Autumn in Vermont
Posted on September 5, 2017
Not long after we were married, my car-crazed husband asked if I’d like to join him for a Bugatti rally in New England. Normally, I’m a no-show for such events, but a week in Vermont in early September sounded like fun. I visualized admiring fall colors and poking around cute shops while he and his fellow Bugattists enjoyed their vintage vehicles.
However, as is sometimes the case, things didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped. Rain dampened my spirits and multiple flat tires curtailed my leaf peeping plans. “You’ve really been a good sport,” Richard said at the end of the week. “I owe you another trip to Vermont.”
Last year the stars finally aligned and I was able to collect on that promise. We spent nearly a week wandering along two-lane roads in The Green Mountain State, gawking at trees that ranged from bright yellow to vivid red. We photographed stands of maples, oaks, and birches with picturesque barns, near babbling brooks, and along winding walking trails. In the end, we declared that the trip was perfect, in part due to great weather and also because we’d done our homework.
Planning the Perfect Leaf Peeping Trip
- In New England, in general, Columbus Day (October 12) is considered the sweet spot for fall colors. In Vermont, the foliage can peak anytime between mid
- September and mid to late Octob–er, depending on weather conditions. For up-to-date info check Vermont.com.
- Leaf color starts to change in the higher, cooler part of the state, so it’s best to start in the north and work your way south.
- Travelers come to New England from all over the world, so make lodging reservations well in advance.
- Don’t use GPS because it will route you onto the main highways. There’s more to see on two-lane roads through rural areas.
- Vermont Route 100 is considered the best fall foliage drive in all of New England.
- Allow plenty of time. We averaged about 35 mph in the prettiest areas and often pulled off the road to savor the scenery.
We knew we’d arrived when my husband bumped into his old friends Ben & Jerry shortly after crossing the border from New Hampshire. To celebrate, we stopped in a cute country store, where Richard proceeded to devour a pint of Half Baked (his new favorite flavor) from Vermont’s beloved ice cream purveyor.
Our first overnight was in Burlington, a university town on the shore of Lake Champlain in the northwestern part of the state. The city’s nature-loving vibe was evident at the eco-friendly Hotel Vermont, where our “top floor king” room came with a lake view and a host of locally-made goods including classic plaid robes, bath products, and pottery mugs. We also had access to a shared guest pantry stocked with beverages and delicious granola bars from Sweet Simone’s in nearby Richmond.
The hotel’s light and bright modern design is inviting, and we loved the slightly quirky touches such as trivia contests in the bar/livingroom, old-fashioned milk bottles used for water pitchers in Juniper Restaurant, on-site yoga classes, and snowshoe rentals in the lobby. Loaner bikes are available free of charge, and a seven-mile bike path winds along the lake.
After Burlington, we headed south to explore the Woodstock area in central Vermont. One of my favorite memories from this trip is lunch with friends at the award-winning Simon Pearce Restaurant in the tiny village of Quechee. Housed in a converted brick mill overlooking the Ottauquechee River, the restaurant offers an up-close view of one of the state’s iconic covered bridges beyond. Fresh local ingredients are the mainstay of their creative American cuisine. After the meal, we browsed through the adjacent shop selling Simon Pearce’s beautiful blown glass pieces and watched his apprentices demonstrate their craft.We stayed at 506 on the River Inn, a couple of miles from Woodstock’s town center, where our spacious room overlooked a lawn that leads down to the river. The rooms and public spaces here exude vintage Vermont charm, and amenities include an indoor pool, children’s play room, and a fitness center.
The next day, we stopped to see the beautiful Woodstock Inn & Resort, built by Laurance Rockefeller in 1969. The hotel’s timeless elegance extends from the public spaces to luxurious guest rooms and four popular restaurants. The philanthropist and his wife also donated 500 acres for the nearby Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park — the only national park in Vermont.
It was tempting to stay longer, but the sun was shining, fall was in the air, and Route 100 adventures were waiting. Elizabeth Hansen
Photography courtesy of Adams / Hansen Stock Photos