Tucked away in the northeast corner of America, between New York and New Hampshire, Vermont has some of the prettiest fall foliage you ever did see. People come from all over the world, usually between mid-September and the end of October to see its brightly colored leaves. In this article, I’ll be laying out the peak foliage period in Vermont, and the best spots to see it.
What is peak foliage, you ask? Peak foliage is the period in the year when the chlorophyll leaches out of the tree leaves, leaving behind brilliant orange, red or brown pigments. Vermont is particularly famous for its peak foliage period because so much of the state is still covered in trees. Seen from above, it looks as though the landscape is on fire.
If you are planning a trip to see Vermont's foliage, why not have it coincide with Synaptic Supercollider💥, a conference and festival that takes place every October. The event brings together forward thinkers to discuss new trends in innovation entrepreneurship, music, lifestyles and the arts.
Peak foliage comes to different parts of the state at different times due to varying temperatures, altitude and other factors. If you want to see the brightest colors during your trip, use Foliage Forecaster to determine the best places to go.
Route 100 is one of the best ways to see peak foliage in Vermont. It starts at the bottom of the state, just over the border in Massachusetts and runs right up to the top of the state before curving into Newport. Route 100 is just a road, but it runs through the center of Vermont and takes you past all the best foliage. For a brilliant leaf drive, it’s best to start in the Mad River Valley, take Route 100 through Duxbury, then go through Waterbury up to Stowe. If you want to stay in the Valley and explore, this website has routes and guidelines available for touring the area.
From the Mad River Valley, go through Duxbury and look around the Waterbury area. The Reservoir is one of Waterbury’s best restaurants and you should absolutely visit, if all that foliage-viewing makes you hungry. Vermont state parks generally aren’t open past mid-October, but Waterbury Center State Park is just up Route 100, and admission is free when the park is shut after hours. You can walk down to the beach, or to the top of the hill, and look over Waterbury Reservoir. Just across and behind the reservoir is the back of Bolton ski resort. The park isn’t very large, but it’s a beautiful view nonetheless. Artisan Coffee is just up Route 100 from the state park. I highly recommend their coffee; it’s the perfect complement to a drive through Vermont’s foliage.
Stowe is one of the best places in Vermont and the US for peak foliage, whether you’re walking or driving. If you’re driving, the Green Mountain Byway is one of the best driving roads in Vermont, both for its scenic views and how many towns it passes through. The GMB goes through Waterbury, Stowe, Hyde Park, Johnson and Cambridge, and every town has both stunning foliage and local crafts: beer, art, food. Definitely drive the GMB, even if you’re just visiting Vermont for the weekend. Stowe also has the Auto Toll Road, which allows you to drive to the top of Mount Mansfield, where there are viewing lookouts and a restaurant called The Waffle. It’s a short drive, but worth it for the food and views.
Montpelier, while not as near the mountains as Burlington or Waterbury, has some extremely pretty foliage nonetheless. Hike up behind the state house, through Hubbard Park, and up to the fire tower. There’s steps leading up to the top, and you can look over Montpelier along with the mountains in the backdrop. Hubbard Park has many miles of trails used by joggers and dog walkers; in fact, the trails also go over to Camel’s Hump in Duxbury if you fancy a grueling hike. The views from the top of Camel’s Hump are incredible, but you have to work for them. Just a whisker outside downtown Montpelier is North Branch Nature Center, which features 30 acres of fields and woods, all bursting with color during peak foliage. If you prefer to view your leaves through a window, Three Penny Taproom has a wide and rotating selection of beer along with plenty of good pub food. You might need it after looking at all that foliage and hiking Camel’s Hump.
You’ll have to park and walk to get the best view, but Groton State Forest has some of the best foliage in Vermont. I recommend parking at the trailhead, just past the intersection of Scott Hwy and State Forest Road. From there, you can walk or bike down the trail that runs through the forest and all the way up to Plainfield if your legs are up to it. The walking trail borders Lake Groton, so you can jump in and cool off any time. Just not in winter. Groton Forest is actually many state parks in one; you can rent cabins on the shores of Lake Groton, or hike up to Owl’s Head and look out over the lake and forest. Stillwater State Park can be reached via an offshoot of the trail and features a little beach with a playground where you can look over the lake.
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