On Fall's Trail in Vermont

What to Do & Where to Do It
Gorp.com
A country lane near Plymouth

Climb Haystack Mountain

The summit of craggy Haystack Mountain is great for views of quintessential outdoor Vermont—vast tracts of autumnal Green Mountain forest stretching in all directions, tree-carpeted peaks—including Mount Greylock, the highest mountain in Massachusetts—rising in the distance, and blue, blue sky arching over it all. This moderately difficult climb traverses bogs, densely packed hardwood stands, and balsam fir before reaching the top. The trail is spottily marked with blue plastic diamonds and blazes along its 4.8-mile length.

Access: To reach the trailhead, take Vermont 9 west from Wilmington. Turn right on Haystack Rd; follow the paved portion to an intersection where you turn left and follow the signs for Clubhouse and Chimney Hill Roads. At the next intersection, turn right on Binney Brook Road; follow this to a right turn on Upper Dam Road. Take your next left and drive a short distance to the trailhead.
Peak color: Late September to early October

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Hike Groton State Forest

An extensive trail network connects most of the significant attractions in this 25,000-plus acre forest. Groton is home to no less than six state parks, four of which offer camping facilities. But it's the wilderness that reigns here, from black bear and moose to grouse, mink, beaver, and otter. The 700-acre Peacham Bog Natural Area boasts one of Vermont's largest bogs. The best place to go in the fall, though, is the summit of Owlshead Mountain, where you can take in vistas of autumn color.

Access: Groton State Forest is in northeastern Vermont. Take US 302 or US 2 to Vermont 232.
Peak color: Late September to early October

Take a Scenic Drive to the Quechee Gorge

One of Vermont's most dramatic natural landmarks, the Quechee Gorge is a sheer mile-long chasm cut into the greenschist and quartzite of the Vermont piedmont by the Ottauquechee River. In the fall, blankets of color drape its sides. Take some time before you get to the gorge to explore the rolling hill country that surrounds it—there isn't a highway or byway in the area that lacks great scenery. A stop in any of the charming New England small towns along the way make this Sunday drive complete.

Route: For a pleasant day trip, take exit 3 off I-89 and travel west on Vermont 107. Follow that along the edge of the Green Mountain National Forest until it merges with Vermont 100. Continue south to US 4; take that east to Quechee Gorge State Park. I-89 is just a few miles further east.
Peak color: Late September to early October

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Paddle the Lemon Fair River

The Lemon Fair is a great river for wildlife lovers. You can put in at West Cornwall and ride the river to its confluence with Otter Creek, a trip of about 12 miles, and then on for another 18 miles to Lake Champlain. The river bottom is clay, making for a rich, turgid flow. You can count on seeing many turtles, birds, jumping fish, and mammals scurrying among autumn flora. This is one river where you'll really appreciate the stealthy quiet of your paddlecraft.

Access: West Cornwall is on Vermont 74 in west central Vermont, about six miles from Middlebury.
Peak color: Early to mid-October

Mountain Bike the Natural Turnpike

In the early 1900s the Natural Turnpike was built as a stagecoach road running north-south between South Lincoln and Ripton. Now the road is part of the Green Mountain National Forest and is primarily used for recreation by bikers and hikers. The road is a mostly unpaved 23-mile loop that runs through dense forest, often along meandering streams. The terrain is rolling, with some long ascents and descents balancing each other out. Because of its length and varying terrain, this is not a trail for beginners.

Access: The ride begins and ends in the town of Ripton on Vermont 125, 6 miles east of Middlebury.
Peak color: Late September to early October

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Hike a Section of the Long Trail

Any time of year is a good time to hike Vermont's premier hiking trail, but with its combination of color and cooler temperatures, fall may very well be the best. The trail runs the length of the state—445 miles in all—along the spine of the Green Mountains. There are endless possibilities for autumn day and weekend hikes on the Long Trail, from a leisurely walk to the top of Harmon Hill overlooking Bennington to a strenuous summitting of Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak at 4393 feet.

Access: Contact Vermont's Green Mountain Club or purchase their Vermont Long Trail Guide for more information on hiking the Long Trail.
Peak color: Generally late September into early October

More on the Harmon Hill day hike

Drive the Lake Willoughby Region

More on Scenic drives in Vermont

This drive through the Lake Willoughby area of northeastern Vermont traverses a section of the state known as the"Northeast Kingdom," a remote section of highland wilderness that features some of the state's most striking natural features. Vermont 5A, the area's longest stretch of scenic roadway skirts the eastern shore of Lake Willoughby for its entire length, passing between the massive tree-capped cliffs of Mount Pisgah to the east and Mount Hor to the west as they plummet to the lake's surface.

Route: Starting in Lyndonville just off of I-91, follow Vermont 5A north past Lake Willoughby to the junction with Vermont 105 at West Charleston. Follow 105 west back to I-91.
Peak color: Late September
More on Scenic drives in Vermont


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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