When searching for a camping spot near Vermont’s Mt. Mansfield, Smuggler’s Notch State Park quickly became the obvious choice. It is conveniently located only a mile or two from the trailhead for those who choose to hike the entire distance, rather than make use of the Auto Toll Road as we did. Further, the Mt. Mansfield summit is visible from the campground.
Twenty spacious tree-covered tent or trailer sites provide ample room and privacy even when the campground is full. While no hookups are available, the restrooms were large and clean and even contained a small serenity fountain for a bit of atmosphere. Fourteen “lean-tos” are also available for nightly or weekly rental. These are small three-sided structures, popular in the east, in which you can pitch a tent for added protection or sleep under the stars.
Smuggler’s Notch is a narrow pass through the Green Mountains that started as a narrow boot and horse path. With 1,000-foot cliffs on either side, the Embargo Act, prohibiting trade with Great Britain and Canada passed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807, elevated the notch to prominence as illegal goods were smuggled to and from Canada.
As Montreal was much closer than other markets, the Embargo had created a severe hardship for residents of northern Vermont. The notch enabled them to continue trade with Canada, albeit illegally, as well as herd cattle and other goods through the Notch. Later on, fugitive slaves used the Notch to escape to Canada and, during Prohibition in the 1920s, liquor was smuggled into Vermont from our northern neighbor as well.
The park was named for the actual “notch” between two peaks. It is actually a passage-way between the high point of Vermont, Mt. Mansfield, that we came to climb, and Spruce Peak, the downhill ski venue. While the campground lacked some of the more popular amenities provided by full-service RV Parks, Smugglers Notch did offer scenic views, great hiking and unlimited outdoor activities. Further, it holds much to see with regard to flora and fauna as well. Many species of alpine plants found here grow nowhere else in the state, thriving in the arctic-like conditions of the cold, moist rocky cliffs.
For those seeking full amenities, the lovely Gold Brook Campground in Stowe, with its swimming pool, class “A” playground and full hookups is an ideal and welcoming choice. Whether you are looking for an overnight stay or a simple day visit, Smuggler’s Notch State Park will provide a peaceful escape from reality during your visit.
For more information about RV parks in Vermont browse Woodall’s listings of Vermont RV camping resorts.