New England Weekend Getaways: Things to Do in Vermont

Adventure Travel, Backpacking & Trekking, Vermont — By on September 23, 2010 at 12:00 pm

New England is best known for its fall foliage but the region has plenty of natural attractions to see this time of year. From Maine to Massachusetts, this mini-series highlights what each of its states has to offer outdoors while the weather is still warm.

By Michele Herrmann

Vermont is an outdoor Mecca for leaf peepers as fall foliage kicks in the state’s northern region around late September or early October. Visitors can also get their fix of cheese, maple, and crafts to savor there or bring home. Here are some places to see in the Green Mountain state before it’s time to hit the slopes.

Enjoying the View

Running the entire length of the state, the Green Mountains are a 250-mile spine of mountain peaks and forest-laded foothills graced with hiking and skiing trails and back-road drives. Just about every area in this range is picture perfect.

At 4,395 feet, Mount Mansfield is the state’s highest point. Explore it by taking one of four different-length trails.

On a clear day, Killington Peak (the runner up for summit height, at 4,241 feet) offers panoramic views of surrounding mountains. Look north to find the Adirondacks; in front, the Greens; and to the right, the Whites. Nearby Killington Resort provides K-1 Gondola rides during fall for a top-of-the-world look at leaf peeping. Five of the resort’s six mountains include 50 miles of mountain biking terrain and 45 miles of walking and hiking trails.

Nicknamed Vermont’s “footpath in the wilderness,” The Long Trail is the oldest long-distance trail in the U.S. It follows the main ridge of the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts-Vermont line to the Canadian border. Its terrain varies: steep in some places, muddy in others, and rugged in most.

Smugglers’ Notch, found at Smugglers’ Notch State Park, is a narrow pass through the Green Mountains lined with 1,000-foot cliffs. Another good place for leaf viewing is the Green Mountain National Forest, with more than 400,000 acres stretching across nearly two-thirds of the state.

While En Route

The ride along the Mount Equinox Skyline Drive will keep passengers staring out the car window as the drive winds its way up a vertical gain of 3,248 feet to reach the summit of Mount Equinox.

Vermont’s 140-mile Route 100 cuts the state in half as it wobbles from Wilmington in the south to Stowe in the north. Make a stop at Moss Glen Falls, situated in both Granville and Warren.

The Lake Champlain Byway insects with U.S. Route 2 through the Champlain Islands and U.S. Route 7 through Burlington and other surrounding towns, along with seven different communities such as cities of Middlebury and Vergennes. The byway also gives access to Lake Champlain and the rivers that flow into it. Take a cruise on the Northern Lights or The Spirit Of Ethan Allen III.

Consider boarding one or all three Green Mountain Railroad lines that chug along southern Vermont’s countryside.

Wheeling Around

Lake Champlain Bikeways oversees a bicycle route network and serves an information center in the Champlain Valley. For newcomers, organized tours through Bike Vermont are a good start.  

Take a gentler pace on Stowe’s Recreation Path, a 5.3-mile paved route that starts in Stowe Village, winds through forests and meadows, and crosses the West Branch River several times via wooden bridges.

Bromley Sun Mountain Adventure Park features 45 trails and glades including the five-story high, 50 MPH Sun Mountain Flyer ride. Since Bromley is a south-facing mountain (the only one in New England), visitors should bring sunblock and shades as it is one sunny place.

Local Scenery

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is a more remote region comprised of enduring farmsteads and thick forests. Explore the Kingdom Trails, a multiple-use trail system with a welcome center in East Burke Village on Route 114.

Mad River Valley seems to be lost in time but in a good way, with classic New England landscapes and architecture, surrounding quaint villages such as Warren and Waitsfield.

Newport lies on the southern shore of Lake Memphremagog, a glacial lake spaced between Vermont and Quebec. Visit the downtown shops on Main Street and walk along the waterfront.

Burlington is home to the University of Vermont. It’s also where the improv rock band Phish and Ben & Jerry’s started. A sidewalk plaque at the corner of St. Paul and College streets marks where the original ice cream shop was based.

Middlebury gives its name to a private college and has a number of factories and craft centers. St. Johnsbury has the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium and St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, which acts as both a town library and a 19th century-style art gallery, and a nearby dog chapel.

Taking the Tours

For all things rustic or just plain tasty, here are stores and factories to partake and break out the wallet.

Grafton Village Cheese sells artisanal cheddar cheese at its original location in Grafton and lets visitors watch it being made at a new facility in Brattleboro. Cabot Creamery, a farm family-owned cooperative, produces natural cheeses and flavored cheddar found at the local supermarket. Tour the Visitors Center in Cabot. 

Savor ice cream first at Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in Waterbury and afterwards pay your respects at the Flavor Graveyard to those brands that didn’t last. See how the South Burlington-based Magic Hat Brewing Company cranks out 400 bottles of beer every minute in the Magic Hat Artifactory.

Now on to maple. Plummer’s Sugar House in Grafton is a third-generation Vermont maple syrup producer. Maple Grove Farms of Vermont in St. Johnsbury and Bragg Farm Sugarhouse & Gift Shop in East Montpelier both offer a range of maple products.

Still hungry? Dine inside a teaching restaurant and bakery at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier.

Those who keep a soft spot for teddy bears can pick up one at the Vermont Teddy Bear Company in Shelburne. Vermont Country Store, with its original location in Weston and now also in Rockingham, sells just about any practical or novel item.

Museums and Homes

Vermont has its share of museums and historical places. The largest art and heritage repository in southern Vermont can be found at the Bennington Museum in Bennington, with the largest public collection of Grandma Moses’ paintings.

Hildene in Manchester was built in 1905 by Robert Todd Lincoln, the only son of Abraham Lincoln’s three boys to reach adulthood. Tour this Georgian Revival mansion, its gardens, trails, woods, and farm. Another presidential connection is found at Plymouth Notch, the family homestead of Calvin Coolidge. There he took the oath of office in 1923. Wilson Castle in Proctor is a former family estate designed with a European flair.

Robert Frost Stone House Museum in South Shaftsbury is just minutes away from Frost’s gravesite in Bennington. The poet wrote some of his best works there such as his famous “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

Rutland’s Norman Rockwell Museum of Vermont commemorates Rockwell’s Vermont years and his career with a chronological display of more than 2,500 magazine covers, advertisements, calendars and other published works.

Shelburne Museum in Shelburne has more than 150,000 works on display in 39 exhibition buildings, from impressionist paintings and American folk art, to 17th-to 20th-century artifacts.

New England Maple Museum in Pittsford offers a trip through over 200 years of maple sugaring history.

Fresh from the Farm

Learn about working farms that link Vermont’s rural heritage with modern times through the Vermont Farms Association. Then go see them. Billings Farm and Museum, a working farm in Woodstock with ties to the National Park Service, is a living demonstration of 19th-century agricultural life.  Shelburne Farms is a nonprofit environmental education center, 1,400-acre working farm, and a National Historic Landmark in Shelburne.

The UVM Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge is dedicated to the preservation of the Morgan Horse. See Icelandic horses up close at the Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm in Moretown.

Fall Festivals

Keep these fall events in mind. The Vermont Life Wine and Harvest Festival (September 24-26) showcases Vermont wines, specialty foods, and artisans in the Mount Snow Valley region. The Northeast Kingdom Fall Foliage Festival (September 27 – October 2) brings a piece of “Old Vermont” to life with six unique festivals in six various communities occurring over six straight days.

Observe fine craftsmanship at the Vermont Fine Furniture & Woodworking Festival (September 25 – 26) in Woodstock or at the Weston Craft Show (October 8, 9, and 10).  The Brattleboro Literary Festival (September 30 – October 3) promotes emerging and established authors.

More information about Vermont can be found here:

Vermont State Parks

Vermont Attractions Association

Vermont Vacation

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    5 Comments

  • I love Vermont! New England is best in the fall, to see the changing colors of the leaves.

  • Christina Moore says:

    I have never been to Vermont, but it looks absolutely beautiful! I might have to make a trip out there soon 🙂 My friend said she found a great fall hotel promotion when she toured their last year. Hopefully I am just as lucky!

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