Saturday, June 8, 2013

Mt. Mansfield - Chin to Forehead

A cairn and the Mt. Mansfield Chin summit looming ahead
 
STATE: Vermont
DESTINATION: Mt. Mansfield Chin / Mt. Mansfield Nose
ELEVATION: 4393 Ft. / 4062 Ft.
TRAIL: Laura Cowles trail, Long trail, Maple Ridge trail, CCC road
DISTANCE: 8+ miles
ELEVATION GAIN: Approximately 2515 Ft
HIKING TIME: 4 - 5 hours
SEASON: Late Spring
DATE: June 8, 2013
WEATHER: 50 degrees, rain, sleet and strong winds


PARKING:

From I89 take exit 11 for route 2 and 117 towards Richmond and take a sharp right onto 117 toward Jericho. Turn Right on to Skunk Hollow Road to it's merge with Plains Rd. Continue on Plains Rd taking a left on Lee River Rd. and a very quick right onto VT route 15. Follow route 15 through Jericho Center taking a Right on River Rd. Take a Right on Mountain Road to Underhill State Park at it's termination. entrance fee is typically $3.00 for adults and $2.00 for Children.

MAP: (Mansfield Chin)   (Mansfield Nose)


DESCRIPTION:

From Parking at Underhill State Park follow the CCC road a short distance to the nearby parking lot and Eagles Cut trail to it's right. Follow the Eagles Cut trail straight 0.4 miles crossing the CCC road 3 times until the Eagles Cut Trail merges with and continues along the CCC road another 0.2 miles to the Sunset Ridge Trailhead Kiosk and hiker register. Follow the Sunset Ridge Trail 0.1 miles crossing 3 foot bridges to the Junction of the Laura Cowles Trail.

The 1.5 mile Laura Cowles Trail is marked with blue blazes and parallels a brook to your left through a hardwood beech and birch forest. Don't let the short distance and docile description fool you because the trail ascends steeply following rocky steps quickly changing tundra to a birch and fir tree transition as it quickly increases elevation. There are a few minor blow downs that require minimal avoidance but the trail is well marked and easy to follow crossing a brook and following it to your right a few hundred feet before crossing the brook a second time as you begin a steep ascent over bare rock slabs eventually exposing yourself to the elements before merging with the Sunset Ridge trail a few hundred feet from the summit ridge. Continue to the junction with the Long Trail marked in white and continue north 0.2 miles to the 4393 Ft. Mt. Mansfield Chin. The Chin has an obvious highpoint and is marked with a benchmark.

From the Chin return south along the Long Trail along the profile of Mt. Mansfield passing the Sunset Ridge Trail then passing the lower lip located a short distance off the trail at 0.4 miles. Pass the Upper Lip at 0.5 miles and the deceiving Stowe Pinnacle which includes a summit building, summit cairn marked with a benchmark disc continuing a total of 1.1 miles to the junction with the Summit Toll Rd., parking lot and summit facility. This area can be popular on clear summer days.

The Long Trail follows the Summit toll road 0.3 miles and continues south into the woods. For those wishing to summit the 4020 Ft. Mansfield Nose follow the auto road a short distance past the summit buildings to the Ron Whitcomb Communication Facility and the Mansfield Nose a few hundred feet away. There are 3 possible summit highpoints however I found a severely damaged benchmark at the easternmost point. Descend to the Long Trail 0.35 miles to the 3940 Ft. Forehead. The Maple Ridge Trail is marked with blue blazes and descends between precariously steep to utterly dangerous conditions. The trail is very difficult containing challenging terrain descending rock cliff slabs and open crevasses making the 1.4 miles to the CCC road an arduous journey. Take your time. I would not recommend ascending or descending the Maple Ridge Trail in any situation unless you are in excellent physical condition and looking for an extreme hiking adventure. Follow the CCC Road 2.1 miles as it ascends a few hundred feet then gradually descends back to the Sunset Ridge trail junction and kiosk.

Follow the CCC road / Eagle Cut trail 0.6 miles back to the Underhill State Park Headquarters.

TRAIL DISTANCES:

Parking to Sunset Ridge trailhead kiosk - 0.6 miles
Sunset Ridge trailhead kiosk - Laura Cowles Trail = 0.1 miles
Laura Cowles Trail - Upper Sunset Ridge Junction = 1.4 miles
Sunset Ridge Trail - Long Trail = 0.1 miles
Long Trail - Mt. Mansfield Chin Summit = 0.1 miles
Mt Mansfield Chin Summit - Mt. Mansfield Nose = 1.7 Miles
Mt. Mansfield Nose - Mt. Mansfield Forehead = 0.35 miles
Mt Mansfield Forehead - CCC Road via Maple Ridge Trail = 1.4 miles
CCC road = parking = 2.1 miles

HIKING TIMES:

Parking to Sunset Ridge trailhead kiosk - 15 minutes
Sunset Ridge trailhead kiosk - Laura Cowles Trail upper Sunset Ridge Junction = 1 hour
upper Sunset Ridge Junction - Mt. Mansfield Chin Summit = 5 minutes
Mt Mansfield Chin Summit - Mt. Mansfield Nose = 55 minutes
Mt. Mansfield Nose - Mt. Mansfield Forehead = 25 minutes
Mt Mansfield Forehead - CCC Road via Maple Ridge Trail = 1 hour
CCC road = parking = 30 minutes

NOTES / COMMENTS: There are no easy trails to the highest peak in Vermont. The Sunset Ridge Trail and Laura Cowles trails are described as difficult and I would consider the Maple Ridge Trail extremely difficult. Adding todays overcast skies and poor weather conditions into the equation eliminated the picturesque Sunset Ridge Trail from the equation and our choice to ascend the short and steep Laura Cowles Trail. In the wet and rainy conditions I was impressed with the trail drainage as it ascends very steeply up rock steps to the ridge. Once we hit the exposed ridge the consistent 15-20 MPH wind with whipping rain made every step a challenging journey.

Hiking the LT North to South along the profile of Mt. Mansfield is a journey I have wanted to make for a long time. Even with the obliterated views and overcast conditions the trail didn't disappoint as it descends the ridge scarred with glacial striations filled with green mica giving the Green Mountains their name.

At 4393 Ft the Mansfield Chin is the highest peak in Vermont. The 4062 Ft. Nose is recently considered one of the 6 peaks in Vermont above 4000 Ft.


 


The Underhill State Park road kiosk and informative sign marking the Eagle Cut trail to the Sunset Ridge Trail. 
After 0.1 miles into the Sunset Ridge Trail and 3 river crossings you reach the Laura Cowles Trail marked above.
 
A benchmark disk and triangular reference mark marking the summit of Mt. Mansfield Chin.
 
The Mt. Mansfield Nose 4040 Ft. Highpoint.

A sign along the CCC road marking the entrance to the Arduous and challenging Maple Ridge Trail

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