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Green Mountains

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There is a trail network on and around Mt. Mansfield. The trails have been built and lovingly maintained for 100 years by the Green Mountain Club, Lake Mansfield Trout Club and other local organizations. The Green Mtn. Club has also built three huts around the mountain. They're not as elaborate as the ones the AMC built over in New Hampshire's White Mountains, but they're well built, weathertight, and a lot better than tent camping in the volatile Mt. Mansfield weather. There's no one fixing meals, restrooms are outhouses, and there's no heat. So you have to carry sleeping bag and pad, stove, utensils, food and light, but you don't need a tent or tarp. There's water either at the hut or a short distance away.

Each hut has a resident caretaker all Summer. He doesn't cook meals, but he keeps the hut and grounds tidy, advises hikers on routes and weather, performs maintenance, prevents vandalism, and helps hikers in various ways.

Overnighting is allowed ONLY in the huts. No tent camping is allowed on the mountain, partially because of the delicate environment and partially because of the hostile weather. Tent camping begins to be allowed south of Nebraska Knoll and north of Smugglers Notch.

The huts in order from the top are Taylor, Butler and Taft. On the mountain Taylor is on the southern approach, Butler on the western approach, and Taft on the northern approach.

Mt. Mansfield has an alpine tundra zone. As you approach the top from any direction, you'll notice white string along both sides of the trail. This is to warn you to stay on the trail so as not to disturb the fragile alpine tundra. As much as possible, the GMC and Forest Service have confined the trails to large rock slabs or gravel fields, which heavy foot traffic cannot harm.

At each hut there's a water faucet, and the water is pretty safe, but the GMC advises hikers to purify it just in case. In the 21st Century, Giardia has found its way into just about every water source.

Expect harsh weather. If it's 80 down below, expect 50 at the top. If it's 70 below, expect 40 on top. And with stiff winds, even on sunny days, the wind chill factor will be significant.

It's not that far from the valley up to one of the huts, and it's not far from one hut to another. But remember some of this hiking is difficult.

From Lake Mansfield Trailhead to Taylor Lodge is 3.72 miles. From Smugglers Notch Trailhead to Taft Lodge is only 1.7 miles on the Long Trail, although you'll climb 1,970 feet so those will be a lung busting 1.7 miles.

From Taylor Lodge over to Butler is 3.4 miles and from Butler over to Taft is 3.5 miles.

From each hut trails fan out in several directions. The key trail is the Long Trail, which connects all three huts.

So you could string together a very enjoyable four day trip beginning at Lake Mansfield, hiking up to Taylor, exploring that area, on the second day hiking over to Butler and exploring that area, on the third day hiking over to Taft and exploring that area, and on the fourth day hiking down to Smugglers Notch Parking Lot.

You could drive up the Toll Road, park at the Visitors Center, and hike to any of the huts. Or you could ride the cable car up to Cliff House and hike to Taft House, then follow the Long Trail to the other huts.

The Green Mountain Club offers a shuttle service plus Shuttle Angels for solo hikers or couples needing rides to and from trailheads. For more information phone the Green Mountain Club at 802-244-7037.

If you're staying in Stowe or the Stowe Valley the only access points you need are Lake Mansfield, Smugglers Notch, the Cable Car and the Toll Road, all of which serve the eastern slopes. But from the western (Burlington or Jericho) side of the mountain you should know there are Stevensville Road, Underhill State Park and CCC Road trailheads. They're a 60-90 minute drive from Stowe via I-89.

Remember that Mt. Mansfield is a major mountain and people die here. Never set forth on a day hike or overnight without a first aid kit and training or experience in how to use it, without either a full length poncho or a complete rain suit, without cold weather gear, and without a good map, a compass and training or experience in how to use them. Remember your cell phone probably won't do you any good because you'll be out of signal range. Do not forget sun block. In the high, thin air you can burn badly.

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