The weather has begun to cool, the green of the trees has started to fade into shades of yellow and orange, and the daylight is subtly shifting as the sunlight hours decrease — Vermont’s best season is here! Whether this is your first fall in Vermont or your fiftieth, gather inspiration for how to make the most of this season of change with our Vermont Fall Bucket List. No matter where your fall adventures take you, remember to wear blaze orange and brush up on other fall safety tips. Share what’s on your list in the comments!
Hike the Frost Trail on Mount Mansfield
There are countless wonderful trails to seek out the foliage in fall. The Frost Trail lets you get up close and personal. The birch groves that this trail passes through on Mount Mansfield can feel otherworldly when the leaves change and turn the trail corridor bright yellow. Start this hike from the Stevensville parking lot and briefly follow the logging road east from the trailhead to where the Frost Trail splits left from the Butler Lodge Trail and crosses Stevensville Brook. The Frost Trail itself is 1.4 miles long, climbing 1,500 ft to the junction of the Maple Ridge Trail and CCC Road. From here, you can decide whether to turn back for a shorter hike or take the Maple Ridge Trail another mile to the Mount Mansfield ridge line, where you can enjoy sweeping views of the mountainside and valleys. You can also try the Butler Lodge Loop.
Enjoy local farms and foods
It’s apple season, despite a tough year for Vermont growers. A May frost killed many trees, and flooding and heavy rainfall also impacted the crop, but orchards are powering through! Many orchards offer pick-your-own fun for the whole family, as well as produce cider, donuts, and can’t-miss treats. GMC staff love the Yates Family Orchard in Hinesburg, known for their signature dessert, the dreamee. This spin on the Vermont classic creemee includes a swirl of maple creemee served on top of a fresh, hot cider donut. Find an orchard near you from the Vermont Tree Fruit Growers Association.
Take a scenic ride
Enjoy fall colors from an aerial view by taking a chairlift or gondola ride. Several of the Green Mountain’s most iconic peaks are also home to ski resorts, like Killington, Stratton, Stowe, Jay, and Bolton. These resorts all offer scenic lift rides on their lifts or gondolas throughout the summer and fall seasons, perfect for taking in the views for those with limited mobility. Take the opportunity to see the slopes in full color outside of winter’s white and blue hues.
From the top of the gondola, it’s often a short hike to the mountain’s summit, for those who are up for it. Mark off two of Vermont’s 4,000 footers by walking the .2 miles to the summit of Killington, or the about 1 mile along Mansfield’s ridgeline at Stowe. Both Bolton and Stratton have towers nearby the top of the lift to take in an even more expansive view.
Join a Long Trail Day hike
Join the Green Mountain Club on Saturday, October 7 to celebrate another successful Long Trail Day fundraiser and the end of hiking season. GMC staff will be at Barnes Camp at the base of Smuggler’s Notch with trail magic from some of our partners and sponsors, like Cabot and Athletic Brewing.
We are also offering guided hikes for all interests and abilities: join us for an alpine plant walk on the Mount Mansfield Ridgeline, a toddler-friendly boardwalk hike, a slow hike to Taylor Lodge, a women’s hike to Sterling Pond, or a tour of the Burrows Trail Rehabilitation Project. Can’t hike with us? Find other Long Trail Day hikes and trail magic with GMC’s membership sections around the state, or hike your own hike!
Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day – Every Day
Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not only an extra day to spend outdoors and on the trails, but a day to celebrate Vermont’s original land stewards and indigenous communities. Check out Indigenous Peoples’ Day Rocks!, the third annual collaborative celebration of local tribes in Vermont by the Nulhegan Abenaki and Stowe Vibrancy, in Stowe.
Vermont’s indigenous groups share their culture and heritage year-round. Coming up at Common Roots farm collective in South Burlington, learn about and celebrate a harvest of indigenous seeds at The Abenaki Land Link Project Harvest Festival on Sept 23. The free event includes food samples, demonstrations, and storytelling with Abenaki Chief Don Stevens.
DIY Leaf ID on the Barnes Camp boardwalk at Smugglers’ Notch
Peak fall foliage can be difficult to predict, but factors including average temperatures and amount of rainfall, as well as the type of trees in a given area, all play into it.
Take a gander on the Barnes Camp Loop to see what red maple, sugar maple, birch, elm, or beech leaves you might be able to see! Pick up one of GMC’s leaf identification cards or the Nature Guide to Vermont’s Long Trail to help make the most of your discovery hike.
Get crafty – Paint a fall scene or preserve fallen leaves
Let the beauty of the changing seasons inspire you. There are plenty of ways your love of the outdoors can inspire art, and one of our favorite ways is painting a nature scene. Create your own from your favorite spots, or follow along with a tutorial like this watercolor fall Camel’s Hump scene, created by GMC caretaker and artist Kati Christoffel.
A classic way to take a piece of your hike home, while observing Leave No Trace Principles, is to make rubbings of fallen leaves. Take some old, unwrapped crayons, paper, and a hard surface like a clipboard. Place the leaf between the clipboard and paper, and rub the crayon lengthwise over the leaf to capture its texture on paper.
We also love this game to encourage little ones’ discovery and creativity. Paint or color several different swatches on a piece of paper or cardboard, then help your child find items in nature that match each color! You can help your child take a photo of each item to help encourage Leave No Trace – leave what you find.
Combine nature with history at Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park
This is a great time of year to visit Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in picturesque Woodstock, Vermont. The park, and the next door Billings Farm and Museum, has an appealing blend of trails, history, and agriculture. The property is beautifully landscaped and is home to the historic architecture of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Mansion and other buildings. These features are surrounded by old sugar maples and hemlocks. The park has 25+ miles of carriage roads and trails through the park to enjoy and offers interpretive programming and other public events.
Across the street, the historic barn and museum are open to the public and welcome visitors, unlike some private properties nearby that have been overwhelmed with tourists in recent foliage seasons. If visiting Woodstock or Pomfret, take note of the closure of Cloudland Road, and if you wish to access the Appalachian Trail trailhead there please approach from the north.
Go for a foliage paddle at one of Vermont’s state parks
Get in another paddle or two on the river, lake, or reservoir. Gain a different view of autumn’s landscape from the water – the reflections on a lake or pond add an extra layer of brilliance. Paddling can make for great leaf peeping because lower elevations have a higher density of deciduous trees with changing leaves. Some of our favorite paddling destinations are through Vermont’s many state parks. Check the state parks website for the fall closing date of various parks.
Check the recreation forecast before you go and ensure you have proper precautions and gear for cold water.
Camp or stay a night in a GMC rental cabin
Fall is the perfect time for camping, we think – fewer bugs, and mild temps mean it’s the perfect time to snuggle in a sleeping bag, sip hot cocoa made over a camp stove, and chat by a campfire. GMC’s Bolton and Bryant rental cabins have several openings these next few months – try a weekday for better availability.
State campgrounds are lovely and quiet this time of year, too. Many state parks close on Labor day, but Elmore, Gifford Woods, Green River, Kettle Pond, Little River, Mount Ascutney, Mount Philo, Smugglers’ Notch, and many other hike + camp destinations are open until October 9 or later.
If free camping is more your speed, all 70 Long Trail shelters are open on a first-come, first-served basis year-round, and are likely to be all yours this time of year.
Bike to Canada on a rail trail
For bike lovers, go for a brisk cycle on any of Vermont’s rail trails or bike paths. The Beebe Spur Rail Trail offers the unique experience of taking cyclists across country borders, with the gravel trail starting in Newport and leading travelers toward Quebec as it follows Lake Memphremagog. To ride into Canada, take the 1.5 mile detour to the border before North Derby and don’t forget your passport!
Visit the Northeast Kingdom for the first taste of fall
Northern Vermont is often the first region in the state to see vividly changing leaves. According Vermont Tourism’s first foliage report of the season, Lake Willoughby, Island Pond, and Burke are starting to see some patches of color. Classic hikes in the area include trails up Mt. Pisgah, Mt. Hor, but we think any of the trails in the Northeast Kingdom are worth a visit.
Get 360-degree foliage views from the Belvidere Mountain fire tower
Several peaks along the Long Trail are home to fire towers at their summits, which is another way we love to take in the changing landscape. The Belvidere Mountain fire tower is a staff favorite for the 360-degree view from the top.This difficult hike is 5.6 miles round trip, with about 2,223 ft elevation gain.
Head north on the Long Trail as it climbs steadily for 2.6 miles, until it reaches an intersection with the summit spur trail. If you see a sign for the Forester’s Trail, you’ve just missed the summit trail. Take the summit spur trail 0.2 miles to the top and the views.
“From the tower, the Green Mountains are visible south to Camel’s Hump. Big Jay and Jay Peak are prominent to the north, and to their right stands Owl’s Head and other Canadian mountains in Quebec near Lake Memphremagog.” – Day Hiker’s Guide to Vermont