Vermont's Light Show

Take your family into quintessential New England autumn by leaving the main roads to the hoards and heading out of your vehicle and into the Vermont backwoods.
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The beginning of autumn in Vermont is a time to savor the last precious moments of warm weather against the countryside's mosaic backdrop of reds, yellows, oranges, and purples before the chill of winter enters the air and the trees go barren. Rural roads radiate with colors comparable to Monet's finest Impressionist works. Leaves on white birches turn yellow; aspens transform to copper; sugar maples produce a combination of yellow, green, orange, and red (depending on the amount sugar trapped in the leaf); white ashes change to the color of a ripe plum; and oak leaves turn a warm, dark brown.

This is not news to most of us. Indeed, fall in Vermont has become cliche. There's a 24-hour toll-free hotline to keep you informed of nature's progress (800.VERMONT) and even a touring company where you can witness the splendor of fall foliage through the tinted windows of a chauffeured Rolls Royce. However, there's an underlying problem with the usual autumn driving trip—one of you has to drive. Prime leaf-watching soon becomes tiresome road-watching—or a test of your patience as the red leaves are replaced by the taillight glow of the slow parade of other like-minded road trippers. Which is why we insist that you get out of the car to bike, hike, even go horseback riding. The whole family can slow down and stop to appreciate Mother Nature, while she's wearing her most flamboyant dress.

Days One and Two: Boston to Woodstock (145 Miles)
First stop after the two-and-a-half-hour drive from Boston is the Billings Farm and Museum (802.457.2355; in Woodstock. This working farm gives curious kids (ideal for five- to 12-year-olds) a hands-on demonstration of 19th-century farming methods. Afterwards, walk across the street to Marsh-Billings National Historical Park (802.457.3368; and stroll on carriage path trails through a 555-acre forest of century-old Norwegian spruce and Scottish Pine, mixed in with an indigenous Vermont forest of white pine, red pine, and maples. The longest carriage path trail circles around a pond called The Pogue.

South of Woodstock on Route 12 is serious horseback riding country. At Kedron Valley Stables (800.225.6301;, you can giddy-up on a horseback ride through secluded woods on an extensive network of horseback trails. Minimum age for riding is six, and the length of your time in the saddle will vary based on experience and desire.

Spend the night in a quiet hardwood forest at Quechee Gorge State Park (802.295.2990; and you'll wake up to find 200-foot-high cliffs precariously clinging to the slopes of the Ottauquechee River. The scenery becomes even more dramatic as you snake your around the gorge on a one-mile loop trail. For sustenance, head to Farina Family Diner (802.295.8955) in Quechee Gorge Village, a genuine 1946 Worcester diner.

Published: 24 Feb 2006 | Last Updated: 10 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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