My favorite fall foliage tour takes you full circle. Make this a full day adventure and start hungry because you’ll be stopping at a lot of places with tempting treats! You’ll also want to carry along a water bottle, hiking shoes and a jacket. You may want to consider bringing a pair of gloves since it can get cooler in the mountains.

Note: This tour takes you through a mountain pass that has vehicle size restrictions.  You’ll be fine in your family car. But nothing can be in tow. There’s are places where only one car can get through at a time due to the boulders encroaching on the road….or is it the road encroaching on the boulders!

I can’t guarantee the best week to take this fall tour, but I’ve always enjoyed this particular route in late September or early October for fantastic foliage. Some years it may be earlier and some years it may be later. And certainly variations from this plan can also lead you to wonderful colors and exciting places to visit and explore in Vermont during any week of autumn.

Take a look at this map to get the general vibe of my tour. Zoom in and zoom out to see some of the places I’ve marked. Then read my plan below the map….

Our tour starts from The Green Cottage on The Gut of Lake Champlain in Grand Isle. We enjoy the fabulous ride through the Islands on the way to and from Interstate-89. I particularly like driving over the causeway with lake waters on either side of the one-mile stretch. You’ll probably see kite boarders and fisherman in the area. Plus lots of water birds which means that duck blinds are starting to show up too.

When you reach the Interstate, you’ll have to decide if you want to head north or south knowing that you’ll be coming back from the other direction. Your most important goals of the day will influence your choice. No matter which way you go, you’ll have beautiful scenery to enjoy.

If you want to do some hiking or want to take the Gondola up the mountain for lunch at the Cliff House Restaurant (lunch hours – 11am-3pm,  call 802-253-3665), start north. If you’d rather make sure you get in a Ben & Jerry’s Factory tour and see cider pressing at Cold Hollow Cider Mill, go south.  If you travel north first, you can still stop at Cold Hollow Cider Mill and get fresh cider donuts, but you may not make it in time to see a cider pressing. If you travel south first, you can still ride up the Gondola and adore the views from the Cliff House Restaurant. You just won’t be able to sit and enjoy a meal there.

Although almost half of this trek is on the Interstate, Vermont’s billboard-free and clutter-free highway still presents you beautiful vistas. Your passengers should probably have a camera ready for video or quick snapshots even on this mostly 65 MPH roadway.

If you would rather take a slower road, you can hop on and off US RT 2 along the way too as it parallels the Interstate between exit 10, Waterbury, and exit 17, The Champlain Islands exit. I would recommend taking the Interstate between exits 11 (Richmond) and exit 17 (Champlain Islands) because US Route 2 weaves through lots of towns and lots of traffic, defeating the whole purpose of this relaxing fall foliage tour.

Here is my list of places to stop, in order, beginning with the north loop. Just read the list in reverse for the south loop.

158 Main Restaurant & Bakery – This is a quaint restaurant in Jeffersonville. I stopped here for brunch recently and enjoyed the food and service. There’s a lot of “atmosphere” either inside at a booth or outside at a patio table. Adults and children will all be happy and satisfied.

Burger Barn – Outdoor eating in Jeffersonville. I’ve never eaten here, but many friends have told me it’s worth the stop. They feature local grass fed gourmet hamburgers & hand cut fries.

Painted Silos – I saw the artist just finishing up on these towers in early August. Both cement silos are near the Burger Barn. Even if you aren’t stopping for food, you might want to drive by and admire these works of art.

Smuggler’s Notch Pass – You’ll need your camera ready to click and take video from Jeffersonville on Route 108 up to and through the Pass. You will have to consider pulling over to the side of the road to get photos more than once. Just play it safe because there will be lots of people just like you admiring the scenery!

While in the area of Smuggler’s Notch, you might want to find a place to pull over and walk around. Pick a hiking path and climb even higher. Lots of cars will park along the side of the narrow road so pay attention and expect the unexpected. There are also some parking areas that may or may not have picnic tables. You can always bring a picnic and lay out a blanket if a table isn’t available. Even if you don’t want to hike or have  picnic, you’ll want to stop and explore a little and capture some great photos.

Stowe Gondola to Cliff House Restaurant – The Gondola ride offers you great views as you climb Mount Mansfield in your enclosed carriage. At the top of the ride you’ll find the Cliff House Restaurant. You can also pick up hiking trails from this point to climb higher. If you’re looking to get exercise, just purchase a one-way ticket and walk down the mountain!

Stowe Auto Toll Road – I have yet to drive up the toll road. It’s on my to-do list. Their Web site FAQ says…The Toll Road is the easiest way to the summit of Mount Mansfield. This route starts from the parking lot at the visitors center and follows the Long Trail north towards the chin. The views along the ridge to the summit are superb.

As you drive towards the village of Stowe, you’ll find plenty of dining options and eclectic stores to visit.

Trapp Family Lodge – If you want to see if the hills are alive with the sound of music, turn right off Route 108 onto Luce Hill Rd (it’s an extremely sharp right turn when coming from the north…so be on the watch for signs) to head to the Trapp Family Lodge. They have a wonderful deli & bakery as well as exquisite grounds to explore.

When leaving Trapp Family Lodge, continue driving through their property, opposite from the direction that you came. Trapp Hill Rd takes you to Moscow Rd which takes you to Route 100 in Waterbury Center. You’ll turn right onto Route 100.

If you decide not to visit the Von Trapps, you can continue on Route 108 until the end and see more of the shops and restaurants in Stowe. Then take a right onto Route 100 which leads you to Waterbury Center. You’ll eventually pass the intersection with Moscow Rd that those going to the Trapp Lodge will exit from.

Cold Hollow Cider Mill – There’s a lot of fun shopping to do in this store! There is a food bar near the registers. Don’t let that long line of people fool you into thinking that it’s the line to the registers. If you want to get a dozen cider donuts, just walk right up to the registers and get them! In the back of the store, there are viewing areas to watch cider pressing. Don’t forget to get your free samples!

Cabot Cheese Annex – If you’re crazy about cheese, you have to stop here. Samples everywhere! You could fill up on samples! Perhaps you should have a cooler with you to keep any purchases cold until you get back to Grand Isle! There are so many cheeses and they are so good.  Remember that you’re on an adventure so don’t let the lines of people get to you. You may end up being here an hour just to ensure you get to all the samples. Use the time waiting to talk to those you’re traveling with. That’s all part of the plan!

Lake Champlain Chocolates Retail Store – After experiencing how generous Cabot is with their samples, you may be disappointed about the lack of samples at Lake Champlain Chocolates, it’s neighbor in Waterbury. If you didn’t stop at Ben & Jerry’s and don’t think you will, here’s your chance to get an ice cream cone. This is your chance to pick up your favorite chocolates, perhaps as a gift for someone who picked up your mail and watched your home while you’re vacationing in Vermont.

Ziemke Glass Blowing Studio – I’ve never stopped here but I plan on it one of these days. Their Web site says daily glass blowing except Wednesdays during off season. I’d call ahead to find out the schedule (802-244-6126).  They have a glass blowing observation room. I can only imagine how marvelous it is to watch this art form.

Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour – How I wish they still made Dastardly Mash! You’ll see it in the Flavor Graveyard at the Factory. If you want to see the factory in action, you’ll have to go Monday-Friday. But the tours run after production hours and on the weekends too. After the tour you can purchase your ice cream treat. Ask for a sample if you aren’t sure which flavor will satisfy your sweet tooth.

There are lots of restaurants, pubs and breweries to check out in Waterbury. Explore the town before hopping on Interstate 89 North or pick up US Route 2 West if you want a more intimate drive.

If you choose to drive US Route 2, I would recommend hopping back on the Interstate in Richmond. It’s the next access to the Interstate off of US Route 2 after leaving Waterbury. And if you do want to get some big box-store shopping in anyway, you can stay on US Route 2 all the way to Williston, which is the hub of big box stores in the area. (Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Old Navy, Staples, Walmart, Home Depot, Bed, Bath and & Beyond, Toys ‘R Us and more).

Drive north on the Interstate to exit 17, The Champlain Islands exit, and head right onto US Route 2 West back to The Green Cottage.  If you’re approaching sunset, you’re bound to see more stunning views as you approach the causeway to The Islands and once again when you’re back at our vacation rental home!

By the time you get back, you’ll be full and so will your camera storage card!

Here are few photos from our 2016 Fall Foliage Tour…

Susan and Andy on our 2016 Fall Foliage Tour
 
Painted silo in Jeffersonville, VT
 
Painted silo in Jeffersonville, VT
 
Painted silo in Jeffersonville, VT
 
Autumn in Jeffersonville, Vermont.
 
Autumn in Jeffersonville, Vermont.
 
Mount Mansfield, Vermont in autumn.
 
Smuggler's Notch on Mt. Mansfield. Vermont.
 
Smuggler's Notch on Mt. Mansfield. Vermont.
 
Notch Road in Stowe, VT
 
Stowe, VT Gondola
 
Autumn view in Stowe, VT
 
Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury Center, VT
 
Cold Hollow Cider Mill Apple Pressing
 
Cold Hollow Cider Mill fresh pressed cider samples.
 
Cold Hollow Cider Mill multitude of samples.
 
Halloween decorations in Stowe, VT
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

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