Sept 30-Oct 2, 2016. I have very happy memories of going up to the White Mountains many autumn seasons to see the foliage pop and have been to Vermont a few times to appreciate the “Green”Mountains burst into color. Given the possibility of a 3 day weekend, I decided to take Alex to relive some foliage memories with me!
When to go? Short answer- generally the first or second week of October. I scoured the internet for the best possible time to try to see the foliage and work around our schedules. I found that the best site for live foliage updates and mapping is here and would stalk it everyday up to our trip. I would recommend relying more on the color coding than the actual picture icons on the map as some are a few days/weeks old and don’t reflect the day-to-day. Surprisingly, “Vermont Fall Foliage” is also very active on Facebook with updates every few days. Because of the dry summer and mild spring they were predicting an early foliage season, so we planned to embark on trip September 30th, though the maps the week of were noting the leaves were just “turning” and semi-“moderate” at that time.
Where to fly in and where to go?: We flew into Boston and drove a rental car about 2.5 hours to Woodstock, VT up Route 93. I choose Woodstock, VT as our home base because it is a little farther north and is a “quintessential New England” town that would be full of charm and things to do. Other towns in the running were Manchester (pretty commercial but #3 foliage town in New England), Burlington, and Stowe.
FRIDAY NIGHT: We arrived in the Quechee, VT, 10 minutes from Woodstock around 6pm. We enjoyed Quechee Inn’s Friday Date Night special (reservations made before hand, reccomend) which was 3 courses for two with a glass of wine each for $55 total! The setting was quaint and perfect in their inn dining room and the place filled up very fast. Alex couldn’t even believe the $55 price tag and thought that was the price for one person. I enjoyed a delicious butternut squash bisque, asparagus mushroom ravioli and berry cobbler. Alex enjoyed his steak. The maple crème brûlée is the dessert to get!
We stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast, Woodbridge Inn, which was booked full! Warning to those who are planning foliage trips: get your lodging set ASAP since leaf peepers seem to invade and we saw a lot of NO VACANCY signs. I think the B&B experience is a must in Vermont, both because of the charm and because there are very few hotel chains around.
SATURDAY MORNING: Our B&B started us off right with the most delicious pumpkin pancakes topped off with real VT maple syrup, yum. We then went on a National Park Service Ranger led hike of a portion of the Appalachian Trial which I would highly recommend because of the educational and navigational value. You must reserve a spot on these hikes via calling them and see there are hikes going on everywhere on their site. We had a shuttle pick us up at the Billings Farm parking lot and bring us to a trail head! We learned about the history of the Appalachian trail all along the hike and played a quiz game to make sure we retained the facts!
We hiked a moderate level trail of about 2.2 miles with some major elevation changes (200-300 ft or so). We learned about blazes that mark the trail (see pictures below). This took us from 9:30 am to about 12:30 pm with frequent stops and learning about the trail. It was a good workout and very informative, I don’t think I could have found my way around the trail without this primer! The foliage as you can tell is just turning in these pictures.
These white blazes appear often on the trail to keep you on track. When you see two blazes you know you are at a tricky spot and to head in the direction the top blaze is directing you!
By the time the hike was over we were famished for lunch. I regret not exploring the Billings Farm and Museum that afternoon as we ran out of time to do this later. The free movie (we did end up squeezing in,~30 mins at the center) is all about conservationism and explains the history of the area and the tour of the mansion inside farm is apparently great (per other B&B guests who did this). Admission for adults is $8.
We had a delicious lunch a few minutes down the street at the Simon Pearce Factory. The restaurant is beautifully set over the small waterfalls though can get very busy even at lunch! We arrived around 1:30 pm and were just lucky enough to snag seats at the bar. I enjoyed a hearty kale/charred broccoli salad with my favorite soup, butternut bisque. Alex’s beautifully plated salmon dish is below. Bar pro tip- you get their house made chips to munch on! Be aware that prices here are expensive but eating here at lunch is reasonable enough for the quality of the food.
We loved watching the artisans work in the basement right below us and enjoyed the viewing deck of the waterfall.
We then headed for a short visit to Sugarbush Farm (30-40 mins tops, more if you have kids) to try their locally sourced cheese and maple syrup. The buildings are all quite small but they are very generous with their 14! different cheese samples. We also learned all about the different colors of maple syrup. There are a lot of livestock to interact with, they had some beautiful Clydesdale-like horses I got to pet.
After this we drove about 15 minutes to Long Trail Brewing Company which was full of people! Be aware they do not offer any group tours but you can wander up to a balcony overlooking the brewery and learn about their beers through a little self tour. We loved tasting a sampler of their signature and seasonal beers. The Gose and the Limbo were my favorite. Their pub seemed to be hopping with some good food as well.
I ended the afternoon with resting at our B&B and then a jog along the Ottauquechee river which runs parallel to the main Woodstock road. I ran on the dirt road on the other side which was quiet, safe and tranquil.
We ended the night by going into Woodstock downtown and walking around to find a restaurant. The selection is limited but we choose a good pizza place to end our night. Other dinner recommendation places from fellow B&B folks were Ruth’s Table and Worthy Kitchen (a bit further east). There is limited night life in the small town but you can find theater/movie events happening here.
SUNDAY: We had another wonderful breakfast at our B&B then set off on a hike of our own to Mount Tom’s Peak (Faulkner Trail < super helpful pdf directions from NPS) A lot of the trail is “graveled” and well maintained though the last 100 yards are rocky but still easy. The trail starts at the back of Faulkner Park right in downtown Woodstock. This 2.75 miles round trip and took us about 1.5-2 hrs. The view from the top was obscured by cloud and the overgrown trees so we couldn’t see the panorama. However, we truly enjoyed the journey!
We ended the trip by eating some delicious paninis in downtown Woodstock at Mont Vert Cafe (Alex got the “Zesto” and I got the Smoky Grilled Cheese) and walking around the town center for about an hour. There are a lot of fun shops to duck in and the general store feels like a blast from the past.
We look back on our 48 hours in Woodstock with fondness already. We miss the crisp autumn air and those beautiful colors.