Top Ten Fall Forests

Fall's Finest? Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont
  |  Gorp.com

Vermonters can be a bit nonplussed when the annual foliage frenzy hits each fall. As cars, buses, and bicycle tours vie for space on the state's latticework of two-lane roads, they'll shrug and sing the praises of the lush summers, or spring's palpable rebirth, or even the white deep-freeze of winter—what's so exceptional about fall?

But then they're used to it. Only when the rhythm of these rolling old mountains' seasons are deep in your bones will you be able to take the fall color for granted—drive along one of the ravine-like "gulfs" or up over one of the Green Mountain "gaps" at peak color and each intensely hued tree is superseded by another burning even brighter.

Some of Vermont's highest peaks and many of its finest trails, quietest corners, and most flamboyant hardwoods are within the confines of Green Mountain National Forest, a landscape that—for all but the local connoisseurs—is at its finest in autumn.

Fall Classics: Green Mountains

Into the Woods:The Long Trail, a rugged, 270-mile footpath along the ridge of the Green Mountains is the oldest long-distance trail in the nation. In its southern reaches it coincides with the Appalachian Trail; northeast of Rutland the AT forks off to the east, and the northbound LT grows narrower, wilder, and somehow more wonderful. There's no finer way to celebrate fall's arrival than by walking a stretch of the LT; you can access it from the gap roads or via side trails that ascend to the ridgeline. There are also a number of quiet dirt roads in the national forest that make for mellow, sublime mountain-bike trips, as well as some great canoe camping at Harriman and Somerset reservoirs.

On the Roads: The southernmost of Vermont's "gap" roads across the mountains is the Bennington-Brattleboro (Route 9) Highway. It's one of many fine scenic drives in the forest, and you could string along a month's worth of hiking, paddling, and camping adventures along this two-laner; don't miss a day hike up to Harmon Hill for postcard-style views of Bennington amid Technicolor foliage. The obvious north-south routes that frame the forest—Routes 7A, 7, and especially 100—are a nightmare on weekends; if it's a slow-boat tour or cycling trip you want heading north or south, take one of the backwater roads—Routes 30, 12, or 14—and use the "gap" roads to get to the national forest's great hiking, picnicking, and so forth.

Where to Camp: Check out GORP's Green Mountain National Forest Guide.


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