Vermont is a mountainous state. The mountain that best represents the pinnacle of the Green Mountain State is Mount Mansfield, located in Chittenden and Lamoille counties. Mount Mansfield gets its name from its resemblance to a man, complete with facial features and even an Adam’s apple. Popular among locals and tourists alike, Mount Mansfield offers a range of activities for those looking to get out and enjoy its natural beauty, whether on skis, a bike, or a sturdy pair of shoes with or without hiking poles.
Mount Mansfield is host to some truly special flora and fauna; the peak happens to contain about 200 acres of alpine tundra. (The only other places to view alpine tundra in Vermont are Camel’s Hump and Mount Abraham.) In order to preserve this precious ecosystem, hiking is discouraged between mid-April until Memorial Day. The best time to go is during the summer months, but for those experienced in winter climbing, the ascent can be exhilarating. Just be careful to choose trails with good visibility, given the conditions when you go. Seeing the way the sphagnum breathes a wet exhale of life into the forest and the tenacity with which the diapensia grows low and wide, as if to spite the altitude and wind, and despite the seemingly bone-dry rock the plant roots in and decorates with delicate flowers. Climbing the mountain offers not just a day of exercise in the fresh air; Mount Mansfield is a reminder of the humility and endurance that one needs to survive difficult conditions.
There are a number of different hiking trails on Mansfield, which can be combined in various ways for a lovely loop. Many people like to go up the Sunset Trail, for its easy rise and for the stellar views after emerging from the woods into the cool air above the tree line. The most famous trail on the mountain is a 2.3-mile stretch of the Long Trail. The Long Trail traverses the ridge, hitting the Chin at 4,394 feet (1,339 m), where the best views are to be had. It is a common route for the descent, if you don’t go back the way you came.
When taking on Mount Mansfield, be prepared with water and enough clothing for the fickle weather and startlingly cool temperatures. Don’t let decent weather in the town of Stowe down below lull you into a false sense of “I’ll leave my jacket in the car.” And speaking of cars, if you’re in town during the month of August, you won’t want to miss the Antique and Classic Car Show, which rolls through the center of Stowe after a couple days of exhibition in a nearby field. It’s hard to find that much pollution in one place in the state known for aging hippies, black and white cows, and some of the best mountaineering in New England.