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The Vermont Guide to Getting Outside

The Green Mountain State delivers when it comes to year-round outdoor recreation and adventures with a uniquely Vermont spin

Vermont’s forested mountains, picturesque farmlands, and easygoing vibe are everything you need in an outdoor vacation destination. From year-round outdoor recreation no matter how you love to spend time outside to a culture centered on active lifestyles, Vermont checks all the boxes. And because Vermont delivers so much variety in such a compact area, exploring the whole state is very doable (traversing the sixth smallest state from south to north takes about three hours). Whether you pack everything into one trip or plan multiple visits, here are our picks for the best ways to enjoy the outdoors in Vermont.

 

(Photos: Gretchen Powers and Vermont Tourism)

Go Farm Hopping

Vermont has plenty of outdoor adventure beyond its public lands. Many private landowners and family-owned farms welcome visitors year-round to recreate responsibly on their land. 

Summer Adventures

Check out the trails at Shelburne Farms, in northwestern Vermont. The 1,400-acre working farm is a National Historic Landmark where you can hike past fields and through forests to enjoy views of the Green Mountains and the iconic Camel’s Hump to the east as well as Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains to the west. In southern Vermont, visit Hildene, a homestead that once belonged to the Lincoln family. The property was purchased by Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert Todd Lincoln and inhabited by his descendants until 1957. Today guests can hike on the grounds, explore the family gardens, and visit the solar-powered goat farm and cheesery.

For overnight adventures, pitch a tent at a lavender farm in the Northeast Kingdom. Lavender Essentials of Vermont invites tent campers and RVers to stay at campsites on the property. Reserve your spot through Harvest Host, Tentrr, or Hipcamp. Or get a free campsite when you volunteer on the farm. While you’re on the grounds, wander the trails, soak in 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains, and make friends at the farm’s weekly marshmallow roast.

Tip: If exploring on two wheels is more your style, check out the Vermont Mountain Bike Association to learn more about mountain-biking trails throughout the entire state.

Winter Recreation

We aren’t kidding when we say year-round: Vermont has a Winter Farm Trail that maps out 11 farms you can visit on cross-country skis or snowshoes. In southern Vermont, private landowners, including the Cedar Mountain Farm and the Cobb Hill Cohousing eco-village, volunteer together to maintain the Hartland Winter Trails. The system of over 12 miles of trails is open to cross-country skiers and snowshoers.

Sandiwood Farm, in the Northeast Kingdom, invites cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and fat-bikers to the trails on its 80-acre farm. Venture past fields where organic produce, hemp, and flowers grow in the summer. Then warm up by the fire before enjoying the sunset with views of Mount Mansfield. The Sandiwood Farm trails also connect to the four-season Lamoille Valley Rail Trail—one of Vermont’s 18 rail-trail systems. Once completed, the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail will be the longest in New England at 93 miles.

Heidi Gleisman and Emily Johnson Green Mountains, Vermont, USA
We aren’t kidding when we say year-round: Vermont has a Winter Farm Trail that maps out 11 farms you can visit on cross-country skis or snowshoes. (Photo: Vermont Tourism)

Greet the Sun

Vermont is one of the most forested states in the country. For the best sunrise views, get above the trees at a lookout point. Not a fan of predawn hikes? Plan an overnight trip to camp or snag a coveted spot at a trail shelter.

Explore the Northeast Kingdom

In the Northeast Kingdom, the fire lookout at the summit of Bald Mountain offers elevated views of the sprawling forest and lakes below. The 4.2-mile trail begins at the Long Pond Trailhead near the Insta-famous Lake Willoughby (known for its stunning fall colors and climbs to the summit). The historic cabin below the lookout was restored in 2013 by volunteers who hiked building supplies up to the site and is open to campers on a first-come, first-served basis.

Hike in Northwestern Vermont

In Northwestern Vermont, hike the Puffer Cabin Loop to the Puffer Shelter for some of the best views in the region. The 6.9-mile loop starts at the base of Bolton Valley Resort—the highest base lodge in the state at 2,100 feet. From the summit of Bolton Mountain at about 3,650 feet, enjoy expansive views of the surrounding forests. Hikers can stay overnight at the rustic lean-to shelter, which sleeps six, first-come, first-served. The Long Trail, Vermont’s classic thru-hike, connects to the Puffer Cabin Loop, so the shelter may be busy during summer months.

person napping outside in vermont
Vermont is one of the most forested states in the country. For the best views, hike above the trees. (Photo: Vermont Tourism)

Tip: Fall can be a popular time as hikers congregate on trails with the best fall colors. Hiking at sunrise is a surefire way to find solitude, but you can also check out these local recommendations for alternative fall hikes that are just as spectacular.

Get Out on the Water

In the heat of summer, Vermonters punctuate their outdoor adventures with refreshing dips in swimming holes and time on the water at more than 800 lakes across the state. But summer lake life in Vermont has a seamless way of rolling right into fall.

SUP Yoga

Get out on the water with Killington Yoga in southern Vermont for downward dogs on a paddleboard. Classes are offered weekly throughout the summer. In the fall, rent a board and enjoy your own on-the-water flow. Whether you take a class or go the self-guided route, don’t miss taking your paddleboard or kayak for a spin on the 100-acre Woodward Reservoir, surrounded by lush forest.

Fall Colors by the Water

In autumn, Lake Memphremagog’s 75 miles of tree-lined shore are a spectacular place for fall color viewing. Set sail in international waters (the glacial lake straddles the border of Vermont and Québec). Or stay closer to shore and paddle the South Bay of the lake. In a kayak or stand-up paddleboard, you can navigate the shallow water in the bay and even poke around the Black River, which feeds into the lake. This flatwater estuary is sheltered from the wind, so you’ll be able to enjoy time on the water even when the lake gets choppy. 

three people paddle boarding in vermont
You don’t want to miss a chance to take your paddleboard out on the water in Vermont. (Photo: Vermont Tourism)

Themed River Trips

Vermont Canoe & Kayak guides trips with unique themes on the Lamoille River. Pair a paddle with a lesson in all things maple: the 2.5-hour tour takes you to the Vermont Maple Outlet, where you’ll learn about the sugaring process and enjoy sweet treats made on the premises. Families will love the ice cream float, which includes your Ben & Jerry’s flavor of choice to enjoy on the riverbank. Or combine another outdoor adventure with a paddle; Vermont Canoe & Kayak partners with other local guide services to offer half- and full-day river trips that include e-biking, climbing, and hiking.

Appreciate Outdoor Art Installations

Vermont is home to a robust art and craft scene—and since the state is such an amazing place to recreate outdoors, it’s no surprise that art and outdoor recreation go hand in hand here. Vermont is filled with public outdoor art exhibits in an eclectic mix of styles that can be enjoyed year-round.

Tip: Road-trip Vermont’s Scenic Byways, and stop at sculpture gardens and murals that capture your attention. 

Wander Sculpture Gardens

Rent a watercraft to float the Connecticut River to the Path of Life Garden. The 14-acre riverside property features sculptures and botanical art, including a hedge maze. The garden has been an evolving installation since 1997 and is still designed and maintained by the original artist, Terry McDonnell, and his family. Shuttles are available to transport you about five miles upstream so you can enjoy a leisurely morning on the river before reaching the takeout at the sculpture garden.

In central Vermont, the city of Barre is known as the granite capital of the world. The city is home to Smith Quarry, the world’s largest operating granite quarry. With all this local stone, artists have created an art scene that revolves around sculpture. Cruise through town on the official, self-guided Art Stroll, which features 14 stone sculptures by local artists.

smith quarry in vermont
Barre is home to Smith Quarry, the world’s largest operating granite quarry. (Photo: Vermont Tourism)

Tip: Hike, bike, or ski the nearby Millstone Trails for a view of Smith Quarry to get a better idea of just how massive this granite source truly is.

Ski Past Local Art

In the winter, take a self-guided art tour on skis or snowshoes at the Highland Center for the Arts open-air gallery in Greensboro. The 1.8-mile winter trail starts at the center and crosses the neighboring Wilson Herb Farm. Along the way, you’ll pass a variety of installations all created by local Vermont artists.


Vermont’s ever-changing landscape draws outdoor enthusiasts year-round to a place that embraces the idea that life is better when we slow down, look around, and simply take notice. Vermont can inspire, restore, and bring you to a whole new state. Sign up to receive the latest news from the Green Mountains.