Best Foliage Drive in VT | Vermont's Route 100
After the Gulf’s cozy rock wall, the route again opens up into Vermont’s Mad River Valley. Tucked between the Greens and the Northfield Range and replete with farmhouses and covered bridges, this area has drawn carpetbaggers from New York and Boston who came to ski and never left. That makes for a cosmopolitan streak among locals, who flock en masse every Saturday to the Waitsfield Farmers’ Market–a weekly music festival, arts-and-crafts fair, community social, and organic vegetable market. Often, they go from there to gourmet pizzeria American Flatbread, to sip wine around the firepit and watch the kids fly Frisbees on the lawn while waiting their turn to sit down for clay-and-stone-oven flatbreads. (The ingredients from local farms are all highlighted with asterisks on the menu.)
Climbing out of the valley and crossing I-89, the traffic glut signals the proximity of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory tour in Waterbury, with attendant cheese and syrup shops circling the tourist chum. The town of Stowe, while just as much of a madhouse this time of year, nevertheless offers a way above the fray if you ride the Stowe Mountain Resort gondola to the top of Mount Mansfield, the state’s highest peak. The ride is most colorful up the middle slopes before the spruces take over, but the last-minute ascent up the steep peak arguably inspires more awe.
After that, the rest of Route 100 is literally a come-down, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The final stretch through the Lamoille Valley meanders through sleepy farmlands graced by Holsteins so healthy they could model for a Ben & Jerry’s pint cup. The two major rivers that cut the valley, the Lamoille and Winooski, offer a great excuse to get out of the car.
Umiak Outdoor Outfitters, for one, leads a two-hour fall foliage canoe trip framed by the foothills of the Greens–which never seem so misnamed as when they’re reflecting their foliage in the water–and a more adventurous “River & Spirits” tour, which includes a stop to sample at the Boyden Valley Winery & Farm in Cambridge.
When the road finally ends, merging into Route 105, and then I-91, some 10 miles short of Canada, the most difficult decision is the one to turn the car around and head home. The only comfort is that you get to see the whole show over again in reverse.
What’s your pick for the best foliage drive in VT? Have you driven Route 100 in the fall?