As the Director of Recreation, Tyler Royer has arguably the best job at Spruce Peak. He facilitates outdoor adventures for guests—which means one of his duties is to explore all the possible ways to have fun in the fresh air. Born and raised in Bolton, Royer’s love for the mountains runs deep. After a stint in New York City, he found himself longing to return to Vermont’s rugged cliffs and serene forests. So, five years ago, he moved back, and now laces up a pair of hiking boots a couple of times a week. “When I’m immersed in nature, I forget about the stresses of daily life, there is unlimited hiking in this area—you could spend a month here and get on a new trail every day.” This summer, Royer is launching a hiking program organized by Spruce Peak Outfitters, which facilitates recreational experiences for guests, club members, and visitors. Hikers can sign up for guided group treks of varying distances and levels of difficulty by contacting either the Alpine Concierge or Spruce Peak Outfitters (located in the Lodge). Since Royer knows the terrain better than just about anyone, we picked his brain for his favorite nearby trails, all within a five-minute walk or drive from Spruce Peak.
Best for Joggers:
Runners and beginners alike will fall in love with this smooth, peaceful trail that winds through a gorgeous wooded section of the Spruce Peak campus. (The dirt and gravel path is relatively free of roots and rocks, so you don’t have to worry about tripping.) “You’ll pass the edge of the golf course, the ski dorms, and several waterfalls,” Royer says. “You’ll also cross three bridges over a mountain stream.” The upshot? You get to enjoy gorgeous alpine scenery, without scrambling up harrowing ascents or killing your quads.
Best for Ski Bums:
The snow may have melted (sob!) but you can still enjoy Mt. Mansfield’s epic ski trails. Only now, they’re covered with wildflowers instead of powder. The Haselton trail traverses up the Nosedive glades, eventually intersecting with Nosedive (check out spectacular views of the village as the canopy opens up
here), before dipping back into the woods. “You’ll end up on the last section of Toll Road, which you can follow to the summit for a total of 1889 feet of elevation gain” Royer says. If you’re up for it, trek along the ridgeline (part of the Long Trail), where you can gaze out on Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks.
Best for Daredevils:
Considered the most challenging hiking trail in the state, Hellbrook lives up to its name. “It’s the shortest, steepest, most technically difficult way to the summit,” Royer says, “A scramble that shoots straight up the Chin of Mt. Mansfield.” It’s also a serious workout: You’ll achieve 2,700 feet of elevation gain super quickly. (Expect wet, slippery conditions—proper gear is a must.) Hellbrook is so precipitous that going down is not recommended. A safer route? Descend via the long trail, where you’ll pass by the rustic Taft Lodge, originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1920. Contact the Green Mountain Club at (802) 244-7037 if you’re interested in spending the night at the Lodge.
Best for Dog Lovers:
This trail kicks off with a steep rock staircase, and then mellows out partway through. Although you’ll score elevation gains of 1,000 feet, there are no rock scrambles, making it ideal for kids and canines. Pack a picnic lunch for the top, where you can dine on the banks of pristine Sterling Pond, the highest alpine pool in Vermont, situated in a valley between three mountains: Madonna, Sterling, and Spruce Peak. Sterling is too chilly and weedy for most people to swim in, but pack your fishing rod; it’s a terrific spot for reeling in trout. “If you feel like continuing on, you can connect to the Long Trail,” Royer says. “The top of the Sensation Quad is a quick detour and from there you can see all the way down to Spruce Plaza.”
Best for Adventure Seekers:
This trail may be short, but it’s definitely not sweet. Think: scaling ladders, clambering over boulders, and hopping across ravines. (Leave your pooch at home!) It runs adjacent to the Kitchen Wall, a large cliff feature just below the ridgeline, between the Chin and the Nose. But it’s worth the effort. “There are extraordinary views from beginning to end, and they only get better the farther you go,” Royer says. Once you reach the
summit, soak in a breathtaking 360 of the alpine landscape. Give yourself a couple of hours to explore the ridgeline’s beautiful rock formations, cave-like structures, and unique vegetation (this impressively resilient plant life is able to survive a near-constant barrage of high winds, extreme temps, and tremendous rainfall). You’ll have worked up an appetite after all that, so head down to the Cliff House patio for a bite before riding the Gondola back.
Best for Families:
When you first arrive, explore the ‘40s-era log cabin at the trailhead, complete with original furniture and cool antique kitchen appliances. (The Stowe Land Trust offers occasional guided naturalist tours of the property; contact them at (802) 253-7221 for info.) Then, enjoy a leisurely, family-friendly stroll to Bingham Falls, a stunning 25 foot waterfall. “Just be careful as you approach the falls,” Royer says. “There are several sharp drop-offs.” Although Bingham Falls is a popular local swimming hole (swimming is accessible via a trailhead off Route 108, a half-mile before you reach the resort on the right), it can be hazardous.