When I’m visiting Bristol, Vermont, the small town reminds me of a place out west I’ve never visited, like Park City or Durango.
Historic, flat-roofed buildings with striped awnings and American flags line Main Street, where it’s nearly impossible to miss the gorgeous, dramatic view of Deer Leap mountain in the background.
This Addison County community, which sits at the foot of Deer Leap and Lincoln Gap, is home to about 3,800 residents. Nearby hiking trails, scenic drives, along with restaurants, shops, and inns, make Bristol is obvious choice for a Vermont weekend getaway.
Deer Leap features fantastic views and involves a steep climb in some places. But the rewards are big when you reach the top. Deer Leap also has an interesting story or two behind its name. Native Americans used to hunt deer along the edge of the cliffs, and the deer would leap to their deaths as they were being chased. After the deer had fallen to the ground below, the hunters would then retrieve the carcasses for food. Another a lesser-known tale with more of a Romeo and Juliet twist: two young lovers decided to leap from the cliffs because their parents didn’t approve of their romance. Apparently, the thought behind this story is that the doomed couple said to one another, “Dear, Leap.”
Getting there: Park downtown and walk east on Main Street (away from the traffic light). Take a left on Mountain Street followed by a right on Mountain Terrace. Go right at the fork to stay on Mountain Terrace to reach the trail head.
Sunset Ledge or Mount Abraham
At the top of Lincoln Gap Road (a beautiful scenic drive, by the way), you can choose to hike south or north. Heading south will take you on a 2.2-mile (round-trip) hike on the Long Trail to Sunset Ledge, which offers gorgeous views of the Lake Champlain Valley and Adirondacks. Heading north will take you up the much steeper Mount Abraham (called “Mount Abe” by locals), a 4,017-foot peak that is the fifth highest mountain in Vermont. From Lincoln Gap Road, hike 2.8 miles to reach the summit.
Getting there: From Bristol, take Lincoln Road east to Lincoln Gap Road (Lincoln Gap is about 12 miles from Bristol). Parking is available at the top of Lincoln Gap Road.
Kayaking at Bristol Pond
Bristol Pond is a beautiful spot for kayaking, canoeing, birdwatching, and fishing. The Hogback Mountains sit along the eastern border of Bristol Pond, making the area especially scenic.
Getting there: Take Bristol-Monkton Road north to the Bristol Pond access road, located a few miles north of Main Street.
Where to Stay
Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm
Just outside of Bristol in the tiny town of Starksboro is the Vermont Bed and Breakfast at Russell Young Farm, a beautifully restored 1870s farmhouse that sits on a dirt road overlooking the Green Mountains. Owned and operated by Luke and Carin McCarthy, the inn features three comfortable bedrooms with private bathrooms, a cozy living room with a field stone fireplace, and a front porch with jaw-dropping views. (861 Russell Young Road, Starksboro; 802-453-7026; stayvtbandb.com).
In the heart of downtown Bristol is The Lawrence House, a three-bedroom Victorian bed and breakfast built in 1897. (48 North St., Bristol; 802-453-5709; thelawrencehousebnb.com).
If you need a little more space, Bristol Suites is a good option. Located in the historic Dunshee building, guests can find apartment-style accommodations with fully equipped kitchens. Three-night minimum. (19 Main St., Bristol; 802-453-4065; bristolsuites.com).
Where to Eat
The Bobcat Café & Brewery
This local favorite is the perfect spot to grab a hand-crafted brew with some a tasty grilled flatbread, chicken wings or fish tacos. (5 Main St., Bristol; 802-453-3311; thebobcatcafe.com).
Mary’s Restaurant at Baldwin Creek
Chef Doug Mack was working with local farmers long before farm-to-table dining became stylish. Menu offerings range from local, naturally raised beef, pork, lamb, rabbit, venison, and chicken to delicious vegetarian selections. (1868 North 116 Rd., Bristol; 802-453-2432; innatbaldwincreek.com).
For more information, visit the Addison County Chamber of Commerce at www.addisoncounty.com.