It’s officially fall, and has been for a few weeks now. The leaves are changing colour, of course, and this year I am finding the colours particularly vibrant. And this leaves me to wonder how gorgeous Vermont is as it is famous for it’s autumn landscapes.
Eighty percent of Vermont is forested, and since cities are few and far between, the interior of Vermont is a rural playground for leaf peepers and widely considered to have the most intense range of foliage colors anywhere on the continent. The few distractions from the dark reds and yellow, oranges and russets—the tiny towns and hamlets—are as pristine as nature itself.
Begin this drive in Manchester Village, along the old-fashioned, well-to-do homes lining Main Street, and drive south to Arlington, North Bennington, and Old Bennington. Stop first just a mile south along 7A at Hildene, the Lincoln family home. The 412 acres of explorable grounds here are ablaze with color, and the views over the Battenkill Valley are as good as any you can find anywhere. Continue south another mile along 7A to Equinox Nursery, where you can pick your own pumpkin from a huge patch, try delicious apple cider and cider doughnuts, and take in the stunning countryside. A few more miles south along 7A is the small town of Arlington.
Best Time to Go
Late September and early October are the times to go, with the southern area peaking about a week later than the north. Remember to book hotels in advance. The state has a Fall Foliage Hotline and an online interactive map (800/VERMONTwww.foliage-vermont.com).
From 7A in Arlington, you can take two adventurous and stunning detours. One is pure foliage: follow 313 west a few miles to the New York state border for more beautiful views. Or head east a mile to East Arlington where delightful shops await you, including Grist Mill Antiques, which is set right above a wonderfully cascading brook. (You can continue even farther east from this spot to Kelly Stand Road leading into the Green Mountains; this is a little-known route that can’t be beat.) Back on 7A South in Arlington, stop at the Cheese House, the delightfully cheesy roadside attraction.
Farther south into Shaftsbury is Clearbrook Farm, a brilliant place for cider and fresh produce and pumpkins. Robert Frost spent much of his life in South Shaftsbury, and you can learn about his life at his former home, the Stone House. From South Shaftsbury take Route 67 through North Bennington and continue on to Route 67A in Old Bennington. Go up the 306-foot-high Bennington Battle Monument to survey the seasonal views across four states. Back down from the clouds, walk a few serene blocks to the cemetery of the Old First Church, where Robert Frost is buried, and contemplate his autumnal poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”
Planning Your Time
The drive from Manchester to Bennington outlined here is just 30 minutes, but a relaxed day is best to take in all the sights. You’ll want to allot one to two hours for Hildene, and less than an hour for each of the other stops.
Need a Break?
Equinox Valley Nursery. This nursery carries fresh produce, seasonal snacks, and is full of family-friendly fall activities—a corn maze, pumpkin golf (mini golf played with small pumpkins and croquet mallets), hay rides, and pumpkin carving. 1158 Main St., (7A), Manchester, VT, 05254. 802/362-2610.www.equinoxvalleynursery.com. Free. Apr.-Dec., Mon.-Sat. 8:30-5, Sun. 9-4.
Clear Brook Farm. Set on more than 20 acres, Clear Brook Farm sells their own organic produce, in addition to baked goods and other seasonal treats. 47 Hidden Valley Rd.,Manchester, VT, 05262. 802/442-4273.www.clearbrookfarm.com. May-Aug., daily 9-6; Sept.-Oct., daily 10-6.
The Cheese House. Get your Vermont cheddar fix at the The Cheese House, which also sells maple syrup and other local products and gifts. 5187 Vermont Rte. 7A, Arlington, VT, 05250.802/375-9033. www.thevermontcheesehouse.com. Free. Wed.-Mon. 10-5. Closed Tues.