I bet about half of you already know what road I’m going to talk about.
Smugglers Notch, Vermont’s Twistiest scenic autumn drive.
Are you a hiker or skier? Then you probably are well aware of “the Notch” and the trail system that spreads over the feet of Mount Mansfield, the tallest peak in the Green mountains.
I usually do my best to stay off Vermont’s twistiest scenic autumn drive because of all the tourist traffic coming out of Stowe on Route 108. Stick around for a special note below on an iconic fall foliage shot back in Stowe. I was driving through Stowe this past autumn and it was dusk about [some time here] and I wanted to get up to the top before it got dark (I still didn’t have a room for the night and once I got to the top I was going to start looking). This is another story in and of itself… (for next week)
Due to the lack of prime light I only stopped long enough to use my cellphone, so sorry about the quality. As you head up route 108 from Stowe you will notice all the skiing indications and soon the Stowe Mountain lodge resort comes into view but my goal was just past that. This is where the road turns into barely two lanes (Oh spoiler alert! NO RVs or big trucks). I got my Z71 through there once but it was tight and if someone else in a similar truck had come around the corner at the same time, we would have had issues.
Now there are several pullouts along the road but most of them are for very small vehicles. I think a smart car “might” get into one. And if you have anything bigger then wait until you get nearer to the top where they have some parking lots. You will see some killer views on the way up since the hills on the side of the road rise up a 1,000 feet and this can make for dramatic views. But I will warn you now!!! You will be very lucky if you have no one following you so you can stop you car long enough for a shot, so just don’t plan on it!
Instead, plan on getting higher up and into a parking lot and then hitting the trails. I want you to think Streets of San Francisco, you know the street I mean with all the switchbacks, well now throw in a new wrinkle. Boulders, bigger than cars that are at the most inconvenient places in the turns (make that blind turns!). Also you are dodging oncoming cars and trying to squeeze past these boulders at the same time.
So please take my word for it and just enjoy the ride up the hill and then park. Once there, you can hit the trails (Here is a PDF you can download and print for your self) and maybe find one that gives you a shot of a double line of cars snaking their way through Smuggler’s Notch road.
Iconic Stowe Vermont white church steeple
Now! This is what you were probably waiting for… That Iconic Stowe Vermont church steeple with the hills covered in a tapestry of fall colors. Here is a Google map link to the Stowe Community church. It’s not hard but sometimes photographers aren’t good at sharing these views. I found it quite by accident after searching for a scenic autumn drive near Stowe. I had found images on Flickr and Google image search. I found several churches with steeples in Stowe and I thought maybe going up in the hills above Stowe on the east side of town might yield the view.
That proved to be mostly residential and I think a morning shot still might be had there but I didn’t find it. I was passing back through town and heading out on Route 108 to the west when I looked back over my shoulder and there it was!
I took the first right turn I could take which was into the parking lot of the Aveda Salon. The salon has a large parking lot off to the back side of the building and a connecting lot to the right, below the road. The first time I was there, I caught it at 3:45PM on 27 Sept (a bit early). In the following picture I was travelling up from North field on 2 Oct, racing the setting sun. I had a mostly cloudless sky which meant no fiery sunset but the sun on the steeple would be nice.
I got there just before the sun fell below the hills at 6:00PM and I was able to set up, shoulder to shoulder with 20 or so other photographers. You see many folks do know about this spot but few are telling.
I got about 3 images with the sun on the steeple and then it was gone. I made a few more and talked to my fellow photographers and then headed up Route 108 for Smuggler’s Notch. This will lead you back to the beginning of this story.
My next article will tell the tale of looking for a place to sleep and how it may be better to stay where you are and just relax rather than looking for an out of the way place.Jeff "Foliage" Folger You can purchase images by visiting my Fine Art Gallery websites
- My Gallery on Fine Art America
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but people call me Jeff Foliage.
I have several pages that I write blogs for such as: http://www.4cornersnewengland.com/
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I live in Salem, Massachusetts and work as a blogger and Travel Photographer. I'm also the founder of the New England Photography Guild.
Feel free to visit me on my blogs and see what life in New England is like.
I started with Yankee Magazine as their first blogger on everything fall foliage. Now I blog on my own blog on my favorite subject, telling leaf peepers where the fall foliage is showing up in New England and helping them (to some extent) plan their fall foliage vacations.