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When it comes to a scenic route in the green mountains of Vermont, there aren’t too many roads that aren’t pretty. The best thing about Vermont is the passing landscape tidily packaged for roadtrippers. Beautiful byways filled with rolling jade-colored hills, gurgling streams, famous fall foliage, covered bridges, maple sugar houses, postcard-perfect town greens, red barns, cows … you get the idea.
While I have called the Pacific Northwest home for more than 20 years, I was born and raised in Northern Vermont and could go on and on about why one really must experience its soul-stirring scenery at least once. The following drives go through the prettiest areas in the state and the places I often take my own family when we visit Vermont. Get ready for maple syrup, apples, and cheese. Buckle up, and enjoy!
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Scenic Route 100 Byway
Scenic Route 100 Byway is a personal favorite of mine. This Vermont route traverses almost the entire length of the state and showcases a number of quintessentially New England attractions along its 216-mile length. It’s two lanes the whole way, so plan to slow down, take in the best views, and enjoy the ride, particularly on fall foliage weekends (the perfect time, if you ask me) or during the ski season, as the route passes several of Vermont’s best ski resorts.
Vermont Road Trip Itinerary #1
Don’t miss the Vermont Country Store and gift shop for all sorts of old-fashioned wares, toys, local products, and an incredible assortment of candy.
If you’re heading north, you’ll pass Moss Glen Falls, just a few minutes outside the historic village of Stowe and an ideal picnic area and place for a short walk to let little legs wiggle. The actual falls are only about a quarter-mile from the trailhead, making it a perfect hike for kids. (Plus, you’ll have that candy you picked up at the Vermont Country Store as bribery.)
Everyone can enjoy a tasty reward after the hike at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury. Come see how your favorite ice cream flavors are made and how new concoctions make the list. This is the first place I tried Cherry Garcia, on a school field trip way back when, and it’s been my go-to ever since. The factory is open daily 10 AM to 7 PM and tours are available most days. Advanced online ticket purchase is highly encouraged.
For even more snacks, continue along Route 100 to the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, where visitors are invited to commune with their “inner Vermonter.” Take a self-guided tour of the working cider mill and learn about apples, bees, maple trees, and everything that makes Vermont so, well, Vermonty. While this drive is great in spring and summer, a true Vermont thinks the best time to tackle it is autumn.
Where to Stay Along Scenic Route 100 Byway
With more than 250 beautiful guest stay options, including the four-diamond Lodge and an extensive collection of luxury rentals, Spruce Peak (formerly Stowe Mountain Resort) has accommodations for all sizes of families and travel groups. Hike, golf, bike, dine, watch an outdoor concert, go ice skating, head to the spa – it’s all here, at the base of Mount Mansfield in Stowe.
DON’T MISS: 7 Road Trip Hacks for Kids
Ask my parents which weekend outing we most often requested as kids growing up in northern Vermont, and this would be their answer. While I have driven along many twisty mountain roads since then, including the epic Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, nothing holds a candle to a lazy Sunday on this much shorter, much-less-hair-raising but equally memorable labyrinthian stretch of road.
Vermont Road Trip Itinerary #2
Starting from Jericho, start the drive through Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont’s best-known mountain pass. Take time before hitting the gas to explore the Old Red Mill on the Browns River, where families can see photos of Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, the famous Vermont who took the first-ever photos of individual snowflakes. Continue east on VT-15 through Underhill, one of the best places to see the state’s highest mountain – Mount Mansfield – then drive north toward Cambridge, along the Lamoille River, to Jeffersonville. It’s here that you’ll turn south onto VT-108 for the drive through storied “Smuggs.”
During the early 1800s and between 1920 and 1933 – the Prohibition era – this route was used for smuggling illegal goods over the Canadian border, hence its name. Today, scenic drivers and picnickers can enjoy a quiet, slow ride along the narrow, winding road past monolithic boulders, moss-covered trees, and burbling brooks. Make a stop, as we did, at one of the pull-offs for a picnic and some wading. It’s a great place to spend a Vermont afternoon, particularly if you’re visiting during the muggiest time of year. The road is closed in the winter, from mid-October to mid-May.
Where to Stay Off Smugglers’ Notch
Choose to walk from one of the five condo villages of Smugglers’ Notch Resort to all of the Smugglers’ Notch Village amenities or call up an on-demand resort shuttle. These cozy, family-style condo homes in the heart of the Green Mountains have fully equipped kitchens, cable TV, internet access, linens, laundry access, and more in the heart of the Green Mountains.
Molly Stark Byway
If you have young history buffs or kids who love to hike, hop on the Molly Stark Byway. This route will take you east-west across southern Vermont, between historic Bennington and arts-oriented Brattleboro. Molly was the wife of General John Stark, the Revolutionary War “Hero of Bennington” who led the Colonial militia to a victory at the Battle of Bennington in 1777.
Vermont Road Trip Itinerary #3
Drive along VT-9, where Ethan Allen, poet Robert Frost, and artist Grandma Moses once spent their time. There are plenty of small towns and hole-in-the-wall eateries to stop in for a quick visit or bite before hopping back on the road through the Green Mountain National Forest. Our favorite hiking option on the route is Mount Olga and its fire tower within Molly Stark State Park. Be sure to stop in Woodford, the highest Village in Vermont at 2,215 feet above sea level. And don’t miss the chance to shop for maple syrup in all its varieties at the Hogback Mountain Country Store in Marlboro.
Where to Stay Along the Molly Stark Byway
Family-owned Paradise Inn provides everything from a pool to pickleball courts. Use it as a jumping-off point for a drive along the Molly Stark Byway, but not without exploring downtown Bennington on foot first. Several room varieties are available, including luxury suites and premier rooms with amenities such as patios, balconies, and in-room saunas (varies by room). Economy rooms are also available with queen or double beds.
Check out these family-favorite Vermont road trips through the prettiest areas of the New England state.
Lake Champlain Islands
Growing up, a trip to the Lake Champlain Islands within Lake Champlain was an annual fall foray for apple picking, gorging on cider doughnuts, and picking pumpkins. Today, there are even more fun adventures to have. If your kids love horseback riding, or all things farm animals, stop at the 160-acre Breakaway Farm on South Hero Island (also known as Grand Isle).
Vermont Road Trip Itinerary #4
Head on US-2 west out of Burlington – Vermont’s largest city – and you can drive right through these idyllic isles.
Get out of the car and hike a bit at the Fisk Quarry Preserve or Goodsell Ridge Preserve on quiet Isle Lamotte (only about 500 people live here), where families can gaze upon the oldest-known coral reef – the Chazy Reef, approximately 480 million years old!. There’s a tiny museum here, too, where kids can see and learn about other ancient area fossils.
Go swimming in Lake Champlain – lovingly referred to as the sixth Great Lake – at Alburgh Dunes State Park, where families will find one of the lake’s longest beaches with shallow water perfect for kids. The town of Alburgh is on a peninsula that extends down from Canada into the lake. Known as the Alburgh Tongue, it is connected to Canada by land, but the international border, or the 45th parallel, makes it American soil.
As for my family’s favorite apple-picking spot, if you’re visiting the Lake Champlain Islands in the fall, don’t miss Allenholm Farm, still going strong after all these years. It’s on South Hero Island and offers the traditional autumn ambiance one expects of the Green Mountain State. Don’t leave without trying a maple cremeee!
Where to Stay in the Lake Champlain Islands
Just a block from Waterfront Park and within easy walking distance of pedestrian-friendly Church Street Marketplace and its plethora of dining and shopping options, lakefront Hilton Burlington Lake Champlain is a family gem. If time allows, rent a hotel bike and explore the picturesque Burlington Bike Path. (We won’t even go into the fact that my high school prom was held here waaaay back in the day.)
While these four trips will give you a great starting point for Vermont explorations, be sure to follow your heart when you’re out there. Those country dirt roads in the state usually only lead to an even prettier view and fun discoveries.
When You Go
Getting To Vermont From Los Angeles
There are flights by United, Delta, Jet Blue, and American, with one stop from LAX to Burlington and Rutland. The fastest for both destinations takes a bit over seven hours, however, the ones to Burlington tend to be less expensive, more plentiful and have a one-carrier option.
An excellent discount site for flights (and cars, hotels) is Expedia! This is where we start our research for the best deals!
If you’d like to be in the know for exclusive discounts to fly anywhere in the world, check out Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). Their website shows current deals, and they send emails when they find crazy cheap discounts. Some can even be booked with points.
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