State highpoint, panoramic views, challenging terrain, tricky weather, multiple summits–there are many reasons to hike Mount Mansfield, and many ways to do it.
Vermont’s Green Mountains span the state from north to south, and Mount Mansfield, at 4,393 feet, is the tallest among them. It’s the highpoint of the state and one of only a few places in Vermont where you'll find a tundra environment. It’s the subalpine zone at the mountain’s highest elevations, where only certain hardy, wind-stunted vegetation can survive. The nearly treeless, barren granite slabs atop the mountain make for incredible views in all directions... when the weather is clear, that is. These upper reaches remain brutally cold for much of the year, and the weather is always unpredictable. Rain, fog, wind, and cold are always possible.
Hiking to the summit of Mansfield, or to any of its lesser but no-less-impressive peaks, always requires preparedness and determination, but there are easier ways and harder routes to take. The mountain is one of the top hiking destinations in the Northeast, with many trails interconnecting on its slopes and summit ridgeline. One of these is the Long Trail, Vermont’s famous thru-hike of the Green Mountains. Many other trails come up from Stowe Mountain ski area on Mansfield’s east side, plus a toll road that provides relatively easy access but doesn’t reach the summit. Additional trails ascend the undeveloped west side, such as the popular Sunset Ridge Trail.
The best time for hiking on Mount Mansfield is June to October, during windows of good weather. In winter, the mountain is an entirely different beast, requiring snowshoes or skis and a certain level of mountaineering skills. In spring, as the snow melts, the ground becomes impossibly muddy, and hiking is not only difficult for the user but also damaging to the trails. Thus, many trails are closed in April and May. By the first of June, the forest is lush, the snow is gone, the trails are passable (but always muddy), and the sun shines above on most days. Here are some of Mount Mansfield’s best trails to take on when the time is right.