Some of the most outstanding scenic landscapes and open spaces in Vermont are found along the Green Mountain Byway. The Byway runs between the high ridge of the Green Mountains to the west and the peaks of the Worcester Range to the east, affording numerous views of the slopes and summits. Open spaces along the corridor provide stunning views of open meadows, farmland, forests, and Vermont’s iconic covered bridges, set against the mountain backdrop. Visitors and residents alike celebrate spectacular fall colors along with summer and winter seasons.
The land cradling the Byway enjoys a unique natural legacy. Mount Mansfield stands as Vermont’s highest peak (4,393 feet) and holds a dominant presence in the region, serving as the primary natural and cultural landmark. Recreational activities that have come to define the area may be traced to the pristine and breathtaking natural qualities of Mount Mansfield and the hills, valleys and rivers of its environs. Information on hiking Mount Mansfield and other local vistas throughout the Byway region are included in the Stowe & Waterbury Recreation Guide and Green Mountain Club hiking guides.
From the top of Smugglers’ Notch on Route 108 connecting Cambridge to Stowe, you can access a section of the Long Trail that leads to Sterling Pond. A short walk from the pond to the Sterling Ski Lift gives you views of Lake Champlain, and on a clear day you can glimpse light shining off the skyscrapers of Montreal (97 miles away). SUGGESTION: Prospect Rock in Johnson offers a gentle hike and a panorama of the Lamoille River Valley.
Vermont State Parks
The Waterbury Reservoir is the largest water body in this area and ninth largest in the state. It was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to control flooding in the Winooski River Valley and now accommodates boating, fishing, swimming, and picnicking. Brewster River Gorge and the Krusch Nature Preserve in Cambridge and the Green River Reservoir in Hyde Park are popular spots.
Meandering along Smugglers’ Notch Scenic Highway, Smugglers’ Notch State Park and Barnes Camp Visitor Center, Smugglers’ Notch Scenic Highway, Vermont’s most dramatic road, passes through picturesque forests and bold rock outcroppings, and over a shoulder of Mount Mansfield, its highest mountain. Located at the beginning of Smugglers’ Notch Scenic Highway, the recently-restored Barnes Camp Visitor Center will house an information desk and revolving exhibits on the history, geology, and ecology of the Smugglers’ Notch area. Please note that the road through Smugglers’ Notch, also known as Route 108, is closed to vehicle traffic in winter. More info on Smugglers’ Notch State Park.
Rivers, Streams and Waterfalls
Rivers and streams, including the Little River and West Branch River, are important natural resources that provide recreational and scenic quality. Moss Glen Falls, on the Moss Glen Brook in Stowe, is the highest un-dammed cascade in Vermont (100 ft). Sterling Falls Gorge and Bingham Falls are also significant cascading waterfalls that show geologic processes and attract recreational attention. While the former is mostly on private land with public access, Stowe Land Trust conserved the latter and ownership was transferred to the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation. Other areas include Brewster River Gorge in Cambridge, and in Johnson the Gihon River and Foote Brook’s “Journey’s End,” a spectacular swimming hole and waterfall carved in the bedrock, accessible from Plot Road.
The Byway corridor has several areas of sensitive land with ecological value. Three of Vermont’s 34 designated Natural Areas are located within the corridor wholly or in part, including Mount Mansfield, the Worcester Range, and Moss Glen Falls. Additional significant areas include but are not limited to wetlands, floodplains, rare and endangered species habitats, and sensitive riparian vegetation. Sections of steep slope are typically visible from many points and contribute greatly to scenic quality.
Within the Byway, 38% of the land is conserved and most of the land is publicly owned, including the Krusch Nature Preserve in Cambridge, Mount Mansfield and CC Putnam State Forests, and a portion of the Middlesex Notch Wildlife Management Area, which is located along the southern portion of the Worcester Range in Waterbury. Organizations such as the Waterbury Conservation Commission, Vermont Land Trust, and Stowe Land Trust continue to acquire and conserve valued lands as a public resource.
The Byway is home to hundreds of animal species, from the rare Bicknell’s Thrush bird found near the mountain summits to the elusive mountain-roaming bobcat. The large natural tracts of land, lakes, and waterways in the Green and Worcester Mountains are home to much of this wildlife. It is important for both individual animals and entire wildlife populations to move between these large habitat blocks. Route 100 near the Stowe/Waterbury town line is one of the few functional wildlife connections where animals can move. Please be careful driving the Byway. Enjoy the wildlife and scenery and allow a safe distance between humans and wildlife.