Long Trail: Smugglers Notch to Canada

7/19/20…..10.5 miles…..Bear Hollow

This will be my last installment of Vermont’s Long Trail. From Smuggler’s Notch(rt 108) to the Canadian border is my fourth and final section. 

If you’re confused reading these posts, note that I haven’t done the Long Trail in order. In 2015 I hiked the southern most section from Massachusetts to Sherburne Gap, then again while thru hiking the AT in ‘16 I repeated that section. In ‘18 Sara and I hiked from Lincoln Gap to Smuggler’s Notch and in ‘19 we hiked from Sherburne Gap to Lincoln Gap. 

Due to Covid-19 Sara and I figured hitching would be potentially unsafe and more of a pain in the ass than usual so we drove two cars, dropping one at Journey’s End road in Jay, VT then drove the other south to start our hike from rt 108. After about 5 hours altogether and shuffling cars around we started our hike steeply up through the Smugglers Notch Ski Resort. This trail is rugged! I’m reminded of that every time I come out and start on this trail. It feels like it’s always either straight up or straight down and packed with rocks, roots, and mud. Always mud. Unless we come across it in the next 55 or so miles there is very little cruiser trail out here. And it always seems hot and muggy and buggy. Section hiking is definitely tougher than thru hiking. There’s so much more logistics getting to and from trail and you’re always starting fresh. When you’re thru hiking you only have to start once and after a few days your body is conditioned for the next two thousand or whatever miles. But today my body felt good and we had a great day out here, just not my favorite trail. We topped out on Madonna Peak, the summit of Smugglers Notch ski resort and had an excellent refreshing swim in Sterling Pond. This evening we even got a nice mansplanation of every nook and cranny of the next 4 miles of trail trail from an adult wearing a gun on his hip in a camouflage holster. I spent those 4 miles wondering what that guy was so afraid of that he needed to carry a gun out here for.

We made it to a flat spot out front of the Bear Hollow shelter and had our dinner in the tent as it started to rain. 

7/20/20…..28 miles…..Belvedere Peak

Today was a banger of a day out here. Nothing like easing into the hiking season with 8000 feet of vertical over 28 miles on the Long Trail. Since shelters are gross even when there isn’t a pandemic going on we slept in our tent last night and got poured on. It wasn’t the best night sleep, it was wicked hot, then it poured. Luckily we had about 7-8 pretty chill miles right away. It was a very gradual way to wake up. Once the sun came out we stopped and dried out all our stuff from last night. The trail then went up and down all day in muddy, rocky, rooty conditions typical of the Long Trail. It was hot and humid, not quite as bad as yesterday but still, and it was buggy. Sara either wasn’t getting bit or was keeping it a secret because even with deet on and wearing a bug net I was still the object of the deer flies desire. Today also had some of the highlights of the whole Long Trail, especially the showers we took at a waterfall pouring over a cliff. Shortly after that I busted my ass in a mud puddle, but I guess that’s why they call it ‘Vermud.’ We also went through Devil’s Gulch which is a short chasm through big boulders, something like a miniature Mahoosuc Notch if you’re familiar. Tonight we’re camped in some trees just off the summit of Belvedere Peak which has some awesome views in all directions, some of the finest I’ve seen on this whole trail.

7/21/20…..21 Miles…..Shooting Star Shelter

Never have I spent more time walking and covered less ground than I did today. I smell like I’ve been out here for a month. The trail was extra slow today. Super steep climbs followed by steeper descents on slippery rocks were interrupted only with muddy flat sections that we had to tiptoe around instead of ending up knee deep in mud. There were no easy miles today and we were traveling at a warp speed of 1.5 mph. That being said, it was much cooler out and there were no bugs which was a big relief. The highlight of today was a climb up to the top of Jay Peak. I had planned on skiing Jay in March but the mountain(and the world) closed early due to Covid. At the top we had great views in every direction. We could see Lake Champlain and into NY to the West, North into Quebec, East to Mt Washington in NH and to the South back to Mt. Mansfield and beyond on the Long Trail. This evening instead of making it back to the car like we had hoped, we finished our day tenting outside of Shooting Star Shelter. 21 miles with 7000 feet of gain in almost 14 hours with very little dilly dallying.

7/22/20…..5.7 miles…..Canada

Done with the Long Trail! This morning’s miles were rather smooth and in a few hours we reached the clear cut through the forest with the monument symbolizing the end of the trail and the Canadian border. It’s actually quite a nice terminus as long trails go. There’s a view north into Canada and a boulder perched up above the obelisk looking down towards the clear cut border. Sara and I high fived, took a few pictures, and vowed never to step foot on this trail again(just kidding, but seriously). We enjoyed ourselves but the trail itself isn’t my favorite. I’m not sure how much I would recommend this trail to prospective hikers. Well let’s say this; maybe don’t hike the Long Trail in the dead of summer. Hiking the LT in the fall is probably much more enjoyable, not that I’ll ever know. And I think I’d rather hike it in one shot, I prefer thru hiking but since I live relatively close to the Vermont I figured I’d hike this trail in sections whenever I could fit it in.

Once we reached the border we took the 1.5 mile side trail to the parking lot where my car was waiting. Our plans were to shuffle the cars around and begin hiking NH’s Cohos Trail tonight but zigzagging up and down Northern Vermont and New Hampshire took a fair amount longer than we expected. We settled on a bath in a lake and a full night sleep in the car at the Davis Path Trailhead and starting the Cohos Trail the next day.

For more pictures of this adventure and others feel free to follow me on Instagram @endlesspsummer

2 Comments on “Long Trail: Smugglers Notch to Canada

  1. Glad to see you guys got some sort of adventure in this past summer. You inspired my wife and I to get back into hiking again and so far have hiked in Iceland last Christmas, Arizona last March, and then did some hikes in the Whites a week ago. Just day hikes for now. Keeping live life to the fullest you two!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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