Smugglers’ Notch is a notch in the Green Mountains that in summer has a road Vermont Route 108 that runs through it and it is closed during snowy months of winter and spring. VT RT 108 is also always closed to truck and trailer traffic due to its steep and narrow turns. Be aware that sometimes your GPS will tell you to take the route, but only do it in a car. RVS, tractor trailer and cars with trailers are not allowed through.
Smugglers’ Notch is also the home of the award winning Smugglers’ Notch Resort.
Take It Up A Notch
What’s in a name? A lot, if it’s Smugglers’ Notch Pass. The tales surrounding this aboriginal chasm are filled with intrigue, courage, and daring. What began as the gorge of an ancient river has become one of only three Designated Scenic Byways in the state. There is nothing modest about this corridor, although a trip through it certainly is a humbling experience. The former foot and horse path has been a trade route and a smuggling route, the final leg on the road to freedom, and a pathway to what some deem heaven.
Filled with hair pin turns that skirt craggy rock formations bearing names like the Hunter and His Dog, Singing Bird, and Elephant’s Head, this gap between Mt. Mansfield and Sterling Mountain was a haven for those trading in forbidden goods. Part of a smuggling route from Montreal to Boston, it acquired its name during the years before and immediately following the War of 1812. The location was ideal, flanked as it is by cliffs having a vertical rise of 1,000 feet, and outcroppings riddled with hidden caves. Such topography was the perfect accomplice to industrious Vermonters and their schemes. Some brought cattle to feed the British Army during said war, and returned with embargoed items. Others argued that they engaged in this kind of trading simply to ensure that the British would not attack Vermont. Whatever the motivation, all made a handsome profit “running the line.”
In the mid-nineteenth century, slaves passed through here on their way to Canada. A short time later, tourists came to enjoy the scenery. The smugglers claimed it again as their own during the 1920s when the U.S. Congress passed a law prohibiting the sale of alcohol. The cool caves were ideal for storing illegal liquor, and the windy road with its 18% grade dutifully challenged any revenue agent who might be in pursuit.
The Notch has other stories to tell. It supports a micro-climate that hosts rare alpine flora, abundant wildlife, and endangered species. It embraces part of the Long Trail, which draws hikers from around the world. It also receives between 200-300 inches of snow a season, and hence is closed to all modes of transportation save cross-country skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles from late-October through mid-May. So, if you’re craving an experience that’s a notch above the rest get in your car, put on skis, or don your hiking boots, and head ‘em off at the pass!