While Vermont is a popular destination for vacationers, even the natives may not know that some of these special places exist. Sure, a map of Vermont will include the trails, but not the secret turnoffs. They locate towns, but they don’t point out the charming and quintessential aspects of a place telling you
why you don’t want to miss it. From scenery to history to charm, here are 11 hidden gems in Vermont that just may be the perfect destination for your next adventure.
1. Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, Brandon.
It may sound like this is a place for moose and cows, but Moosalamoo is a magical 26,000-acre paradise. Sure there is wildlife here, but the forested hills and valleys are a hiker’s dream with their many well marked trails and wonderful overlooks of the mountains and the Champlain Valley. Make the most of your hikes and take in the ponds, lakes and waterfalls. Enjoy the solitude as the area rarely gets overcrowded.
2. Common Road in the Mad River Valley, Waitsfield.
This road provides quintessential views of Vermont and includes farmlands, quaint villages, barns, covered bridges, horses, cows and of course mountain views including Camel’s Hump, Sugarbush and Mad River Glen. It is so beautiful that a marathon, The Mad Marathon, was designed just to bring people here to appreciate all of Vermont’s beauty all rolled into one course. Mad River Glen – Ski it if you can? Try RUN it if you can.
3. Hogback Mountain, Goshen.
If you want to get high (not that kind of high!), take the athletic way and hike up to the summit of Hogback Mountain which offers dazzling views of the Adirondacks. Pack a lunch and soak up the scenery on an old Shepard’s bench and pick some wild blueberries for dessert if the time is right. The trails here connect to the footpaths of the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area.
4. Ice Castles, Stratton.
Here is a place where man meets nature to create a magical wonderland. The Ice Castles are a collision of ice caves, frozen waterfalls and glaciers, formed into towering archways, caverns and tunnels. You can explore this glacial wonderland by day or by night when lights embedded deep within the ice change to the rhythm of inspiring music.
5. Town of Grafton.
Who says that hidden gems have to be exclusively nature? Not us! This charming town has a creek which meanders through the village and wonderful examples of 19th century architecture create a relaxing southeastern Vermont community. Shops and churches create a relaxing southeastern Vermont community, the perfect getaway for a nostalgic day trip. Extend your visit and stay at the Old Tavern at Grafton, a famous restored 1801 inn with quaint lodging and dining for those in search of staying in quintessential Vermont.
6. Osmore Pond, New Discovery State Park, Peacham.
This gem is far from pulling into a campground and setting up a tent next to your car and using the provided grill. No, Osmore Pond is set in the Groten State Forest and is beyond traditional camping and exploring. It’s pristine, underdeveloped and very quiet. The pond is a distance swimmers dream as there are no motor boats allowed.
The park offers stone fireplaces, log lean-tos, and picnic shelters built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps out of hand hewn logs. Hidden individual picnic spots scattered along the lakeshore giving you a sense of privacy, summer wildflowers, smooth stones and shady woods make the area more of a romantic than rustic destination.
7. Harrington’s View, Bolton.
Sure, we’ve all seen Mount Mansfield as it’s Vermont’s most famous mountain, but not many people have seen a view of it from here. Harrington’s View is located on the Long Trail, America’s oldest long distance hiking trail, and is a little known spot, despite being relatively close to Vermont’s large population centers. This vista provides a unique view of Mount Mansfield from a different and slanted angle. It gives you a feeling of escape despite only being a few miles from the nearest road and is the perfect place for a picnic or even just a beer. A Long Trail beer, of course!
8. Mount Independence, Orwell.
If you’re looking for more history with your scenery, head over to Mount Independence, the site of a Revolutionary War fortress overlooking Lake Champlain and restored Fort Ticonderoga. The area is abundant with hiking trails and archeological finds and depending on what time of the year, you may find yourself surrounded by quiet and solitude, or in the middle of a war reenactment. History junkies will love the several historical reenactments that take place each summer.
9. The Pond Less Traveled in Ripton
Don’t count on all of Vermont’s best hidden treasures to be clearly defined on maps. A local favorite in Ripton is a beaver pond located high in the hills. To get there, you have to drive up Natural Turnpike and then walk, ski, or snowshoe up the Catamount Trail to an unmarked turnoff that leads to the pond. Not far from the Robert Frost Cabin, this spot is truly on the trail less traveled.
10. Ithilel Falls, Johnson.
Ithilel Falls in Johnson is a hidden gem for the lovers of water sports and beach goers alike. Each season brings a different personality of the river; for example, swift in spring, gentle in the summer. For added history to this lovely spot, the falls were once a Class 5 River Rapid, which caused massive flooding in the town of Johnson in 1927. The falls were later blown up by the Civilian Conservation Corps and became a Class 2 Rapid. The famous Long Trail goes over the falls by means of a suspension bridge. For the less daring, there is easy access to get here on a sandy walk with parking access via Hogback Road.
11. Town of Newfane.
It has been said that Mick Jagger may or may not have vacationed here, which is a funny claim to tout. Newfane doesn’t need a celebrity draw to realize why its one of the most photographed areas of Vermont, but this town doesn't feel rushed, trendy or precocious. It is a true Vermont town, validated by being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s perfect for strolling, biking, swimming, and shopping at the country store. It’s a lovely break if you’re nearby skiing at Haystack, Mt. Snow and Stratton Mountains, or visiting a maple sugar house in the spring.
Which of these gems have you been to? Which ones will be added to your bucket list? Let us know!