Hiking in Vermont: Great VT Hikes for Foliage Season and Early Winter

With summer in the rearview mirror and colder weather on the horizon, fall is the perfect time for hiking in Vermont. The fall — and even early winter — months are the real sweet spot for Vermont hiking, with vibrant foliage, crisp mountain air, and the fresh brilliance of early season snow. Whether you’re looking for an easy Sunday stroll to a viewpoint or a more strenuous mountain climb, the Green Mountain State delivers in spades. Below are a few of our favorite areas for Vermont hikes, with some notes on where and when to hit the trail.

credit: Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing
credit: Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing

Hiking Near Manchester VT

Manchester is the hub for hiking in Vermont’s southern Green Mountains. When you aren’t shopping at the rural chic outlet stores and boutiques downtown, head out for easy strolls through the nearby Lye Brook Wilderness or a quick jaunt up Mount Equinox. If you don’t mind a scenic drive, head about 40 minutes south for some more adventurous hiking up Stratton Mountain. The fire tower at the top provides panoramic views of the southern Green Mountains, which can show off just about every color except green in the fall and winter. If elevation isn’t your thing, head straight for Grout Pond or Stratton Pond. These serene ponds are an easy hike from the trailhead and flanked by explosions of color during foliage season. These ponds make for fantastic snowshoeing, should your trip be postponed to winter.

To rest your weary bones after a day on the trail, try one of the great hotels in Manchester, VT. The Arlington Inn and Mount Snow Resort are farther from town, but get you even closer to the Stratton area.

meg hourihan Flickr (2.0 by CC)
meg hourihan Flickr (2.0 by CC)

Hiking Near Stowe VT

One of the east coast’s most popular ski towns, Stowe also thrills for hikers in the fall and early winter. For a quick hike with big time views, head up the Pinnacle Trail just outside of town. This 1.5 mile jaunt rewards hikers with spectacular views of the town of Stowe and the Worcester Range including Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s tallest peak. If you’re up for something more rigorous, take Long Trail south from Smuggler’s Notch and you can summit Mount Mansfield itself. This is a steep, challenging hike, but the view from the top is unparalleled. Heading south to Camel’s Hump is another excellent option with sweeping views of the Worcester Ridge, extending west to the Adirondacks and east to the White Mountains.

rfreebern Flickr (2.0 by CC)
rfreebern Flickr (2.0 by CC)

The Stowe lodging options are plentiful, with inns, hotels, and resorts. If you do choose to hike Camel’s Hump, the West Hill House Bed and Breakfast in Warren, VT, is a great choice as well.

Hiking Near Woodstock VT

Positioned within easy striking distance of central Vermont’s most wonderful hikes, Woodstock makes for a perfect getaway. The best hikes near Woodstock include a network of trails connecting to the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park, as well as nearby hikes up Mount Peg and Mount Tom. The Faulkner Trail up Mount Tom takes just 30 minutes and leaves from the Woodstock village green, providing wonderful views of the quaint New England town. The Queechee Gorge is a great nearby natural wonder, flanked by lovely scenic walking and snowshoeing trails. If you’re in the mood for a taller mountain with an observation deck on top, drive south to Mount Ascutney for a longer hike. The peak towers over the nearby Connecticut River valley and hikers often catch views of hang gliders soaring over the autumn landscape.

To get as close as possible to Mount Ascutney, consider staying at a charming Woodstock hotel.

The options listed above are barely enough to break in your boot soles when it comes to hiking in Vermont — great hiking awaits just about everywhere in the Green Mountain State, so fill up that water bottle, toss a camera into your backpack, and head for the hills. You’ll be glad you did.

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