The Deerfield Valley is a world-renown destination for incredible Vermont fall foliage. Each year as the long, hot summer days give way to the shorter, cooler fall days, southern Vermont fills up with people in search of that perfect autumn getaway. Apple pies are baked, pumpkins are carved and leaf peeping attracts amateur and local photographers from around the globe. The list of activities in and around the Deerfield Valley is constantly growing. And we’re here to bring you the very best that Vermont has to offer — an insiders guide from taking the best pictures to Grandma’s apple pie.
Pick your spots
There’s plenty to be had for the opportunistic tourist but a few pencil marks in your trusty atlas can get you to all the local vistas with time to spare for your dinner reservations. Each trip below follows a local path through rural Vermont exploring the charm of dirt roads, small towns and classic local hideaways. Be prepared to pull over and snap a few candids but remember that others share the roadways so use caution and good judgement when stopping or driving slowly on main roads.
Some of our favorites
The Route 100 loop – Head south on Route 100 from Wilmington and follow it through Whitingham and Readsboro. Once you make your way through Readsboro take Route 8 North back to Searsburg/Woodford where it connects to Route 9. Head west on Route 9 for a shot of the Old Prospect Ski resort then double back down the mountain to the center of Wilmington. Keep a lookout for moose, deer, black bears and other wildlife along the way.
Sommerset Reservoir – Without a doubt views of Lake Whitingham (Harriman Reservoir) will be fantastic and a boat outing could prove to be worth a thousand words. For a more “off the beaten path” trip though, venture west on Route 9 from Wilmington and take a right onto Sommerset Rd. (National Forest 71). The road is quite secluded and remote but worth the adventure. The Deerfield river, locally renowned for its brook trout fishing, chases it's way along the road on your way to the reservoir. After stopping at the reservoir continue along 71 to the Stratton/Arlington Road, locally known as the Kelley Stand. This route will take you into the heart of Southern Vermont's national forest and also crosses the long trail. The majority of the driving will be on dirt roads with very little exposure to modern accommodations like gas stations or stores so be prepared. Fill up first, charge your batteries, and bring a lunch or snacks.
Covered Bridges – Vermont is filled with lots of character and old-worldliness. The covered bridges scattered throughout the state are a testament to this. If you’re willing to plan a day trip, you could probably publish a coffee table book of bridges by the time your done. This loop covers some of the classics as well as provides an east–west and back tour of Southern Vermont. From savoring cider donuts to tasting authentic, award-winning cheddars, you'll have a non-stop trip filled with everything that defines Vermont, leaves and all.
Vistas – The top of Haystack Mountain at the Hermitage Club is certain to be a favorite hike this Autumn. Once the leaves turn and line the shores of Haystack Pond it's a spectacular photo op you won't want to miss. The cross-town hike is always a popular activity, trail maps can be found here.
For those coming in on Route 9 from the east, Hogback will be another popular spot and offers one of the best panoramas of the Connecticut River Valley in Vermont. If you come in from the west it's worth a short drive on Route 9 east. There is a gift shop that is open weekly and will have all sorts of Vermont fare available.
If you venture out on the covered bridge drive mentioned above, the view from Mt. Equinox south of Manchester is remarkable. Access to the view is possible by hiking but it's much easier to take the toll road from Rt. 7 in Sunderland.
The Vermont Wine and Harvest Festival – September 16th-26th
This great festival spans throughout the Deerfield Valley with different events scheduled all weekend. The festival has been designated as one of North America’s Top 100 events by the American Bus Association — the only Vermont event to have made the list.
The Hermitage Club is proud to be a part of the event this year. For more details, visit our event listing.
Gaines Farm – September 19th-November 1st + Columbus Day Weekend
Who doesn't love a corn maze, haunted corn maze, corn cannon, cow train and pumpkin bowling? Gaines Farm has it all and is located on Route 5, just up from the Massachusetts border. It’s an easy visit from I-91 on your way to or from the Deerfield Valley and within an hours drive for a day trip. This is the quintessential Vermont fall farm experience. Hot cider and all.
More information is available at gainesfarm.com
Eat Apple Pie – Anytime
Apple Pie is synonymous with autumn in the Northeast. Kids grow up eating field apples, picking apples at one of the numerous orchards around the state or getting bushels from the local farm stand. However you procure your apples, we highly recommend turning them into delicious apple pie.
Here’s an apple pie that is honest, simple and delicious – just like Vermont:
- Half a dozen apples or so thinly sliced – what kind you ask? Cortland, Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Granny Smith – any kind that you find delicious.
- A couple tablespoons of cornstarch.
- ½ Cup or so of white sugar – taste your apples, if they’re sweet, use less; if they’re tart use more – if you don’t like sugar, use honey (you’ll want a bit more cornstarch if you use honey)
- 1 Squeeze of Lemon Juice and a dash of salt.
This should be enough to fill a 9” pie depending on the size of your apples. Toss your apples and other ingredients together in a bowl. You can always add a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, or grandma's favorite—a handful of red-hots. Just keep it simple and let the apples speak for themselves.
Once it's all mixed up add the mix to your already greased, crust lined pie pan. Homemade crust is best but that’s a recipe for another day; this is, after all, a post about things to do in the fall, not how to become a pâtissière.
Bake your pie at 425º for 40-45 minutes. Cool for 10-15. Slice carefully and top with local Vermont cheddar cheese—yes, cheddar cheese. It’s amazing and it’s the Vermont way.
That’s it. Super simple yet very delicious.
Pack light but be prepared
It's an old cliché - don't like the weather in "insert location here," wait 10 minutes—but like most worn out old phrases it's got some merit. Fall weather in Vermont is going to require a mixed bag of apparel and footwear.
Here's what we recommend
- Flannel – Temps can range from balmy to blustery and you don't want to get caught off guard. Bring a light coat or the Vermonter choice of all-season apparel; a trusty flannel. Not just any flannel, a wool blend is ideal.
- Comfy Shoes – The ones you don’t mind getting dirty and can spend a whole day in. When you’re out taking photos, getting lost in corn mazes and sampling the fall harvest you’ll need shoes that are going to hold up. Save the pumps and loafers for another day.
- An Umbrella – That lightweight raincoat you can fit in your pocket is nice for a hike but an umbrella is going to give you the cover you’ll need when you find that perfect shot of autumn hue between raindrops.
- Battery Charger + SD Cards – Ok, so the truth is most photos are going to be snapped from a selfy stick but for the aspiring photographer with a DSLR don’t get stuck with a dead battery and full card. If you’re more the Ansel Adams with an iPhone type, car chargers and battery packs could come in handy.