5 Vermont Fall Foliage Hikes on Little-Known State Lands
September 28, 2021
The best Vermont fall foliage hikes feature scenic views and colorful forests. Vermont’s most popular hikes, such as Camels Hump, Mount Mansfield, and Killington, are crowd-pleasers in the fall.
But if you’re looking for Vermont fall foliage hikes that are a bit more off-the-beaten-path, a variety of Vermont state forests, parks, and natural areas showcase bold colors, historical remnants, and in some cases, legendary stories.
Perry Holbrook State Park in Sheffield
Two ponds and a series of cliffs make Perry Holbrook State Park worth visiting during the fall season. A trail extends from a small parking lot to the scenic Round Pond, where it curves to the north up to Long Pond (formerly known as Runaway Pond).
Local historians say the name Runaway Pond comes from a harrowing incident that took place more than 200 years ago. In 1810, a farmer needed more water for his gristmill, so he dug a small channel in Long Pond. Two billion gallons of water drained from the pond in 90 minutes and traveled north, filling Lake Memphremagog in Newport. Astonishingly, no lives were lost. According to the Glover Historical Society, “All that was behind were a muddy trail of uprooted trees and boulders, an anvil in a tree, and the stench of thousands of dead fish.”
Perry Holbrook Memorial State Park was deeded to the State of Vermont in 1991 by Clair and Frances Holbrook. The park was named in honor of Mr. Holbrook’s late son Perry, who grew up exploring the area.
Getting there: Holbrook State Park is located off Route 122 in Sheffield.
Molly Stark State Park in Wilmington
Molly Stark State Park, named for the famous wife of General John Stark of the Revolutionary War, includes 148 acres, a fire tower, and panoramic views.
Take the Mount Olga trail to the 2,415-foot summit and enjoy views from the top of the Mount Olga lookout tower. This former fire watchmen’s lookout, which was moved from Townshend State Park to the summit of Mount Olga in 1955, is open for recreational viewing.
The tower offers 360-degree views of the Green Mountains, the Berkshires, and Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire. An interesting sidenote: the former Hogback Ski Area operated partially on park property under a lease agreement from 1955 until the ski area closed in the mid-1980s.
Getting there: Molly Stark State Park is located at 705 VT-9 East in Wilmington.
Victory State Forest and Victory Basin Wildlife Management Area
Described as remote, wild, and expansive, Victory State Forest in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom covers 16,272 acres in Concord, Granby, Lunenburg, and Victory. The land was acquired from lumber or paper companies, and remnants of sawmills remain within the forest. Portions of Victory State Forest permit primitive camping, and gravel roads within the forest are open for horseback riding and biking.
Victory Basin Wildlife Management Area is a lowland natural area that is an ideal location for birding. The basin has an extensive logging history that reached its peak in the late 1800s, leaving roads and trails found there today, as well as old cellar holes and abandoned homesteads. The area also includes the abandoned Victory Branch Railroad corridor, which follows the western border of the basin.
Getting there: From the west, head east on Route 2. Turn left onto Victory Road and continue straight when the road turns to River Road. After another 2.8 miles, the parking area at Damon’s Crossing for Victory Basin is on the left.
Amity Pond Natural Area in Pomfret
Amity Pond Natural Area includes 2.7 miles of hiking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing trails. In 1969, Richard and Elizabeth Brett donated the 182-acre property to the State of Vermont to provide a natural environment for quiet relaxation and peaceful recreation.
Radios and all machinery are barred from the land, as are motorized vehicles, road and mountain bikes. Long before smartphones, Richard Brett shared his concerns about noise and machines when lobbying to make the property a designated natural area. “It is tragic that man has become so enmeshed in his own devices,” he wrote. “It is tragic that enjoyment and understanding of the natural world is becoming increasingly difficult.”
Today, with the ubiquity of smartphones and the hectic pace of daily life, Amity Pond offers a meaningful reminder to disconnect once in a while.
Getting there: Access is on Allen Hill Road in Pomfret. Parking is available at a small pull-off located opposite the entrance sign.
Okemo State Forest in Mount Holly
The 8,000-acre Okemo State Forest is one of southeastern Vermont’s largest state forest parcels. Home to Okemo Mountain Resort and the 798-acre Terrible Mountain Natural Area, Okemo State Forest includes the popular Healdville Trail to the summit of Okemo and the mountain’s fire tower.
A lesser-known section is accessible from Route 155 in Mount Holly. Visitors will find a dirt road, built initially in the 1980s for forest management, that was recently improved for recreation and wildlife habitat purposes. Hike or bike through the woods and open areas of Okemo State Forest to soak up the beauty of autumn in Vermont.
Getting there: From Route 100 in Weston, follow signs for Route 155 north. A sign for Okemo State Forest will be on the right once you cross into Mount Holly.
Happy Vermont Podcast: Fall Foliage Outlook
In the newest episode of Happy Vermont’s podcast, Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation Mike Snyder talks about how Vermont’s fall foliage season is shaping up and offers suggestions for outdoor places to explore. Listen on Podbean.