We planned to go to Vermont for foliage last year but due to COVID restriction, we had to cancel our plan and go to New Hampshire instead. We tried again this year and made it! I reserved a room at the Holiday Inn Club Vacations Mount Ascutney Resort with my annual free night certificate from the IHG credit card; I had to use it or lose it anyway. I booked several dates in early October as the foliage peak varies year to year and the advantage of booking by points or free night certificate is that I can cancel up to a day prior. I started checking the foliage report daily at the Vermont.com website started late September. Unfortunately, that website is updated once a week or so which the foliage peak can pass within a week. I found the Stowe Mountain Cams website to view the live condition to give more data points on deciding when to go. I tried to avoid the weekend to avoid the crowds. Given that, we went on the early morning of Thursday, Oct. 14th and came back the next day afternoon.
We left our house at 6:45 AM and arrived just past 9:30 AM, the first stop was the most photographed farm in Vermont – Sleepy Hollow located in Woodstock. There were around 10 people there when we arrived, some with DSLR cameras and some with their cell phones. My friend, Sokunna, went on Columbus Day weekend and she said it was packed, at least 30 people were at that location! The photos she sent me were mostly green whereas when we got there on Thursday, more colors, especially on the hills. The grass was very green so it made the whole scenery greener than the yellowish/orange fall colors. Surprised that there was a gate with surveillance cameras at the entrance of the road with many “keep out, private property” signs. I don’t blame the owner, I bet many people had transpassing the property! It would be a good business opportunity to charge people a small admission fee to just walk a few feet into the road to get their Instagram shots while helping with the cost of maintaining the road 😉
The S-curve road leading to the farm with colorful trees up on the hill, no wonder it is the most photographed farm in Vermont! Even though it was picturesque but I found it too touristy and hard to take portrait photos since the entrance is blocked by a big gate. Also, from looking at photos on the internet, the first house was red and they painted it white….I guess to be not as photogenic to discourage photographers?
We took a few photos and continued down the road to Maple Grove Farm. On the way, we made a few photo stops. The hills were very golden but not much popping red color.
The roads to the farms were mostly like this, not bad for a view to compensate for the bumpy ride!
We arrived at the Maple Grove Farm and we were the only ones there! We enjoyed this much better than Sleepy Hollow! I love the different colors of the trees here: green, yellow, orange, and a small red tree! The trees on the hill were more vibrant as well.
As with other photogenic farms, “keep out” signs were posted.
We took turns taking photos just before the keep-out sign to be respectful.
After a few photos, we headed back to town to grab lunch. On the way scenary:
Woodstock town center was full of traffic but not too bad so I couldn’t imagine what it was like during the Columbus Day weekend.
We made a quick lunch stop at Woodstock Farmers’ Market to grab sandwiches. I got the roasted beef sandwich for $8.99, it was expensive but the ingredient was fresh and high quality. However, half of it looked not fully cooked so I couldn’t finish it. Jason ordered a small box of salmon salad which cost around the same. It tasted very salmon fishy so not what I like. It was only noon and since the weather forecast said mostly cloudy whereas Friday morning would be rainy up at Stowe, we decided to head up to Stowe. It was another 1.5 hours ride, we made a stop at the Maplewood Vermont Travelers Service Center on exit 7 to use the restroom. There was a good selection of sandwiches and made-to-order hot food! I was still hungry so I asked Jason to order me a Philly steak and cheese wrap. It was only $6.99 and tasted so good!
We arrived Stowe and found parking on the street near the famous Stowe Community Church. There were a lot more tourists there than at Woodstock and the town was very busy.
We walked to the back of the church but the angle was not high nor far enough to capture the classic shot so we headed back to our car and continue driving out the town.
We stopped at the Salon Salon parking lot for photos of the church and the hills but the owner/staff there wasn’t happy about it. She kept telling people to move their cars; we were not even blocking traffic yikes! I took two photos and left.
We continued on the famous “Mountain Road” route 108 from Stowe to Jeffersonville which pass through the Smugglers’ Notch State Park, I read that’s one of the most scenic foliage drives in Vermont! The foliage up at Stowe had more reds and vibrant colors.
Enjoying the scenic ride but it started to rain at first so we actually drove the road a few times! The trees along the road were mostly golden and orange; not much red and many leaves had fallen. We were past the peak but nevertheless beautiful.
Also, we made a stop at the Stowe Gondola Station since it was quite colorful there.
Afterward, we headed back to Woodstock; it was a long day of driving for Jason!
We stopped by Angkor Wat Restaurant in Woodstock to pick up our dinner before checking in at the resort. Each main dish was expensive at around $20 per and the menu said they only use local produces and grass-fed Angus beef from the local farm. I ordered my usual Thai dish – Drunken Noodle, I asked for beef instead of chicken/pork which they charged an extra $2. Jason ordered the crispy steak with noodles. What a waste of good-quality beef, if what they claimed is true! They overcooked it, absolutely dry! I can cook better than this, I don’t get how those chefs cooking every day can’t cook right!
Our one-bedroom has a full kitchen, dining area, and living room. It was spacious except for the bathroom. The lighting was dark though even I turned all the lights on.
The bed was okay that I had a decent sleep.
The small bathroom….the shower’s water pressure was low.
The full-sized kitchen and the hotel provided a free small bottle of dish washing soap, laundry detergent, and dryer sheets. There was a laundry room in the building so it was convenient for those really traveling for a longer trip.
The next morning, we got up and ready to leave by 7 AM and made a stop at the Brownsville Butcher & Pantry to get breakfast. We got an egg and cheese breakfast sandwich for $4.99 each which tasted fresh and hot. After the quick bites, we continued our foliage drive to Jenne Road Farm, a 15-minute drive. However, we made a few stops along the way like this wooden bridge and the cute chicken barn.
We arrived at Jenne Road Farm and were surprised that we were the only ones there! As this is a popular photo spot, I was expecting photographers at this time of the day. Lucky us, the sun started to come out of the clouds as well! We took our time to take photos and enjoy the views. A big “private property” sign on the tree but next to it was a bright red donation box LOL. Can I donate a few dollars and step on the property to get the shots???
The rolling hills as the backdrop were quite different than Sleepy Hollow or Maple Grove.
There was an electric fence to keep the animals in as well as private property signs to warn people not to trespass. A lot of photos on the internet were taken from the hill looking back at the farm. As it was fenced off, we stayed on the road and only took photos at those angles.
We still have some time before heading home to avoid the Friday afternoon commute traffic so we did a small detour to route 100 to Plymouth to Woodstock as I read that’s another scenic foliage drive. Also, from looking at Google Maps, there are a few lakes along the route so I was hoping to capture the reflection on the lake types of photos.
We drove to Echo Lake and yes there was reflection! I was so glad that we got some nice reflection photos at this lake and some foliage colors on the hills too!
Continued with our drive to Plymouth and saw the bright colors of the hill so we decided to drive up the road to check it out, it happened to be the Calvin Coolidge Historic Site.
We never heard of this president (we are not history buffs) – our 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, was raised and sworn in here. It has a small carriage museum.
Then we were back to Woodstock so we started our way to head home. Of course, we made a pit stop at the Antique Mall. We have seen a lot of antique stores but nothing like this size, no wonder they call it a “mall”!
The estimated time of arrival was at 1:45 PM so too late for my lunch so I searched a place to eat along the route – Buba Noodle Bar at Manchester, NH. It was quite popular that it was completely full on Friday lunchtime, we waited a bit for our table. I ordered the set lunch for $15 which includes a small appetizer (I choose the pork belly bao, normally cost $11 for 2 baos) and spicy miso ramen for an extra $3. Jason ordered the tantamen ramen for $15.50. The pork belly was flavorful and the bao (bun) was soft. Both ramens were surprisingly good; the broths were very rich and flavorful! I do like the tantamen ramen more as it’s spicier and the grounded chicken was very tender so Jason and I switched our ramens 🙂 I wish Vermont has good Asian food like this!
Overall, the foliage at Vermont wasn’t the best this year and it didn’t last long compared to other years. I heard that foliage at New Hampshire was better this year than Vermont….guess we are not lucky. However, I do enjoy Vermont more as it has many picturesque farms and hills as backdrops than New Hampshire. I think the Woodstock area is the prettiest with those photogenic farms. Stowe has more vibrant colors but not as many places to stop to take photos. Echo Lake was a surprise found! I am so glad that we made this trip, finally, after living so many years in New England, I get to travel locally to photograph the infamous foliage that tourists flock to New England each year for it 🙂