Vermont Fall Foliage Runs

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 more elevation. Our guide to fall foliage running in Vermont includes a selection of routes across the state, with particular attention to popular locations and trails/roads with great leaf views.

Waterbury: Waterbury Community Path

3.1 miles (or 13.1 if you’re up to the challenge!) MAP
Parking: The route starts at 5 Pilgrim Park Rd, where there is a large parking lot

Photo: Leaf Peepers Half Marathon 2013

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!

Burlington: Island Line Trail
3.3 miles one way MAP. Trail Map Parking: Oakledge Park

Photo: vermontphotomag.com
The Island Line Trail is one of New England’s most visited and spectacular rail-trails. It borders 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.

For more runs in this area, check out our running guide to Burlington.

Brattleboro: West River Trail
3.3 miles one way MAP
Parking: Marina Trailhead (beginning of trail off of Spring Tree Road)

Photo: https://westrivertrail.org
This is 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 mile run!

Richford: North Branch Loop, Missiquoi Valley Rail Trail,
7.85 mi loop MAP  Parking: Troy St., Richford. Info on Trail

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.

Paralleling the Missisquoi River, the entire trail spans 26.1 miles from St. Albans City to Richford, passing through the towns of Swanton, Fairfield, Sheldon, Enosburg and Berkshire, including forest, farmland and several village: Sheldon Springs, Sheldon Junction, Enosburg Falls, and East Berkshire. With a crushed limestone surface, the trail never exceeds a grade of three percent. Full information on trail.

Williston: Blue Trail, Catamount Outdoor Family Center
3.1 miles [trail map]
Parking: Daily use rates for trails and parking are $8 for Adults 18+

Photo: https://rootsrated.com
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!

Bennington: Woodford State Park,
2.1 miles, there and back. MAP
Parking: Available at the campground, 142 State Park Road, Woodford

Photo: http://mapio.net/s/25306774/
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.

 

 

Middlebury: Jackson Trail
4 miles out and back [trail map]. Parking: TAM parking area located at 63 Maple St

Photo: sites.middlebury.edu
Middlebury is an beautiful college campus in an idyllic college town. There is wonderful running around the campus and in the 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, easily accessible from town. 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.

Another beautiful route is the around the Middlebury College Trails. Start west of the Middlebury College baseball fields, on South Street. 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.

Stowe: Stowe Recreation Path
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

Photo: https://teresastowe.wordpress.com/
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.

Stowe: Trapp Family Lodge Trails
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. Trapps is also 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 Trapp 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 ‘intro’ trail running. For an easy run, take Sugar Road to Telemark Trail then loop back on Luce Trail. It’s about a 3- mile 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.

Stowe: Covered Bridge Run

Long Version: 9.8 miles. Start: Swimming Hole Parking Lot at Weeks Hill Rd. MAP
Short Version (no covered bridge). 4.1 miles  MAP

This is a wonderful 10-mile run along mainly back roads. It is mainly uphill for the first half, and mainly downhill for the second half. A highlight is the covered bridge at the intersection with Sterling Valley Rd. Start at the Swimming Hole parking lot off Weeks Hill Rd. The first 1.1 miles is a killer 600 foot climb. Take a right 0n Percy Hill Rd., continuing a steadier up hill, to a stop sign. Straight at stop sign for another 1.3 miles, with lovely trees and mountain views. Just past Maple Run Lane, take a SHARP RIGHT at Moren Loop, heading down hill. Arrive at a dramatic intersection with Sterling Valley Rd. and the red covered bridge. Pause to go under the bridge, but the run heads right onto Sterling Valley Rd., heading slightly downhill, with a lovely brook on your left, to the end. Take a right on Stagecoach Rd. (no sign), and head down. This is nice and open, with great views (and cars, so run opposite traffic). At the end, go right on Rt. 100 for a short bit, then right on West Hill Rd. (Shaw’s supermarket). After 0.5 miles, left on Mayo Farm Rd., returning to Weeks Hill Rd. and the parking lot.

Shorter version, 4.1 miles. MAP. At stop sign (1.8 mile mark), sharp right on W. Hill Rd., down the hill, right on Mayo. A shorter run, a nice up and then a nice down, but no covered bridge…

Stowe: Mud City Loop

6.8 miles. Start: Intersection of Cole Hill Rd. and Walton Rd., or at Morristown Four Corners. MAP

A great back road run. Especially pretty in autumn, as it starts at 750 feet in elevation, so there are great views to the mountains and valleys. It’s also one of the runs in Stowe that is fairly open, with little traffic, and all dirt roads. You will have to drive to the starting point. Park on side of road at intersection of Cole Hill Rd. and Walton Rd. This is a run of ~5 miles clockwise along Mud City Loop, with a brief section on Cole Hill Rd. There is some elevation, but not that much given the area. There are good options to add more or do some variety here. Cole Hill Rd., Walton Rd., and Lyle McKee Rd. in the area are all good options.

For more runs in this area, check out our running guide to Stowe.

Rutland: Carriage Road Trail
5.1 miles, one-way [trail map]  Parking: Giorgetti Complex. Note: Challenging

Photo: www.rutlandrec.com

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.

Photo: www.tripadvisor.com

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. For a more challenging run, the Mount Peg Summit Hike [map found here] is definitely worth the initial climb…but it evens out after a bit!

Craftsbury: Hosmer Pond
7 mile loop MAP. Options for many other trails. Parking: Craftsbury Outdoor Center

Photo: www.tripadvisor.com

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 many km of trails at the center, some flat, others hilly, some open, others wooded.

We’ve put together a route that 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!

Shelburne: Shelburne Farms

A 1400-acre working farm 7 miles south of Burlington, Shelburne Farms is a National Historic Landmark with stunning waterfront views. For runners, there are more than 10 miles of walking trails that are open year-round, weather permitting. We’ve put together a loop that starts from the Welcome Center and tours the major features at the farm. From there you’ll pass the Farm Barn, the hub of Shelburne Farms’ education programs and nonprofit administration. The trail wraps around Whimsy Meadow and up Windmill Hill. As you loop around you’ll pass the shoreline, with great views of the mountains. On your way back you’ll go by the Market Garden, a 7-acre mixed vegetable garden that produces many organic vegetables highlighted at their restaurant at The Inn at Shelburne Farms.

Windsor:  Covered Bridge and Brewery Run
5k out and back course map. Hilly!   MAP

Other than the signing of Vermont’s constitution, this tiny town on the Connecticut River, which forms the Vermont/New Hampshire border, is notable for two things: the long covered bridge that spans the river, and the home of New England’s beloved Harpoon Brewery. These staples of Windsor combine to form the course of Harpoon’s Octoberfest Road Race, a scenic tour of this Eastern Vermont township. The race takes place during primetime leaf viewing in early October, but you can do a modified version of the course in any season. If you want to cross the bridge, be very careful. It’s wide enough for two cars, but there is no sidewalk so plan your crossing for a time of minimal traffic. 

Weston Town Center

Weston is an impossibly cute town in south central Vermont. With a barn red country store, a classical playhouse, mill buildings, and a picturesque central gazebo, it’s architecture and charm rival Gilmore Girls’ fictional New England hamlet of Stars Hollow. Route 100, on which the town is located, is an awesome scenic drive for leaf peeping, but the sheer beauty of Weston will make you want to get out and do a quick run. This area is fairly rural, so it’s hard to map a specific route given all the back roads, but a run up and down the main strip will cure your craving for rural Vermont beauty.

Manchester: Equinox Preservation Trust
900+ acres of trails. For a good challenge, Blue Summit Trail, 2480 ft. elevation gain. MAP

You don’t need to travel far into Vermont to find a primo spot for foliage viewing. The Equinox Preservation Trust, accessible from just outside of Manchester, has 914 acres of woodlands with excellent running and foliage viewing conditions. There are plenty of trails to choose from, but for the best colorful vistas, we love the Blue Summit Trail, which winds to the top of Equinox Mountain. You’ll be rewarded with views of the Green Mountains shrouded in foliage, you’ll get a killer workout with 2,840 feet of leg sculpting elevation change. Visit the Equinox Preservation Trust website for a trail map.