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5 Best Things to do in Smugglers Notch Vermont

Smugglers Notch Vermont has become one of my favorite places to in the state. Though my first visit to this area happened by accident, thanks to discovering it through that, I have come back here many times and continue to because of how beautiful it is and also because of how many things you can do here, specifically 5 of my personal favorite activities which I’ll be showing you here.

Quick info:

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  • Name: Smugglers Notch (Aka Smugglers Notch Park).
  • Location: Near Stowe Vermont.
  • Things to do: Hiking, waterfalls, rock climbing, scenic drives, fall foliage views and much more.
  • Good for family trips? Absolutely!
  • Are there places to stay there? Yes! 
  • Reviews: 5 out of 5
  • Recommended? Yes! 

Things to do:

  1. Bingham Falls.
  2. Scenic drive
  3. Explore the hikes near and in Smugglers Notch.
  4. See Stowe Mountain Resort.
  5. Explore Stowe Village

You can do most of these things in a day if you’re visiting Smugglers Notch like I was, but for weekend trips, you’ll also find that these 5 activities will pass the time as well. There are other things in the Smugglers Notch area to explore and as I personally check them out, I’ll add to this list.

Bingham Falls:

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Bingham Falls is probably the most popular waterfall in Smugglers Notch which also happens to have:

  • Cliff jumping spots (right by Bingham Falls).
  • Swimming holes nearby.
  • And plenty of scenic views.

I only found out about this area after visiting Smugglers Notch 4 times. I saw signs for this place and was surprised at the lack of marketing it gets. On weekends though, this place fills up so if that bugs you, visit this place very early or on a weekday. Anyway, it has a very beautiful waterfall and a cascade of little waterfalls and gorges, many of which are accessible to cliff jumping and swimming. I was very impressed with how beautiful the gorges were and had the chance to swim in some of them. The beauty in these areas reminded me of the hidden waterfall on Sombrio beach I found long ago on Vancouver Island.

If you’re going to hike through places like these, I highly recommend wearing good water shoes like the Body Glove Riptide III. They helped me get through the slippery areas to find this amazing gorge and waterfall!

Smugglers Notch scenic drive:

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I honestly think that the scenic drive in Smugglers Notch is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and I know a lot about scenic drives and have done many of them. It’s about a 10 minute drive through Mt. Mansfield on road 108, also known as Mountain Road.

I even have a list of the top scenic drives to do in North America, and the Smugglers Notch scenic drive is on that list. The picture you see to above is me exploring a section of this scenic road and the beauty is that parking is available in many areas throughout this drive.

In this case, my friend and I just stopped at one of them to explore Smugglers Notch a bit more and do one of the many hikes available there (it’s the next thing to do on this list). The best times to do this drive are usually early April through late October. That way you’ll be able to see the beautiful green colors of Smugglers Notch during the spring and summer, and certainly the beautiful autumn colors around early October.

Note: During winter, this road is closed but you can still do it during fall foliage (details below).

Do some Smugglers Notch hikes:

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Not only is the Smugglers Notch scenic drive itself unbelievable but so are the hiking trails which are right off the road there too! I’ve only had time to do one at the Smugglers Notch welcome center, which is unbelievable, but there are at least 5 or more hikes nearby that are challenging, yet beautiful and give you a very scenic view of Smugglers Notch, Stowe and nearby mountains such as Mt. Mansfield.

The pictures you see here, where I’m standing in a cave and the picture of the beautiful overlook is near this area so if you are looking to recreate the same hike I did, you can do that here. I do want to warn you though that some hikes in this region as dangerous and off trail where boulders are known to fall, so I do recommend staying the main trails. Also when it rains, I have to say that this particular area is gorgeous (but not for hiking). You will see tons of tiny waterfalls form off the top of the mountain and streams right by this area too. Here is a list of popular Smugglers Notch hiking trails:

  • The cave hike right by Smugglers Notch’s welcome center.
  • Mt. Mansfield trail.
  • Eagle Cut trail.
  • Sterling Pond trail.
  • Sterling Gorge Falls trail.
  • Sunset Ridge Trail.
  • Other hikes right by this region (you can’t miss them).
  • A natural spring area.
  • Parts of the Long Trail.
  • The short hiking trails right by the scenic road. This particular option is great for kids and people who don’t really want to do some of the longer hikes in this region.

The views from any of the hikes in Smugglers Notch are amazing and if you enjoy hiking in general, you’ll want to explore all of them in this region. Every time I return to Smugglers Notch, I always make sure to explore at least one new hike in this area. You’ll find plenty of trail heads and maps in every area there to use for reference on what you choose to explore.

Smugglers Notch Ski resort:

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As you travel south along the scenic road, you will pass Stowe Mountain resort, which technically means you’re out of Smugglers Notch but it’s so close by that it doesn’t matter and considering how beautiful this particular area is, I think you won’t mind coming here, or even staying here. This place is a ski resort and the way it looks, is like a medieval town. In fact I think it looks as good, if not better than Canada’s Whistler which I saw on my Western Canada road trip not too long ago.

Anyway, it’s a hotel and ski resort which is very popular during the winter season, but you can probably find some good open spots in the off season too (easier than in the winter time). While the prices are high, exploring this area is well worth it if you visit Smugglers Notch (and especially if you plan to stay the night). Just one thing I recommend: Always time your visit (if you intend to ski here) ahead of time!

Explore Stowe Village:

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Smugglers Notch is one of the only regions in Vermont that I know off that has such an awesome collection of restaurants and places to see nearby, which in this case is Stowe Village which is about a 10 minute drive from Smugglers Notch itself.

After you finish all of the hiking, driving, picture taking and so forth, finishing the day by stopping at one of the restaurants there is highly recommended and the restaurant that I checked out last time is called “The Bench”. As for staying at hotels, of the 3 times I’ve visited Smugglers Notch, I’ve always stayed at the Fairfield Marriott there and I’ve always been happy to do it. Like with the ski resort, these hotels (and restaurants) get packed seasonally, especially winter time. But overall, the village of Stowe is beautiful and highly recommended to see after you visit to Smugglers Notch. Aside from the restaurants and hotels, you will find other stuff, and for that:

Best times to visit:

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One of the most beautiful and also crowded periods to visit Smugglers Notch is in the fall and for good reason since it is in my opinion one of the best places for fall foliage in New England (and obviously Vermont). While the best times for fall foliage varies for this specific place, I’ve found that usually early October through mid October is the best time to see it there (and there’s also many other spots to see amazing Vermont Fall foliage too).

Last year (2022), I tried to catch it for the first time around the last week of October and it was past peak foliage sadly, but still enough to really enjoy the area. So the first 2-3 weeks of October is the best time to do it.

I do also need to let you know that the prices for hotels around this time are huge, so be aware of that if you plan to visit it in the fall. Another thing is the crowds. Typically Smugglers Notch is always popular year round but weekends is when most visit this area, and especially during October, so if you can come here during a weekday, you may find you see lesser crowds and potentially smaller prices for hotels too.

Common questions:

Is Smugglers Notch good for beginners?

If you’re into hiking, there are numerous trails for all levels. For skiing, there are also numerous slopes for all levels at Smugglers Notch.

How long does it take to drive through Smugglers Notch?

The scenic route in Smugglers Notch called Mountain Road (Also called road 108) took me about 15-20 minutes to drive through.

Is Stowe and Smugglers Notch the same?

Stowe is the closest town to Smugglers Notch which is a popular hiking area in Vermont.

More things to do:

Things to see nearby:

  1. White Mountains
  2. Catskills
  3. Adirondack Mountains
  4. Ausable Chasm 
  5. Green Mountain National Forest
  6. Lake George

Depending on which direction you go, there’s always going to be things to see around the Smugglers Notch region but if you have specific questions or need ideas on where to go, let me know below. Overall, Smugglers Notch is a highly recommended place to visit and the hikes and scenic drives alone make this place worthwhile. If you know a lot about Smugglers Notch too and have some personal recommendations on what there is to do there, feel free to add your ideas below.

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  1. Hello! I’m from southern Vermont, which is a bit of a drive to Smugglers Notch. It was only 2 years ago I had the opportunity to visit Smugglers Notch for the first time. I went there in late September. The foliage was so stunning and beautiful that it’s indescribable.

    Having grown up in Vermont all my life, I admire and appreciate the natural beauty the state has to offer. However, the experience of seeing Smugglers Notch during peak foliage left me in awe.

  2. When I was young, my parents took me to New Hampshire and upstate New York for vacation. Not sure why we never went through Vermont. When I was an adult, I visited Vermont going up Route 100, which is a beautiful scenic drive. I did drive up Stowe Mountain once and it was great. If you are looking for great scenery, then Vermont is a great place to check out.

    1. Agreed, although I will admit, I did a secondary drive through other areas of Vermont and it was very boring, with endless fields/farms. It’s way better to pick out the scenic locations and head there, then from there, find another, it’ll make the trip much better.

  3. My wife and I are planning a trip to New England in October, and we are planning on spending a couple nights in Stowe, so this post came in handy.

    That looked like a beautiful drive, so we will add it to our list of things to do while there. I’ve heard that the ski resort offers zip lining. But I’m not sure if they offer it in October or not. If we’re able to hit it, I’ll come back and update the comments.

    1. Oh that’s awesome Dustin! Make sure to visit that location and possible even Ausable Chasm if you have the chance!

  4. This looks like a beautiful area to visit! It is a part of the United States that I have not visited and I will definitely consider it for my next trip.

    I am a hiker, but not extreme. Are the trails clearly marked for degree of difficulty?

    I really like what you said about the misty weather. I actually prefer a day like that to full sunshine, too.

    Great helpful with my planning!


    1. Great to meet another hiker Ruby! I didn’t get a good look at the trail markers, but you should check them out prior to see if they are indeed marked with a difficulty.

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