Chasing Fall Foliage – VT 100
“Two roads diverged in a wood.. I took the one less traveled by..”. This post is neither about taking the untested path to glory nor an analysis of the misunderstood poem “The Road Not Taken”. So why the reference? It’s because the poet called Vermont his home for the most part of his life, and that there are great wilderness trails here to lose track of time and find your beautiful destination in a desolate cliff.
For this coverage of one of the most beautiful road trips in the country, we chose the peak fall foliage time in October to travel a good part of the scenic VT-100 state road. As part of the journey, we will pass scenic churches peeking out of colorful foliage, charming towns and cute country stores.
Suggested Duration: 1-2 days Time: Fall/Summer Start at: Wilmington, VT or Jeffersonville, VT
While you can begin the journey at either the north or south end (Jeffersonville or Wilmington), we started the 2 day trip from the north. We will point out the key points of interest, and interesting by-ways. Find a downloadable map of the route below.
Before we get into the sites, wanted to first cover the coveted Covered Bridges of Vermont. There are about 100 of them still remaining, and each has a character that is worth visiting. Most of them were built to carry people, animals and horse-drawn carriages across rivers and forks. The truss system that supports the weight of the bridge is actually above the bridge instead of traditionally below in other bridges. This helps the woodwork to sustain winter storms, spring thaw, and flooding river waters. All covered bridges are now protected by law. We will point out the noteworthy bridges below, but sample a few from the following – Chamberlin Mill, Gates Farm, Seribner, Poland, Power House, Grist Mill and Red Covered Bridge.
- We begin at the town of Cambridge, VT to take Vermont’s main street, the VT-100 Southbound towards Smuggler’s Notch. Fill up your appetite and caffeine requirement in the artistry town of Jeffersonville.
- Gristmill covered bridge with its truss system is up ahead within the first few miles.
- Smugglers Notch resort is a nice getaway in summer and a popular ski resort. The name Smugglers Notch probably comes from the fact that during the prohibition era when trade with Canada were restricted, some of the caves here were used by smugglers to carry goods and alcohol across the border.
- Smugglers Notch Pass is one of the best scenic mountain passes. Through narrow one lane turns, in the fall and summer, this roadway proves to be extremely photogenic. It is closed to automobiles in the winter, but cross country skiing and snow mobiles frequent the pass for an incredible experience. Feel free to park on the side and take a trail up the hill through the caves. Not a difficult climb, but descend very carefully due to the damp rocks.
- Stowe Resort area is a nice spot to park the car and take a gondola ride up to the higher vantage point. If schedule permits, grab a meal here as well with fine dining options. From the parking lot, in the fall you can see snow covered higher altitudes amalgamating with the exuberant fall foliage in the lower altitudes. If you are lucky, cloud and fog cover may provide an incredible view up top.
- About 20 minute drive in a side road to the Mt. Mansfield (4,300′) summit through the winding Toll Road for incredible views of the Lake Champlain. Only 1/4th mile is paved, so a AWD car is better suited, but regardless a great experience.
- Apart from maple syrup, Vermont is also known for its dairy products. Vermont has a great cheese scene, plus the famous Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory. The most visited attractions make it a busy place. Kids would love the sampling of 53 flavors. The flavor graveyard is an interesting place to learn about the flavors that did not make it to the market!
- Vermont is also known for its apples and fresh pressed ciders. A great place to try sweet ciders, both hot and cold, and fermented hard ciders, and famous apple cider donuts in Cold Hollow Cider. Stop for a bit in the Cabot Annex for some delicious cheese and lake Champlain chocolates for a tasty stop.
- Past Waterbury, you will be able to spot the 4000 ft. high Camel’s Hump peak in front of you. Mad River will be accompany you throughout the journey. Notice that the river flows north to drain into the Lake Champlain. Several byways like 100A and 100B, will take you to several non-touristy spots along the way to learn a bit more of Vermont. We will press on 100S.
- Stop for the next Covered Bridge at the Village Covered Bridge which allows car traffic, but take the walkway to the other side for a nice peek at the river underneath.
- For sweeping views of the valley, take the Appalacian Gap road. Takes about 30 minutes round trip through the winding but fun road. Another optional side trip is on the Lincoln Gap road for a unobstructed views of the western sides of the Green Mountains and upstate New York.
- A quirky little town of Warren is an interesting side trip, even if you do not stop as it will bring you back to Rt-100.
- A must-see stop is the Moss Glen Falls, even if it is just 35 foot fall. A quick stop at the pull out and a 5 minute walk to the falls and the pool will provide great photo ops.
- Next part of the road, you will drive along the Green Mountain National Forest having multiple trails, campgrounds, ski tracks and recreational areas. Middlebury Gap Road (Rt-125) is your ‘path less taken’. It gives access to a special place – Robert Frost Interpretive Trail (~1 mile long).
- Thundering Brook Falls on River Road is another nice stop to make. If you drive past the waterfalls south towards the Rt-100, you will pass by a less traveled but pristine water body called the Kent Pond. The white unpaved road along the lake with fall foliage reflections on the turquoise water makes it an incredibly picturesque setting.
- Along the southern portion of the scenic drive, we will see lakes like you will spot churches in Rome, Italy. In an early afternoon with clear skies, you will be welcomed with a treat to the eyes and the lens at Black Pond, Amherst Lake, Echo Lake and Lake Rescue which are some of the largest water bodies in the state.
- A quick side trip to the historic homestead of the 30th president of the US, Calvin Coolidge, can be interesting if time permits.
- Our favorite village in the entire stretch and warrants a stop at Weston. Check out the historic Vermont Country Store and the Weston Country store for memorabilia, coffee and maple flavored ice cream.
- As we pass through another quaint town of Londonderry, the road begins to flatten and straighten a bit more. At the right time, this portion of the road will give ample opportunity for fall foliage picture compositions – with the red hut in the foreground and a placid lake in front of the mountains full of vivid color. So slow down lest you miss out on these unmarked wonders that will make your drive worthwhile.
- After you pass through other towns and communities, our trip will wrap up in Wilmington, VT. But one last gem that we want to point out, is the Molly Stark state park towards Brattleboro. A pull out on the right side of the road gives you a sweeping view of the mountain ranges to the east, south and west.
Things to Remember
- If you are chasing fall foliage, or leaf peepers as the locals say, you can keep a track of the ‘peak’ timing through these websites (e.g. Vermont Foliage Tracker, New England Fall Foliage Map) or follow these Instagram handles (@VermontTourism), etc.
- The big box retailers are fairly absent from Vermont, making a Starbucks run or your favorite fast food joint, harder to locate. The route 100 goes through quaint towns with coffee shops and food joints. Pick up your supplies for the road here.
- Finding accommodation is tricky in the Green Mountain state. While the state is mostly safe, we would recommend finding hotels or Airbnb’s relatively early as there is not much of supply either.
- For the most part, VT 100 is a scenic by road, so traffic may move slowly often. Plus parking in the trail sites can be tricky as most spots do not have a large parking lot. So budget 2-3 hours more to your day itinerary.
- Vermont is extremely pet friendly, so if you want, take your puppy with you. They will have a great time walking the great American outdoors.
- Fun Facts – Vermont has no billboards! First US Patent was issued in Pittsfield. First higher education school for women was established here. It was the first state to abolish slavery in 1777. First successful energy producing windmill was set up in Vermont. And, GMO labeling was first made constitutionally required in Vermont.
Map View of the Tour
Here is a quick snapshot of the route and a downloadable map