Summer 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.
Vermont is an incredible place to visit, especially in the summer-time. After being cooped up all winter, locals and tourists alike, come out of the woodwork to enjoy the beautiful weather and abundance of outdoor activities.
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 quintessential Vermont villages. Of course, more time is always better, but I recommend this as a minimum.
In my Local’s Guide to Visiting Burlington, I provide a more in depth introduction to this New England State. I highly recommend a stop in Vermont's biggest city at 43,000 people if you are coming to Vermont. For all the most essential things to do in my hometown of Burlington, check out: Weekend Getaway in Vermont: A Local’s Guide to the Best Things to Do in Burlington.
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. But to keep this post a manageable read, I have narrowed the geographic scope of my recommendations and feel these would make the top of anyone’s list. I’m happy to provide more suggestions and details if you plan to stay in Vermont even longer!
Each of my top destinations will be located along one giant loop, and listed in the order you will find them along the loop. 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 at least a few days. You can find places to stay along the way. You are most likely to find accommodations at Airbnb's, bed and breakfasts, and campsites.
1. Starting in Burlington, you are first going to head down Vermont’s Interstate I-89 to Bolton Valley. If it’s a hot day, you’ll want to check out the Bolton Potholes. Vermont’s mountain streams are very cold and sure to cool you off. When you drive up the Bolton Access Road, if it’s a warm day, you will see cars lining the sides of the road. Find a place to park and then look for little trails that lead off into the woods. You quickly will find three beautiful swimming holes stacked one on top of the other, connected by waterfalls. It can get crowded here, but it’s for good reason! Bring a cooler with some snacks and drinks and hang out awhile.
2. If you want a nice, moderate hike and aren’t quite ready for Vermont’s tallest peaks (Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump), pass through Waterbury and stop at Stowe Pinnacle on your way up to Stowe. The views are amazing.
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. This IPA is so popular, stores have had to limit how many people can buy!
4. Enjoy the village of Stowe, a town that attracts the well-to-do Vermonter and out-of-stater who wants to leaf-peep and ski. It’s beautiful in the summer as well. 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 equally amazing.
5. When you are leaving Stowe, making your way back down to Waterbury, there are a few quick stops you shouldn’t miss:
Cold Hollow Cider Mill for some fresh apple cider and you can see how they make it.
Cabot Cheese for lots of free cheese samples and high quality Vermont products.
Ben and Jerry’s factory where you can get a factory tour, walk through the flavor graveyard, and just enjoy some of the famous ice cream.
6. In Waterbury Center, Prohibition Pig is a popular restaurant with amazing food and more craft brew.
At this point, you could head back to Burlington or stay the night because that was a long day, or you could keep going down I-89 all the way down to Barre, VT and beyond.
7. Rock of Ages Quarry: This granite quarry is one of the biggest in the world. Atlas Obscura does a nice job of describing it. It is really cool!
8. For you final stop along I-89, make your way down to Stockbridge. Here you will find Vermont River Tubing, a lovely little mom-and-pop operation that rents you a tube and transports you upstream so you can relax and float leisurely down the river. You can take as long as you need and really make a day of it if you want to! Bring a floating cooler, and even a speaker. Stop along the way to swim. It's a great time! You'll want to check with them on timing and river conditions
9. When you’re done tubing for the day, you can make your way through the mountains, heading over towards Middlebury. There are a couple of stops along the way that aren’t too time-consuming. One is Texas Falls. You will see a clear sign for this recreation area as you drive up 125 leaving Hancock. It’s a nice wooded area to stop and look at the falls and gorges. There are trails you could explore or you can take 20 minutes and just look around. It’s beautiful and free.
10. Not much further up the road, in Ripton, VT, you will find the Robert Frost Nature Trail. This is a flat trail through woods and meadows, over bridges and streams, that is a tribute to the famous poet. It’s a lovely walk and not strenuous. You need about an hour or so for this.
11. As you head down the mountain into East Middlebury, stop at East Middlebury Gorge. There is no sign to show you where it’s located, but if it’s a warm day, you’ll see cars parked on the side of the road. The gorge is located right under the bridge just before you see North Branch Road on your right. This is an incredible place to stop and take a dip! You’ll want your water shoes for this.
12. Next head over to Middlebury, a quaint little Vermont mill town, home to the gorgeous campus of Middlebury College. You can walk around the small downtown and stop at Marble Works where you can enjoy the waterfall and have dinner at American Flatbread Pizza.
13. If you still have energy or it’s the next day and you’re looking for an easy to moderate hike, Snake Mountain in Addison, VT is the perfect spot. Not terribly grueling with a spectacular view at the top.
14. 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 great beer and artisan pizza.
15. On the way back up Route 7, if you missed the hike up Snake Mountain, stop at Mt. Philo. This is a relatively easy hike, a little easier than Snake, and very family friendly. There is a small entrance fee and a picnic area at the top, again with spectacular views.
16. Another stop that you shouldn’t pass up on your way back up to Burlington, is Shelburne Farms. Shelburne Farms is a working farm that used to be the property of an extremely wealthy family. The buildings and the grounds are spectacular. There is the famous farm area, featured above, and walking trails that take you all around the property, right on Lake Champlain. There are wagon rides that take you to and from the farm area. This is a great one for children, but bring strollers if you’re exploring the grounds, because it’s a lot of walking.
17. Finally, Shelburne Museum is a spectacular venue for an outdoor concert. They hold summer concerts throughout the season and it's a perfect way to top off a Vermont day. Check out their schedule here.
Phew! That's a lot of items so pick and choose what seems most interesting to you. These are all of my favorite things so I hope you enjoy!
Because weather can be somewhat unpredictable any time of year in Vermont, I suggest packing layers of clothes for chilly nights or rainy days, but expect it to be pretty hot in the summer time. You want to pack sneakers, water shoes, a swimsuit, sunscreen, a rain jacket, an umbrella, a towel, and bug spray.
For my guide on what to do in Vermont in the Fall, check out Fall In Vermont: The Ultimate Local's Guide. For what to do with a couple of days in Burlington, check out Weekend Getaway in Vermont: A Local’s Guide to the Best Things to Do in Burlington.