Whether you’re just starting out as a photographer, or you’ve been at it for years, there’s a good chance that the allure of Vermont in the fall will be too much to resist at some point, and you’ll become a bonafide leaf peeper. I’ve lived in Vermont for a good portion of my life, and I didn’t become a leaf peeper until a few years ago, when I really started taking photography seriously. Now when October hits I have a plan in place, and it usually involves getting up early every morning for two weeks, and driving the back roads of southwestern Vermont.
When to Photograph Fall Foliage in Southwestern Vermont
I thought I’d share some of my favorite destinations for a fall foliage photography in southern Vermont to entice you to make the journey. The whole of New England is pretty gorgeous through October, but I’m partial to my home turf. Bennington, Vermont is nestled in a valley between the Taconic Range to the west and the Green Mountains to the east. In early October, when the leaves begin to turn, I head into the mountains on either side for the best color. After a week or two of shooting in the mountains (depending on the weather), I set my sites on the back roads, farms, and villages in the southwestern Vermont valleys.
The leaf-peeping season is unpredictable, but you’ll always find varying levels of color during the first two weeks of October. Generally, the best colors come after a rainy summer. This year, we’re in a bit of a drought, so many of the leaves have fallen from the trees already, but believe me, there’s still lots of color out there if you know where to look!
Hidden and Well-Known Spots for Southern Vermont Landscape Photography
Southern Vermont is my home. The back roads, mountains, and valleys around Bennington are where I learned to take photos and fell in love with landscape photography. I could not write a post like this about any other place in the world. I truly believe I have traveled and photographed every back road in Bennington and Windham Counties, but for this post, I’m going to focus on Bennington County, otherwise I would have to write a whole book!
When I visit a new place, the first thought that crosses my mind is, “Where can I get a good cup of coffee?” My second thought is usually, “Where can I capture the beauty of this place with my camera?” I may cover that first question in another post, but for now, let’s talk about the best places to take fall foliage photos in southern Vermont.
Landscape Photography in Bennington County, Vermont
Woodford State Park, Woodford – Woodford State Park is open from Memorial Day until Columbus Day each year. It’s my favorite spot to walk our dogs, and I always bring my camera, because you just never know. The day that I forgot to bring my camera was the time we saw a moose munching on leaves in the beaver meadow. Peak foliage usually happens here in early October, and if you come in the early morning, you will often catch a nice fog coming off of the lake. There’s a trail around the lake, which takes about an hour to walk, and you’ll find lots of photo opps on the trail. You can read more about Woodford State Park here.
Lake Shaftsbury State Park, Shaftsbury – Another favorite for capturing foggy lakes, reflections, and waterfowl, Lake Shaftsbury State Park officially closes after Labor Day. You can still park outside the gate and walk in, though, and it’s another good spot for dog walking in the early morning. Shaftsbury is in a lovely valley, and the colors usually start to peak during the second week of October. Want to read more? Check out An Autumn Walk Around Lake Shaftsbury.
Old Depot Road, Shaftsbury – We’ve seen moose on Old Depot Road as well, and this road offers up a good mix of woods, farms, and beautiful wetlands. There are two entrances to Old Depot Road, right off of route 7A in Shaftsbury, and another in Arlington. It makes a nice driving loop in the fall, especially if you stop at Propagation Piece Orchard on 7A in Shaftsbury for donuts and cider.
Old Bennington – Judging by all the tour buses I see here in the fall, the Old First Church has got to be one of the most photographed places in Vermont. It’s worth a visit, especially around 8 am, when the early sun hits the maples lining the street in front of the church. A walking tour through Old Bennington will provide lots of opportunities for photos – be sure to check out the Bennington Battle Monument, the graveyard behind the church, and the old Walloomsac Inn (it’s a private residence, but really photogenic). Colors peak in Bennington later than in the surrounding hills – the second week of October in most years.
Southern Vermont College, Bennington – After checking out Old Bennington, travel on Monument Avenue and turn right into the Southern Vermont College Campus. Head up to the Everett Mansion and park in the parking lot. There are a number of hiking trails through the woods that open up to expansive views of the Green Mountains and the Bennington Monument. The mansion itself is quite photogenic, as is the fountain on the hillside behind the building.
Mt. Anthony Road, Bennington and Pownal- This is a dirt road that connects route 9 in West Bennington to Pownal, which is just south of Bennington. It’s a narrow, windy road, traveling through stands of stately hardwoods, and then opening up to incredible views of Mt. Anthony. Highlights of Mt. Anthony Road include an unmarked waterfall locally known as the Tubbs (look for a small parking area lined with boulders, but no signs), beautiful old barns, farm animals, and stone walls. I prefer photographing Mt. Anthony in the late afternoon, just before sunset. Mid October seems to be peak foliage here.
North Bennington, Vermont
Meyers Road, North Bennington and Shaftsbury- Another favorite dirt road, Meyers Road starts on 7A in Shaftsbury, turns into Cross Hill Road in North Bennington, and pops out just on the border of New York and Vermont on White Creek Road. You’ll find fabulous views of Mt. Anthony to the south, as well as rolling hills and plenty of farms. This is one of those roads that you’ll drive on once, and swear that you’re going to move to Vermont for its pastoral beauty. It’s a gem!
The Mile Around the Woods, North Bennington – This special place is a popular walking spot for locals, and it offers up some pretty spectacular scenery in every season. Park your car on McCullough Road, just past the Park McCullough House and walk through the fields and woods. Photo opps include distant hills and mountains, a beautiful old hardwood forest, and a pasture full of draft horses. The grounds of the Park McCullough house are gorgeous as well. Early morning in mid to late October is the best time to take photos.
Kelly Stand Road, Arlington – Kelly Stand Road takes you deep into the mountains of the Green Mountain National Forest so you can explore places like Stratton Pond, Grout Pond, and Somerset Reservoir. We’ll talk about those lovelies in another post, but Kelly Stand Road is worth meandering along without a destination in mind. It begins in East Arlington and will take you all the way to Wardsboro if you want to go that far. If you’re driving on route 7, get off at the Arlington exit. Take a right on S Road and then a right on Kansas Road, which turns into Kelly Stand Road. This narrow dirt road follows alongside the Lyman Brook for many miles. It’s closed and gated in the winter, but in the fall you can probably travel the whole length of the road without seeing another car. The road itself is the main attraction here, along with the bubbling brook and the incredible colors. Because the road travels mostly through the forest, you can get good shots any time of day.
Manchester Village – An early morning visit to Manchester Village is an absolute must! You can park in town near the Equinox Hotel and wander around on foot before heading to the Northshire Bookstore and the Spiral Press Cafe for some really good coffee. There are some nice trails into the hills behind Burr and Burton Academy and you should also explore Dellwood Cemetery and Hildene (entrance fee) while you’re here. Early to mid October is usually the best time to capture fall colors in Manchester.
So there you have it, my all time favorite places for landscape photography in Bennington County of southwestern Vermont. There’s more that I may cover in another post, but I think I’ll lose my readers if I keep rambling on like this. If you’ve got a passion for photography and fall colors, I hope this post will help you plan your getaway. I’m also more than happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments below.
I’d love to hear about your favorite spots for capturing the beauty of fall, in Vermont, or wherever you happen to be.
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