With the crisp air and changing leaves of autumn approaching, there is no place like Vermont — with its vivid red, gold, and orange leaves — to watch this technicolor show. This northern state has some of New England’s most breathtaking fall views as the high mountain peaks light up in a range of fiery colors. Although the peak color changes slightly from year to year, fall foliage season in Vermont typically begins in mid-September and runs through late October with “peak week” running through the Columbus Day weekend.
Not only does Vermont boast over 50 state parks, there are a variety of charming towns to explore while taking in the colorful landscapes. A perfect spot to begin an autumn journey is the quaint town of Middlebury, Vermont. This small college town offers spectacular views and numerous scenic trails to discover the colorful fall scenery. In Middlebury, you can see colorful sugar maple and white birch mixed with green pines, which provide a beautiful display of color to explore on a weekend autumn adventure.
Fall Foliage Driving Routes
For spectacular views of the fall foliage, head to the shores of Lake Dunmore. From Middlebury, hop on Highway 23 and travel to Route 53 to get to wooded Lake Dunmore. This scenic area is home to one of the country’s oldest camps, Keewaydin, as well as unrivaled views of the changing autumn leaves from the lakeshore. Get off the beaten track by using Route 73 from Sudbury west to Mt. Independence; Route 53 around Lake Dunmore and Route 30 between Whiting and Poultney.
Another spot that allows you to sit back and take in the natural beauty of Vermont during autumn is Branbury State Park. Numerous hiking trails lead to a kaleidoscope of fall colors, such as the trail to the Falls of Lana, a beautiful waterfall surrounded by myriad shades of burnished foliage. Or head back on Highway 23 to Green Mountain National Forest. Stay on Route 125 for a winding scenic route through this lush forest filled with trees shrouded in eye-popping orange, gold, and red tones.
Amtrak’s Vermonter offers visitors another way to experience the magical color display. The train begins in Washington D.C. and travels north through Connecticut before stopping just shy of the Canadian border. One option is to travel to Montpelier and then rent a car for a scenic drive down towards Middlebury with a stop at the Green Mountain National Forest.
Where to Stay in Middlebury:
Visitors flock to the historic town of Middlebury year-round, but during the peak autumn season, hotels fill up quickly on the weekends. There are several bed and breakfasts or intimate hotels to book during a fall foliage expedition. Some of our favorites include:
Swift House Inn
This white federal-style mansion in the heart of Middlebury has spacious rooms, mahogany furnishings, canopy beds, and whirlpool tubs. While the Inn is comprised of three separate buildings, the seven-room Carriage House offers the most luxurious accommodations with marble fireplaces and king-size beds. Thoughtful extras like freshly-baked cookies in the lobby and complimentary appetizers during cocktail hour at the intimate bar make this cozy hotel a must stay.
Middlebury Bed and Breakfast
This intimate, pet-friendly bed and breakfast has only four rooms so definitely book ahead. Located in the center of Middlebury, this welcoming establishment offers the perfect retreat after a day of sight-seeing. (802) 388-4851
An historic traveler’s retreat that dates back to 1827, the Middlebury Inn has since been carefully restored and consists of four buildings with 75 guestrooms. The Inn retains its colonial feel with vintage bathroom fixtures and colonial-reproduction furniture. The modern guest rooms feature all the regular mod cons along with a spacious dining and breakfast room.
Where to Eat
This lively restaurant nestled next to a flowing river in the Marbleworks District is a hidden gem. Not only are the all-natural pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven, they feature locally raised meats, organic vegetables, Vermont cheeses and organic flour. Diners can watch as cooks prepare the all-natural pizzas in the bustling open-air kitchen. Be sure to order the organic green salad to share. It may cost a bit more than regular pizza spots, but the quality is worth it.
Before heading out on an autumn road trip, remember that changing leaves never follow an exact schedule. Be sure to double check the timing of the leaf changing before booking a trip. The US National Park Service has a fall foliage hotline with daily updates: 1.800.354.4595.