Heading to Stowe from the White Mountains of New Hampshire, you have a choice to head the southern route and stop at the Bragg Farm for maple products/tours and the Cabot Cheese Factory. Or head north, where you can drive up the Smuggler’s Notch in Stowe. We chose the northern route, stopping at Maple Grove Farms which is a small store offering the popular Maple Creemes (maple flavored ice cream) and to pick up some maple candy and gifts for our parents and daughters.
Upon arriving in Stowe, we then made the short (fifteen minute) but very windy drive up to Smuggler’s Notch. During fall peak, this road is covered by hanging trees with leaves in vibrant colors leading to the notch where two large boulders limit the road to one car at a time. There are also hikes and areas to explore as well if you want to spend some extra time here.
For dining and lodging, we reserved one of the detached rooms (divided into four units per building) at Edson Hill. Please note, this B&B/hotel often requires stays of two or three nights but we were fortunate there was a one night vacancy due to wedding overlaps and were able to book just one night for this trip. Sometimes you have to try a variety of options if you want to travel around to various cities at this time of year.
Of course, there are a number of other options within Stowe itself but this was our favorite lodging of the entire trip. The hotel is impeccably decorated and each room comes with fresh cut wood and a wood-burning fire place. The hotel includes a beautiful dining room with a birch and candle chandelier and a small bar downstairs – both of which are frequented by guests of other hotels and locals making it active yet relaxed. We liked it so much, we plan to return to Edson Hill in the future for a long weekend.
The next morning we skipped breakfast at the hotel (more on that later) and made a visit to the Trapp Family Lodge for a photo and to peek inside. Being a fan of the Sound of Music growing up, it was a must top for an ornament and photo. Afterwards, it was back down the hill and across town to Emily’s Covered Bridge. One of the more famous bridges in Vermont, the bridge comes complete with stories of being haunted by Emily, a jilted lover who died at the bridge. For full details and all of the legends of Emily go to Emily’s Bridge.
Our next stop is why we skipped breakfast – the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. Like many places we go, many people claim the Mill is touristy, busy, etc. But some things in life are big and touristy because they are simply that good. You can choose to shop or take a tour of the mill (watching apples being crushed and processed), but if nothing else you should enjoy a hot cup of cider with warm, apple cider donuts outside. There is nothing like a crisp fall morning and the combination of apple cider and donuts to remind you where you are.
It’s important to note, our entire trip came about as we learned more about Vermont’s historic Route 100. We enjoyed using the Gypsy Guide App on the Road to Hana, so we were excited to find the same app for Route 100. The app uses the GPS device on your phone and plays details of places to stop, directions, history and more as you drive. We have no affiliation with the company but we love these apps, so we began using it once we started on the northern portion of Route 100 to help find towns, waterfalls, bridges and more.
Our first stop was Ben and Jerry’s, where you can take a full tour of the creamery or simply walk around and take some photos (peace sign golf cart, Ben And Jerry’s bus, etc.); enjoy a taste of ice cream or simply purchase a few souvenirs.
Please note, we will not outline all of the waterfalls, sights and covered bridges as there are too many to list and the app does a great job of pointing them out. However, we will highlight a few of our top stops.
The first was Waitsfield. This is a very artistic community and worth spending some time visiting the various shops and galleries. If you missed Cold Cider Hollow for breakfast, there is a small bakery in town, The Sweet Spot, complete with a matching pink VW Van to the side. We also knew there was a Farmers Market at the Mad River Green the day we visited where you could find live music, food and unique items (a dog collar and some spicy Kimchee). See the full New England itinerary for travel tips on how to find local events and peak foliage.
Further down the road was Warren and we highly recommend stopping and enjoying lunch at The Warren Store. Fresh baked bread, sandwiches, sides and dessert are all available and apparently very popular as you wait for a small table in the small dining area after ordering – or enjoy a meal on the patio overlooking the river.
Aside from the various stops for quick hikes and sights by using the app, we then detoured off course into Killington; one of the larger ski resorts in Vermont. If you want to see a different view of the fall colors, you can take a quick ride on the gondola to head up to the top of the mountain and view the mountains and leaves. For the more adventurous, you can arrange to take a mountain bike down to the bottom. Or for the more relaxed, you can enjoy a drink at the new Peaks restaurant.
The next stop which you should not miss on any fall trip is Woodstock, VT. Heading east for about a half hour will take you into the quintessential New England town of Woodstock. Woodstock is very popular and very busy – for a reason. You will need to search for parking as this is a favorite destination for dining, shopping and weddings. As you enter the town center, be sure to check the Woodstock Crier, a town chalkboard listing all of the events and happenings which is updated regularly. There is a beautiful wood covered bridge for photos to the West and a small shop, Sudie’s, with some amazing sweaters and jackets for the coming winter (we purchased two sweaters and were able to meet the amiable owner during our visit). We also recommend staying overnight in this small town but booking dinner just a little further east at Simon Pearce in Quechee.
Travel note: Just outside of Woodstock is the Billings Farm and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. The Billings Farm may be a good stop if you have children traveling with you or you want to see animals in a farm-like setting. And the Historical Park is an historic home where you can tour the home and gardens. On this trip, we passed on both as we had spent too much time in the other small towns along the way.
As you drive to Simon Pearce you will pass the Red Taftsville Bridge on your left and then should head over to the Quechee Gorge. Don’t follow Google maps as it will try to take you down into the gorge itself on private land. Instead, simply follow the road to the right where it meets the river. There are pull-offs on both sides and you can stroll out over the gorge which is much, much deeper than it appears in pictures. So much so, we both had a bit of vertigo peering down over the sides.
Afterwards, it’s only a short drive to Simon Pearce’s restaurant. Simon Pearce is a world-renowned glass blower specializing in clear, sparkling, heavy glass. However, there is also an amazing restaurant which sits out over the river and the dam below making for an incredible dining experience. The restaurant can book months in advance during the high season so try to set up your reservation as soon as you can. Travel Tip: The first reservations have the best chance at the window seating so try to get a 5:00 or 5:30 reservation if it works with your schedule. If you miss dinner, you can also book brunch the following morning. This will leave only a short drive to the Woodstock Inn, a large white colonial hotel in the center of town.
The next morning you can head back to Route 100 to complete the rest of this scenic drive which includes more waterfalls and farmland complete with Vermont cows. One highlight for many is stopping at the Calvin Coolidge Historic Site. The site maintains the entire town so you can see the homes, church, barns, etc. as well as the still operating Plymouth Artisan Cheese company to try some aged Vermont cheeses. We did a quick walk around town but many could spend well over an hour here.
Further down the road in Weston is the famous Vermont Country Store which is the largest collection of miscellany we have ever seen. There are also a few other shops in Weston as well. And, if you headed this direction, you will likely then head on to Albany to fly back home as one of the larger airports in the area. Or possibly add one more day to spend some time in Saratoga Springs.
Or you can head out from Woodstock heading southeast which would lead you to Manchester and back to Boston. We did not take this route so we do not have details on that particular stretch. For us, it was back to Albany and then a flight home after a full five days in five different states.