Fall in Vermont is like no other. The rolling green mountainsides are transformed into a vibrant red, yellow, and orange wonderland, where the hills quite literally come alive with leaf peepers’ eager for their own glimpse of this autumnal view. Foliage peaks anywhere from late September to mid-October — earliest in northern Vermont and where there is elevation.
In honor of the official first day of fall, we’ve put together a guide to the best fall foliage runs in Vermont (written by a born and raised Vermonter, runner, and UVM grad, so you know it’s good!). Color change begins in mid-September and runs through the first two to three weeks in October so make sure to plan your trip soon!
What makes the following routes so breathtakingly beautiful? The Vermont landscape has it all. You’ll go from running along the side of Lake Champlain to being at the highest elevation campground in Vermont, and we promise the amount of foliage along the way will not disappoint! Check them all out below. Our overview map has a list of the routes.
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Waterbury Community Path, Waterbury:
3.1 miles (or 13.1 if you’re up to the challenge!) MAP
Parking: The route starts at 5 Pilgram Park Rd, where there is a large parking lot
Waterbury is home to the Leaf Peepers 5K and Half Marathon, where people come from all over to take in views on this stunning course. The route takes runners through Waterbury, up Perry Hill Road to spectacular “leaf peeper” outlooks, down to a paved out and back, over the scenic Waterbury Community Path — a dirt single track path — and then returns through Waterbury. The 5K course goes part way up Perry Hill and then returns to the start. It is rolling hills, about 250 feet of elevation gain. So whether you’re looking for an easy jaunt or a longer challenge, Waterbury has it all!
Stowe Recreation Path, Stowe:
5.3 miles one way MAP
Parking: the path starts at Lintilhac Park (behind the Stowe Community Church on Main Street in Stowe Village), which has plenty of open parking
The Stowe Recreation Path is a popular paved public trail that is free to use and easy-to-access, with a mostly flat and level experience. It meanders along West Branch River, over numerous purpose-built bridges, past beautiful farms and through some enchanting wooded sections. The path crosses Route 108 at several points, with well-marked cross-walks that give pedestrians the right of way. It ends at Brook Road, off 108, where you can either double back or stop into Top Notch Resort for some R&R.
The part closer to the Village is open, with great mountain views. The second half is a little more wooded. It is a gradual uphill headed southeast to northwest. In summer, there are lots of walkers, bicycles, and bladers. In winter, priority is for X-C skiing, but the surface is packed and can be good for running. The trail is 5.3 miles one-way. A good ‘half way’ turnaround point is the intersection of Rt. 108 and Cape Cod Rd. There are a few parking areas along the way. For one-way, slightly downhill treat, have a partner drop you at the northern terminus of the trail and run one-way to Stowe Village.
The Island Line Trail is one of New England’s most visited and spectacular rail-trails. It boarders the waterfront in the city of Burlington and strings together several shoreline parks in a linear path to offer spectacular views of Lake Champlain and New York’s Adirondack Mountains. The trail is relatively flat and starts at Oakledge Park on Flynn Street in southern Burlington, which offers plenty of parking and amenities. From there route travels along the waterfront to North Beach, which is the 3.3 mile marker and offers remarkable views of the lakeside fall foliage.
The full trail is 14 miles and features a unique and scenic trip out over the lake on a marble causeway. A seasonal bike ferry run by Local Motion is located at the end of the causeway and brings travelers over to South Hero.
West River Trail, Brattleboro:
3.3 miles one way MAP
Parking: Marina Trailhead (beginning of trail off of Spring Tree Road)
This is a a lovely trail long the West River with continuous views of the vibrant, golden Vermont hills. The southernmost point of the trail starts at the Marina Trailhead, just outside Brattleboro. As the trail continues, it is possible to see hints of where the trail bed was cut out of the rock for the railroad built in 1879, marking its one of Vermont’s oldest transportation routes. The turn around point is when you hit Rice Farm Road. The trail is covered with a soft dirt surface that’s easy on the knees and is relatively flat, making it a quick 3 or 6!
North Branch Loop, Missiquoi Valley Rail Trail, Richford:
7.85 mi loop MAP
Parking: Troy St., Richford
You can’t visit Vermont without seeing some cows! This rail trail starts in St. Albans, winding northeast to Richford, providing direct access to old Vermont Dairy country. The North Branch loop has both paved and unpaved surfaces, and is fairly flat. The route passes through Richford’s village center, over some moderate hills, and follows along the river. The gentle terrain makes running a breeze while enjoying postcard images of rural farms, leaf-strewn woods, and rolling fields.
The entire trail spans 26.1 miles from St. Albans City to Richford, passing through the towns of Swanton, Fairfield, Sheldon, Enosburg and Berkshire. The trail passes through forest, farmland and several villages, including Sheldon Springs, Sheldon Junction, Enosburg Falls, and East Berkshire. With a crushed limestone surface, it parallels the Missisquoi River along much of the eastern portion, and never exceeds a grade of three percent.
Blue Trail, Catamount Outdoor Family Center, Williston:
3.1 miles [trail map]
Parking: Daily use rates for trails and parking are $8 for Adults 18+
With over 20 miles of trails and loops ranging from 5k to 15k, the Catamount Outdoor Family Center is ideal for any skill level. The property is situated on two hills, making way for panoramic views of the Green Mountains and the Winooski River Valley in the East and the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain in the West.
The Blue Trail is flatter than some of the other trails and starts in a grassy field that eventually progresses through the enchanting, leaf-strewn, woodland area.
Local Tip: Stop at Adams Apple Orchard on Old Stage Road in Williston for an apple cider slushy on the way home!
Woodford State Park, Bennington:
2.1 miles, there and back. MAP
Parking: Available at the campground, 142 State Park Road, Woodford
The highest elevation campground in Vermont makes Woodford State Park the perfect location for catching unparalleled views of the rich foliage. Just a short drive from Bennington, this trail encircles the Adams Reservoir. This is an amazing place for viewing wildlife too, as it borders the George Aiken Wilderness Area.
Jackson Trail, Middlebury:
4 miles out and back [trail map]. Parking: TAM parking area located at 63 Maple St
Middlebury is an idyllic college campus in an idyllic college town. There is wonderful running around the Middlebury College campus and surrounding area. The Trail Around Middlebury (TAM) is an 18-mile loop, which encircles the town and links hundreds of acres of land, schools, and other local landmarks.
The Jackson Trail is a great 4 mile segment (out and back) of the TAM for running. It starts in line with a normally cow-filled field and then follows a stream bank, complete with sights of a small gorge before opening up to a meadow. It is very accessible from downtown Middlebury and is a great opportunity for an out-and-back.
Another beautiful route is the Middlebury College Tails. It starts on South Street Begin, west of the Middlebury College baseball fields. Follow signs for the TAM west as you boarder the perimeter of the Middlebury College Golf Course. The final section goes through a mix of open and wooded land, with wonderful Adirondack views from one rocky knoll. This section ends at the Jackson Trailhead on Rt. 23 in Weybridge for a total of 4.6 miles.
Trapp Family Lodge Trails, Stowe:
30 miles worth of trails [trail map]
Parking: Plenty of free parking near the Lodge and toward the meadow farther down Trapp Hill Road
The Trapp Famiy Lodge is a famous Vermont landmark, owned by the Trapp family of Sound and Music fame. The lodge is set about 1,000 feet up, with great views of mountains all around. The Lodge is famous as a X-C skiiing center in the winter, with 30km+ of groomed trails and many other backcountry opportunities. In summer and fall, the trails are a mountain biking, trail running, and biking haven. In the fall, yellow, orange, and red foliage blanket the Trapps trails and crunch underfoot making it ideal for breathtaking fall runs. The frequent twists and turns of these trails keep it interesting while providing a constant change in scenery.
There are some very challenging hills but also some great opportunities for ‘into’ trail running.For an easy run take Sugar Road to Telemark Trail then loop back on Luce Trail. It’s about a 3 mile narrow trail loop that will take you through the beautiful, leaf strewn woods. For a more moderate run, take Fox Track to Sugar Road, Picnic Knoll to Parizo Trail, to Old Country Road to Russel Knoll then head back on Sugar Road.
Carriage Trail, Rutland:
5.1 miles, one-way [trail map]
Parking: Giorgetti Complex
Carriage Trail is the site of the annual Leaf Chase 10K, making it a prime autumnal destination. It is located in Pine Hill Park, a revitalized alpine ski area turned into a beautiful 16-mile system of public trails. The Carriage Trail is marked with royal blue blazes. This route is a perfect mix of challenging slopes and easy, flat rambles. Some notable landmarks: Muddy Pond, Resting Brook, and the beautiful Reynolds Reservoir, Proctor’s old source of water. Be sure to watch for a sharp left hand turn in the trail once you get into Proctor so you don’t miss the final trailhead and turnaround point!
Woodstock/Billings Farm Tour
4.5 mile loop MAP. Start: Billings Museum or Woodstock town center.
This loop is a tour of the charming town of Woodstock, which is a popular visitors’ destination not far from the New Hampshire border. Our route starts at the Billings Farm & Museum, billed as a gateway to Vermont’s rural heritage and one of the finest operating dairy farms in America. You’ll pass by the Ottauquchee River and through the center of town, which has a very pretty main street with quaint shops and restaurants. Once outside the town, enjoy lovely back roads with farmland, foliage, and a few hills. Start the run at either the Billings Museum or the center of Woodstock.
The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park is also located in Woodstock [map overview]. Looking for a short run with stunning views? A 2.5 mile out-and-back leads to a beautiful clearing where you can view the Ottauquechee River Valley, the Billings Farm and Museum, and Mount Tom. The Mount Peg Summit Hike [map found here] is definitely worth the initial climb, don’t worry it evens out!
Hosmer Pond, Craftsbury
7 mile loop MAP. Options for many other trails. Parking: Craftsbury Outdoor Center
The Craftsbury Outdoor center is a legendary center for X-C skiing, mountain biking, sailing, rowing…and running! The Center is home to the Craftsbury Running camp, rated Best of the Best by Runner’s World, July 2005. There are **km of trails at the center, some flat, others hilly, some open, others wooded.
Our run starts at the Center and is a dirt road tour of three ponds. Start downhill on Lost Nation Road, with a bit of a hill climb after the first mile. From there, the loop circles Great Hosmer Pond and the smaller Page Pond, giving you the optimal backdrop for foliage viewing. Craftsbury is where elite runners come to train — share some of their joy — and pain!