Vermont’s terrain is known for being gnarly, with steep pitches, gravel lanes, and the localism “Class 4 road” (what might be called “a trail” or “impassible” elsewhere). A Class 4 road is perfect for a Subaru.
Vermont, with its rugged topography and unmatched beauty, offers fun roads for people who love to drive – and we’ll show you areas of the state with great roads that offer superb views of this autumn ritual.
Riddled with rumor and lore, Smugglers’ Notch is a steep, winding mountain pass between Stowe and Cambridge – a perfect place to hide out and stash goods. When the United States put a trade embargo on Canada and Great Britain during the Napoleonic Wars, Vermonters lost a key trading partner in Montreal (which is much closer to northern Vermont than any major U.S. ports). Eager for income, locals began smuggling goods to and from Quebec via “the Notch.” This footpath-turned-carriage-road was used again during Prohibition, when the cavernous area was a prime place to warehouse liquor smuggled from Canada.
Today, a seasonal road traverses the Notch, cutting between Vermont’s tallest point, Mount Mansfield, (4,393 feet), to its west and Spruce Peak (3,323 feet) to its east. Locals call it the Notch Road or the Mountain Road, but you’ll find it labeled Vermont Route 108 on a map.
The paved road is a wild ride, with 1,000-foot cliffs rising on either side and switchbacks covering a steady elevation gain. Walls of trees on either side of you shimmer in red, yellow, orange, and brown in a dizzying dance of color. As you approach the apex of the Notch, large boulders close in on the road’s edges, and the road loses its center line, sometimes forcing drivers on opposite sides to take turns passing.
You can park at the top and stretch your legs on the Sterling Pond Trail, a beginner-friendly hike that affords views typically attained only after a full day’s worth of walking.