Fall in Vermont: The Ultimate Local's Guide
Updated: Jun 16, 2020
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**Please stay up-to-date on travel restrictions due to COVID-19. All recommendations made in this post are based on all businesses being open.
Maybe you’ve seen some of the quintessential Vermont scenery...the white steeple church in front of the green rolling hills, the winding dirt roads lined with trees showing off their colorful displays of oranges, yellows, and reds, the sailboat gliding through the waters of Lake Champlain. Vermont is as beautiful as you see in photographs, and it’s so much more.
Vermont is a way of life. It’s farming and getting dirty. It’s getting out and enjoying nature. Understatement in both appearance and attitude, is the fashion here. People are not flashy; in fact the flashier you dress, the more we can tell you are not from around here. Compared with most other places I’ve visited in the United States, the people here are very friendly and down-to-earth. The state as a whole is liberal, especially in the more urban area of Burlington.
Vermonters love being active and get out to enjoy the outdoors in any type of weather. Some popular activities are camping, hunting, fishing, road and mountain biking, swimming, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, boating, and drinking craft brew. If you are a foodie, you’ll be sure to love dining in Burlington.
Summer and Fall are my favorite seasons in Vermont. When Vermonters debate about which season is best, we all tend to agree that Fall is spectacular. The weather is not too hot and not too cold. It can be pretty warm or pretty chilly so you need to dress in layers. There is a crispness in the air that feels so fresh after the hot and stifling summer. The sun seems to shine a little more; the rain falls a little less. It’s harvest season, so fresh crops are abundant and apples are ready to pick. There is something romantic about the Fall and you can smell it in the air.
And then of course, there is the foliage. We cannot forget the beautiful changing leaves that signal to us that winter is on its way. People come from all over the world to see our fall foliage (we call them leaf peepers), and it truly is a site to behold. The best time to see foliage is generally mid-September to mid-October. Peak foliage time ranges from year to year and depends on your elevation as well. If you come during that window, you are sure to see some foliage and get the best weather.
I highly recommend any visitor coming to Vermont spend at least five days here to truly take in the culture, beauty, and activity. Two to three days can be spent in Burlington while another two to three can be spent exploring the countryside and picturesque Vermont villages. Of course, more time is always better, but this is a minimum. I write about my favorite things to do in Burlington here.
In this post I’m going to be focusing on some of the very best places to visit in Vermont, within easy reach of Burlington. You could throw a dart at the map of Vermont, and it’s guaranteed to land near somewhere amazing. Just driving through any mountain will dazzle the senses, especially in the Fall, so you really can’t go wrong.
Each of my top destinations will be located along one giant loop with a little off-shoot to a granite quarry. I have listed out the stops in order of how you might follow the loop, but which direction you travel really doesn’t matter. See the map below:
If you were just to drive the loop, only making a few stops, you could easily do the whole thing in one day. If you want to take advantage of all of my suggestions, you’ll need a few days. You can find places to stay along the way.
1. Starting in Burlington, you are first going to head down Vermont’s Interstate I-89 to Waterbury. For now, just carry on through Waterbury and head up towards Stowe on Route 100. There are a bunch of stops I recommend you make on the way to Stowe.
Ben and Jerry’s factory: Get a factory tour, walk through the flavor graveyard, and just enjoy some deliciously famous ice cream.
Cabot Cheese: Step here for tons of free cheese samples and high quality Vermont products
Cold Hollow Cider Mill: Stop here for some hot apple cider and see how they make it!
2. If you want a nice, moderate hike and aren’t quite ready for Vermont’s tallest peaks (Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump), Stowe Pinnacle is perfect. The views are breathtaking.
3. Since your hike is sure to make you thirsty, head on over to Stowe and stop at the Alchemist for their famous heady topper craft brew. If you know anything about beer, you've heard of this extremely popular IPA.
4. Enjoy the village of Stowe, a wealthy Vermont town that attracts lots of tourists in the Fall and Winter. Drive up Route 108 through town. At the top of the hill is Stowe Mountain Resort, making for a nice drive.
For a splurge, take a gondola ride or stop at one of their very luxurious spas
(Top Notch Resort or Stoweflake Mountain Resort). Get a spa treatment or pay
a day fee to relax in their pools. Both are amazing.
5. You may be tempted to stay in Stowe, but you will find cheaper accommodations just about anywhere else along the loop, so if you have the energy, keep going!
6. Enjoy dinner in Stowe or make your way back down to Waterbury and eat at The Prohibition Pig, a popular restaurant with amazing food and more craft brew.
7. Next, head back down on I-89 to Graniteville, VT and make a stop at the Rock of Ages Granite Quarry, one of the biggest in the world. Atlas Obscura does a nice job of describing it. It is really cool! Along the way you will pass through the state capitol, the only one in our nation without a McDonald's. Make a pit stop to see the gold dome of the capitol building if you have time. It's a cute little town.
8. From here, you’re going to journey through the mountains weaving through several Vermont towns along the way. Go back north on I-89 until you get to Middlesex, then get off and head south down Route 100. You are now done with highway driving! In Waitsfield, you can break up the drive to stop and pick apples at Knoll Farm.
You CANNOT visit Vermont in the Fall without apple picking. That is a sin! Vermont has no shortage of apple orchards. Just make sure you stop at one where it is convenient for you.
9. When you’ve had your fill of apples and cider donuts, make your way to Bristol, VT on Route 17. There’s a great little brewery there called Hogback Mountain Brewery. They have a tasting room, serve amazing beer, and they are great people!
If you’re hungry for lunch or dinner, The Bobcat Cafe is a great place to stop right in town.
10. Depending on where you are in your journey, another amazing hiking spot that is easy to moderate is Snake Mountain in Addison, Vermont. If you want spectacular views of the lake without all the hiking of a major mountain, this is worth a stop!
11. For dessert, make your way up to Vergennes, another quaint Vermont town on a waterfall. Lulu’s Ice Cream is the absolute best ice cream I have ever had! They make small-batch artisan ice cream and always have some really unique flavors going on.
If you need some lunch or dinner, Vergennes has a few great spots. I recommend Hired Hand Brewery for some more great beer and artisan pizza.
12. Finally, on your way back up to Burlington, there is another stop that you shouldn’t pass up. Shelburne Farms is an iconic destination. It is a working farm that used to be the property of an extremely wealthy family. The buildings and the grounds are spectacular. Aside from the farm area that you can be brought to by wagon, there are walking trails that take you all around the property, right on Lake Champlain. This is a great one for children, but bring strollers if you’re exploring the grounds, because it’s a lot of walking.
I hope you enjoy this itinerary. Reach out if you want more recommendations or have questions. I would love to hear about your favorite place to visit in Vermont!
For my guide on what to do in Vermont in the Summer, check out Summer in Vermont: The Ultimate Local's Guide.
For the best of Burlington in Summer and Fall, check out Weekend in Vermont: A Local's Guide to the Best Things To Do in Burlington.