The lush summers and snowy winters of Vermont make it the perfect place for year-round recreation. And though the scenery should be motivation enough, with breweries, cideries, award-winning restaurants, and farm stands throughout the state, you can be sure of a delicious culinary reward awaiting you after your efforts, too.
From Brattleboro in the South to Newport in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, here are the outdoor activities that will make you absolutely fall in love with the Green Mountain State. Grab your backpack and a water bottle and let’s go!
Note: Vermonters take outdoor recreation ethics seriously; when you visit, do the same. Find a plan B if the parking lot for your destination is full. Always leave no trace, stay on marked trails, and — wherever you go — respect the landowners and local communities that make your adventures possible.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or simply a birdwatcher who likes to get their heart rate up before raising the binoculars, Vermont has plenty to offer — unsurprising for a state named for its mountains!
Mount Philo Trail, Charlotte
Mount Philo State Park — Vermont’s first — spans 237 acres of protected natural beauty, with forested views that spread into the Champlain Valley and up the other side to New York’s Adirondacks. The 1.9-mile trail that starts at the parking area is a family-friendly loop to the top of the 968-foot Mount Philo, with plentiful wildflowers along the way. Thanks to its abundance of maple trees, this is also a favorite for autumn hiking.
Butler Lodge Loop, Underhill
While the crowds head to nearby Mt. Mansfield, hit up the quieter — but still challenging — Butler Lodge Loop. You’ll gain 1,700 feet over 4.5 miles (round trip) as you link up with a few connecting trails to complete the loop. Expect to scramble over rocks and alongside caves, wander through dense maple and birch forest, and hop across bubbling streams. Of course, you’ll also find Butler Lodge, a 1930s cabin built for thru-hikers of Vermont’s Long Trail, the first long-distance hiking trail in the country.
Smugglers’ Notch State Park, Stowe
For a challenge for every level, Smugglers’ Notch State Park offers several hiking trails that can take anywhere from 20 minutes to four hours to complete — and take you anywhere from 1,620 to 4,390 feet above sea level. Bingham Falls Trail is the shortest; the hike to the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline feature known as the Chin, via Long and Profanity Trails, is the longest and most challenging, the trails certainly worthy of their names (you may want hiking poles for this one!). For something somewhere in between, try the Sterling Pond Trail for a steep ascent to a scenic mountaintop pond.
Tip: A new stroller- and wheelchair-accessible boardwalk — technically part of the Long Trail — leads visitors from the Barnes Camp Visitor Center and through pretty wetland habitat.
Prospect Rock Trail, Manchester
This 3.5-mile round-trip hike — located deep in the Green Mountain National Forest and intersecting briefly with the Appalachian Trail — is fairly steep but has plenty of spots to rest and a gorgeous lookout near the top where you can stop for lunch. The trail does continue beyond the lookout, though, so make sure you don’t miss the final climb! While this trek may be a little challenging for true beginners, the determined newbie could still make it, motivated by the stunning views at the summit.
Note: This one crosses a few mountain streams, so be prepared for the possibility of getting your boots wet.
Mountain bikers will find plenty to occupy themselves in Vermont, whose landscapes can be described as anything but flat. But even if you’re not a practiced cyclist, the opportunity to explore the state’s natural beauty at a brisker pace is worth the leg workout.
Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Craftsbury Common
You’ll find more miles of singletrack around Craftsbury Common than of paved roads — some are rooty, rocky, and hand-crafted, while others are machine-built, flowy, and smooth. Surrounded by little but forest, lakes, and a handful of farms, the incredible trails at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center aren’t even half the story — they’re part of a larger network that spans three states, one province, and two countries. “Bike the Borderlands” is a mountain-biking initiative covering Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Québec. Start at Craftsbury Outdoor Center and see where the Borderlands take you.
Cady Hill Trails, Stowe
The Boston Globe has called Stowe a “mountain-biking mecca,” and we would have to agree. Even better, the Stowe Trails Partnership (STP) ensures that most mountain-biking trails here are free and open to the public. Perhaps the most notable of these is the flagship trail network through Cady Hill Forest — take the Cady Hill Climb trail up to the Green Chair Overlook, if you can — with its views, easy access, and options for every skill level.
Blueberry Lake, Warren
Just south and across Route 100 from the popular Warren Falls swimming hole, you’ll find the small but scenic Blueberry Lake. On the opposite side of Plunkton Road from the water stretches a system of wide, machine-built singletrack that can be pieced together to form the 4.2-mile Blueberry Lake Loop, providing a smooth pedal with stunning views of the Green Mountains. If you get overheated on the ride, all you have to do is cycle over to the lakeshore for a quick swim to cool off.
Note: Blueberry Lake is a good place to practice your outdoor ethics. StewardMRV (Mad River Valley) is leading the charge, and you should follow suit: If the parking lot is full, find an alternative; pack out what you pack in; and leave no trace but winding, looping tracks.
Ski trails at Okemo, Sugarbush, Slate Valley, and Killington
If you have a favorite Vermont ski trail with unmissable views, make sure to check and see if the resort is open for mountain biking in the summer. Some of the better-known spots — such as Okemo, Sugarbush, Slate Valley, and Killington — all have incredible biking available come warmer weather. Killington Bike Park, for example, features three high-speed lifts giving riders access to 30+ miles of epic downhill trails.
Spending a New England summer day on the water is just about as good as it gets. You can pursue all manner of watersports in Vermont, but to throw in the added excitement of exploration, nothing beats an outing by canoe, kayak, or standup paddleboard.
Shadow Lake, Glover
Located just south of I-91 and the town of Barton, Shadow Lake is 210 acres of clean, deep water ringed by forest. Though other lakes in the Northeast Kingdom get more attention, many of those can be dangerous for paddling in choppy weather; Shadow Lake, on the other hand, is almost always a good bet. If you didn’t bring your own kayak, you can rent at the Village Sport Shop in nearby Lyndonville.
Note: Shadow Lake also has a free public beach for swimmers.
Vermont Canoe Touring Center, Brattleboro
Brattleboro is situated in Vermont’s southeast corner, at the confluence of the Connecticut and West Rivers, making it a great base for paddling, canoeing, kayaking, and more. The Vermont Canoe Touring Center can set you up with the gear you need, as well as recommendations on paddle trips that match your level of skill and ambition. Rent canoes, kayaks, and SUPs by the hour or by the day, and spend your afternoon floating under vintage railroad bridges and through Vermont’s endless shades of green.
Winooski River, Middlesex
The Winooski River winds for 90 miles from Cabot to Colchester, where it joins the waters of Lake Champlain. Most people experience it on the sandy beaches near its delta with the lake, but those with paddlecraft will be able to get acquainted with the river more intimately. In particular, the five-mile section between Middlesex and Waterbury provides a nice mix of rapids, a river confluence, and that unmatched Green Mountain scenery.
Note: The organization Friends of the Winooski River publishes a paddling guide if you’d like to learn more before hopping in.
Green River Reservoir, Hyde Park
Green River Reservoir State Park is all about paddling — in fact, if you’re looking to stay the night, you’ll have to get on the water! The park’s 27 campsites are only accessible by boat, requiring up to a two-mile paddle. Expect to feel a bit off-grid: 19 miles of natural shoreline make this one of Vermont’s largest undeveloped bodies of water, and motorboats are limited to electric power and a top speed of 5 mph. Come with your cell phone’s notifications turned off.
Note: You can’t rent boats here, so make sure to bring your own.
Mountain summits and singletrack, river rapids and off-grid camping — serious outdoor adventures are certainly on tap all over the state. But sometimes you simply want to go for a nice walk in the woods. Here’s where to do just that.
Valley Trail, West Dover
What’s called the Valley Trail is actually more accurately a nine-mile series of connecting paths between Wilmington and Dover, near the state’s southern border. Just off Route 100 in West Dover, there’s a three-quarter-mile stretch of the Valley Trail that’s paved and wheelchair-accessible; other sections are composed of natural surfaces or gravel. There are often food vendors stationed at each end of the trail and benches throughout where you can have a snack break and take in the scenery. Head out for a leisurely walk with the family, and feel free to bring along the pup (though you’ll have to keep them on leash).
Thundering Falls Trail, Killington
This short out-and-back trail (0.4 mile one way) is completely wheelchair accessible. You’ll start out on a 900-foot boardwalk, followed by gentle switchbacks to the viewing platform for Thundering Falls, a 140-foot cascade that’s one of the state’s tallest. The length and light difficulty make this a perfect option for a quick afternoon walk and picnic lunch with the family. Find the trailhead (which also happens to be part of the Appalachian Trail) on River Road just north of the Killington Town Hall.
Robert Frost Interpretive Trail, Ripton
The Robert Frost Interpretive Trail is a 1.2-mile loop about 20 minutes east of Middlebury. As you walk across the beaver pond and past the huckleberry bushes, you’ll see select poems by Frost posted along the track. Don’t be surprised to find two roads diverging in a yellow wood!
Stowe Recreation Path, Stowe
One of the more popular paths on the list, the 5.3-mile one-way Stowe Recreation Path winds over and around both the West Branch of the Little River and Route 108 through Stowe. You’ll be hard pressed to find a single path that provides access to both incredible nature (including swimming holes!) and tourist amenities (restaurants, shops, etc) in the state, if not the country. Most folks opt to walk the trail from the northern end to take advantage of the prevailing downhill grade, but it can certainly be enjoyed in either direction. After all, when you’re in Vermont the views are always stellar no matter which direction you head.