Leave the City Behind: Smuggler's Notch

 The Roots V5 - Photo by Taylor Treadgold

The Roots V5 - Photo by Taylor Treadgold

Vermont is a scenic six-hour drive from New York and home to some of the best summer bouldering the Northeast has to offer. Smuggler’s Notch is a pristine patch of boulders located on a steep (and touristy) mountainside. The notch described makes it a perfect wind tunnel, so the rocks dry quickly after rain, and the added elevation doesn't hurt if you're in search of cooler temps during the summer.

Whether you're looking for a quick weekend trip or a long and luxurious getaway, Smuggs has got everything from primitive camping to shmancy resorts and spas. And we’re bringing you the detailed trip beta you need to make it worth it!

how to get there

Located between Stowe and Cambridge on Rt 108, Smuggs can be reached from NY two ways: take the Taconic north to Rt 22 to Rt 7, or take I-91 to I-89 pretty much the whole way. Both routes have pros and cons. I-91 will put you through Hartford and Brattleboro, both cool towns worth stopping in. The Taconic will take you through Great Barrington, another bouldering hotspot and home to the most restaurants per capita in the states. Rt 7 crosses through Green Mountain National Forest, which makes for a very pretty and very green drive. The Taconic tends to have less traffic, but it's windier and takes longer. Choose wisely.

what to climb

Smuggler's Notch trip video from two Cliffs employees, Bryce and Lei-Lei

Smuggs offers awesome and beautiful blocs at all levels. All the main areas are right off the road, with typically easy parking during the week. It can get crowded during the weekend with hikers and families, so park where there's space and walk if you have to. The approach will still be a quarter of what you're used to.

V0-V2: Don’t miss out on Biscuit V2, a fun and simple climb located at the Parking Lot Boulders. Dicier if you’re short, but not really. Also a must-climb is the Finn V2, noticeable because it’s the massive whopping fin located at the Top of the Notch Boulders. Sketchy landing, but a perfect climb up a razor thin arete.

 Pac-man V3 - Photo by Taylor Treadgold

Pac-man V3 - Photo by Taylor Treadgold

V3-V5: Worthy of mention is Pac-man V3, a funny looking bloc at the Parking Lot Boulders. It's a short and sweet climb up a jug ledge to a poppy dyno—sure to please! However, you can’t go to Smuggs and not pay a visit to the very gorgeous Roots Boulder, whose featured line, the Roots V5, makes it well worth the trip. Tall, proud, and crowned by those beautiful winding roots, this techy crimp jug line is a favorite of many.

 Impossible Problem V7 - Photo by Taylor Treadgold

Impossible Problem V7 - Photo by Taylor Treadgold

V6-V8: Little Cottonwood V6 is a classic located across the street from the B.F.B.  (the Big F***ing Boulder) at the Top of the Notch Area. Climb a sloping arete to a juggy finish, key into the techy footwork for a static send. Another to look out for is Pulled Pork V7, up the hill from the B.F.B. on the aptly named Asteroid Boulder. Fingers of steel will do the trick on this steep crimp line.

 The Ripper V8 - Photo by Hillary Guzik

The Ripper V8 - Photo by Hillary Guzik

V9+: The B.F.B. is the king of V9+ category. This boulder holds some of the best hard lines in Smuggs, including Truth and Lies V10 and Touching the Sky V12. Truth and Lies faces the road: start on a block jug and climb up and left through tough gastons into one of the hardest top outs in Smuggs. Touching the Sky climbs left of the Finn through slots and demanding crimps. A beautiful line definitely worth trying if you’re in for the tough stuff at Smuggs. 

where to sleep

There is a campground within Smugglers Notch State Park south of the boulders in Stowe (as well as car-camping options, aka Walmart). For the luxury treatment, check out Stowe Mountain Lodge, complete with a spa, salon, and outdoor heated pool to soothe your spirits after a hard day of sending. For families, the Smugglers' Notch Resort is one of the best spots in the country. Day camps, water parks, and game centers will keep the kids happily distracted while you focus on the rocks. 

Bouldering in the Northeast during the summer is often a fool’s errand. Humidity and heat do not happy climbers make, but Smuggs can be a little oasis for Northeasters looking for a getaway. As always, in a new climbing zone, be respectful of the wilderness as well as the developers who established the climbs. Be on your best behavior, and practice leave no trace ethics!

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