6 Vermont Scenic Fall Drives Off the Beaten Path
September 03, 2014
During foliage season, there are so many Vermont scenic fall drives to choose from that it’s pretty hard to go wrong. Whether you go leaf-peeping on a meandering scenic byway or quiet dirt road, you won’t have to look very far to find glorious autumn beauty in Vermont.
Still, it’s nice to find alternatives to Vermont’s most popular leaf-peeping highways and byways. Route 100 and Route 108 are fantastic during the fall (or any other time of year), but there are many lesser known roads worth exploring for one of your Vermont scenic fall drives.
Here are 6 Vermont scenic fall drives:
Ascutney to Woodstock – Route 44A/44 to Route 106
Mount Ascutney is easy to see from Interstate 91, but this 3,144-foot peak deserves a closer look. Route 44A (also called Back Mountain Road) takes you through the woods of Ascutney State Park in Windsor County and joins Route 44, where you’ll travel west through West Windsor and onto Brownsville. From the road you’ll see old ski trails from Mount Ascutney. The ski area closed in 2010, but the mountain is open to mountain biking and includes a 3.7-mile Auto Road from Ascutney State Park to the summit. Follow Route 44 west until it intersects with Route 106, which takes you through the beautiful towns of Reading and Woodstock.
Getting there: From Interstate 91, take exit 8 to Route 131 east, to Route 5 north. Follow signs for 44A. The drive from Route 44A to Route 106, which ends at the intersection of Route 4 in Woodstock, is about 22 miles.
Georgia to Underhill: Route 104A to Pleasant Valley Road
This is one of those Vermont scenic fall drives that makes you feel like you’ve stumbled upon something new and undiscovered. There are so many highlights to this route – from old school houses, farms and town halls to stunning views of Mount Mansfield. Just when you think you’ve seen the most beautiful part, it just keeps getting better. Pleasant Valley Road, located between Cambridge and Underhill, is the final part of this wonderful scenic trip (see my post “The Most Beautiful Road in Vermont”). A tip for fall foliage seekers – take this route in the early morning hours or in mid-afternoon as the best views are to the east.
Getting there: From Interstate 89, take exit 18 to Route 104A to Route 104. Take Fletcher Road to Cambridge Road to Pleasant Valley Road, which ends at the Underhill Country Store in Underhill. The drive is about 28 miles. From there you can continue south on River Road, which takes you to Route 15.
Landgrove to Danby: Danby-Mount Tabor Road
Looking for a Vermont scenic fall drive that feels a little more rugged? Try the Danby-Mount Tabor Road between Landgrove and Route 7 in Danby. The road crosses through the Green Mountain National Forest and provides access to the Appalachian/Long Trail for hiking. Closed in the winter, Danby-Mount Tabor Road in the fall has a little bit of everything – scenic views, wildlife, hiking trails, and an endless canopy of colorful, tall trees.
Getting there: From Route 100 in Weston, take Landgrove Road to Little Michigan Road to Danby-Mount Tabor Road Number 10. The mountain road is about 16 miles and takes you to Route 7 in Danby.
Danville to Peacham: Peacham Road
Peacham is one of the most beautiful towns I’ve ever seen. Located in the southern end of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Peacham is said to be the most photographed town in New England. I can certainly understand why. By Northeast Kingdom standards, Peacham isn’t exactly off the beaten path compared to some other communities. But if you’re looking for something new this foliage season, put Peacham on your list. The dirt roads, rambling farmhouses, sweeping views, and classic village scene are worth it and make this one of the prettiest Vermont scenic fall drives ever.
Getting there: Take Route 2 east to Danville, and turn south on Peacham Road to Bayley Hazen Road and travel for about 7 miles to the village. Even though it’s a short drive, there’s plenty to enjoy once you’re there.
Waitsfield to Warren: East Warren Road
Just off Route 100 in the Mad River Valley is East Warren Road, where you’ll find gorgeous views of the Green Mountains. Start your drive in Waitsfield on Bridge Street and pass through a one-lane covered bridge before coming across some of the best views in Vermont. Along the way you’ll see an historic round barn, pastures, farm houses, open fields, Sugarbush and Mad River Glen ski trails, and plenty of gorgeous color. As a bonus, turn onto Plunkton Road from Brook Road to soak up views at Blueberry Lake.
Getting there: Take Bridge Street to East Warren Road and follow for about 5 miles. East Warren Road then becomes Brook Road and ends at Main Street in Warren. Route 100 is just around the corner from Main Street in Warren.
Chester to Townshend: Grafton Road/Route 35
I have a soft spot for southern Vermont, and this area is one of the reasons why. Grafton is a popular destination in the fall, and getting there is half the fun. From Route 11 in the lovely town of Chester, travel south on Route 35 to enjoy a beautiful autumn drive. Once you arrive in Grafton, stick around to explore the village, which is home to the Grafton Village Store, Grafton Village Cheese and the Grafton Inn. Continue south to Townshend on Grafton Road or Route 35, which eventually take you to Route 30 in Windham County.
Getting there: Take Grafton Road/Route 35 south from Route 11 in Chester for seven miles. From Grafton, travel south to Townshend on either Grafton Road or Route 35. Depending on which way you go, the entire ride is around 17 miles on Grafton Road or 21 miles on Route 35.
JeffPosted at 11:40h, 03 September
Thanks for this list Erica. My two favorites are Route 100 – Granville Gulf between Granville and Warren; and Route 108 Smugglers Notch between Stowe and Jeffersonville. Another off the beaten path route though is one you wrote about two years ago, Bragg Hill in Fayston – short but magnificent. It’s best to drive it in the morning because the afternoon sun makes it hard to see well to the west where the best views are.
EricaPosted at 11:48h, 03 September
Hi Jeff – Thanks for sharing my post! Bragg Hill is amazing, and the views are gorgeous. The entire Valley is absolutely magnificent during foliage. I can’t wait to see the colors this year! Thanks for saying hello! -Erica
ScottPosted at 22:34h, 04 September
I didn’t know about the auto road up Mt. Ascutney, I might have to check that one out. I was over there a little bit on a New Hampshire trip but never really explored it further. One of the things we didn’t get to do in August was get up a mountain auto-road, so this might be a cool option to Mt Equinox.
I’m familiar with the Landgrove Road, but never took the ‘detour’ to Danby. Will have to remedy that as well!
We’re hoping to make it up there again sometime in October and I’ll keep these rides in mind!
Can’t really say I have a favorite really, the whole State seems so pretty to me, especially in the Fall.
EricaPosted at 09:34h, 05 September
Hi Scott — Mount Ascutney is beautiful. I hope you get back to VT in October and can check out some of these drives! Thanks!
Deborah DohertyPosted at 21:23h, 09 September
My commute to work and back! Rt. 7 from my home in Manchester, VT to my job in Sunderland and back.
EricaPosted at 09:07h, 10 September
Hi Deborah — That is a beautiful commute! I grew up in Manchester and visit as often as I can. I could gaze at Mount Equinox all day long. Enjoy the fall season. 🙂
Jim HolzschuhPosted at 08:55h, 11 September
Although we do not have mountains we have mountain views from across the lake. Come to the Champlain Islands as the leaves along the lake are beginning to turn and with the blue Lake Champlain water behind them it is a beautiful sight. From exit 17 on the interstate, cross the sandbar causeway to South Hero, Grand Isle, North Hero and Alburgh and a side jaunt to Isle La Motte would be a great day trip.
EricaPosted at 10:30h, 11 September
Thanks, Jim! The Champlain Islands are incredible, and I love how the leaves change there a little later than the rest of Vermont. It’s a great spot to enjoy the fall foliage well into late October. Isle La Motte and North Hero are my favorite spots up there. Thanks for saying hello! -Erica
RickPosted at 10:56h, 11 September
I know some great drives, they may not be on paved roads but are very stunning in the NEK of Vermont. I take photos of them all the time.
EricaPosted at 11:03h, 11 September
Hi Rick — The NEK has so many great spots, doesn’t it? I’m hoping to get up there this month to take some photos as well. Have a great fall foliage season! -Erica
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DianaPosted at 10:27h, 25 September
When you get to Peacham on the beautiful Danville Peacham drive, stop at the Peacham Cafe for breakfast or lunch. YUM
EricaPosted at 08:39h, 01 October
Thanks for the tip, Diana!
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MaxPosted at 05:50h, 30 September
Dear all, I’m trying to get some “real” inputs on going to VT to see the foliage, in late October (weekend of 21st 2016) .. is it worth going there at that time, or is it too late to see some colours ? Many thanks!
EricaPosted at 11:05h, 30 September
Thanks for your message. Foliage is very late this year, so you might actually still see some nice color while you’re here. What part of the state will you be visiting? The colors are just barely starting to change in the northern reaches of the state and higher elevations in the Green Mountains, so you’ll probably find some good color in the valleys during your trip. Foliage tends to arrive in Burlington and the Lake Champlain Valley after most other parts of the state have peaked. Feel free to email me with more questions at [email protected]. -Erica