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Scenic Foliage Drives

Vermont Foliage Driving Tour

Farms, Villages, Country Roads, and Millions of Trees

by William Scheller


Photograph of Montpelier, VT
Submitted by Eileen Weber

Photograph of Montgomery Center, VT
Submitted by Jerry Gryniewicz

Photograph of Morrisville, VT
Submitted by Ron Bianco

Photograph of Montgomery Center, VT
Submitted by Jerry Gryniewicz

Photograph of Swanton, VT
Submitted by Jeff Folger

THIS ITINERARY covers a big chunk of Vermont's northwestern corner, some of the most unvarnished and underpopulated nooks in the land o' leaves. Compared with any other New England state, Vermont has more designated scenic highways (highways made more beautiful by the lack of billboards, which Vermonters have outlawed). The Green Mountain State offers beautiful farms, quiet country roads, pristine villages, and sophisticated inns with gourmet dining. In the fall, millions of acres of deciduous trees turn brilliant shades of red, gold, and orange for a foliage show unrivaled anywhere. Remember, though, that autumn is a mighty popular time to visit, so be sure to have your lodging reservations in hand before setting out, especially if you are traveling on the weekend.

This tour begins at the Vermont-New Hampshire border in Wells River on Route 302, heading toward Barre. Over the next two days you'll see miles of colorful vistas, the world's largest granite quarry, the country's smallest state capital, and Vermont's first National Park.

Day One

Wells River is the start of the Bayley-Hazen Military Road, built during the years 1776 to 1779 by General Jacob Bayley and General Moses Hazen. Ordered by George Washington, it was constructed from the upper Connecticut River to St. Francis, Quebec, and was intended to serve as a military route should the Revolutionary War spread to the northern border. Today the roadbed is still visible as it rises at the north end of the Route 5 bridge across the Wells River and disappears over a crest on Bible Hill. We like to stretch our legs on the first couple of miles of this historic road. Starting at the granite marker at the end of Main Street, we continue to a clearing above Tickle Naked Pond in Boltonville for rewarding views of the White Mountains. ("Tickle Naked" comes from the Algonquin name Tickenecket.)

Day or night you can find warm food and an equally warm welcome at the P&H Truck Stop in Wells River. If it is a weekend, the parking lot will be full, with more family cars than trucks. Inside, you are greeted by a bakery case of big, fresh loaves of bread (they bake 300 a day) and plates full of 20 different flavors of pie. Talk to a trucker anywhere in the country, and he'll recommend the maple cream pie at P&H. You'll be seated quickly. In the air you're likely to hear the murmur of English and French conversation, while music drifts from jukeboxes. The mood is light, the food is good; what more could you ask for?

Return to 302, where southeast of Barre lie the famous granite quarries. Here in the lush hills of Vermont is a lode of granite so vast and deep that it could last forever. Beginning 200 years ago, men from all over the world came here to work. In the decades that followed, quarrying of local granite grew into an industry of such prominence that by the 1960s the stoneworkers could boast there was a piece of Barre in every city in the nation.

The Rock of Ages Visitor Center is located in Graniteville. At the green in Barre, turn south on Route 14 and follow the signs. Though this may not be Vermont's number-one tourist stop (that would be Ben & Jerry's), it is a dramatic attraction. A path behind the center leads to one of the state's oldest quarries, and tours (in an open bus) to the working quarries are also available. Don't miss the intricate and moving memorials in Hope Cemetery on Route 14, 3/4 miles north of Barre. Here stonecutters have painstakingly carved sculptures for themselves and their families. You can spend an hour quietly walking the roads, reading epitaphs and international names, marveling at the art and love reflected in stone.

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Reader Comments

Comment from Diane Pouliot on October 11, 2009

Having been born and lived in Vermont all my life the author presents a wonderful route to visit for foliage. I would also like to point out though that moving from Burlington to Manchester Vermont has also opened up a whole new vista of foliage. How nice it would be to take the "option" drive from I-91 into Vermont and cross over the mountains on VT Route 9 - where the scenery and landscape are as remarkable as the people who work and live on the farms and in the smaller towns. Head over to Bennington and then catch Route 7 or Historic Route 7A where the Green Mountain Boys used to roam to see some of Vermont's Southern most beauty.. Towns rich with color and history and foliage to take one's breath away ....Arlington-home to Norman Rockwell; Manchester-home to Robert Todd Lincoln, Dorset and Danby and on through up to Rutland, Vt all are well worth a quick trip off of I-91. And head back down US VT 7 all the way to CT to see more than just VT at it's finest. Southern VT is sometimes forgotten along the travels- but with the only Shires in Vermont, it is well worth the travel to our part of the state....

Comment from melanie brunell on January 26, 2012

This drive makes me sick with excitement. But it has been so dry and warm this year so far. Which weeks would be the best under these weather circumstances, in which to visit??

Comment from Sharon Lefebvre on June 17, 2013

What is the prime time to see the the fall foliage in Vermont and New Hampshire?

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