Route 108, Vermont: A Steep, Winding Mountain Road In Northern Vermont

Route 108 is part of the famous Smuggler’s Notch, the most dramatic road in Vermont. It takes you through breathtaking forests, the state’s most famous resort village, and even over Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in Vermont.

While the sights of Smuggler’s Notch make it a dramatic, and exciting road to take, it is also packed with history that makes this road even more fascinating. Native Americans once followed its path, but Smuggler’s Notch gets its name from its use in the War of 1812.

Route 108, Vermont

Namely, smuggling! It was a supply line to the British Army in Canada who were at the time fighting the U.S. Army. In 1807, President Thomas Jefferson imposed an embargo against trade from Canada, which made life even harder for those living in Northern Vermont for whom Montreal was a huge source of trade.

The first carriage road through the pass didn’t open until 1894 and Route 108 dates back to 1910. Smuggler’s Notch once again became a place where goods were traded clandestinely in 1922 during Prohibition.

Route 108 links Stowe with Jefferson, a town named after President Jefferson and is known as The Mountain Road. Smuggler’s Notch became a State Scenic Road in 1978 under the Vermont Scenic Roads Law.

While the beautiful forests and incredible rock outcroppings may entice those who enjoy the outdoors and who love to climb and hike, these natural beauty spots will be just as appealing to those who want to pull over and admire the wonderful views. What’s more, Route 108 is home to plants found nowhere else, and you may even spot a Peregrine falcon as you’re driving along!

No matter what the season, Smuggler’s Notch is home to stunning scenery you’ll never get bored of, so let’s take a closer look at some of the amazing stops you can take on this road.

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Begin in Stowe

While Stowe is one of the oldest ski towns in Vermont, it pulls in huge numbers of visitors during the summer and fall. These are usually drivers who want to stretch their legs by cycling and exploring their surroundings.

The Stowe Recreation Path parallels the Mountain Road for the first 5.5 miles, taking you through meadows and cornfields. Stowe is also home to one of the two Moss Glen Falls, make sure to stop by there too!

Stowe to Mount Mansfield

When you look at Mount Mansfield, probably your first thought will be how appropriate its name is. This unique mountain has a series of peaks that look like the upturned profile of a man’s face. Get it? But other than its distinctive look, Mount Mansfield is also notable as the highest point in Vermont.

An inn was built under ‘The Nose’ of the mountain in 1858 along with a steep access road to take visitors up the mountain, and this is now used as a ski trail in winter.

While the inn has long been closed, in the summer and fall this tow road is still a popular tourist attraction. Mount Mansfield is also home to Stowe’s Mountain Resort’s eight-passenger gondola that operates if weather conditions allow.

Mount Mansfield State Forest

The first seven miles of Route 108 are lined with shops, restaurants, and lodging places, but beyond the turnoff to the toll road and gondola, the road takes you to Mount Mansfield State Forest. You’ll notice the road becoming steeper but if you keep going you’ll reach Smuggler’s Notch State Park where there are trailer and tent campsites.

Mount Mansfield State Forest to Big Spring

When you leave Mount Mansfield State Forest is really where you see how Smuggler’s Notch gets its name. The road is paved, but winds around boulders and beneath 1,000-foot high cliffs which limit the road to one-lane of traffic. Be sure to drive slowly and carefully, and announce your arrival by honking before turns.

The best place to stop is the turnoff at 2,161 feet, as there is an information booth there staffed through the summer and fall. The Big Spring is the perfect place to stop for a picnic, and there are grills there for you to have a small barbecue!

At the information booth, inquire about hiking hotspots with natural rock formations like Smugglers’ Cave, Elephant Head, King Rock, and the Hunter and His Dog.

Big Spring to Smugglers’ Notch Resort

Continue to make your winding way down Smuggler’s Notch for eight miles, through more cliffs and boulders until the road straightens and takes you down through woodland.

There you may be surprised to see a condominium peeking out through the trees! You’ve reached Smugglers Notch Resort which is a self-contained resort perfect for families.

Route 108 continues to take you further down and into the village of Jeffersonville, a world away from the resorts south of Smuggler’s Notch. There you can explore the Lamoille Valley before circling back around to Stowe via the villages of Johnson, Hyde Park, and Morrisville. Or, you can double up on the adventure and return via Smuggler’s Notch!

Final Thoughts

The Smuggler’s Notch area is a great vacation destination and road trip journey all year round, offering breathtaking natural beauty, charming Vermont villages, and plenty of recreational opportunities.

This is something all Vermot scenic drives specialise in, combining fascinating history with beautiful landscapes and activities like hiking and skiing. While ski resort towns can be bustling and busy in high season, Vermont is a relatively quiet and relaxed place to visit.

It often experiences 100 inches a year and they have very cold winters. It’s one of the less populous states, potentially due to the cold conditions and the small size of the state. Still, that doesn’t stop skiers, hikers, and nature enthusiasts flocking to its mountains!

Another notable area in Vermont is Middlebury Gap. This was home to the poet Robert Frost, and Middlebury Gap is an east-west route over the mountains.

A lot of drivers have compared driving along this road to cresting a wave. One could even call it mountain surfing! The route begins at the beautiful Texas Falls and takes you through 16 miles of admittedly challenging mountain roads. But as Robert Frost wrote, taking the road less travelled by makes all the difference!