At only 9,615 square miles, Vermont is the 6th smallest state in the continental US. But come autumn, hordes of visitors flock to New England in search of those coveted leaves during the fall foliage season. I don’t blame them. I’m usually guilty of the same. And there’s no better place in the country to do so than Green Mountain state. This autumn however, we wanted a slightly less sought-after route. Here’s the breakdown…
Usually, I’m venturing off from Manhattan, but this time I was in Boston so given that… you’ll want to take I-93 N to I-89 N. That will eventually lead you to exit 1 where you will hop onto US 4-W in Vermont and head towards the town of Quechee. While it is a bit crowded during peak season, Quechee is still a must-see destination.
Here, you’ll have access to the impressive Quechee Gorge and the Quechee Gorge Village, which is home to the Vermont Antique Mall & Marketplace and used to also feature the Farmer’s Diner – a delicious diner that harnessed the power of community farmers to round out their menu. It was praised in Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but unfortunately closed and has now been renamed the Quechee Diner.
From there, continue on Route 4-W towards Woodstock. Woodstock is the quintessential Vermont Village town and has the crowds to prove it. Nonetheless, it’s worth it. While there are some great little shops to explore, I’d recommend supporting their local bookstores seeing as local bookstores are a dying breed these days. Yankee Bookshop and Shiretown Books are the mainstays here. Before heading out, stop in at the Daily Grind coffee shop for some really good sandwiches and espresso drinks.
Back on Route 4-W, have a pint or take a tour at the Long Trail Brewery, swap drivers, and continue on Route 4-W. The road winds its way along the Ottauquechee River until it intersects Route 100. Keep going and continue on 4-W until you come across the Killington access road on your left (about 20 mi. from Woodstock).
This is Vermont, so assuming you love the outdoors, you’ll love Darkside Snowboard Shop on the Killington Access road. Locally owned and operated by riders themselves, Darkside has now branched out to 3 stores in Vermont. This is their flagship location.
If you’re here in fall and have the cojones, then you have to mountain bike the single track at Killington Mountain Resort. A half-day ticket and bike/helmet rental will run you about $85, but it’s well worth it. If you just want to take a ride up the Gondola for some fall foliage sightseeing, that’s always an option as well.
If you’re staying overnight and don’t mind “roughing it,” for $48, you can rent a rustic, yet newly constructed cabin at Gifford Woods State Park. They sleep 6 people and there are bathrooms and showers on site, (not in the cabins). Dogs are allowed in the campground, but not in the cabins.
The next morning, head out along Route 100-N. You’ll pass the beautiful Riverside Farm, which is a Wedding destination, but a great pit stop for photographers as they have one of the prettiest barns and grounds along this entire route. Continue on 100-N and then take 107-E through Bethel and Randolph, Vermont. As you approach Bethel, you’ll come across a bridge construction project where Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc last fall. Continue on through picturesque Randolph and other small quaint villages along 107, 12, 12A and back to 12 until you come into Montpelier, the State’s capital. With restaurants, coffee and music shops, outdoor gear stores and mom & pop pet stores, you’ll want to make a stop here before heading up to Stowe.
Continue on Route 12-N to 15-W and then 108-S. The road is incredibly scenic as you near Smuggler’s Notch and Stowe, so leave yourself enough time to get out and hike around. There are waterfalls, hiking trails, and much more along this route.
When you get into Stowe, you’ll reach the ski resort first. You can stop there for drinks and food or continue on about 6 miles or so until you reach Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge on your right. They have great pies (obviously) and other tasty dishes, but if you just can’t wait to get into Stowe village head a bit further south for about 2 miles and grab a cocktail at the Whip Bar and Grille inside the Green Mountain Inn, before walking down the street to Frida’s Taqueria & Grill – a super popular Mexican restaurant that had a 1.5 hour wait when we went! Also along that walking route is the Stowe Mercantile – a picturesque Vermont Country store definitely worth a visit.
I’ve stayed at the Stowe Inn & Tavern before and highly recommend it if you’re looking to stretch the trip out and spend the night. If not, do as we did and head back to Route 89-S until you get to exit 3 where you will wind yourself back around route 107 and ultimately route 100-S until you reach Gifford Woods State Park. Pop open the bourbon, light a fire in your fire pit and relax. From there, your options are endless, but retrace your steps if you simply want to go back the way you came.
That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Avoid the crowds, get your fall foliage on and enjoy Vermont in Autumn as the locals do!