Embrace the Enchanted: Camping at Smugglers’ Notch State Park, Vermont

Fall Foliage in Smugglers Notch Vermont

Nestled in the heart of Vermont’s Green Mountains near Stowe, Smugglers’ Notch State Park is a hidden gem that beckons adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike. With its hauntingly beautiful landscapes, enchanting forests, and rich history, this state park offers a unique and unforgettable camping experience, especially during the vibrant tapestry of fall foliage. In this guide, I’ll delve into the campgrounds, nearby attractions, and the eerie charm of Smugglers’ Notch State Park.

Campgrounds: A Home in the Wilderness

Smugglers’ Notch Campground:

This state park campground boasts 34 sites equipped with flush toilets and coin-operated showers. Nestled amidst dense foliage, Smugglers’ Notch Campground offers a rustic charm that perfectly complements the fall season. The surrounding forest provides a backdrop of rich colors and a sense of mystery.

This state park is affordable to book, but you MUST plan in advance! Sites book up quickly for peak season, especially weekends. Their season runs May 19 – October 16 (closed in the winter due to snow) and they have 20 tent sites, 14 lean-to sites, and only a COUPLE RV sites. We booked a tent site that was vehicle accessible and it was perfect for our 20 ft van. And, they are pet friendly (always declare your pet when booking) and have firewood and ice is available for sale (never bring your own wood from out of state).

Brewster River Campground:

While Smugglers’ Notch State Park offers an enchanting camping experience, those seeking an alternative, yet equally captivating, destination need look no further than Brewster River Campground. This campground is located on the banks of the picturesque Brewster River, making it an idyllic spot for campers. The soothing sounds of flowing water and the lush greenery (or vibrant colors in fall) that surrounds the campground create a preternatural ambiance

The campground offers a range of campsites, from primitive tent sites to those equipped with RV hookups. Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or a couple seeking a comfortable camping experience, Brewster River has options to suit your preferences. Some sites even offer riverfront views, allowing you to wake up to the gentle babbling of the river.

Campers can choose from 16 tent and RV sites, each equipped with a fire ring and picnic table. Don’t forget to bring your own firewood to create a warm and inviting campfire under the stars.

Things to Do Nearby: Enchanted Adventures Await

Exploring the Notch:

Smugglers’ Notch State Park is famous for its rugged, narrow passageway known as “The Notch.” It’s a fantastic place for hikers and thrill-seekers. As you hike through the eerie woods and scramble over boulders, you’ll be enchanted by the tales of smugglers who once roamed these very paths during the 19th century. For those not interested in hiking, do not be alarmed, Smugglers Notch also has an incredible scenic drive on road 108 through Mt. Mansfield.

Autumn Foliage Spectacle:

Fall foliage is the crown jewel of Smugglers’ Notch State Park. The park’s forests burst into a riot of reds, oranges, and yellows, creating a mesmerizing atmosphere. Be sure to bring your camera to capture the hauntingly beautiful landscapes.

Smugglers Notch Campground
Alanna Zipp Photography

Bingham Falls:

Just outside of Smuggler’s Notch campground is the trailhead for Bingham Falls, which is completely enchanting in the fall! The hike is short (only a half mile there and back), and mostly easy (I’ll get to that in a second — don’t skip it). We visited in October and it was stunning: crisp autumn air, rushing water, leaves falling, what more can you ask for?

Bingham Falls, Vermont
Alanna Zipp Photography

Ok but let’s not forget the difficult part. MOST of the hike is easy, meandering downhill towards the biggest waterfall, though you pass several (like the one above) before you get to the difficult section. The trail down to the larger waterfall, however, is extremely steep and rocky, and usually very slick being right near a waterfall and all. Last time I was there, there was even a rope to help hikers navigate down the (basically) cliff side. Be careful!

Bingham Falls, Vermont
Alanna Zipp Photography

Ghostly Legends:

Vermont is known for its rich folklore and ghost stories, and Smugglers’ Notch is no exception. Local legends speak of hidden tunnels, eerie apparitions, and the ghosts of smugglers long past. While camping, gather around the campfire and swap tales of these spooky legends with fellow campers.

Cider Tasting and Haunted Tours:

Just a short drive away, you can visit nearby cider mills and haunted attractions. Vermont’s apple orchards are in full swing during the fall, offering cider tastings and the chance to enjoy local delicacies like apple cider donuts. Check out Cold Hollow for cider tastings!

Camping at Smugglers’ Notch State Park in Vermont is a journey into a autumn wonderland, where the beauty of the natural world meets eerie legends and a sense of adventure. Whether you choose to immerse yourself in the amenities of Brewster River Campground or prefer the rugged nature of Smugglers’ Notch Campground, the enchantment of the fall foliage and the park’s mysterious history will make your camping trip unforgettable. Embrace the enchantment, capture the spooky ambiance, and create memories that will last a lifetime in this Vermont gem.

Unveiling the Dark History of Smugglers’ Notch

To truly appreciate the allure of Smugglers’ Notch State Park, one must delve into its dark and intriguing history. This narrow passageway through the Green Mountains holds secrets and tales that add a layer of mystique to your camping experience.

The Notorious Smugglers’ Hideout:

During the early 19th century, Smugglers’ Notch earned its name and reputation as a hideout for renegades and smugglers importing goods such as cattle, weapons, liquor during Prohibition, and other illegal items from Canada into the US. Its rugged terrain and dense forest provided the perfect cover for those involved in illicit activities as early as the 1700 according to the Vermonter.

A Treacherous Escape Route:

Smugglers’ Notch was not only a sanctuary but also a treacherous escape route. The narrow, winding path was a constant challenge for those attempting to navigate it, whether they were fleeing authorities or even navigating the underground railroad during the abolitionist movement. Many tales of daring escapes and perilous journeys through the Notch have been passed down through generations, adding an element of adventure and suspense to the area’s history.

The Legend of Emily’s Bridge:

One of the most chilling stories associated with Smugglers’ Notch is not one of smuggling, but one of a broken heart. Just down 20 minutes down road 108 from Smuggler’s Notch campground (closer to Stowe) is a covered bridge officially called The Gold Brook Bridge, though many simply use its popular nickname: Emily’s Bridge. The story goes that a girl named Emily from Stowe fell in love with a man whom her family disapproved of and forbid her to marry. Well, the two teens decided they would elope at midnight on Gold Brook Bridge anyways. Emily arrived, as did the midnight hour, but the man never showed. Devastated and humiliated, she hung herself from the bridge. And apparently she is still waiting, according to Obscure Vermont, and growing angrier and more terrifying as the years past.

Haunted Legends and Eerie Whispers:

The history of Smugglers’ Notch is steeped in intrigue, and as darkness falls and the wind rustles through the trees, you may hear eerie whispers of the past. Local folklore speaks of ghostly apparitions, mysterious lights, and phantom sounds echoing through the notch.

A Campground with a Dark Past

As you set up camp amid the towering trees and embrace the vivid fall foliage of Smugglers’ Notch State Park, remember that you are camping in a place with a rich and dark history. The tales of smugglers, fugitives, and their hidden treasures add an element of mystery and intrigue to your camping experience. Whether you’re drawn to the haunting beauty of the landscape or the eerie legends that linger in the air, Smugglers’ Notch is a place where history and nature combine to create a truly unforgettable adventure. So, as you explore this enchanting haven, keep your senses sharp and your imagination wild, for the past is never far from the present in the heart of Vermont’s Green Mountains.

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