Vermont’s Green Mountains are just about ready for their fall makeover, and there’s no better way to appreciate the season than with a fall foliage road trip. This adventure begins in the southwest corner of Vermont and heads up along the spine of the Green Mountains. Along the way you’ll visit some of Vermont’s prettiest state parks, hike to incredible vistas, and explore a few stunning waterfalls. It’s 200 miles of leaf-peeping splendor.
Tucked away in southern Vermont, Shaftsbury State Park is a small park that always shines during the fall foliage season. While the park is officially closed after Labor Day, visitors are welcome to park outside the gate and walk the mile around beautiful Lake Shaftsbury. It’s an easy hike along the beach, through wetlands, and a mixed hardwood forest. Early morning is the best time to see fog rising from the water and get good reflection shots.
After leaving Lake Shaftsbury, drive south to Bennington, and head east on Route 9 to Woodford State Park. The park is in the southern Green Mountains and includes the highest altitude campground in Vermont. The campground is open until Columbus Day weekend, but like all Vermont State Parks, visitors are welcome year round if they park outside the gate. If you visit before closing day you can rent kayaks, canoes, or paddle boats and cruise around the lake.
Next, continue east and stop at Molly Stark State Park, where you can hike to the top of Mount Olga and climb the fire tower for spectacular autumn views. Molly Stark State Park has a lovely wooded campground that is open through Columbus Day Weekend.
Route 9 connects with Route 100, which runs north to south and meanders through the mountains as well as small New England villages. Before heading too far north, be sure to check out Grout Pond in Stratton, which is a recreation area in the Green Mountain National Forest. The colors here are fantastic in early October, and you can score a waterfront campsite for $16 all through the year.
Continue north on Route 100, stopping in Ludlow for a quick hike to Buttermilk Falls. This is a great spot to cool off in the summer and a gorgeous spot to get your nature fix all through the year. There are many more waterfalls to explore along route 100 if you have time, including (from south to north) Texas Falls in Hancock, Moss Glen Falls in Granville, Warren Falls in Warren, and Moss Glen Falls in Stowe.
Stowe is also home to Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak at 4,394 feet. Mount Mansfield is the perfect spot to end your Vermont fall foliage road trip. You can hike to the top via the Sunset Ridge Trail or Hell Brook Trail, or if you’re short on time, you can drive the top via the Stowe Mountain Toll Road and hike along the ridge for never-ending views of the mountains, lakes, and valleys that make up Vermont.