**Updated June 9, 2017**
After a long winter (and rainy spring), I’m looking forward to sticking around the Green Mountain State this summer.
Between January and March, I sometimes question my sanity for living here. But when summer arrives in Vermont, I find it nearly impossible to leave.
If you’re visiting Vermont this summer, you’ll find plenty to do—hiking, biking, festivals, concerts, scenic drives and more. Here are my top 12 picks for places to see and things to do in Vermont this summer.
Hike or Bike at Grafton Ponds in Grafton
Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center is known for cross-country skiing, but it’s also a wonderful spot for mountain biking and hiking. The center, located just outside of Grafton village, includes extensive trails through meadows and woods in southern Vermont. Open seven days a week days a week, rentals at Grafton Ponds are offered on Saturdays and most holiday weekends. Grafton Ponds includes trails from beginner to expert, with the majority being intermediate trails. A beautiful spot in one of Vermont’s prettiest towns.
Getting there: Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center is located on Townshend Road. From Londonderry, follow Rte 11 east to Chester. Turn south on Route 35 and follow to Grafton. Turn right and then left in front of the Grafton Inn. Follow Townshend Road 3/4 mile to Grafton Ponds.
Swim in Lake Willoughby in Westmore
Lake Willoughby in Westmore sits at the base of Mount Pisgah and Mount Hor in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. The lake is more than 300 feet deep with beach access at both ends of the lake along Route 5A. Want to take a hike while you’re there? Trails on Mount Pisgah and Mount Hor offer beautiful views of Vermont’s glorious northern mountains. It’s worth mentioning that Willoughby is the second deepest lake in the state after Lake Champlain.
Getting there: From Interstate 91, take Exit 23 to Route 5 in Lyndonville. Follow Route 5 to Route 5A north to Westmore.
See the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park in Woodstock
The 500-acre Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park is the only national park in Vermont. At the park you’ll find conserved forestland, pastures and trails along Mount Tom. The lower end of the park includes the old residential section of the property, which includes a beautiful mansion and bountiful gardens. Open to the public since 1998, the park seeks to put the idea of conservation stewardship into a modern context, interpreting the idea of place and the ways in which humans can balance natural resource conservation in today’s complicated, unpredictable world.
Getting there: From Woodstock, take Route 12 north. The park’s entrance will be on your left, across from Billings Farm & Museum,
Kick Back at the Snow Farm Vineyard Concert Series in South Hero
Snow Farm Vineyard’s weekly live music series features jazz, bluegrass, classical, swing, and rock. Snow Farm, Vermont’s first commercial grape vineyard and winery, not only makes great wine, but offers an incredible setting in Vermont’s Champlain Islands. Concerts are free and offered every Thursday evening between June and early September. Picnicking starts at 5 p.m., and music is from 6:30 to 8:30. Bring your chairs and blankets, and enjoy music, food, wine, and amazing views of Mount Mansfield and Camels Hump.
Getting there: From Interstate 89, take Exit 17 and head west on Route 2 to South Hero to West Shore Road.
Swim at Bartlett Falls in Bristol
One of the most beautiful places to swim in Vermont is the Bartlett Falls swimming hole, also known as Bristol Falls. Located along the New Haven River off Lincoln Road, Bristol Falls is a dramatic, 15-foot waterfall surrounded by rocks that drops into a deep, misty pool. While the falls are perfect for adventure-seekers, there are some quiet spots nearby along the river – including Circle Current – that perfect for young kids and those of us who like to take it slow.
Getting there: Take Route 116 east in Bristol and turn right on Lincoln Road. Bartlett Falls will be on the right.
Enjoy an Evening Out at Burger Night in Shelburne
Bread and Butter Farm hosts Burger Night on Fridays from 4:30-7:30 p.m. between May and September, drawing between 400-700 people each week. Burger Night includes live music, grass-fed beef, fresh bread and veggies all made at the farm. There’s also a kids parade, led by beloved children’s musician Chris Dorman, whose partner Corie Pierce runs the farm. The wildly popular Burger Night is a perfect, low key way to get out on a Friday night and feel part of a community. (**2019 update: tickets for Burger Night must now be purchased in advance)
Getting there: Take Route 116 to Cheesecake Factory Road in South Burlington. Bread and Butter Farm will be on your left on Leduc Farm Drive (Burger Night parking is across the street from the farm’s driveway).
Drive Up Equinox Skyline Drive in Manchester
Skyline Drive is a 5.2-mile toll road that takes you to the 3,848-foot summit of Mount Equinox. Built in the 1940s, Skyline Drive is the longest, privately-owned paved road in the United States. What’s interesting about the mountain is that it’s owned by monks. Equinox Skyline Drive and about 7,000 acres are owned by the Carthusians, a Roman Catholic monastic order. Shortly before reaching the top, there’s a flat stretch of road where you can see the monastery to the southwest. The views from Equinox, the tallest peak in the Taconic Mountain Range, are panoramic and stunning. Once you reach the top, hike to Lookout Rock for an even better view.
Getting there: From Manchester, take Route 7A south toward Arlington. The entrance to Skyline Drive will be on your right.
Explore the Green Mountain National Forest
The Green Mountain National Forest encompasses more than 400,000 acres in southwestern and central Vermont, forming the largest contiguous public land area in Vermont. The Green Mountain National Forest is home to so many beautiful places, including Hapgood Pond in Peru, White Rocks Cliff Trail in Wallingford, and the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail in Ripton. One of my favorite spots is Lye Brook Falls in Manchester, a 125-foot waterfall—the longest in the state. The hike to Lye Brook Falls is 2.3-mile miles through the Lye Brook Wilderness, a 14,600-acre preserve in the Green Mountain National Forest.
Getting there: To access Lye Brook Falls, drive north on Route 11/30 in Manchester Center and take a right on Richville Road, and left onto East Manchester Road. Glen Road/Lye Brook Service Road will be on your right, just north of the Route 7 overpass.
Bike the Island Line Trail along Lake Champlain
The 14-mile Island Line Trail hugs the shore of Lake Champlain in Burlington and extends past neighborhoods and parks in Colchester before reaching the Colchester-South Hero Causeway. Built in 1900 atop huge marble boulders, the narrow, 2.5-mile Causeway is a raised railbed that crosses Lake Champlain, offering stunning views of the Green Mountains and Adirondacks. During your walk or ride, you’ll often find people fishing, swimming and snorkeling on both sides of the Causeway. Another reason to bike the Island Line Trail is the Bike Ferry, which transports passengers and their bikes across a 200-foot gap in the Causeway near the southern tip of South Hero. For the full experience, start at Oakledge Park in Burlington and head north all the way to the Champlain Islands.
Getting there: From Burlington, take Route 7/Shelburne Road to Flynn Avenue in Burlington. Follow Flynn Avenue to the end, which is the entrance to Oakledge Park.
Visit The Notch and Hike to Sterling Pond in Stowe/Jeffersonville
The Notch along Route 108 between Stowe and Smugglers’ Notch is open to traffic for the season. The Notch has a unique, prehistoric feel with giant boulders, thousand-foot cliffs and thick forests. In the spring, summer and fall, thousands of visitors descend upon the Notch to hike, rock climb and camp. One of the best parts of The Notch in the summer is the 40-minute hike to Sterling Pond, which has been called the highest trout pond in the state. If you’re looking for views, walk around the pond and up to the top of Sterling Lift at Smugglers’ Notch.
Getting there: From Interstate 89, take Exit 10 and travel 10 miles north to Stowe. At the intersection of Routes 100 and 108, take a left on Route 108 and drive past Stowe Mountain Resort before reaching parking for the Notch. Entrance to the Sterling Pond trail is across from the Information Booth.
Eat Dinner at the Arts Riot Truck Stop in Burlington
Every Friday evening from 5 to 10 p.m., locals and visitors head to the Truck Stop, located behind Arts Riot on Pine Street in Burlington to sample pizza, seafood, tacos, burgers, sweets, beer, and hard cider. Featured food trucks include Dolce VT, Lazy Farmer, and more. Enjoy live music and a true taste of Burlington’s local food scene.
Getting there: Arts Riot is located at 400 Pine Street in Burlington, and the Truck Stop event is in the lot behind the building.
Hike or Camp at Groton State Forest in Groton
The 25,000-acre Groton State Forest is the second largest contiguous landholding by the state of Vermont. The area features five separate campgrounds and fishing spots, and is home to Lake Groton, as well as Osmore and Ricker Ponds. A year-round trail section connects most major points of interest in the forest, including Peacham Bog Natural Area, where you’ll find one of the largest bogs in Vermont. While you’re visiting, be sure to hike to Owls Head Mountain, where an old stone fire tower built in 1935 offers outstanding views.
Getting there: From Interstate 89, take Exit 8 in Montpelier. Travel east on Route 2 to Route 232.
What else would you recommend? What are some places or events are you looking forward to this summer in Vermont?