Exploring Vermont

We picked Vermont (VT) for our first weekend trip in New England! This was our first time making it to the green mountain state for both Adam and I and we were super excited! We chose to start up in Vermont due to our quest to find peak fall foliage for as many weekends in a row as possible. We found a helpful map in Fodor’s New England book that shows the middle of Vermont peaking during the first week of October. We showed up a little early, but I must say the colors were still quite spectacular. It truly felt like autumn everywhere we went, and it got us very pumped for this leaf-peeping season!

Peak Colors Map

Let the leaf-peeping begin!

Peak Colors Map

Let the leaf-peeping begin!

Rock of Ages Granite Quarry

We’ve been trying to negotiate a four 10’s schedule for two years now and we finally got it! This means we have three-day weekends, so we will be able to fit more exploring in! We departed our new home in Mansfield, MA early on Friday morning and per New England-style, made a quick stop at Dunkin’ Donuts. On our drive up, we made a spur of the moment decision while reading a Vermont travel book to make our first stop at the Rock of Ages Granite Quarry in Barre. This is the largest granite quarry in North America! We arrived with about 30 seconds to spare to make it on the 11:30 am quarry tour. The tour was $6/person and we thought it was well worth it because they drove us out to an overlook of the quarry where we could see the modern day methods of drilling happening right in front of us- and we got a great history lesson about how these methods have evolved over the years. The manufacturing plant is also right on site and you can get a tour there as well. It would have been cool to see how the granite is precisely cut and finished, but we were on a timeline to make sure we could hit all the other Vermont activities we had planned.

Starting our day the New England way!

Rock of Ages Granite Quarry

At the overlook!

Starting our day the New England way!

Rock of Ages Granite Quarry

At the overlook!

Bragg Farm Sugar House

You will find Bragg Farm Sugar House & Gift Shop about 20 minutes north of the quarry in East Montpelier, VT. This is a super cute farm where you can learn about how they sugar in the springtime (from real “sugarers”), taste all four types of pure VT maple syrup (did anyone else know there were four types?!), and try various maple treats such as the maple creemee (soft serve ice cream infused with 100% pure maple syrup) which we highly recommend! This was another quick stop for us because our next stop was a pre-purchased tour, but we enjoyed our time here and they have plenty of options for things you can take home with you or great Christmas gift ideas!

Bragg Farm Sugar House

Did anyone else know there are four types of maple syrup?

We are officially fans of Maple Creemees!

Bragg Farm Sugar House

Did anyone else know there are four types of maple syrup?

We are officially fans of Maple Creemees!

Shelburne Farms

We drove through the quaint capital city of Montpelier, VT on our hour drive west to Shelburne Farms and it captures the essence of VT very well. All this driving may seem like a lot, but the Vermont roads seem to have never ending views of the Green Mountains and they are uniquely not lined with any billboards! Shelburne Farms is an educational farm for a sustainable future. The estate is quite impressive- right on the beautiful Lake Champlain. They have several tour options, but we went with the Sun to Cheese Tour. They offer this one on Fridays from 1:45-3:45 and it includes a drive around the grounds, the opportunity to milk a cow the old school way, viewing of cows being milked the new school way, a visual demonstration of the cheese-making process, sampling of all the cheeses Shelburne Farms makes, and then you get to take home a half block of your favorite! We really enjoyed this tour and they even let you drive around the grounds (or run around the grounds) after the tour so we could hang for a bit by the beautiful lake with the Adirondacks in the background!

A glimpse of Vermont’s capital, Montpelier.

Milking a cow!

Even though this is how they actually milk them now.

All the cows lining up to get those uttters emptied!

A glimpse of how cheese is made!

Who knew there could be so many different kinds of cheddar?!

Adam making his mark at Lake Champlain.

Such a beautiful lake!

A glimpse of Vermont’s capital, Montpelier.

Milking a cow!

Even though this is how they actually milk them now.

All the cows lining up to get those uttters emptied!

A glimpse of how cheese is made!

Who knew there could be so many different kinds of cheddar?!

Adam making his mark at Lake Champlain.

Such a beautiful lake!

Ben & Jerry’s Factory

After getting our cheese fix in, we were ready for some ice cream! The thing I was looking most forward to in Vermont was getting some Ben & Jerry’s from the source! We drove 40 minutes back east to Waterbury, VT (which doesn’t make any logical sense other than the cheese tour we wanted to take was only offered at one time). There are factory tours that leave every 10 minutes or so. We paid the $4 to go on a tour where we got to watch a video about how Ben & Jerry’s started in a gas station back in the 70s. We saw where the magic happens (the production line) from a mezzanine. We were able to try a sample of the flavor of the day (which happened to be strawberry cheesecake, one of Adam’s favorites). And we walked down the aisle of fame where the top 10 flavors in the USA are displayed. Number one is Half Baked which is delicious, but our favorite is number five, The Tonight Dough! After the tour, we went to the normal counter and purchased a couple scoops of flavors new to us. We then wandered to the flavor graveyard where you can read about the interesting flavors that didn’t last on the shelves.

Ben & Jerry’s!

The Tonight Dough is number one in our hearts!

But we had to try some new kinds too!

We enjoyed persusing the flavor graveyard.

Some of the descriptions on the tombstones made us want to resurrect it!

Ben & Jerry’s!

The Tonight Dough is number one in our hearts!

But we had to try some new kinds too!

We enjoyed persusing the flavor graveyard.

Some of the descriptions on the tombstones made us want to resurrect it!

Hip Camp

Conveniently enough, our campsite for the night was maybe about a quarter mile down the road from Ben & Jerry’s. My dad told us about this cool thing called Hip Camp a while ago, but we hadn’t utilized it until this time. Basically, it’s a booking website where people open up their yard for you to camp in. The yard we used was called Thatcher Brook in Waterbury. The owner, Dan, was very nice and introduced himself when we got there. He gave us full reign of the yard, so we picked a spot by the bonfire ring to pitch our tent. We are proud to announce that we pitched our tent in five minutes flat this time!

Adam, proud after pitching our tent at our Hip Camp site in 5 minutes flat!

Downtown Burlington

After getting our sleeping spot all set in the waning daylight, we headed back to Burlington to check out the nightlife on a Friday. Our first stop was Burlington Beer Company because it’s on the eastern outskirts of Burlington. This was a typical brewery in a warehouse. The beer was sub-par in our books, but the graphics were cool. We then made our way to The Magic Hat Brewery. It was pretty quiet, but we enjoyed the beer, especially the classic 9. The sandwiches were decent, but the live music was our favorite part here. We then headed to downtown Burlington to walk through the University of Vermont campus, the outdoor mall, and the Waterfront District. All looked like fun places to be! We ended the night at Zero Gravity which had great beers, especially their Oktoberfest, and what looked and smelled like delicious flatbread pizzas! We were too full to eat since we had already eaten dinner at The Magic Hat, but we would highly recommend eating at Zero Gravity! We then returned to our Hip Camp site for the night to prepare for the true weekend!

Burlington Beer Company

The Magic Hat Brewery

Magic Hat’s food and beer.

Downtown Burlington!

Zero Gravity Brewery

Burlington Beer Company

The Magic Hat Brewery

Magic Hat’s food and beer.

Downtown Burlington!

Zero Gravity Brewery

Cold Hollow Cider Mill

We started our Saturday morning at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, which was the perfect place to load up on calories before our 15 miles of hiking planned for the day. We enjoyed some free samples while we perused the gift shop and then we ordered hot apple cider, apple cider donuts, and delicious breakfast sandwiches on homemade cheddar biscuits!

Cold Hollow Cider Mill

Hot apple cider and apple cider donuts!

The tastiest cheddar biscuit breakfast sandwiches!

Cold Hollow Cider Mill

Hot apple cider and apple cider donuts!

The tastiest cheddar biscuit breakfast sandwiches!

Camel’s Hump Trail

After our delicious high-calorie breakfast, we drove 25 minutes southwest to Camel’s Hump Trail in Camel’s Hump State Park. This is a 6-mile 2,578 ft out and back trail. It’s a relatively steady climb to the peak of this one and you get a great 360-degree view from the bald top. We were able to see Mount Mansfield to the north, Lake Champlain to the west, and Mount Washington to the east!

Camel’s Hump Trail

360 degree view!

Enjoying some fall colors from above!

Camel’s Hump Trail

360 degree view!

Enjoying some fall colors from above!

Killington Peak/ Ski Area

We then drove about an hour and a half south to Killington Ski Area where we hiked the 7.2-mile 2,470 ft Killington Peak via Bucklin Trail. We ended up hiking all the way to the Peak Lodge (which is also accessible by gondola), so our hike was about 8 miles. The first two miles of the Bucklin trail are quite easy. And then it makes fun of you for the last two miles as the incline is taken up to a whole nother level. Basically, it makes you rethink if you’re in shape or not. This hike provided nice views of the area, though not quite as nice as Camel’s Hump Trail. The Peak Lodge offers stellar views from the comfort of a couch or bar seat, though we just missed food and drinks because the kitchen/bar closes at 4 pm.

Bucklin Trail

Killington Peak

Stellar views from the peak Lodge!

Bucklin Trail

Killington Peak

Stellar views from the peak Lodge!

Chittenden Brook Campground

After our 15 miles of hiking, we were ready to lounge by a campfire for the evening, so we picked up some firewood on the way to Chittenden Brook Campground- our home for the night. We spent $23 on this rustic campground that does not have water and they only have one or two vault toilets, but it was positioned nicely in the middle of the Green Mountain National Forest. We utilized our rechargeable fire starter to start our fire for the evening and our Jetboil to make some mac n’ cheese!

There’s something mesmerizing about a campfire.

Great fall campsite at Chittenden Brook Campground.

There’s something mesmerizing about a campfire.

Great fall campsite at Chittenden Brook Campground.

The Great Cliff via Long Trail

Our Sunday morning commute was quite a bit shorter, as we only had to drive about 15 minutes to get to the Great Cliff Trailhead. When you park (likely at Brandon Gap lot), make sure to follow signs to the North Long Trail across the highway where you will eventually find signs leading you to The Great Cliff. This is a short hike at 1.6 miles round trip, but don’t let that fool you- it’s pretty steep with a 718 ft climb. This hike definitely got our heart rates up and slapped us in the face better than any cup of coffee ever could! We did this hike early enough in the morning to enjoy the cliff to ourselves for a while, but there were plenty of people heading up as we came down!

The start of Long Trail North.

The Great Cliff

Views from The Great Cliff

The start of Long Trail North.

The Great Cliff

Views from The Great Cliff

Lye Brook Falls Trail

After our early morning hike, we drove about an hour and a half south to the lower part of the Green Mountains to find Lye Brook Falls Trail. This was a nice, less intense trail for us after our heavy hiking the day before. It’s a 4.7-mile 938 ft out and back trail that leads you to a unique step-like cascading waterfall.

Lye Brook Falls

Gotta love waterfalls!

Lye Brook Falls

Gotta love waterfalls!

Covered Bridges

On our drive home, I wanted to have one last classic Vermont experience- see a covered bridge! Driving south on Highway 30, there are at least a few opportunities for a historic covered bridge sighting. They aren’t right on the highway, but rather offshoots going across the rivers. They are easy to miss; we actually drove right by the Scott Bridge before making a U–turn to get out and walk the beautiful wooden bridge. The Scott Bridge is the longest wooden span in Vermont at 277’ and it was built in 1870. This bridge is now closed off to cars, but a few miles down the road, you can find the Dummerston Covered Bridge which you can drive over.

One of the iconic Vermont covered bridges!

Scott Bridge

A bridge with brilliant peeping windows!

One of the iconic Vermont covered bridges!

Scott Bridge

A bridge with brilliant peeping windows!

Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery

For our final stop in Vermont, just before crossing the border into Massachusetts, we stopped at Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery in Brattleboro. If you are near, go here. The best part about this place is their rooftop bar overlooking the scenic Connecticut River, but they also had stellar burgers and some solid local brews.

Whetstone Station’s rooftop!

There are also great views from the dining room.

Oh, and the food is delicious!

Whetstone Station’s rooftop!

There are also great views from the dining room.

Oh, and the food is delicious!

We definitely enjoyed our first weekend in Vermont! We now understand why it’s known as the green state; the green (well, beautifully multicolored at this time of year) mountains seem to go on forever and they truly make an effort to be as environmentally conscious as possible. We would recommend that everyone check out this state that seems to have never-ending charm and solitude!

The Green Mountain State!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Katrina

    Amazing reminds me of when your uncle and I were there 20 years ago!!!

    1. Megan McCarthy

      Nice! Yeah, it’s such a beautiful state! We are going back up there to ski in December!

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