Bicycling Magazine Burlington, VT: Smugglers' Notch Loop 

Gaining 5,000 feet over 65 miles, this loop around Vermont's Mount Mansfield enjoys country views in Pleasant Valley before tackling the storied climb to Smugglers' Notch.

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Author: sbarner
Date: 9 Jun 2009 11:04:50 PM
Activity: Bicycling
State: Vermont (VT)
Distance: 64.88 mi  (Change units)
Survey Elevation: Total Gain: 3740 ft
Total Loss: 3736 ft
Net Change: 4 ft
Difficulty: 8 / 10
Tags: Burlington, Jeffersonville, Jericho, Vermont
Rating:   2 rating(s) Rate it

A favorite of northern Vermont cyclists, this 65-mile loop starts with short punchy climbs before amping up to the long climb up Smugglers' Notch (named for its popularity with those who brought goods down from Canada during America's early conflicts). Start from Richmond proper (or the intersection of VT 117 and US 2, closer to Burlington), and ride north on along the Winooski River to begin the first stretch of climbing on Barber Farm Road. From here, the route undulates on country roads for 20 miles until Jeffersonville, the base of the 7-mile, 1,600-foot climb up to Smugglers' Notch.

After passing the Smugglers' Notch Ski Area, the grade ticks up to a significant (but doable) pitch, passing roadside waterfalls on the way up to a summit in the shadow of Mount Mansfield. Near the top, impressive cliffs rise from the road as the route snakes up through large boulder passes. Take a break at a summit rest area before navigating tight and steep switchbacks near the top of the descent. The road soon straightens out to a fast and manageable descent into the picturesque ski town of Stowe. The downhill bottoms out at Waterbury before the route traces the Winooski River back to Richmond to close the clockwise loop.

Note: Riding counter-clockwise offers a significantly longer climb which tackles the steep southern-face switchbacks in their more difficult direction. This route is closed in winter (usually November through May).

-Mapped by Steve Barner, Green Mountain Bicycle Club

TO TRAILHEAD: This ride can be started in Richmond, VT or a few miles west near the intersection of VT 117 and US 2.

Position Format: Datum:

Smugglers' Notch Loop

Distance: 64.88 mi Points: 950
Total Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
This hilly, scenic ride is easiest if ridden clockwise. The start is the Richmond Park & Ride on VT 2.
# Distance Instruction Distance to next
1 0.00 mi Start at Richmond Park & Ride. Turn right onto VT 2 (turn corrected 1/10, sorry!) Then go 0.22 mi
2 0.22 mi Bear Right - Turn onto River Rd at traffic light Then go 2.50 mi
3 2.71 mi Turn Right - Turn onto Barber Farm Rd. Then go 2.46 mi
4 5.17 mi Turn Left - Turn at stop sign onto Browns Trace Rd. Then go 1.74 mi
5 6.91 mi Straight at bottom of hill Then go 1.73 mi
6 8.64 mi Turn Right - Turn onto VT 15 at stop sign Then go 0.53 mi
7 9.17 mi Bear right onto River Rd at school Then go 2.73 mi
8 11.90 mi Straight at stop sign onto Pleasant Valley Rd Then go 6.58 mi
9 18.48 mi Bear right, climbing Upper Pleasant Valley Rd Then go 4.28 mi
10 22.77 mi Turn Right - Turn onto Church St., then straight onto VT 108 Then go 15.38 mi
11 38.14 mi Sharp Right - Hard turn onto Luce Hill Rd to avoid downtown Stowe Then go 0.56 mi
12 38.70 mi Turn Left - Turn onto Barrows Rd at top of short hill Then go 1.79 mi
13 40.49 mi Turn Left - Turn at stop sign at bottom of hill onto Moscow Rd. Then go 1.46 mi
14 41.96 mi Turn Right - Turn onto VT 100 at stop sign Then go 7.58 mi
15 49.53 mi Turn Right - Turn at stop sign at bottom of hill onto VT 2 Then go 9.61 mi
16 59.14 mi Turn Left - Turn onto Cochran Rd in Jonesville and cross bridge Then go 3.58 mi
17 62.72 mi Turn Right - Turn at stop sign onto Bridge St. Then go 0.57 mi
18 63.29 mi Turn Left - Turn at traffic light onto VT 2 Then go 1.59 mi
19 64.88 mi End

Points of Interest

Approaching Smugglers' Notch

Location: 44.557604, -72.791376
The upper section of the climb eases up, albeit with a few steep kicks to remind you of the pain.

Start: Convenience Store

Location: 44.422257, -73.006039
For cyclists riding or driving from Burlington, this convenience store on US 2 serves as a good meeting point for the Smuggler's Loop.

Barber Farm Road

Location: 44.457754, -73.018806
The house on the left was built by Vermont's first governor for one of his sons. From this turn, the first real climb of the ride begins.

Jericho Center Green

Location: 44.469469, -72.972522
A classic New England town green, surrounded by historic buildings. The church dates to the early 1800's.

River Road

Location: 44.518036, -72.924457
An idyllic flat stretch well-suited for paceline recovery.

Pleasant Valley Road Descent

Location: 44.543184, -72.868903
Glimpses up the valley from the top of Pleasant Valley Road at the beginning of a well-earned descent.

Upper Pleasant Valley Road

Location: 44.593065, -72.859955
Turning onto Upper Pleasant Valley Road, riders are greeted by a nice little climb. © Steve Barner

Upper Pleasant Valley View

Location: 44.609855, -72.856436
A view up the valley toward Jeffersonville. © Steve Barner

Foot of Notch Cycles

Location: 44.644452, -72.832167
Located in Jeffersonville, this little bike shop is a good mid-ride pit stop for any necessary tweaks or gear items.

Jerffersonville Climb

Location: 44.638811, -72.825580
The recently restored Scott covered bridge is on the left as you make the steep climb out of Jeffersonville. © Steve Barner

Smugglers' Notch Ski Area

Location: 44.572097, -72.774768
Passing the ski area, the climbing grade begins to pick up significantly. Here's where you earn your lunch.

Notch Waterfalls

Location: 44.559744, -72.787138
There are several waterfalls right next to the road. They are especially impressive in spring and after a rainy spell. © Steve Barner

Top of the Notch

Location: 44.556656, -72.794166
A summit rest area offers relatively new facilities. Stop and marvel at the cliff views.

Notch Cliffs

Location: 44.556686, -72.794466
View of the cliffs at the top of the Notch climb. © Steve Barner

Notch Switchbacks

Location: 44.555318, -72.795818
Take it slow on the steep switchbacks on the way down. The cars are easily spooked by the exposure (and cyclists).

View Entering Stowe

Location: 44.515252, -72.767923
Passing the ski area the view is beautiful, but there's plenty more fast descending ahead.

Covered Bridge / Stowe Rec Path

Location: 44.497133, -72.745414
The Stowe recreation path is accessible on the other side of this covered bridge. It gets pretty crowded at times, but it is is well worth riding with its beautiful views. The path is paved and features a number of dedicated bridges as it winds back and forth over the brook. The path crosses Rte. 100 farther down and ends in the center of Stowe village. Not a detour to take if you are in a hurry, though!

Topnotch at Stowe

Location: 44.494462, -72.741702
Topnotch at Stowe does bike rentals out of this restored monitor barn. The Stowe recreation path follows the river behind and is well worth checking out, if you have the time.

Vintage Cars

Location: 44.471046, -72.726917
Stowe is a mecca for classic car buffs and many people who live here own vintage autos. They don't get more unusual than this 1930s Morgan 3-wheeler, though.

Stowe Valley

Location: 44.469439, -72.727304
View across the Waterbury River valley from the west side of Stowe.

Waterbury River

Location: 44.445469, -72.729020
The Waterbury River winds alongside Moscow Rd.

Classic Vermont Farmhouse

Location: 44.429543, -72.715545
The farm is gone, but this Federal style house remains as a reminder of mid-nineteenth century architecture. Vermont is rich in this style. Note the cupola on the doghouse!

Chittenden Cider Mill

Location: 44.381554, -72.719879
A great place to stop for some free cider and a well-earned donut. Restrooms are available for customers here.

Waterbury Convenience Store

Location: 44.341791, -72.760048
A refuel option at the end of the long descent from the Notch.

Rock Cut near Bolton Falls

Location: 44.361967, -72.805098
Rte 2 and the interstate are right next to each other after you climb through this rock cut, but this is offset by the impressive cliffs and views of Camels Hump that you see once you top the rise.

Bolton Valley Road

Location: 44.373318, -72.878687
If you want a real challenge, take this out-and-back climbing detour road up to the ski area (1,600 feet above).

Richmond Round Church

Location: 44.399203, -72.998915
A classic New England meeting house, dating to 1812. © Steve Barner

Bike Ferry

Location: 44.400905, -72.997413
The Richmond bridge is under construction through summer 2009, but there is a pedestrian and bike ferry to pass to the opposite side of the Winooski River.

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