In the warmer months, fertile valleys give rise to green mountains and support an extensive dairy industry, but as the seasons shift, the foliage turns to glowing fall hues and the whole state is ablaze. Vermont is home to the highest percentage of sugar maple trees of any state in the nation, and an abundance of red maple trees, which all produce those iconic vibrant colors during the fall.
As the trees slip into their autumn attire, dressed for the sensational season ahead, visitors come in to get a look at this gem of a state at the most colorful time of year.
When the leaves change, Vermonters think the colors worthy of celebration.
Fall foliage festivals and other attractions entice groups to every part of our second least populated state:
The north country harbors Vermont‘s tiny capital, Montpelier, and its highest mountain, Mt. Mansfield, site of the famous Stowe ski resort. To the northeast is a sparsely populated and heavily wooded territory that former Senator George Aiken dubbed the “Northeast Kingdom,” home to loggers, farmers and outdoors enthusiasts. Vermont’s fall color arrives first in this region, starting in mid-September.
The Northeast Kingdom Fall Foliage Festival always starts on the Sunday of the last weekend in September and runs through the first Saturday in October. This traveling festival spends one day in each of several neighboring towns. Walden, Cabot, Plainfield, Peacham, Barnet and Groton all welcomed the festivities this year. Take part in village tours, exhibits, bazaars and church suppers, all in celebration of the arrival of fall colors. (802-748-3678, www.nekchamber.com)
Downtown Newport, Vermont’s gateway to Canada, sits on the edge of Lake Memphremagog. This quaint waterfront town offers year-round outdoor adventure and stunning sunsets over the lake. Cruise across the lake to Canada for dinner. (802-323-1056, www.vtnorthcountry.org)
In this area, foliage season is usually the last 10 days of September and remains colorful through mid-October.
Woodstock, coined the “quintessential New England village,” is nestled in the unhurried heart of Vermont. Make a day of exploring the shops and galleries, artisan studios, country stores and fine restaurants. Sugarbush Farms, located at the end of a scenic road, offers Vermont favorites like waxed cheeses and pure maple syrup. (802-457-1757, www. sugarbushfarm.com)
Also in Woodstock: In early October, Harvest Weekend at Billings Farm & Museum celebrates the season with a two-day festival. Enjoy harvesting activities, games, a husking bee and barn dance. Learn the craft of fence building and shelling vegetables at this historic, operating dairy farm and museum. (802-457-2355, www.billingsfarm.org)
Central Vermont is home to the famous Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in Waterbury. This sweet stop is open year-round, offering tours and more. See the production process in action, learn about the dairy business and see how Ben & Jerry’s has become a Vermont staple. (802-882-1240, www.benjerry.com)
Foliage Fest and Tree Tag at Elysian Hills Tree Farm brings the magic of the fall season to life in rural Drummerston. Frolic through 100-acre woods, hop aboard a hayride, pick a pumpkin out for carving or sample fresh cider and doughnuts. This event begins Columbus Day weekend and continues on the next two weekends. (802-257-0233, www.elysianhillsfarm.com)
Putney Mountain in Newfane celebrates the large migratory birds that flock into Vermont in the fall. Experience majestic views atop Putney Mountain, where a short 20-minute hike affords views of an impressive rocky summit and thousands of migrating hawks. Not to be missed is the annual Fall Putney Mountain Hawk Watch in mid-September, which provides scientific information about raptor migration patterns. Because more vibrant colors are often found at higher elevations, this soaring summit may be just the place for your group excursion. (www.putneymountain.org)
For more on fall foliage season, contact the Vermont Department of Tourism: 802-828-3237, www.vermontvacation.com
Why Leaves Change Color: As days grow shorter, the green leafy plants, which depend on sunlight to make food, begin to change. When the green chlorophyll disappears, the leaves turn yellow. The pigments that cause the yellow xanthophylls and carotenes are present in the leaves all summer, but are simply masked by the abundant green chlorophyll. While some leaves just turn yellow, others respond to Vermont’s cool fall nights and clear, sunny days by producing another pigment – anthocyanin. This one is red, and it mixes with the yellows to produce flaming orange hues. When it dominates, it produces the crimsons and even a few purples that give Vermont’s fall foliage richness and variety. Variations in frost and precipitation affect the brilliance of the color, but not the timing.