Fall is the migratory season for foliage lovers all across America. Foliage lovers will often find themselves with a wanderlust to travel to the scenic byways and state forests of New England. There is a good reason. The foliage is magnificent. Some of the roads will get quite busy. Finding a road less traveled in Vermont is simple. Take a drive on a side road. The awe inspiring foliage of Vermont will be all around the countryside as you drive from town to town.
When you find your favorite route, be selective when sharing it with friends and family. But don’t hold your cards too close to your chest: it is good to share the prize with the ones you love. Here are some of the best places to view fall foliage in Vermont to help you discover and plan your favorite route. Enjoy the adventure!
Smugglers’ Notch Scenic Highway: VT 108 is a 45+ mile highway that begins in Stowe and winds through the mountain pass of Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak continuing north to Berkshire before continuing into Québec, Canada as Route 237. The first 12+ miles are incredibly dramatic. You will travel through the radiant Mt. Mansfield State Forest as you pass giant boulders (where you will probably see a handful of rock climbers perfecting their craft) along a dramatic road of hairpin turns connecting Stowe and Cambridge. This section of the drive is commonly referred to as “Notch Road” by locals. You will want to slow down and enjoy the view, and in some instances, you won’t have any choice in the matter (do not follow a tractor trailer through the notch road, they will get stuck and remain stuck for several hours). There is a parking lot at the summit which is often full. This is the trailhead to a popular day hike and access to the Long Trail. There is overspill parking as well. Find a spot to park and enjoy a short walk. This is a great place for pictures.
Shelburne Farms: Shelburne Farms is a magnificent sight to behold. The animals are housed in a barn fit for royalty. The Children’s Farmyard is a wonderful place for younger family members to learn about farm animals and cheesemaking. You and your family can enjoy the fall foliage by walking the ¾ mile trail from the visitor parking lot at the Farm Store to the farmyard … or enjoy a tractor shuttle ride on weekends (which is equally fun). There are over 10 miles of walking trails to explore and immerse yourself in the heraldry of the fall foliage (please note that bicycles and dogs are not permitted). On Sunday, October 30th, 2022 you and your loved ones can enjoy the seasonal foliage in the charm of a horse-drawn wagon ride ($10/person).
Quechee State Park: Grab your hiking stick and lace up those hiking boots and enjoy the fall foliage of Vermont with a spectacular hike along Quechee Gorge Trail. You will peer at the Ottauquechee River winding through the valley 165 feet below while watching the leaves (remember to watch where your step). It is a 30+ minute 1.3 mile walk and actually easy. Sensible shoes might be all you need. It is a popular spot. You will have company.
Vermont Route 100: There are 216+ miles of scenery to enjoy along VT 100. It runs through the center of the state. It begins in Stamford in Southern Vermont and runs north ending in the Town of Newport. This is a popular tourist route during the foliage season. You can include a section of it as you map out your personal favorite loop from almost anywhere in the state. You will be in the thick of things on VT 100 until your planned path diverges into a more secluded road (but you’ll be in good company all the same).
Groton Nature Center: Groton State Forest is a short 20+ mile drive away from Montpelier in Central Vermont. It is a wonderful place to take a weekend drive exploring the seven state parks of the forest and witness the changing of the leaves. You can start by visiting the Groton Nature Center with a nature program (check their events calendar) and enjoy a walk to Big Deer, Stillwater, or Boulder Beach State park. You can reach the other four state parks by car (a short drive from the center). The Groton Nature Center is open Saturday & Sunday 8:00am-3:00pm. There are over 17 miles of trails in Groton State Forest. You can enjoy the natural colors of fall at a casual pace on foot. The Kettle Pond Trail is a 3.2 mile walk around the pond. It is an easy hike, but muddy and rocky with plenty of exposed roots along the way. Hiking boots or hiking shoes are probably a good idea (to protect your toes when the foliage borrows your attention).