Jan 06, 2021 Snowshoeing in Stowe, Vermont
If you read my previous blog, Travel Guide: Winter in Stowe, Vermont you will know that this post is all about snowshoeing.
1) Snowshoes: I do not plan on snowshoeing often enough to buy my own, but luckily, most hotels in Stowe offer free snowshoe rentals. If you are not staying in a hotel offering free rentals, there are many ski shops offering rentals around town that usually cost $20 to $25 a person.
2) Weather Conditions: Make sure you know weather conditions before heading out on a trail. Snow can fall much harder than expected which can cover up trails or make your hike just a bit harder. Also, keep in mind snowshoeing needs more allotted time than regular hiking.
3) Restroom: As you can imagine, there are usually no restrooms in the middle of a forest or on mountain sides. Make sure you use the restroom before your hike.
What to Pack:
First and foremost, make sure to pack layers. New England's winter can be cold. During the time we visited, it was 9-33 degrees. I would suggest packing water resistant gear. If it snows or the weather is warm enough, the snow can get onto your clothes and melt causing your clothes to get wet. Trust me, you do not want to be in 0 to 40 degree weather in wet clothes. Wool socks are a life saver and always keep my feet warm in the snow, but I also recommend water resistant boots. The snowshoes strap on to the bottom of your shoes using straps, so there is a lot of open area where snow can build up on your shoes. Snowshoeing will have you working up a sweat. Within 30 minutes into the hike, I honestly thought I could wear shorts in 9 degree weather. Having a backpack is a great idea because you can pack water, snacks, and have a place to store your layers as you are taking them off.
Have you driven through Smugglers' Notch during the fall or summer? During the winter, many of the passes through the mountains are closed to vehicular traffic, because the highway department can no longer plow the road for safety. Smugglers' Notch is definitely a trail for beginners and is even dog friendly. The trail is pretty wide, since it is made for vehicles to pass through, so you might see ice hikers and cross country skiers. I loved seeing the dogs chase their owners as they cross country skied down the trail.
The trail's entrance is located close to the Stowe Mountain Resort. From the entrance, it is approximately 1.8 miles up to the top of the notch where there is a small (closed) visitor center building. The walk is a gradual incline, however since this is a paved road that has been covered in snow, it is a beginner level hike. During the hike, you will see babbling brooks and beautiful snow covered trees. Once at the top, you can explore Smugglers' Cave and even see the views off the side of the cliff. Alcohol was smuggled in caves during the Prohibition era in the 1920’s. We did not have any luck finding any bottles! From the visitor's center, you can walk down another mile near Smuggler’s Notch ski area or turn around and head back to the parking lot. We decided to turn around since we had a horse drawn sleigh ride reserved, and we did not have enough time. You can read about our horse drawn sleigh ride here. The hike up Smugglers’ Notch is a great place to view amazing scenery, wildlife, and mountainscape.
After working up an appetite Prohibition Pig is probably one of the best places to go to for dinner. It is located in a nearby town called Waterbury, VT. Prohibition Pig is known for its killer BBQ and classic cocktails. We ended up getting the pork rinds and mac and cheese topped with bacon for appetizers. Honestly, these were well seasoned and cooked to perfection. The mac and cheese maybe my favorite mac and cheese of all time. Plus, it is made with local Vermont cheeses. For our main course, we split the Chopped Whole Hog, which is 1/2 pound of Eastern North Carolina (ENC) seasoned pulled pork with the hog from Snug Valley Farm. When we were reading the menu, we noticed that it stated ENC BBQ, and did not stop to find out what ENC stood for, but we ordered it anyways because it was BBQ pulled pork. For those of you who are like us and do not know what ENC BBQ is, it is a BBQ sauce made with vinegar with added spices. The meat was so tender, however it tasted like eating a pickle. We are from the South and have even lived in Texas, so we love a good Texas BBQ, which is a tomato base. We are not huge fans of the ENC flavor. Next time we visit, I will be trying their brisket made with house made BBQ bacon sauce. As far as their bar goes, the drinks were well crafted, and they had a large selection of craft cocktails. Prohibition Pig does brew its own beer, Sam sampled and loved.