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Green Mountains

Getting There Lodging Restaurants Attractions Stowe Fishing Hiking Backpacking Hut to Hut

You may be coming to Vermont and the Green Mountains for the colorful leaves or the hiking, but there are other attractions well worth your time. We might go so far as to call these essential to your visit. They're unique. They give you a feel for the area and help place the trails in context. Alternating a day of these attractions with a day of hiking will give your legs time to recover. Or, they offer an alternative on rainy days. As you plan your trip, however, be aware that Vermon begins shutting down in mid October. As soon as the fall foliage display fades, state parks, campgrounds, restaurants, motels, stores, some attractions listed here and even some highways begin closing for the season (although some will reopen in December for ski season). So if you want to enjoy any of these, you must plan your trip no later than the second week of October and ideally no later than the first week of October.

Mt. Mansfield Toll Road Mt. Mansfield Gondola Snowflake Bentley Museum Nebraska Knoll Maple Syrup Farm Danforth Pewtery
Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory Hunger Mountain Apple Orchards Cold Hollow Cidery Covered Bridges Smugglers Notch

The first thing you must do is drive the Mount Mansfield Toll Road. Yes, it's overpriced at $30 a vehicle plus $10 per passenger. And you'll be driving slowly up a very steep unpaved one lane road with tight bends. One mile from the top attendants will stop you until a car comes back down so there will be a parking space. But it's all worth it. The views are spectacular. You can see east across New Hampshire into Maine, north across Quebec to Montreal, south into Massachusetts, west across Lake Champlain into New York, and all over Vermont. In September and October during Fall Foliage season there's nothing like it. The road begins on your left 9.2 miles north of Stowe on Route 108. It takes 4.5 miles to reach the top. Take a warm garment because temperatures and wind up there are much colder than down below. Wear hiking boots and take a hiking stick because you'll want to walk at least a few of the trails along the mountain top to get to the best views. We recommend packing snacks and beverages so you can spend a pleasant lunch hour enjoying the scenery.

The Mount Mansfield Gondola is another of those attractions which is overpriced but you have to do it anyway. It takes you up to Cliff House Restaurant, which we review on our restaurant page. But even if you're not going to eat there, the Gondola is a thrilling ride with breathtaking views, especially during Fall Foliage season. It also lets you hike the Cliff Trail from the Gondola to the actual summit of Mt. Mansfield, a 1.6 mile adventure which includes .04 of a mile through jumbled boulders and another section across huge rock slabs. Going will be slow and you'll want extended time at the summit so allow 2-3 hours for this hike. The Gondola is 10 miles north on Route 108 from Stowe. Take hiking sticks and a warm garment, because temperatures and wind up there are usually much colder than down below. If you want to eat at Cliff House, we recommend you doing so at 11 a.m., then doing your hiking, because often by mid afternoon they start running out of items. Make sure you're back from your hike by 4:00 pm, though, because that's when the last Gondola goes down. If you miss it, the hike down Hell Brook Trail is long and difficult.

The Snowflake Bentley Museum is in an old red mill 45 minutes away in the village of Jericho. But it's well worth the drive. Bentley was a true Vermont eccentric and his contribution to science was huge. Even though Bentley was a farmer, he was fascinated with cameras and microscopes and as a teenager somehow got the idea of photographing snowflakes. No one had ever done that before. Everybody, including the science faculty at all the New England colleges, thought he was crazy. But as Bentley's skill and equipment improved, his photograqphs became astonishing. First his neighbors and finally the science world accepted Bentley as a legitimate contributor and his work as signficant. After he had accumulated several thousand photos and lined them up for comparison, he was the one who discovered that no two snowflakes were alike. Then, as he took notes and photographed snowflakes under all conditions, he learned that different conditions produced different kinds of snowflakes. By the time he was done Bentley had produced photos of over 10,000 different snowflakes. He was invited to lecture and show his photos at colleges from Dartmouth to Harvard. His photos have been made into albums, postcards, Christmas tree decorations, jewelry and other items. For Bentley to produce all those photographs, he had to take his equipment outside, let it cool down so it wouldn't melt the snowflakes, then stand out there in bitter weather, even in blizzards. In old age, his dedication proved fatal. During one blizzard, he caught a cold, which turned into pneumonia, and caused his death. At the museum, you can see his microscopes and cameras, many of his most spectacular photographs. and many of the items made from them. There's a fine gift shop. One of his descendants is the host of the museum. The red mill itself is worth a visit; it's a beautiful example of the old mills once common across New England. And if you want to make a day of it, just behind the museum, a trail begins which will lead you on a beautiful hike across Ethan Allen's farm. Allen was the man who formed the Green Mountain Boys, a militia created to stop New York from annexing Vermont. When the American Revolution broke out, Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys captured Fort Ticonderoga and transported its cannon to Concord, Massachusetts for the Sons of Liberty to use. It was those cannon, stored in the Colonial Inn in Concord, that the British were after when they marched out of Boston on that fateful April morning. After the Revolution, the Green Mountain Boys evolved into the Vermont National Guard.

Vermont is famous for Maple farms. It has over 600. They produce over 2.5 million gallons of Maple Syrup a year, far more than any other state. The best one near Stowe is Nebraska Knoll Maple Syrup Farm. It's a 12 minute drive, 5.8 mile out Route 100, right on Moscow Road, right on Nebraska Valley Road, and left on Falls Brook Lane. This is not a huge commercial operation and tourist trap. Tour buses can't navigate these narrow windy roads. Nebraska Knoll is a family farm. During the rest of the year they do other things. but for three months they focus on their Maple Syrup business. They have 2,000 acres of 10,000 trees. They'll show you how they drive the tap into each tree to drain the sap, attach a small hose, attach that hose to a larger hose, and as the sap flows down the hill the hoses keep growing bigger. There's a whole web of hoses until the sap reaches the Filter House, then is relayed to the Sugar House, shown in the photo (note the black pipe coming in from the left). They boil down the sap into Maple Syrup. You get to taste light, medium and dark syrups and buy bottles of your favorite.

The Danforth Pewter Store is on Route 100 on the right about six miles out of Stowe. They show the whole line of Danforth pewter : dishes, cups, jewelry, candlesticks, lamps, Christmas tree decorations, etc. Then, if you want to visit the Danforth Workshop, you can drive about an hour over to Middlebury. You can watch them creating the lamps and other large objects on special pewter lathes, and pouring the hot molten pewter (tin, copper and antimony) into molds for the more delicate pieces. If you're interested in either pewter or art, this is a fascinating stop. Historically, lead was the key ingredient in pewter, but modern pewter no longer uses it.

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory offers 30 minute tours but are so popular you should make advance reservations. The factory is nine miles from Stowe south on Route 100. It's quite a hilltop campus, including a Graveyard Of Old Flavors. This is a huge operation, packing 350,000 pints of ice cream a day in a stainless steel spotlessly clean high tech assembly line. Tours include a movie and a tasting. At the end there's a counter and patio so you can enjoy a dish or cone of your favorite flavor (s), and a store selling various Ben & Jerry's merchandise. There's a herd of the famous black and white cows roaming around the hill top and a few cow statues on the patio. Tickets are $6.

This ice cream company has had a tremendus impact on Vermont dairy farms. Ben & Jerry order all their cream from Vermont farmers.

Brothers Ben & Jerry took a correspondence course in ice cream making fron Penn State, then invested $12,000 in an ice cream business. They opened in an old gas station.

If you're in Vermont in the Fall, you have to visit an apple farm. Hunger Mountain Apple Orchards on the slopes of Worcester Mountain has 200 trees with 12 varieties, including MacIntosh, Macoun, Liberty, Cortland, Sweet 16 and Northern Spy. Once they've picked the commercial crop, they allow guests to pick their own, as a way of cleaning up the trees for the off season. To get there, head south on Route 100, in Waterbury turn left on Maple Street, then right onto Loomis Hill Road. The Wyman family have maintained this orchard since the 1970s. This is a small farm, unbothered by tour buses or crowds. But you can pick a basket of your favorite flavor, then munch on them for the rest of your trip.

Cold Hollow Cidery is a tourist trap and gets extremely crowded when the tour buses stop. However, you can buy everything and anything made from apples, including cider donuts. At the back, you can watch workmen using the classic apple press to produce apple cider, then walk several rooms away and buy a large glass of it. Cold Hollow doesn't maintain their own orchards. They buy from orchards throughout the state. There's a restaurant across the parking lot from the main building which serves various clever apple items : apple horseradish dressing, apple vinaigrette, cider jelly, cider mustard, etc. They also serve several very good flavors of hard cider in addition to their nonalcoholic cider.

We recommend stopping for breakfast, then touring the store and cidery before 10 a.m., when the buses and crowds begin arriving.

Vermont is famous for Covered Bridges. There's one right in Stowe, but it's only a long pedestrian bridge. 2.1 miles southeast of Stowe is larger Gold Creek Bridge, also known as Emily's Bridge, which has been carrying vehicles since 1844 and is very photogenic. (Emily was supposed to meet her lover here to elope and when he didn't show up she jumped off the bridge and committed suicide. Her ghost shows up at midnight still looking for her unfaithful lover.)

Brookdale Bridge is north of town just off Route 108. Turn left on Brook Road at 4.4 miles.

The Red Bridge was built in 1896 and is 10 minutes out of town to the east. Follow Route 100 out of Stowe heading towards Morrisville and take Stagecoach Road. Turn left on Sterling Valley Road and the bridge is located less than two miles on the right,.  

Smugglers Notch is a bizarre landscape of huge boulders and Beech and Birch trees twisting themselves into weird shapes to live on and around those boulders. Since there are too many boulders too big to move, Route 108 shrinks to one lane and snakes around them, leaving vehicles to take turns. The area, basically a deep cut through the mountains through which smugglers have moved goods back and forth to and from Canada, is 12.5 miles north of Stowe. The place is a photographer's fantasy. There are trails, spectacular views, a cave, rock climbing faces and rock surfaces ideal for suntanning and long lunch stops. On the north side of the actual gap is a large parking lot with rest rooms. Most people spend several hours here, but you could easily spend a whole day if you love Nature or photography.
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