Hike to Vermont’s Sterling Pond; highest-elevation in state at Smugglers Notch

Newsroom Best Of Topics Hike to Vermont’s Sterling Pond; highest-elevation in state at Smugglers Notch

Activity: Hike to Sterling Pond

When to go: May-October

Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Who to go with: Fishing buddies, your dog or your kids

Closest resort: Smugglers’ Notch Resort

Just a five-minute drive from either Smugglers’ Notch Resort sits the Sterling Pond trailhead. The Sterling Pond hike is part of Vermont’s legendary Long Trail, the first long-distance hiking trail in the U.S. The Long Trail spans 270-plus miles from the Massachusetts state line to the Canadian border along the Green Mountain State’s highest peaks.

Sterling Pond
Sterling Pond is full of rainbow and brown trout, sure to please any angler. ©Carrie Kasper

The approximately 45-minute ascent to Sterling Pond from the parking area on Route 108 at the top of the Notch begins with a bit of stair-stepping over a series of rocks and tree roots. After the initial steep portion, the trail widens and the grade decreases. As the hike draws closer to Sterling Pond, talc outcroppings can be spotted along the ridge.

Take in the scenery

Upon reaching the pond’s wooded shores, it’s time to relax and take in the tranquil setting or begin assembling a fly rod. If beautiful views and a peaceful setting isn’t enough of a reward following the hike, the potential to land rainbow and brook trout in this alpine setting surely is. While the western-side of the pond offers unobstructed fly-casting, the northern-side provides a bit more privacy and decreases the chance of fish getting spooked by a dog splashing in the pond or a kid skipping rocks.

Sterling Pond
Fly-fishing in Sterling Pond makes for a relaxing day. ©Carrie Kasper

A few excursions from the pond can unveil even more spectacular vistas. Follow the trail around the pond through the woods until reaching a wide road on the left. That road leads to the top of Smuggs’ Sterling lift. This vantage point offers views of the mountains to the west and north—including Jay Peak on a clear day.

A 15-minute hike to the south ends at the top of Stowe’s Spruce Peak. This jaunt affords views of the Stowe Valley and of Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. The trail is closed from mid-October to mid-May. Going fishing? You’ll need a permit.


Trout on a chairlift
Trout goes to Sterling Pond the same way you can visit — on a chairlift ©Unofficial Networks Photo

Smugglers’ Notch works with the Vermont department of Fish and Wildlife to annually stock Sterling Pond with hundreds of trout that get to the top of the mountains just like we can — via chairlift. The fish are ferried up the lift with their temporary barrel home strapped securely to the chairs.

If you plan to hike in Vermont, or anyplace else, here are some tips that will make your adventure comfortable and safe.

  1. Stay hydrated.
  2. Choose good hiking footwear. Make sure they are comfortable for walking long distances.
  3. Dress in layers. Plan your attire so that it keeps you warmest when it is the coldest.
  4. Let your feet air. That’s just on a longer hike.
  5. Don’t sit down during every break. It’s not a good idea to let your leg muscles cool down entirely as that makes it harder to get your pace back.

Going fishing?

  1. Get your license and registration ahead of time. You can usually do this online.
  2. Count on bad weather: Pack a good sweater or fleece and rain gear. Then, you’re prepared or you can enjoy a bright, sunny day knowing you were prepared.
  3. Organize your gear. A first-aid kit, for example, needs to be readily accessible so you don’t have to hunt for it. Same for snacks and drinks. Sunscreen should be kept at the top of your pack or tackle box.
  4. Keep your permits in a sealable plastic bag or other waterproof container and make them easy to find. Bring extra rods, reels, spools of line, tackle. Packing out your catch? Don’t forget a cooler with ice.

Visit or stay at Smugglers Notch

There’s little doubt that Smugglers Notch (most call it Smuggs) is at the top of the list when it comes to family-friendly resorts in America — winter and summer. But if some of the family wants to stay at the resort while you head to Sterling Pond, there’s plenty to do on any given day: scavenger hunts, swimming, tennis, bingo, volleyball, playing in the FunZone, Woodland Mini-Golf, bonfire singalongs, movie nights, farmers markets, canoeing, guided bike trail hikes, and don’t miss the Friendly Pirate Regatta.

Condominium options are all within an easy walk or on-demand Resort Shuttle ride to all village amenities. Condos are located in a variety of location choices. Your choice may depend upon your desire for the serenity of a wooded area, the proximity to the facilities or amenities that are particularly important to your family, or for a location in the heart of all the action. Rates are good, too.

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