The Green Mountains
Vermont’s rolling hills offer culture, country charm, cheese and much more.
By Olivia J. Abel
THE VIBE: Let’s get one thing straight up front: The Green Mountains are synonymous with Vermont. Perhaps it’s because the rolling green hills extend all the way from the state’s southern border with Massachusetts to the Canadian province of Quebec. Not as high or as craggy as the Adirondacks to the west or New Hampshire’s White Mountains to the east, the Green Mountains are a popular four-season playground and offer the best skiing in the East.
Combine this with the funky and fiercely independent spirit that permeates this small and mostly rural state, and it’s no wonder that come leaf-peeping season, picturesque back-country roads are bustling with visitors exploring the quaint towns (with their village squares), the covered bridges (more than 100), the many farms (cheese, please!) and the endless outdoor opportunities.
Some say French explorer Samuel De Champlain first dubbed the mountains Les Verts Monts (that’s French for Green Mountains) in 1609. Ever since then, Vermont has been doing things its own way. In fact, for 14 years Vermont functioned as its own republic, even using its own currency before ultimately becoming the 14th state in 1791. In the ’60s and ’70s, an influx of disaffected young people, better known as hippies, moved to communes in rural Vermont, and they’re widely credited with transforming the region into one of the country’s most liberal states.
It’s easy to traverse the state. Route 100 runs the entire length of the Green Mountains, as does the 273-mile Long Trail, which is the oldest long-distance trail in the country and was the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail. (The two routes overlap for 100 miles in the southern Green Mountains.)
With hundreds of art galleries and dozens of small theater companies, there is plenty of culture to keep you busy, too. The world-class Bennington Museum, which underwent a major renovation last year, houses the world’s largest public collection of Grandma Moses paintings, as well as a permanent Bennington Modernism gallery. Tourists there also enjoy the summer home and grave of poet Robert Frost and the short elevator trip up the 306-foot obelisk at the Bennington Battle Monument. In Woodstock, the Billings Farm & Museum offers a unique and interactive way to see a working farm, as well as to learn about Vermont’s farming heritage. (Vermont has the largest number of cows per person in the country.)
Hop on the Vermont Cheese Trail and visit several cheese farms in one afternoon. The sharp cheddar is legendary, but award-winning artisanal Gouda, feta and other varieties are also being churned out these days. With its over-the-top fun (think tie-dye and the “flavor graveyard” out back), Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in Waterbury offers a one-of-a-kind 30-minute tour.
(Photograph above captures Smuggler's Notch, which offers lots of family-friendly fun.)