Imagine dancing, while trying not to stumble, through a scenic obstacle course of rocks, roots, puddles, and fallen trees. Add exposure to wind, steep drops, and changing weather. Stir in some sore legs and tired lungs. And you now have the essential ingredients for a running adventure along Mt. Mansfield’s ridgelines.
Stretching taller than any peak in Vermont at 4395 feet, and with several ridges extending from its prominent summit spine, Mansfield is a mountain runner’s paradise. While ridge running here can be at once peaceful and exhilarating, it is also fraught with hazards that will at times force you to slow to a careful hiking pace...if not scramble on all fours. Yet, when you dare to shift your focus from the trail beneath your feet to the surrounding vistas, the sights and the conifer-scented air are extraordinary.
While most paths traversing Mansfield’s rooftop are traditionally approached as hiking routes — including the Maple Ridge Trail, the Sunset Ridge Trail, and the Long
Trail—a growing number of Vermonters and visitors are picking up the pace.
Several organizations now organize mountain running events. On July 28, the Mansfield Double Up race pits athletes against daunting terrain up and over Underhill State Park, and then to the summit ridge back to Stowe: 5000 vertical feet of climbing across 11 miles of rugged landscape. In August, the Race to the Top of Vermont challenges runners and cyclists of all abilities to ascend the scenic Toll Road, which follows a broad ridge on the mountain’s eastern side. This kid-friendly event draws hundreds of people.
It also proves that ridge running is not just for super humans. You can walk and hike the most challenging terrain, and then lengthen your stride when it feels right. Shorter runs up onto a ridge and back that offer just a taste of the scenery can be as rewarding as a longer loop. With a solid pair of trail running shoes and a bottle of water, the sky is the limit.