Vermont is Very Much Open


Outdoor Fall Adventures, From a Forest Canopy Walk to Foliage Lift Rides

Words and photos courtesy of Seven Days

Outdoor Fall Adventures, From a Forest Canopy Walk to Foliage Lift Rides
By Carolyn Fox & Elizabeth M. Seyler

Foliage Hikes
Green Mountain Club's Hike VT roundups,

When the fall air turns crisp and sweet, Alicia DiCocco heads to Little Rock Pond, an offshoot of the Long Trail in southern Vermont. It's a pretty easy trek, she said, "and the foliage is just beautiful."

DiCocco knows her hikes — she's director of development and communications for the Green Mountain Club, which has been maintaining the Long Trail since 1910. This year, Vermonters can benefit from tried-and-true tips from the entire GMC staff: In June the organization launched Hike VT, a weekly campaign sharing suggestions for easy, moderate, difficult and accessible hikes. Also included: nearby food and drink stops, because GMC knows the importance of that après-hike creemee.

"When COVID started, we were looking for ways to give back to the community and provide some inspiration during what was obviously a really challenging time," DiCocco said. "We wanted to give people a mechanism to go explore their state and really have fun with it."

Routes have ranged from Raven Ridge Natural Area (a boardwalk from which hikers might spot a bobcat) to Wheeler Pond Trail (which leads to "a stair-like waterfall") to Baker Peak (a difficult trek with views of marble quarries). Hike VT will continue rolling out recs through mid-October, and all posts will remain on the GMC website for future reference. Be sure to bone up on the club's COVID-19 Trail Etiquette before hitting the ground.

"We put a lot of our marketing resources into this. It was kind of like, Let's forget about everything else, and let's look at what the world needs," DiCocco said. "There's a lot of people who are just happy to be outside."

Also try:
Vermont State Parks hiking info,
Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation hiking info,

Mountain Vistas
Gondola SkyRide, Stowe Mountain Resort, 5781 Mountain Rd., Stowe,
Foliage Lift Rides, Mad River Glen, 57 Schuss Pass Rd., Waitsfield,

Foliage season makes for beautiful walks in the woods, paddles on rivers, and drives through country roads. But for the best views, it's good to be up high. Really high.

Vermont ski areas are home to at least six gondola and lift rides, many of which take visitors to the tops of mountains with stunning vistas of glorious color. With a picnic and a backpack in tow, nature lovers and hikers can make a day of it.

At the Gondola SkyRide at Stowe Mountain Resort, groups of up to eight people can take the 10-minute ride — in recently refurbished cars — to the top of Mount Mansfield. At 4,395 feet, Vermont's tallest mountain offers breathtaking views. From there, visitors can grab a prepackaged bite at the Waffle House, lounge at picnic tables and Adirondack chairs, and access trails. Rides are offered daily through foliage season.

If open-air travel is your preference, try the Foliage Lift Rides at Mad River Glen in Waitsfield. For three weekends each fall, the single-chair, 20-minute ride takes visitors up for "micro and macro views," said Ry Young, the marketing and events manager.

"On the way up, you get the micro view of leaves, individual trees and groups of trees," he said. "But the best part is the macro view on the way down — the whole valley below and the mix of colors."

The summit is within feet of numerous hikes, including the Long Trail. Hike up and ride down, ride up and hike down, or ride both ways. The lift runs September 26 and 27 and the first two weekends in October; refreshments are available in tents at the base.

Gondolas and lifts generally run four to six hours daily, online purchase of tickets is recommended, and portable toilets are available. Rides may be canceled due to high winds, so call before you head out.

Aslo try:
Scenic Gondola Ride, Killington Resort, 4563 Killington Rd., Killington,
Scenic Chairlift Rides, Sunburst Six chairlift, Okemo Mountain Resort, 77 Okemo Ridge Rd., Ludlow,

Bird's-Eye View
Vermont Institute of Natural Science, 149 Natures Way, Quechee,

How often does a raptor swoop two feet above your head? At the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, visitors can experience this any day of the week.

VINS offers environmental education, promotes field research and operates an avian wildlife rehabilitation clinic on its 47-acre campus in Quechee. Open year-round, it presents daily outdoor raptor programs with live owls, hawks, falcons and kestrels. Staff share information and anecdotes about their feathered friends while the raptors fly from one trainer to another for tasty treats. Some fly right over and between viewers' seats!

Large outdoor raptor enclosures near the education area provide close-up views of where all the raptors live, including ravens, vultures and eagles.

"They live here because their injuries make it impossible for them to survive in the wild," said lead environmental educator Anna Morris at a recent program.

For a view of the world from a bird's perspective, head into the woods. The newest addition to VINS' nature trails, exhibits, picnic tables and play areas is the Forest Canopy Walk. The sturdy ADA-accessible boardwalk begins at ground level and extends out over a forest hill that drops away beneath. More than 900 feet long and 50 feet high, the walkway loops through the woods, connecting three human-made features. The most spectacular is the Tree House, where a circular stairway leads to a deck more than 100 feet in the air, above the treetops, where birds soar.

Outdoor Fall ADventures in the Trees

View of the Forest Canopy Walk from the ground, photo courtesy of Tom McNeill

Throughout the VINS campus, interpretive signs encourage people of all ages to see, hear, understand and appreciate nature in new ways. Though masks and social distancing are required and monitored, visiting VINS is a liberating venture into a magical world.

Also try:
Montshire Museum of Science, 1 Montshire Rd., Norwich,
North Branch Nature Center, 713 Elm St., Montpelier,

About the series

This series, a partnership between Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing and Seven Days, will run seasonally, presenting curated excursions in every corner of Vermont. The idea is to highlight the state's restaurants, retailers, attractions and outdoor adventures so Vermonters and visitors alike can plan safe, local trips and discover new corners of the state. Happy traveling, and stay safe.