A fall guide to Burlington, VT
Initially, we were planning to go to Seattle and many of the surrounding National Parks this year, but due to some work busyness, pandemic uncertainty, and a desire to save a bit more money than we would by traveling across the country, we decided to opt for somewhere closer to home: Burlington, VT.
Typically, our local camping trips take us up to Acadia National Park, but since we already went this spring, we decided to mix it up. After all, the last time we were in Burlington, our car was breaking down and constantly overheating due to a cracked head gasket (RIP, old Highlander). So, we needed a visit free of car-related stress.
If you’re looking to do some Vermont leaf-peeping this fall, I’ve put together a list of our top stops to help you plan the best possible trip.
Camel’s Hump hike, near Waterbury, VT: Coming in at just under 7 miles round trip (according to the trail marker at the bottom, 6.8 miles to be exact), Camel’s Hump is a fun, moderately challenging day hike. Most of the trail is a relatively gradual incline so, while tiring, you won’t have to scramble. The last stretch to the top gets a bit rockier, but still not scary steep. It was very much accomplishable with the dog too. The view from the top is totally worth it as it provides 360° views of the surrounding Green Mountains (including Vermont’s tallest peak, Mount Mansfield) all the way into Canada.
Crow Books, Burlington, VT: It wouldn’t be a vacation without visiting a local bookstore in my opinion. Crow Books is located right on Church Street in Burlington and offers a great range of both new and used books. The shop is on the smaller side but has a great selection of authors and titles available. The staff recommendation section was well thought out and organized as well. The prices are very reasonable and most of the new books were even about 20% off the regular price. Plus, you can bring the dog inside as long as they’re well-behaved, which made our lives much easier.
Colchester Causeway Trail, Burlington, VT: The Causeway trail is a 3-4 mile stretch of trail that takes you out into the middle of Lake Champlain. It’s truly beautiful. You’ll walk from the parking lot along a wooded trail and eventually emerge at the shoreline before venturing out into the lake. As you walk, the tree coverage on either side of the trail becomes sparser and you’ll get more and more expansive views of the surrounding water and islands. We went for the tail-end of golden hour and sunset and it was magical. Highly recommend.
King Arthur’s Baking Company, Norwich, VT: Okay, I know this isn’t technically a Burlington recommendation, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it since it was one of the highlights of the trip. If your drive takes you near Norwich, definitely make a stop. The store is filled with every imaginable baking pan and supply you could want, plus there’s a full bakery cafe that’s worth a stop even just for a snack (I got a rye sea salt brownie and I’m still thinking about it). If you’re a baker or looking for gifts for a baker in your life, add it to your itinerary.
Nomad, Burlington, VT: Located in a repurposed mill building, Nomad is the type of coffee shop I’d love to set myself up in for a writing day. They had a small patio with picnic tables that’s nice and quiet in the morning and the perfect place to relax and plan your next outing for the day. I got a cappuccino and Marcus got a regular coffee (our usual orders) and both were delicious.
Kestrel, Burlington, VT: Despite our last visit being a blur thanks to our car trouble, we both wanted to return to Kestrel. It’s just about a block away from the edge of Lake Champlain, so grab a cup of coffee and head down to sit by the water for a bit. If you visit in the fall, I highly recommend getting the pumpkin spice latte. Unlike other pumpkin spice lattes, Kestrel’s syrup contains actual pumpkin purée and isn’t overly sweet. It really does taste like fall in a cup.
Carrier Roasting Co., Northfield, VT: Again, I know it’s not actually in Burlington, but if your adventures take you near Northfield, stop in. When we were there in mid/late September, they only had a walk-up counter open, so it’s not a stop-and-linger option, but the coffee was great and worth the slight detour. Like Kestrel, they make their own syrups, so if you enjoy a flavored latte, give one of theirs a try. I got the apple spice latte, which sounds like it wouldn’t work well, but boy did it ever.
Penny Cluse, Burlington, VT: Located on the same side street as an adorable vintage store called the Vault Collective, Penny Cluse would be a great spot for a quick brunch or lunch. Since we had the dog with us, we got takeout and it worked wonderfully. While the restaurant looks like your run-of-the-mill breakfast cafe, the food was delicious and fresh and the menu was varied. We got the coconut rice fish bowl, the chile Relleno plate, and the broccoli caesar (which was probably my favorite part).
Little Gordo Creemee Stand, Burlington, VT: Yes, you should absolutely stop at Ben & Jerry’s while you’re in Burlington, but if soft serve is more your speed, this little creemee stand was such a wonderful surprise. Their list of flavors wasn’t massively long, but it didn’t matter. I got a coffee and maple twist and Marcus got a sweet cream and horchata twist. They were both magical and not overly sweet. Just as an FYI, the stand is only open till mid-to-late September, so catch them on your summer trip or early next fall.
The Great Northern, Burlington, VT: Co-located and co-owned by Zero Gravity Brewing, the Great Northern is a perfect spot for dinner and drinks. Prompted by COVID, they recently expanded their patio to include tons of outdoor seating (that’s all dog friendly if that matters to you). Almost every entrée included their own homemade pickled veggies and offered an inventive twist on a classic dish. We got the dirty fries (with chili aioli, pork, and spicy pickles!), the zucchini ganoush with sourdough pita, and the roasted Amir’s mushrooms (over creamy polenta!). It was all spectacular. The beer was also excellent if you’re looking for a brewery to add to your list.
Foam Brewers, Burlington, VT: A relatively small brewery space, Foam was busy but not overly crowded (though there were about six or seven dogs there when we were, which was honestly a plus). Marcus is more of a beer snob than I am, but even I could recognize that the selection was fantastic and nothing the bartender recommended fell short. We also got a charcuterie board, which was surprisingly great for a place that doesn’t specifically specialize in food. If you sit on the patio, you’ll have a lovely view of Lake Champlain through the trees, which is perfect at sunset.
Four Quarters Brewing, Winooski, VT: If you’re a lover of sour beers, I’d definitely suggest Four Quarters. While their IPAs were not nearly as good as those at Foam or Zero Gravity, their selection of fruitier beers was great. My favorites were the blue raz and the phrenology: peach. While I certainly wouldn’t recommend a full glass, at least try the pickle juice (which includes dill grown in the brewery’s rooftop garden).
Von Trapp Brewing, Stowe, VT: Founded and owned by the youngest Von Trapp son (yes, of Sound of Music fame), Von Trapp Brewing offers a good selection of standard Austrian-style beers. While the beer was enjoyable, the setting is enough to recommend it. Located on a mountainside (just down the road from the Von Trapp Family Lodge), the views are spectacular, especially during fall foliage season. Go, sit, enjoy a beer, and get your fill of fall.
Citizen Cider, Burlington, VT: Not a beer person? Go to Citizen Cider! Again, the patio is dog-friendly and the atmosphere is relaxed, particularly if you’re there on a weekday like we were. Much like you might do at a brewery taproom, I suggest getting a cider flight to maximize your tasting options. Whether you like sweet or dry cider best, they’ll have something to suit your fancy. We did the Cellar Flight and the Fruit Flight because they included the most ciders that we hadn’t already tasted/bought in cans. My favorite was the Companion (with sour cherry juice) and Marcus’s favorite was the B-Cider (aged in honey).
Have you ever been to Vermont? What was your favorite part? What’s your favorite place to visit in the fall? Tell me in the comments!