Nebraska Valley Road and becomes gravel-surfaced, 6.7 miles to the gate of the Lake Mansfield Trout Club. In summer, you may drive through the open gate to the hiking season day-use parking lot that is to the north of the main building of the Trout Club.
For overnight parking, turn right on Old County Road just before the closed Trout Club gate. There is a large parking lot on the left a few hundred yards down the road. Map it.
Haystack Mountain Loop, Westmore
» 3.2 mi round trip, approx. 879 ft elevation gain
Although Haystack Mountain is a small mountain, it is rugged and steep from both trails. The peak is accessible from the north and the south and offers views towards Long Pond, Bald Mountain, and beyond.
A loop can be made by connecting the North Trail, South Trail, then returning on the Long Pond Road to the trailhead. The North Trail begins with a moderate climb through an open hardwood forest then the slope becomes steeper as it leads up to a knoll. The trail comes to an intersection with a spur trail that offers views of Long Pond and Lake Willoughby. Continuing straight, the North Trail soon reaches the summit (marked with a large rock pile) and converges with the South Trail. Continue on the South Trail as it descends by two lookouts on the way to Long Pond Road. Turn right onto the road to return to the trailhead for the North Trail.
Driving Directions: To the North Trail parking, head north on VT-5A. Turn right onto Long Pond Road and proceed for 2.5 mile. There is roadside parking at the trailhead. Map it.
Wheeler Mountain, Barton
» 4.4 mi round trip, approx. 700 ft elevation gain
Starting from the new trailhead that is found 0.2 miles past the trailhead for Moose Mountain and Wheeler Pond Trail, the Wheeler Pond Trail gradually climbs through the woods following the contours of the ridgeline. This leads you to an easy hike over open ledges with expansive views. From here, the trail enters the woods following open bedrock to the top of the Wheeler Mountain cliffs that provide views of Jay Peak and Mansfield. The trail then continues through the woods past the summit to Eagle Cliff which provides views Lake Willoughby and Mt. Pisgah.
Driving Directions: From Lyndon: Head north on US-5 N. Stay left on US-5 N when 5A splits off in West Burke. 8.3 mi after that split, turn right on Wheeler Mountain Road. After .9 mi, you will see a dirt pull off on your right with a wooden GMC sign. Please do not block the gate when parking. If full, please park in the dirt pull-off on the west/left side of the road just before the main lot.
From Barton: Head out of town on US-5 S. Two mi after passing Crystal Lake, turn left on Wheeler Mountain Road. See parking instructions above. Map it.
Sentinel Rock Trail, Westmore – EASY, ACCESSIBLE
» 1.8 mi round trip, approx. 26 ft elevation gain
This easy and accessible trail leads to a grassy knoll that provides sweeping views of the Northeast Kingdom. Along the way, the trail passes by Sentinel Rock, a large glacial erratic that dates to 13,000 years ago. More info.
Driving Directions to Sentinel Rock State Park: From Lyndon: Head north on US-5 N. Bear right on US-5A when it splits off in West Burke. After passing most of Lake Willoughby, turn right on Hinton Hill Rd/T-38 at the Westmore Community Church. Head up the hill and a dirt parking lot will be on your left in a large field.
From Newport: Head south on I-91S and take exit 26. Turn left US-5 S/VT-58 E and stay on VT-58 E when they split. When 58 ends, turn right on US-5A S. Turn left on Hinton Hill Rd/T-38 at the Westmore Community Church. Head up the hill and a dirt parking lot will be on your left in a large field. Map it.
Make sure you plan ahead:
- Check our COVID-19 Response page for current hiking recommendations and a link to Vermont’s official travel guidelines.
- Many roads used to access the Long Trail are seasonal. Check the status of specific roads ahead of time using this general map of Vermont roads or this list of US Forest Service Roads.
- Guidebooks and maps are available for purchase at GMC’s Visitor Center, GMC’s online store, and in most Vermont bookstores and outdoor gear retailers. Many maps have digital versions.
More HikeVT trails to explore, by season:
- Fall recommendations: by location; day hikes; leaf peeping in the Northeast Kingdom;
- Winter recommendations by skill level: easy hikes; moderate hikes; moderate to difficult hikes; difficult hikes; and difficult hikes above 4,000 feet; day hikes
- Mud season recommendations: scenic hikes; high-mileage hikes; alternatives to popular peaks; hikes to waterways; accessible hikes; day hikes
- Summer recommendations: by location; first hikes; day hikes; kid-friendly hikes; alternatives to popular peaks; beginner overnight hikes; hikes to swimming spots; hikes with a sunrise view; hikes to waterfalls;
Questions? Our visitor center staff is here to assist you. Call (802) 244-7037 or email [email protected].