There is arguably no better place than Vermont to experience the natural spectacle of fall foliage. As the weather cools, Vermont's forests flush with fiery colors and the distinctive fragrance of fall fills the air. But there's way more to do in the Green Mountain State during autumn than looking at leaves. From apple orchard adventures and farm stays to craft-beer trails and sugarhouses, discover 10 activities and itinerary ideas for the perfect fall getaway in Vermont.
Go Apple Picking (and Win)
Vermont has a wealth of pick-your-own apple spots, from large organic farms to centuries-old family-run orchards. Come hungry, because most farms offer scrumptious apple-based eats like freshly baked cider donuts and apple cider. And this year, the Vermont Department of Tourism is giving away free Apple iPods to lucky pickers who find hidden wooden apples throughout the state's orchards. More than 21 orchards have the hidden apples; get more information here.
The best time to pick apples in Vermont is usually from late August through October. Call your orchard for more information on prime apple-pickin' time.
Hit the Tracks
Hop onboard Amtrak's Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express lines for a scenic trip through mountains, forests and countryside this fall. Many Vermont hotels and resorts offer shuttle service between nearby train stations, so there's often no need to rent a car. You'll see spectacular autumn foliage beyond wide train windows, and you can sit back, relax and forget all about gas stations and Google Maps.
Save money when you explore the Green Mountain State by train this fall. The Vermont Department of Tourism has partnered with Amtrak to offer 20 percent off train tickets on the abovementioned lines for travel through the end of October.
Stay on a Farm
You can visit a farm—for apple or pumpkin picking, or a cheese tasting—or you can take it up a notch and actually stay on one! Vermont is abundant with beautiful countryside farms that offer accommodations, hyperlocal food and the chance to meet and greet some very cute creatures. Excellent options include Hill Farm Inn in Sunderland; Meadowood Farm in Shaftsbury; The Inn at the Round Barn Farm and Wilder Farm Inn in Waitsfield.
Hit the Road
Arguably the best way to see wide swaths of beautiful fall foliage is to gas up the tank and explore Vermont via byway. These scenic secondary roads wind past quiet Victorian towns, up mountain summits and through sun-dappled forests. Along the way, watch out for tiny roadside antique shops, farm stands selling fresh apples and pumpkins, old covered bridges, and peregrine falcons circling in the sky. The state has 10 byways of different lengths and elevations. (Some are hundreds of miles long.) Find Vermont byway itineraries on the Vermont Department of Tourism website.
Visit a Sugarhouse
Did you know that Vermont is the United States' number-one producer of maple syrup? A trip to Vermont is a trip to the heart of maple country, so a stop at an authentic Vermont sugarhouse is a must. Although maple harvesting is done in the spring, visitors can tour sugarhouses, learn how the sweet sap is harvested, and buy pure maple products like cream, candy, syrup and sugar fresh from the farm. (We can't think of a better Christmas gift!)
With the largest number of craft breweries per capita in the United States, Vermont is undeniably a top-notch destination for beer-lovers. The state's Department of Tourism invites travelers to take the Vermont Brewery Challenge and win prizes by stamping their complimentary Brewery Challenge passport at brew pubs and breweries across the state. Pick one up at a participating brewery. Find itinerary ideas and links to brew tour companies on the Department of Tourism website.
Hike the Long Trail
Running the length of the state for more than 270 miles, Vermont's Long Trail is the country's oldest long-distance hiking trail. Rugged and remote, the trail begins by Massachusetts and runs north to the Canadian border, linking with the Application Trail for about 100 miles along the way. Conquering the whole Long Trail end-to-end takes roughly a month, but those with less time to spare can choose a section and hike just part of the historical route. Fall is a great time to do the hike, thanks to foliage, fewer mosquitos and less mud. The Green Mountain Club, which founded and maintains the Long Trail, has a list of recommend day hikes on its website.
Escape to a B&B in Burlington
Make a B&B your base as you explore Vermont's biggest city. Burlington has dozens of charming B&Bs that are basically destinations in themselves: Some inns we love include Made Inn Vermont, a chic Queen Anne-style mansion located downtown; Willard Street Inn, a magnificent Victorian manor house set on a hill overlooking the city; and the nearby Stone Hill Inn, which sits within 9 acres of beautiful woods and meadows. There are plenty more excellent options, whether you're seeking seclusion or proximity to Burlington's vibrant downtown.
Explore the Vermont Cheese Trail
Vermont is probably best known for its cheddar, but dozens of cheesemakers in the state produce more than 150 varieties of cheese. Grab a Vermont Cheese Trail map (you can print one at home) and head straight to the source of the good stuff. From small family farms that offer tours of cheese-making facilities to farmsteads with artisanal cheese-tasting rooms, your options are manifold.
Go (Cottage) Camping
Transition-season weather can be fickle in Vermont, and camping in the cold isn't exactly everyone's cup of tea. Enter cottage camping. Many Vermont state parks offer very affordable rustic cottages (rates range from $75 to $100 a night) that are heated and have kitchens, showers and beds. There's no need to pack a ton of expensive camping gear, but you'll still experience the magic of sleeping in the quiet wilds of rural Vermont. We particularly love the waterfront cottages in Ricker Pond State Park and Shaftsbury State Park.