An Epic Vermont Road Trip on Scenic Route 100
By Tara Schatz
The Green Mountain State of Vermont is about as New England as you can get, with its quaint mountain villages, incredible recreation opportunities, and secret back roads. Route 100 runs right through the center of the state, from north to south. At 216.6 miles, it is Vermont’s longest state highway, and it’s also one of the prettiest. Yankee Magazine named route 100 one of the best summer road trips in New England, and if you are looking for a perfect Vermont road trip, the Scenic Route 100 Byway is definitely a good place to start.
From pristine mountain lakes and secret swimming holes to rugged hiking trails and quiet campgrounds, the Green Mountains are a little slice of heaven for outdoor adventurers. Plus, it’s only 4 hours from Escape’s camper van rental site in New York. Here’s a fabulous 4-day itinerary through Vermont’s Green Mountains, including some awesome spots to pitch your tent or park your van for the night.
Wilmington is the first good size town you’ll come to when heading north into Vermont on route 100. With just over 2,000 residents, it’s actually a tiny village, but it’s got a lovely, walkable Main Street with some top-notch restaurants — definitely check out Dot’s for breakfast or the Cask and Kiln for dinner. Just south of the village is the beautiful Lake Whitingham, which is surrounded by mountains. It’s awesome for swimming, sailing, and fishing — there’s a nude beach too — just ask the locals if you’re interested. The lake is eight miles long with more than 28 miles of undeveloped shoreline and several designated swimming and picnicking spots. Wilmington is definitely one of our favorite Vermont towns. For more on what to see and do, check out my complete guide to Wilmington, Vermont.
Where to camp: For hiking and camping near Wilmington, head east for a few miles on route 9 to Molly Stark State Park. Here you will find a quiet and wooded campground with private sites, hot showers, and a nice trail to the top of Mt. Olga (1.5-mile loop).
Ludlow and Okemo Mountain
Ludlow is a small mountain resort town with beautiful scenery and some unique shops and restaurants. I definitely recommend stopping for lunch at the Downtown Grocery before heading to Okemo Mountain Resort for a little adventure. While Okemo is one of the top family ski resorts in the northeast, it’s got plenty going on in the summer and fall, too. Check out the sweet views from the chairlift, ride the Timber Ripper Mountain Coaster, and explore the Haulback Challenge Course through the treetops.
Where to Camp: After leaving Okemo and heading north, you will come to the town of Plymouth Notch. Head east on route 100A into the mountains and set up camp in Vermont’s largest State Park. Coolidge State Park is named after president Calvin Coolidge, who lived nearby. The campsites in Coolidge State Park provide some dramatic views of the surrounding mountains, and there are miles and miles of trails to explore in the 21,500 acres of forest.
Long Trail Brewing Company, Bridgewater Corners
Just 10 minutes north on route 100A is the famous Long Trail Brewing Company. The quaint riverside pub and restaurant is a fantastic place to relax after a day of hiking and exploring. If you’re just passing through, stop in and pick up some local craft brews to enjoy at camp.
Tweed River Tubing, Stockbridge
After your brewery stop, you will have to head west on route 4 to join back up with 100 north. You’ll drive through the towns of Killington and Pittsfield while meandering along the White River. Just past Pittsfield is Tweed River Tubing. They provide tube rentals for floating down an awesome stretch of the White/Tweed Rivers, as well as a shuttle service to bring you back to your car. The river can get low in really dry spells, but if it’s high enough, it makes for a refreshing way to spend an afternoon.
Moss Glen Falls, Granville
More of a roadside attraction than anything else, Moss Glen Falls is one of the prettiest waterfalls in Vermont. Because it’s located right off route 100, it will only take a few minutes to check it out. Snap a few photos or stay for a picnic — you won’t regret it.
Where to camp: This is a particularly scenic part of route 100. There are lots and lots of beautiful towns and villages to explore. If you can make it north to Waterbury today, I definitely recommend camping at Little River State Park. The campground is nestled on the shores of the Waterbury Reservoir, which is an awesome lake to paddle (canoe and kayaks are available to rent). Little River is also our very favorite Vermont state park for families.
Stowe Mountain Resort Auto Toll Road
You can hike to the top of Vermont’s highest mountain via several trails, but if you don’t have time for an all-day hike, consider the auto toll road at Stowe Mountain Resort. The road takes you to the top of Mt. Mansfield (the nose), where you’ll have stunning views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks in New York. From the nose, you can hike along the ridge of the mountain to the chin (2.8 miles round trip), which is the highest point in Vermont (4,395 feet).
Alchemist Beer – Brewery and Visitor Center, Stowe
You can’t visit Vermont without trying New England’s most famous beer — the Alchemist’s Heady Topper. The brewery and visitor center is located on Cottage Club Road in the village of Stowe. You will likely meet fellow road trippers in the parking lot — people come from near and far to stock up on the local brews. You are usually limited to 6 four packs of any variety.
Where to Camp: After taking in the views and sipping on some brews, drive north on route 100 to route 12 south in Morrisville. After 4 miles, you’ll come to Elmore State Park, a gorgeous spot to lay your head, but also to swim and hike. There’s a large, sandy beach and several trails that lead to the top of Elmore Mountain (2,608 feet) and a fire tower. 44 tent/RV sites can be reserved in advance.
This little road trip is perfect for a long weekend. If four days isn’t enough, you can continue north to the town of Newport and the Northeast Kingdom for more Vermont adventures. Otherwise, hop on Interstate 89 just south of Stowe, which will take you to points south.
Tara is a freelance writer and travel blogger with a passion for outdoor adventures. She currently blogs at Back Road Ramblers, where she shares travel tips, adventure destinations, and family vacation ideas for the wanderer in everyone. Her goal is to help people connect with the world and each other by stepping out their front door and embarking on journeys big and small.