Long Trail Section 4

Eden’s Crossing to Smuggler’s Notch (SOBO)

On our last LT section of the summer, we hiked SOBO from Eden’s Crossing to Smuggler’s Notch and enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunsets from Laraway Lookout along the way.


Note: This map is intended only to show the route. Mileage stats in section below were calculated using the End to Ender’s Guide from GMC.

Day 1: Eden’s Crossing to Laraway Lookout

12.6 miles, 3,500ft of elevation gain

Hike Date: August 2020

We started this SOBO section from Eden’s Crossing and the majority of it was as expected: undulating dirt paths littered with roots, ferns, rocks, and mud. Pretty typical Long Trail! During the first few easy miles, we ran into a number of NOBO LT thru-hikers. It is always nice to stop and chat with other hikers, hear about their experiences, and cheer them on as they get closer to their end goal. After that, we went through Devil’s Gulch, which was a portion of the trail covered in beautiful moss-covered rock boulders. After the rain the day before, this section was slick and misty, but fun and memorable.

Easy section before Devil's Gulch
Climbing the boulders of Devil's Gulch
Devil's Gulch

Trekking through the next 10 miles or so was relatively uneventful, allowing us both to move in a state of flow and to walk with general ease and enjoyment. Sometimes it is nice to just walk without having to think or work so hard! We took a quick break at Corliss Camp to fill up water and have a snack. Corliss was really well-outfitted. It is an enclosed shelter with bunk beds inside, a picnic table outside, and ample tenting spaces. 

Beautiful and easy on the feet section of trail
Long Trail South sign
Corliss Camp

Then, we began the climb up Laraway Mountain up a combination of dirt paths, rock slabs, and mossy forest. It was steep, but we enjoyed the changing vegetation as we gained elevation. Atop Laraway Mountain, we found a tree-enclosed peak with a nondescript sign and no views. After the underwhelming peak, we only had 0.4 miles to our ending point for the night, Laraway Lookout!

Bog bridges and rock slabs
Laraway Mountain sign

Some hikers commented on the Guthook App that there were great stealth spots right behind Laraway Lookout and they were absolutely right! We found a perfect place just off the trail on flat ground surrounded by trees. After setting up camp, Kathy threw on some compression socks to help with her post-hike circulation while we both stretched a bit and chatted with some LT thru-hikers. The ledge at Laraway Lookout is deceivingly large. It only appears to be a small opening, but if you peer around the trees to the right, it stretches much further. This secluded section of ledge made for the perfect spot to relax, play cards, and eat dinner. From Laraway Lookout, we enjoyed incredible views of Mt. Mansfield, Whiteface Mountain, and Madonna Peak.

View from Laraway Lookout
Stealth campsite
Making dinner with a perfect Z-lite windscreen

Starting around 7pm, we watched the sky turn from blue to yellow to orange sherbert as the sun went down. Even though the hike this day was not particularly exciting, this sunset made it all worth it. At around 1am, we both woke up to stargaze from the ledge and saw the Milky Way on a crystal clear night! 

Trail lit up by the orange sky
Relaxing at Laraway Lookout
Enjoying sunset
Sunset view of Mt. Mansfield

Day 2: Laraway Lookout to Whiteface Shelter

15.9 miles, 4,800ft of elevation gain

Waking up around 6am, we saw some bits of a sunrise from Laraway Lookout, but it was mostly cloudy. After a quick cold breakfast with coffee and tea, we packed up camp as it started drizzling and descended the steep trail past large rock walls. The wide leaves made a natural umbrella that mostly protected us from the rain as we hustled through the first 7ish miles of the day. We passed through a section of trail on private land with a series of systems tapping sugar maple trees. We did some ducking and dodging of the tubes running between trees trying to be respectful and avoid disturbing them.

Sunrise from Laraway Lookout
Sugar maple area

Continuing on, we hiked by a few shelters including Roundtop shelter, which looked like an awesome place to stay. It had skylights and a picnic table! Talk about luxury. Then, we ascended Prospect Rock and got our first open view since Laraway Lookout. Prospect Rock looked like a popular spot with clear campsites and a view into the Lamoille Valley and river below.

Following the white blazes
View from Prospect Rock
Roundtop Shelter

We quickly descended to the river that we could see from Prospect Rock, crossing it on a well-built suspension bridge. If we had more time and it wasn’t so early, this would have been a great place for lunch and a swim. But with the clock ticking, we pressed on. After the river, we climbed a ladder up a steep eroded embankment to a short wooded section, passed through some open fields, then turned onto the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, a gravel path that parallels Route 15 (if you need to resupply, you could take this trail to Railroad St. and then into Johnson, VT). After this, we turned onto a paved road that would dead end and turn into the Long Trail as a gravel road. Further up that, we passed a logging operation and crossed a dilapidated bridge that transformed the road back into a hiking trail. This was our least favorite part of the day – hiking up paved and gravel roads is pretty boring. At least we were able to move pretty quickly!

Bridge over Lamoille River
Kevin climbing a ladder
Rail trail

Initially, our plan was to stay at Bear Hollow Shelter, a nice open lean-to with bunks and a table. But, since we got there earlier than expected (at 2:00pm), we decided to keep moving. We knew this 3+ mile section from Bear Hollow to Whiteface Shelter would be tough since it included 2,000+ft of elevation gain and a climb over Whiteface Mountain. Luckily, we had plenty of energy left in the tank and decided it would be better to give ourselves a shorter and easier hike the next day. We filled up water from the stream just past the Bear Hollow Shelter and continued.

Trail to Bear Hollow Shelter
Bear Hollow Shelter
Interior of Bear Hollow Shelter

The first 2 miles past Bear Hollow Shelter were relatively easy. The incline was very gradual up until we got to a large overhanging rock (it’s listed on the Guthook App). Then, we really started to climb. We gained about 1,400 feet of elevation in the last mile up to Whiteface Mountain – that section was super steep! On exhausted legs, we then faced the impossibly steep, but very short descent to Whiteface shelter. The steps down were jarring and the footing was difficult on slick rocks and roots. Kevin took a tumble, but was alright, and when we saw a tent spot to our right, we knew we were almost at our destination.

Overhanging rock
Rocky trail to Whiteface
The climb begins
View from Whiteface
Very steep descent

Whiteface Shelter is a three sided lean-to with a privy and water source just past it off trail. We were rewarded for our extra efforts of the day with an empty shelter all to ourselves and a beautiful view. The shelter looks out toward Madonna Peak with just a bit of Mt. Mansfield visible behind that. We played cards, practiced yoga, and enjoyed a quiet meal before turning in for the night. 

Whiteface Shelter
Post-hike yoga
Shelter all to ourselves

Day 3: Whiteface Shelter to Smuggler’s Notch

7.1 miles, 1,600ft of elevation gain

Waking up the next morning, we were sore, but felt really good about our decision to hike the extra miles the day before. Eating breakfast with a view of the mountain we were about to climb, didn’t hurt either! 

View of Madonna Peak from Whiteface Shelter

It only rained a little bit overnight, so the trails were not as slick as we expected. From the trail, we could see two mountains in front of us, Morse Mountain and Madonna Peak, both standing above 3,000ft. We climbed Morse and got a brief view of an undercast in the valley. 

Another steep descent
Brief undercast

Then, the trail followed a very sharp descent before, yet another, steep and challenging hike up to Madonna Peak. The last push to Madonna included a gravel path up the ski slope, which was pretty tiring, but afforded some nice views! On Madonna Peak, there is a picnic table and small building at the top of a rock above the ski lift which provides incredible views of Mt. Mansfield. The breeze up there helped cool us off after sweating so much on the ascent. 

Mossy sun-dappled trail
Gravel trail to Madonna Peak
View from top of Madonna Peak

The views heading down another ski slope on the other side of Madonna Peak were beautiful. We paused on the slopes for some pictures of wildflowers and a close up view of Mt. Mansfield a few times on our way down to Sterling Pond. We passed the shelter and found a nice spot on some rocks by the pond for a rest. As always, Kevin took a swim to clean off and feel refreshed while a little squirrel ran around begging Kathy for a snack. The clouds started to roll in with a little drizzle so we cut our break short and started moving down the trail. 

Wildflowers and Mt. Mansfield
Misty view of Sterling Pond
Mist went away for a perfect swimming spot

We climbed a little bit, skirted the side of another mountain on an undulating path, and then practically jogged the last 1.5 miles down to Barnes Camp Visitor Center at Smuggler’s Notch. Although this section was not extraordinary in terms of terrain or views, we really enjoyed it. As our last LT section of the summer, we felt so lucky to get two campsites all to ourselves and to see two beautiful sunsets. 177 miles out of 272 miles of the Long Trail complete and only three more sections to go!

Undulating, rooty trail
Flat trail perfect for a jog
Barnes Camp Visitor Center

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  1. Terry Blackburne-Lee
    September 13, 2020

    This is amazing and you are such an inspiration to me. I was in Smugglers Notch Skiing many years ago. Loved it!

    • Kathy
      October 14, 2020

      Thank you Terry! Hiking the LT in sections really did give us a lot of opportunity to take mini-vacations every week. That’s so cool that you’ve been to Smuggler’s Notch to ski before! We will have to go back to ski someday.

  2. Terry Blackburne-Lee
    September 13, 2020

    Doing the long trail in sections is so smart. That way you get lots of trekking in and many mini vacations (if one wants to think of trekking as a vacation). I love the sunset picture of the two of you. Such gorgeous scenery can only be seen by trekking to the summits. Congratulation to both of you.

  3. Claire Saunders
    October 13, 2020

    Beautiful pictures – I love the ones where you have the shelter to yourselves. So cute, romantic, and perfect for this covid era.

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