It’s kind of ironic that “Vermont” is French for green mountain, but the time that everyone goes here for is the fall when they’re orange and red. I thought that I had missed the good colours but I found some great pockets of foliage. I highly recommend the Scenes of Vermont blog where they have a foliage section and people give daily updates on where the colours are. You can also find official foliage prediction maps.
I went east past Montreal (stopping to get some shots of St. Joseph’s Oratory prior to the multi-year renovations that will be happening on the dome) to get to Danville for the snow geese migration. I was too early, but I had a nice poutine and got to go to a local winery so it wasn’t a total loss. I was unlucky with the weather at the beginning as a storm had gone through the northeastern area the day before and the leaves had fallen. Then it rained for an entire day the next day. But after that I had great weather and fall colours. I was expecting more scenic overlooks on the side of the highway but most of them involve steep hikes. I wouldn’t recommend the overly touristy areas around Stowe; tour buses, line-ups/crowds, high prices. The back roads and other small towns are much more enjoyable. It was always surprising how small the towns and cities are, and how short the driving distances are. The wineries were just ok, although the whites and sweet reds were nice. Most of the cheese seemed to be cheddar but I probably didn’t see all of the options.
When you’re heading in, be careful of the questions asked by the border guards. They seem to be looking for any excuse to label you a professional photographer, and then probably not let you through if you don’t have a work permit.
I came in from the north from Quebec (note there is a huge migration of geese in the fall that stop in Lake Champlain and lakes in the south of Quebec). My first stop was an Air BnB at Lake Willoughby. It’s a nice area with some hiking trails around. If you take a short drive east I would recommend a sunrise stop at Jobs Pond; I saw a lot of nice pics from there on the forum (but the weather didn’t cooperate for me). Also east, there’s a restaurant in Island Pond called Jesse’s Little Kitchen; the pizza was amazing (there’s a photo near the bottom), as was the strawberry pie. Highly recommended.
West of Lake Willoughby I’d recommend exploring some back roads for great photo opportunities. There are also one or two coffee roasters; I didn’t stop in, but found their beans as a grocery store later on and they turned out to be amazing. How can you go wrong with a tasting profile of brown sugar/tangerine/caramel? You can’t.
Head south through Jeffersonville and you can go through Smuggler’s Notch on your way to Stowe. There was a stuck semi-trailer in the mountain pass, so I had to turn around and go all the way around, but I still saw enough of the drive to highly recommend it. Near the visitor centre there are trees growing on rocks with amazing roots coming down over the rocks. On the other side of where I had to turn around, nearer to Stowe you can find Bingham Falls, which is a nice hike. Keep in mind that one of the Moss Glen Falls is near Stowe and south of Stowe you will find the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory. There were huge line-ups for a factory tour, but you can pass everyone and go to the gift shop where they have a huge selection of flavours for a surprisingly low price for a gift shop. I also got an apple cider doughnut near here, but I found out that those donuts aren’t as strongly flavoured as you might think.
Montpelier is quaint little town and is a really nice relaxing base for excursions. I heard someone call it “Mont-pee-lee-er” and in my head I was thinking that I’m pretty sure it sounds more French than that! Don’t miss the Bohemian Bakery, the pastries are amazing and they have kouign-amann, which I’m always on the lookout for. Also, there are a couple of coffee roasters and wineries nearby. Heading east, Groton State Forest has some great spots; stop at the park office and get some great advice and a driving map. They can even tell you which spots might be better at sunrise or sunset. If you continue north from there you’ll get to Cabot, where the largest cheese factory is. Nichol’s Ledge is north of that.
Highway 100 is pretty famous, running north/south on the east side of Green Mountain National Forest. The second Moss Glen Falls is here at Granville and is easily accessible. Head east off of 100 into the back roads for some amazing drives. Head west and you can go through the “gaps” that pass the mountain. There’s one near the north side of the park, Lincoln Gap, and another one further south. The one further south has the poet Robert Frost’s cabin that you can visit (don’t stop at the first house/cabin by the small parking lot, you need to walk past it into the forest for his actual cabin). If you exit on the east side of the gap, you can drive north a short distance to Moss Glen Falls.
I spent some time in and around West Rutland but that was as far south as I could get with the time that I had. Rutland was either full or expensive (it’s pretty expensive for hotels during the fall foliage season, so book far in advance or try Air BnB) so I got an Air BnB in West Rutland. Deer Leap Trail was interesting and could have been a great sunrise location but I didn’t think the angle would be correct for a nice composition. But I found that out by checking the viewpoint during sunset the evening before. This worked out because the “moderate” hike to the viewpoint was mostly uphill and left my legs shaking; I don’t think I could have gone back in the morning. West of West Rutland had some interesting little communities and old architecture. Whaleback vineyard is southwest and was an interesting little find. I wasn’t a huge fan of the wines but the pear wine was really good.
Also, I can’t forget to mention, stop in at Jones Donuts in Rutland, huge doughnuts!
I then drove north up the west side of Green Mountain National Forest, and then took the highway through the islands on Lake Champlain back to Quebec. Note, if you are trying to bring more than the allowed amount of wine back, find a big border crossing, don’t go through a small one. Speaking of wine, the west side of the Green Mountain National Forest had a bunch of vineyards.
And I’ll finish with a few infrared shots, because what would a burntpixel post be without some infrared?
And just some snapshots from the trip: