Hiking around the Green Mountains is one of my favorite summertime adventures with the boys. I can’t say my hiking plans are always met with enthusiasm, but we do have a couple of favorite local trails that we all enjoy (and ice cream bribes work wonders). Finding a trail that works for everyone can be tricky, so I thought I’d share these three recommendations…happy hiking!
Mansfield Ridge via Toll Road- Mt. Mansfield is Vermont’s highest peak and offers some excellent top to bottom hiking. But for families (especially those with smaller children), another option is to drive up the toll road and hike across the ridge. This hike is really fun for kids since you’re up above tree line– lots of scrambling around on rocks and incredible views– and it’s also a good one to do with grandparents. It’s an easy hike across the top with some ups and downs, but there are no really steep areas. Three things to keep in mind: 1) there is a fee to drive up the Toll Road, 2) it’s always cooler and breezier at the summit, and 3) it’s important to stay on the trail in order to protect the fragile alpine tundra.
Pinnacle – The Pinnacle Trail is short (1.4 miles to the summit) but fairly steep in places. It can get really crowded during holiday weekends, but it’s a fun hike that gives kids (and adults) a good sense of accomplishment. The trails starts off with some wooden bridges and quickly comes to a huge cairn that has been growing for years. Just a bit further on is a wooden teepee. Both of these trail markers can be good incentive for the reluctant hiker since they’re early in the hike and fun to explore. After that, it’s a good mile to the top but the views are well worth it. The boys love exploring the rocky summit and trying to find major landmarks like the Trapp Family Lodge, Waterbury Reservoir, Sugarbush, and Mt. Mansfield.
Sterling Pond – Located in “the notch,” the Sterling Pond trail is part of the Long Trail. It can feel a bit like stair climbing at the beginning, but the kids love scrambling around the rocks and a cool swim in Sterling Pond at the top is so rewarding. Once you get to the pond, the trail continues on just a bit further to the top of Spruce Peak, where the kids can play around on the dormant chairlift and check out what the ski trails look like in the summer. My boys love this hike because it has a lot of entertainment at the top, and once we get to the bottom, they enjoy exploring the huge boulders near the parking lot. Plus the drive up the notch is a bit of an adventure in and of itself.
My friend Amanda of VT Mountain Moms recently posted about hiking Sunset Rock— a great option for smaller kids and/or if you don’t have a lot of time. The trailhead is located right in the village, and the short hike offers some beautiful views of town. She also covers some “off the beaten path” trails in this post— great suggestions for getting some space during busy foliage weekends.
Most hikes in our family end with an ice cream (this was true even before we had kids). Luckily, Stowe has some excellent ice cream shops, including our favorite, I.C. Scoops, located right on the village green. Check out this review on VT Mountain Moms on the best ice cream in Stowe (spoiler alert, Ben & Jerry’s is NOT on the list!).
The Green Mountain Club in Waterbury had detailed trail maps, directions and a bit of additional information about these (and many other) hikes in the area. Do you have favorite hikes for families? Please feel free to share them– we love to explore new mountains!