New England is a sight to behold in autumn. Especially in Vermont, whose heavily forested landscape provides some of the brightest, most vibrant fall colors out there. Peppered in orchards, covered bridges and rolling hills, Vermont is the perfect getaway for those who want to enjoy the warm, cozy vibes of fall. Peak foliage time varies from year to year, but we’ve come up with a few ideas for your trip to Vermont when the fall colors are active from mid-September to mid-October.
If you’ve ever seen a storybook photo of a quintessential fall landscape in Vermont, it’s likely it was taken in Stowe. The town is recognizable for its pristine white steepled church and beautiful scenery at the foot of Mount Mansfield. Stowe is home to the Austrian family that inspired the movie Sound of Music, and today visitors can dine and stay at the Trapp Family Lodge. Stowe is also a popular skiing destination, but even in autumn you can make use of the gondola that ferries skiers up the mountain – it provides some of the most breathtaking views of the fall colors. For those who love ice cream – the Ben & Jerry’s factory is open to visitors just a few miles down the road.
Mount Mansfield & Smugglers Notch
Towering above Stowe is Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. There’s no shortage of hiking trails in this area, but one avid hikers won’t want to miss is the popular 272 mile Long Trail that takes you on the mountain’s main ridge line. With a summit elevation of 4394 feet, it’s one of the few places in Vermont where you’ll see arctic tundra flora. On the drive up the mountain is a scenic pass known as “Smugglers Notch.” The route got its name during the Jefferson trade embargo of the early 1800s when farmers would smuggle their goods through this area to sell in Canada. It was later used as an escape route for runaway slaves. Nowadays, Smugglers Notch provides hidden beauty for all to enjoy with nearby caves and waterfalls, hiking trails and sweeping views of the neighboring mountains and Canada.
This natural wonder is known as Vermont’s Little Grand Canyon. The Ottauquechee River flows through the gorge that draws visitors from all over for its stunning scenery. The best place to see the brilliantly colored trees lining the gorge in the fall is from the Route 4 bridge. More adventurous visitors can also hike into the gorge. Once you’ve got your fill of nature, visit the nearby Quechee Gorge Village for some food and vintage shopping. There, you’ll find a blacksmith shop, an antique mall and the Vermont Toy Museum.
Lake Champlain is situated between Vermont and New York state and even stretches into Canada. Vermont’s largest city, Burlington, sits on its 587 miles of shoreline. With the Green Mountains on the Vermont side and the Adirondacks on the New York side, the water is largely lined by forests and mountains, making it one of the best places to view fall scenery. You can take a lunch or dinner cruise around the lake or explore some of the parks on the Lake Champlain Islands that can be accessed by bridges and causeways. While you’re on the water though, keep an eye out for Champ, the lake’s own version of the Loch Ness monster. Native tribes in the area have long spoken of the legendary water servant and even the lake’s namesake Samuel de Champlain wrote about the creature in his explorations.
These quaint and nostalgic structures are all over Vermont. The Green Mountain State boasts over 100 of them, with the oldest dating back to 1820. A visit to a covered bridge will have you feeling transported back in time as you appreciate its old-fashioned engineering. The most well-known of the bridges, the Windsor-Cornish covered bridge, connects Windsor, Vermont and Cornish, New Hampshire over the Connecticut River and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. At 450 feet long, it is also the longest wooden bridge in the United States. Try visiting the Middle Bridge and the bright red Taftsville Bridge in Woodstock, or head to Grafton for views of the Kidder Hill Bridge from the stream below. Surrounded by the deep orange and yellow hues of fall leaves, these bridges make for the perfect photos of your trip to Vermont.
An afternoon of picking apples, sipping cider and eating donuts is a fall staple, and there’s no shortage of places to do so in Vermont. Shelburne Orchards is a popular stop located on the banks of the aforementioned Lake Champlain. If you’d like to mark the Lake Champlain islands off your list at the same time, visit Allenholm Farm in South Hero. At Green Mountain Orchard in Putney, not only will you find the usual apples and donuts, but you can also pick blueberries, peaches and pumpkins. No matter which orchard you choose, you can’t miss this classic fall activity. Nothing compares to fresh picked fruit and a warm cider donut doused in cinnamon sugar.
Where to go during fall in Vermont
Remember, peak foliage is different each year, but you can always check on the state of Vermont’s foliage tracker to figure out the best time to plan your visit.
Did this list places to go during fall in Vermont get you excited to plan an Autumn adventure in the Green Mountain State? If you are traveling around the country in your RV, be sure to check out more of our must see places and let us know what state we should cover next!