Outdoor Fall Adventures

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

By Carolyn Fox and Elizabeth M. Seyler
Story originally published in Seven Days on 09|22|2020.

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 deputy director of the Green Mountain Club, which has been maintaining the Long Trail since 1910. Vermonters and visitors can benefit from tried-and-true tips from the entire GMC staff: The organization’s Hike VT campaign shares 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.

Routes range 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). Be sure to bone up on the club’s safety and trail etiquette tips before hitting the ground.

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 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, 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 usually runs the last weekend in September 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.

Also 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 director of onsite and outreach programs Anna Morris.

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.

Throughout the VINS campus, interpretive signs encourage people of all ages to see, hear, understand and appreciate nature in new ways. In any season, 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


Seven Days Staytripper Series

Created by Seven Days, the Staytripper: The Road Map for Rediscovering Vermont” series presents curated excursions statewide. The series was originally published from 2020-2022 and highlights Vermont restaurants, retailers, attractions, and outdoor adventures to spotlight all corners of the state.