Fall in Vermont goes together like pumpkin pie and whipped cream. The two just make sense together! As we started planning a fall foliage road trip through New England, Vermont was pretty much #1 on our list of places to visit. Visions of covered bridges and red barns set among radiant foliage had us eager to visit the Green Mountain State during its most colorful time of year!
Best Places To Visit in Vermont in the Fall
We had done our research and narrowed down two regions that we felt were the best places to visit in Vermont in the fall. It certainly helped that these two regions are connected by a super scenic drive, including Route 100 and Route 7. Driving these two connecting routes makes for a pretty epic Vermont road trip! (We’ll give you more Vermont scenic drive ideas later on in the post.)
Stowe and Green Mountain National Forest are probably the most popular Vermont destinations in the fall. We’ll break down our fall foliage Vermont road trip for you and cover all things to do in Vermont in the fall. By the end of this article, you’ll be booking you fall flights to New England, if you haven’t already, so let’s get started!
Stowe is pretty much THE place to go in Vermont for fall foliage. So don’t be shocked when you’re sharing this tiny town with tons of other leaf-peepers during peak foliage. Despite the crowds, its charm is not lost. There are plenty of things to do in Stowe. The downtown area is full of places to eat, drink, shop, and explore. We put together a fun article about eating your way through Vermont. The majority of the article focuses on Stowe, so be sure to check it out. But for now, let talk about how to best experience the fall colors in Stowe.
Best Ways to Experience Stowe Fall Foliage
Stowe Gondola Skyride
Head to the peak of Vermont’s highest mountain (Mt Mansfield) on the Stowe Mountain Resort Gondola Skyride! Once at the peak, head out for a hike on one of several hiking trails. If you’re feeling hungry, enjoy lunch with a view at the Cliff House Restaurant. The Stowe gondola skyride is the perfect opportunity to get a bird’s-eye view over some of Vermont’s best fall foliage. (The skyride is open mid-late June to mid-late October each year.)
No fall visit to Stowe is complete without a drive through Smuggler’s Notch. From Route 100 in Stowe, turn onto Route 108 toward Jeffersonville. Drive partially up Mt Mansfield through forests and rock outcroppings on this scenic and often very narrow route. Keep your eyes on the road and utilize the many pull-offs to safely exit your vehicle and explore the area.
There’s really no better way to explore the Stowe Vermont fall foliage than by taking a hike! With several trail options in and around Stowe, you’ll definitely be able to find something that suites your needs. Looking for a stroller-friendly, wheelchair accessible hike? Check out the boardwalk portion of the Long Trail – South (pictured below) on your way to Smuggler’s Notch. For another accessible hike, well more like a stroll (or bike ride) through town, head out on the 5.3-mile Stowe Recreation Path.
Hoping for something a little more challenging? Take a trek on the popular 3.7-mile Stowe Pinnacle Trail. With an elevation gain of over 1,600-feet, this trail offers spectacular views of the Green Mountains, and the nearby Sterling and Worcester ranges. No doubt this trail is vibrant with fall colors during peak foliage.
WATCH NOW: Stowe, Vermont in the Fall
Green Mountain National Forest
The Green Mountain National Forest is another fabulous option for experiencing fall foliage in Vermont. It’s a leaf-peeper’s paradise during autumn. We want to highlight two family-friendly hikes located in or near the national forest. Taking a hike is a great way to fully appreciate the beauty of the fall colors in Vermont.
Lake Shaftsbury State Park
Lake Shaftsbury State Park is located 4 miles south of the town of Arlington in southwestern Vermont. An easy <1-mile hike around the lake traverses through forests and over wetlands. A raised boardwalk over the wetlands provides the opportunity for viewing some of the park’s wildlife, particularly waterfowl. The colorful foliage reflecting on Lake Shaftsbury creates the perfect fall scene!
The Park-McCullough Historic House is one of the best-preserved Victorian mansions in all of New England. (It’s located less than 10 miles from Lake Shaftsbury, so the two can both easily be done in a day.) We didn’t actually go in the 35-room house; it was closed when we arrived. However, we did enjoy an impromptu fall family photo shoot in the yard. The trees on property were exceptionally vibrant! Just behind the Park-McCullough house is an easy hike, more or less a stroll, through the woods.
Hike the Mile-Around Woods
In 1865, Trenor Park, a gifted, ambitious, and hard-working lawyer returned home to North Bennington after 13 years in San Francisco. He suffered a little bit of a breakdown from over-work and needed a mental break. He decided to build a road through the forest exactly a mile long, without cutting down a single tree. The Mile-Around Woods trail is the result of his self-prescribed therapy. A stroll through the woods is quite therapeutic itself. It’s a wonderful way to experience some gorgeous Vermont foliage.
Following your hike through the woods, wander back toward the Park-McCullough House through agricultural fields, a former working dairy farm. Stop and say hello to the beautiful white horses and see the reconstructed Moseley Bridge. A visit to the 200-acres of the Park-McCullough property is about as picturesque as it gets, so definitely add it to your Fall in Vermont itinerary!
Scenic Fall Drives in Vermont
Besides hiking through the foliage, one of the best ways to experience fall in Vermont is to just get in the car and GO! There are many scenic routes that are perfect for a Vermont fall road trip! Vermont has several scenic byways worthy of a New England fall road trip. Here are our top 6 picks for scenic drives in Vermont in the fall!
Green Mountain Byway | 11 Miles | Route 100 | Waterbury to Stowe | Travel between mountain ridges as you visit the Ben & Jerry’s factory, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, and the Vermont Ski Museum
Stone Valley Scenic Byway | 30 miles | Route 30 | Towns: Hubardton, Castleton, Poultney, Wells, Pawlet, Rupert, Dorset, and Manchester | Discover the state’s slate and marble quarrying and production history, along with historic, picturesque towns and farms
The Shires of Vermont Byway | 33 Miles | Route 7A | Pownal to Manchester | Discover organic farms in Pownal, exquisite dining and shopping in Bennington, and traditional New England architecture in Old Bennington
Mad River Scenic Byway | 35 Miles | Route 100 & 100B | Towns: Granville, Warren Waitsfield, Moretown, and Middlesex | Cut through the heart of Vermont on this scenic drive past charming towns, farms, and ski areas
Lake Champlain Byway | 134 Miles | Route 2, Route 7 | Towns: Champlain Islands, Burlington, Middlebury, and Vergennes | Follow along the eastern shore Lake Champlain and explore the Lake Champlain Islands where gorgeous lake views can be seen at almost every turn (The byway splits and leaves Route 7 in Middlebury)
Molly Stark Scenic Byway | 48 Miles | Route 9 | Brattleboro to Bennington | Travel around and through Green Mountain National Forest and its towns and villages
More Fall in Vermont Experiences
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of places to visit and things to do during fall in Vermont. These are simply our personal experiences from a road trip we did. Want to eat your way through Vermont on your own fall road trip? Check out our guide to foodie stops in Vermont. Enjoy craft beer, cider, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Cabot cheese, apple cider donuts, and maple everything! For a quintessential fall experience, try apple picking in Vermont at one of many orchards throughout the Green Mountain state.
It can be a little difficult to time your visit perfectly with peak fall foliage in Vermont. However, there is still plenty to see and do even if the leaves aren’t at their most vibrant. We wish you cool weather, warm cider, and colorful leaves for your fall trip to Vermont!