Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;Emily Brontë
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
Is there anything like a fall weekend in New England to bring back all the nostalgia of days gone by?
Autumn is the best time to head for one of those quintessential New England vacations. One that includes crunchy leaves, warm sweaters, hot apple cider, and all those tall-steepled churches that New England wears so well.
Today we’re sharing some of the best things to do in Vermont in October when the colors are at their peak.
Our family is so lucky to call this beautiful place home and every year in the fall I make it my mission to drop everything and explore more of this tiny state. There is just nothing like Vermont in October!
The Vermont fall foliage season is short, so it pays to plan ahead if you want to have a true leaf-peeping experience. We’re based in southern Vermont, which is a road-trippers paradise, but the whole state deserves your undivided attention.
This guide explores quintessential Vermont fall foliage activities that visitors won’t want to miss, but first, a few of the most oft-asked questions we get about visiting Vermont in October.
Did you know that we have a sister site that focuses entirely on Vermont? It’s true! Over at Vermont Explored, we share all of our local tips about our favorite destinations, outdoor adventures, small towns, and more! We’d love it if you’d pop over for a visit!
When is Peak Foliage in Vermont?
If you are planning your Vermont fall foliage vacation in the summer, you want to know when to book your flight or hotel room so that you don’t miss the prime leaf-peeping season.
In my opinion, it’s better to be a bit early for the season because you can always go up in elevation to experience more Vermont fall foliage.
If you are visiting the mountains, which run north to south through the middle of Vermont, I suggest visiting in early October, especially if you are traveling to the Northeast Kingdom or Stowe.
If you are visiting southern Vermont, the Lake Champlain Valley, or the Connecticut River Valley for Vermont fall foliage, I would suggest coming during the second week of October for the best fall colors.
Mother Nature doesn’t follow a strict calendar, so there are variations in Vermont fall foliage colors that will depend on temperatures and rainfall.
Honestly, the whole month of October in Vermont is pretty darn enchanting!
Where are the Best Places to See Vermont Fall Foliage?
Another question that I am asked over and over again, is where the best places are to experience Vermont fall foliage.
There are so many beautiful back roads in the state, and I guess my first suggestion would be to ditch the GPS and pick up a Delorme Gazetteer for Vermont and New Hampshire.
You will see fall colors throughout the state, but the spine of the Green Mountains (through the center of the state from north to south), along with all the back roads that crisscross through them will give you the best opportunities for leaf-peeping (and fall photography).
One of my favorite back roads to travel on during fall foliage in Vermont is Kelly Stand Road from Arlington to Stratton in Southern Vermont. I do it every year, stopping at Grout Pond to hike around the lake and capture the fall foliage reflections with my camera.
No matter where you travel in Vermont in October, you will find fall foliage that will take your breath away, I promise!
The Best Things to do in Vermont in October
The fall foliage season is the most popular time to visit Vermont, but it’s a mixed blessing for travelers.
On the one hand, Vermont foliage is incredibly beautiful, and every town and village wants you to visit. There are festivals, sidewalk sales, and special events all over the state to celebrate autumn in Vermont, and to celebrate you, the traveler who is coming to spend money at local Vermont businesses.
On the other hand, visiting Vermont in the fall means more traffic on back roads, not to mention a harder time booking rooms and making dinner reservations.
Is it worth it? Absolutely! I urge you to immerse yourself in Vermont’s most colorful season and try the following excursions – the best things to do and the best places to visit in Vermont in the fall.
Visit Vermont’s Highest Peak: Mount Mansfield
Mount Mansfield got its name because, when viewed from the valley, it resembles the profile of a giant, sleeping face. It could just as easily be a woman, but Mount Womansfield just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Reaching 4,394 feet at the chin, this is one of only two places in Vermont where you’ll find an arctic-alpine tundra ecosystem, complete with a plethora of tiny, rare plants that can only be found in such high, windswept climates as this – unless, of course, you want to travel to the far reaches of our continent’s northern borders.
More than 40,000 visitors flock to the top of Mount Mansfield each year, and that’s because you can drive to the top on the auto toll road from Stowe Mountain Resort.
Actually, the toll road will only bring you to Mount Mansfield’s nose, but you can hike from the nose to the chin on part of the Long Trail. The chin is the actual high point of the mountain, and while the hike, while easier than trekking all the way up on foot, is still a moderate trek of about 2 miles.
Another option, also available at Stowe Mountain Resort, is to ride the gondola SkyRide. This brings you to the shoulder of Mount Mansfield, where you can access a restaurant, plus hiking trails that lead higher up on the mountain.
Want to climb to the top? There are a few trails up to the top of Mount Mansfield, but I recommend starting in Underhill State Park and hiking the Sunset Ridge Trail. It’s a 3.3-mile climb to the summit and quite strenuous. You can make a loop by combining Sunset Ridge with the Laura Cowles Trail. Mount Mansfield is a true gem, and one of the most beautiful places to hike during the Vermont fall foliage season.
Looking for a shorter hike with gorgeous views? Stowe Pinnacle Trail is 3.7 miles round trip with 1,600 feet of elevation gain. While this is a steep hike, it’s much shorter than the 6.6 miles up to the top of Mt. Mansfield, and the views are just as spectacular!
Spend Time in Stowe and Waterbury, Vermont
While in the area, check out the mountain towns and villages that make this part of Vermont so special. Here are some must-visit spots in Stowe and Waterbury, after you’ve wandered around the villages sampling treats, and popping into stores:
The Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum: Dedicated to collecting, preserving, and celebrating the rich history of skiing and riding in Vermont, this small museum is housed in the old town meeting house in Stowe.
Smuggler’s Notch: As long as you’re not visiting in a school bus or an RV, you have to drive through Smuggler’s Notch. It’s a twisty, turny road with beautiful autumn views. There are trails and picnic areas throughout. Stop at Bingham Falls (across from Smuggler’s Notch State Park) and Barnes Camp Visitor Center.
Cold Hollow Cider Mill: Not far from Stowe, in the town of Waterbury, you’ll find the best cider donuts, plus hard and soft cider in a gorgeous setting. You can take a tour and learn how both types of cider are made. Do not miss your chance to indulge.
Ben & Jerry’s Factory: And while we’re on the topic of indulging, be sure to tour the famous Bean & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory and dig into some free samples. Be sure to visit the Flavor Graveyard, where you can pay homage to your long-lost ice-cream loves.
Where to Stay in Stowe and Waterbury
- Tälta Lodge Bluebird: Our new favorite place to stay in Stowe, this beautiful lodge is located on the Mountain Road with the river flowing behind the property. You can easily access the Stowe Recreation Path and Smuggler’s Notch is just up the road. Rooms come with an outdoor seating area, and there is an indoor pool and sauna. Unfortunately, pets are not permitted.
- The Trapp Family Lodge: The Trapp Family, fictionalized in The Sound of Music, fled Austria during World War II and landed in this beautiful Vermont town. The lodge that you can visit today isn’t the original Trapp Family Lodge, but it’s still a beautiful and historic landmark, with hiking and mountain-biking trails, and lovely accommodations. It’s a perfect jumping-off point for your Vermont vacation.
- Grey Fox Inn: This lovely inn is located within walking distance of shopping and restaurants in Stowe Village. Amenities include indoor and outdoor pools, a hot tub, and a sauna. You can access the Stowe Recreation Path from the property and the views aren’t bad either. Book a room, suite, or condo for your fall foliage vacation.
- Rachel Lane Glamping: Fall is a great time to try out glamping in Vermont! This unique glamping tent is located on 10 private acres in Waterbury. It’s just a mile away from Waterbury Reservoir and very close to hiking trails. This pet-friendly retreat includes everything you need for a comfy night’s stay.
Ride Your Bike Along Burlington’s Waterfront
Burlington, Vermont is about 45 minutes west of Stowe, and another must-visit stop on your fall foliage road trip through Vermont.
There are lots of places to watch the sunset in Burlington, especially if you’re riding the Burlington Bike Path. The paved trail hugs the water for most of its eight miles, connecting riders to several lovely parks and beaches. Start in the south end at Oakledge Park, and work your way to North Beach or the mouth of the Winooski River.
If you don’t have your own bike, you can easily rent one from Local Motion, which is located right on the bike path on the Burlington Waterfront. They rent traditional bikes, tandem bikes, electric bikes, and bikes for kids.
Speaking of Burlington — with just under 43,000 people, this is Vermont’s biggest city. It’s home to the University of Vermont, the bustling Church Street Marketplace, and an incredible number of shops, restaurants, and breweries. It’s a city I called home for many years, and still one of my favorite places on earth.
More Places to Visit in Burlington During the Vermont Fall Foliage Season
The Burlington Farmers’ Market. Every Saturday from 9 to 1. With over 90 vendors and awesome live entertainment, this hoppin’ market is consistently rated as one of the best farmers’ markets in the country. The market is located at 345 Pine Street in the South End.
The Spirit of Ethan Allen. Get out on Vermont’s biggest lake with a sunset or dinner cruise on the Spirit of Ethan Allen. Cruises depart several times a day from the Burlington Boathouse at the bottom of College Street. Still one of our favorite ways to get out on the water, drink a beer, and watch the sunset.
The ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center. This is a must if you have kids, but it’s pretty awesome no matter how old you are. Get up-close-and-personal with some of Lake Champlain’s coolest critters, learn about the forces that shaped this beautiful landscape, and check out the awesome traveling exhibits.
Where to Stay in Burlington, Vermont
Burlington is a thriving and walkable city, and when it’s within the budget, I always try to reserve a hotel room right downtown so I can walk everywhere. There’s nothing like stepping out of your door in the morning for a brisk waterfront walk or a saunter to the nearest coffee shop.
Hotel Vermont, while on the pricey side, gets five stars for its location. This boutique hotel is a stone’s throw from Lake Champlain and close to all of the best downtown shopping and dining. So far, this is our favorite downtown hotel. You will need to reserve a room far in advance during the fall foliage season.
If you are visiting Burlington with a family or want something that won’t hit your wallet quite so hard, you may want to reserve a vacation rental on VRBO. We have stayed at three downtown apartment rentals in Burlington so far, and have been impressed with all of them. Here’s a quick overview of our favorite Burlington apartment rentals:
- One-Bedroom Lakeview Apartment with Huge Deck – This small apartment is full of natural light and is perfect for couples. The best part is the view of Lake Champlain and the amazing deck for relaxing on in the warmer weather. Walk to everything!
- One-Bedroom Downtown Apartment– This one-bedroom apartment has room for three guests and is just steps from Church Street and within walking distance of Lake Champlain.
Finally, I have to share one quirky gem with you. The Starlight Inn in Colchester is a movie-themed motel located right next to the iconic Sunset Drive-In Theater. I’ve been catching flicks at the Sunset Drive-Inn since I could walk, and Starlight Inn guests receive complimentary tickets for one car and all its occupants.
Another thing to love about the Starlight Inn? Every room is unique and all of them feature a different movie theme. This is a super fun lodging experience for movie buffs and kids. Colchester is located about 15 minutes from Burlington.
Tour the Rock of Ages Quarry in Barre, Vermont
Rock of Ages opened for business quarrying granite in 1881 and is still going strong today. The highlight is a cavernous pit surrounded by sheer walls of granite and filled with turquoise water.
It’s 600 feet deep and covers over 50 acres, the largest quarry of its kind in the world. Visitors can tour the quarry and the factory, bowl on the world’s only outdoor granite bowling lane, and sandblast their own granite souvenirs. It’s Serious fun for everyone.
While you’re in the neighborhood of this Granite Capital of the World, be sure to stop and meander around the Hope Cemetery, also in Barre.
Part traditional cemetery, part outdoor sculpture park, Hope Cemetery pays homage to memorial art with fantastic examples of the work of master Italian artisans from the 19th and 20th centuries. You’ll find some cool contemporary pieces too, and all of the sculptures are made from the same “Barre Gray” granite.
Where to Stay in Barre, Vermont
You can stay in a renovated firehouse right downtown, right across from the Barre Opera House. It’s called the Firehouse Inn and it’s been on my list of places to check out for a while. Maybe this is the year!
Visit the Covered Bridges in Bennington County, Vermont
Vermont boasts more than 100 covered bridges, the highest number per square mile in the United States. Bennington County, in the southwest corner of Vermont, is home to five, all relatively close to each other.
You’ll find three covered bridges in Bennington/North Bennington and two more in Arlington. They all feature authentic construction, but some have been rebuilt over the years. The Arlington bridges are both perched above fabulous swimming holes if you happen to be meandering on a hot, summer day.
Even if covered bridges aren’t your thing, I urge you to visit this corner of Vermont in October, where you’ll find rolling hills, bustling farm stands, art galleries, museums, and shopping opportunities.
The Appalachian and Long Trails share a single path through these mountains, and both Robert Frost and Norman Rockwell called Bennington County Home at one time. You can even visit Robert Frost’s grave behind the Old First Church in Old Bennington.
More Vermont Fall Foliage Sites in Bennington County
Woodford State Park. It’s true — we’re attracted to out-of-the-way corners, and this is one of our favorite spots for quiet hiking, kayaking, and swimming. Woodford State Park is tucked away in the mountains and sees very few visitors. A quiet lake surrounded by lush forest is the main attraction, but you’ll also find hiking trails and a quiet campground within the park. On really quiet evenings we’ve seen moose and otters, and we hear the fishing is pretty good too.
Bennington Battle Monument. This is Vermont’s most popular historic site, but we’ve never encountered a full parking lot. Finished in 1891 to commemorate the Battle of Bennington (August 16, 1777), the monument towers 306 feet over the town and is the tallest building in the state. Take a quick elevator ride to the top and enjoy the panoramic views of the town, valleys, and mountains that make this place so special. Don’t forget your camera.
Lye Brook Falls. An easy 2.3-mile hike on a beautiful, forested trail will take you to a lovely waterfall in the Green Mountains. The trail is dog and kid-friendly, and the woods are especially spectacular during fall foliage.
Lye Brook Falls is a single cascade plummeting more than 125’ into a rocky streambed. It’s not deep enough to swim at the falls, but there’s a nice swimming hole on the dirt road that leads to the Lye Brook Falls Trailhead. I know, this list is for fall visitors, but any beautiful day is a good day for swimming, even in October!
Where to Stay in Bennington County, Vermont
Bennington County has two shires, Manchester in the north and Bennington in the south. It’s about a half-hour drive between the two, so you don’t necessarily want to be hopping between them constantly during your visit. There are lots of lodging choices in both towns.
In Bennington, Four Chimneys Inn is an iconic New England Inn that will perfectly complement your Vermont fall vacation. Each room is beautifully decorated, breakfast is beyond incredible, and you can walk to historic attractions in Old Bennington.
If you want to hang your hat in Manchester, check out the sprawling Kimpton Taconic Hotel, which is dog-friendly and within walking distance of shopping, dining, and hiking trails in Manchester Village.
Finally, if you are looking for a secluded getaway, check out this secluded cabin on 15 acres in North Bennington/Bennington. It’s pet-friendly, sleeps four, and has all the modern amenities you would expect.
Resources for Visiting Vermont in the Fall
As I mentioned earlier, the whole state becomes a tourist attraction during the Vermont fall foliage season. If you are planning to visit on a weekend in October, make your reservations as early as possible.
The Road is Calling has a great post with specific Vermont road trips for viewing fall colors. Here are some more resources for planning your Vermont fall foliage vacation, and I’d also recommend driving Route 100 through the mountains.
Airports: Burlington International Airport is closest to the Champlain Valley, Stowe, and the Northeast Kingdom. If you are traveling to southern Vermont, your best bet is to fly into the Albany International Airport in New York.
Where to Stay: There are so many cute inns and hotels in Vermont! We find the best prices on Booking.com, which also lists some nice vacation rentals. If you know you want more room to spread out, look for vacation rentals on VRBO.
Vermont Peak Foliage Reports: You can get Vermont fall foliage reports delivered to your inbox by signing up at the Vermont Vacation website.
Check out our web story for the best things to do in Vermont in October next.
Planning that epic Vermont vacation? We’re proud and excited to introduce our new website, Vermont Explored, featuring all Vermont, all the time! We’d be honored if you would check it out!
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Our Favorite Resources for Road Trips and Outdoor Adventures
These are the resources we use to plan road trips, save money while traveling, and shop for outdoor gear.
Car Rentals: While we use our own car most often for road trips, we also enjoy flying into major airports and then renting a car for more regional road trips. We use Kayak to compare prices and find deals from dozens of car rental agencies at once.
Flights: We use Kayak to search out flight deals.
Money-saving tip: If you find yourself using the same airline repeatedly (we are huge Southwest fans), consider joining their loyalty program and getting an airline credit card. With our Southwest Rewards Visa, we earn a few free flights each year.
Hotels: When it comes to lodging, we seek out small boutique hotels or quirky roadside motels. First, we search for hotels on TripAdvisor so we can read reviews from other travelers. Then, we use Booking.com to make reservations (they have the best prices, plus a flexible cancelation policy).
Camping: Camping is one of our favorite things to do on long road trips. It allows us to explore the outdoors, cook our own food, and save money. We use They Dyrt Pro to find campsites and read reviews before booking on Recreation.gov or state park websites.
Glamping and Vacation Rentals: For weekend getaways and shorter vacations, we love glamping (check out our glamping resource guide). We book glamping properties through Tentrr, Hipcamp, and Airbnb. For cabins and vacation rentals, we like to use VRBO (they have fewer fees and a better cancelation policy than Airbnb).
Guides and Maps: If we are visiting a new region, we usually invest in a Moon Travel Guide for the area. We pass them on to friends and family after our trip. If we are planning on hiking, we also purchase a Falcon guide in the Best Easy Day Hikes series.
Outdoor Gear: We are REI Co-Op members. It cost us $20 for a lifetime membership, but we get a yearly dividend based on our purchases, plus great deals and coupons throughout the year. REI also has a great return policy.
Check out our complete guide for planning a road trip on a budget