Mention “Smuggler’s Notch” and people will assume you’re talking about the ski resort, but that’s not what this post is about. Smuggler’s Notch, the one not built for elites from New York and Connecticut, occasionally referred to as “The Notch Road” or Rte 108, is a mountain pass that travels between Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak, just north of Stowe, VT.
It’s a fairly popular place for hiking (the Long Trail cuts through here) and for scenic drives, it’s a lot of fun to motorcycle and photograph as well. The road is narrow and twisty, lined with large boulders, some corners so sharp and narrow that only one lane can pass at a time. It’s one of my favorite routes to take out-of-town visitors on when they want that taste of things Vermonty.
Smuggler’s Notch gets it’s name from the days of the Embargo Act of 1807. Trade with Britain and Canada was forbidden, in attempts to keep the U.S. from being pulled into the Napoleonic Wars, and Vermonters were financially reliant on that trade. Goods and livestock were smuggled into Canada on a rough path through these mountains. Later that century the Underground Railroad would smuggle fugitive slaves to Canada through this route, and in the 1920’s alcohol would be trafficked to and from Canada during the Prohibition years. There are several small caves in the area where goods would be hidden by smugglers along the way.
Due to the twisty, hilly and narrow nature of the road it is slow-moving, and it’s closed in the winter months (from mid-October to mid-May) since it’s virtually impossible to plow the snow from the road. The area is also notorious for tractor trailers getting stuck, much to the amusement of locals. “The first semi of the year got stuck on the Notch Road, so it’s officially summer!” There are huge signs posted all along the route. “Hey trucks! You’re not gonna fit, so turn back.” A couple miles later “You’re still here? Dude, you’re not gonna fit, trust us!” Another few miles “We’re going to have to tow you out, traffic will be stuck for a couple hours, and you’ll be fined more than 2,000 bucks. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.” Every year, multiple trucks will ignore the warnings, because they’re super amazing drivers or whatever, and they will 100% become stuck, each and every one of them, then we all laugh derisively at the dumbass. It’s an annual tradition.
It’s a great place to hike, climb and take pictures.