Fall Foliage in Vermont is more than just a season; it's a full-on experience. A mesmerizing display of vivid oranges, fiery reds, and sunlit yellows stretch as far as the eye can see, painting the canvas of the Green Mountain state. But where does one start to explore this autumnal wonderland? Enter Basin Harbor Resort, your ideal fall foliage basecamp.
Nestled amongst the serene shores of Lake Champlain, it's not just a luxurious lakefront haven but also your gateway to thrilling hikes, mouthwatering culinary delights, and that rejuvenating crisp, autumn air. Dive in to discover a Vermont adventure that promises memories and stories as vibrant as the foliage.
|Day 1||Basin Harbor | Button Bay Trail | Snake Mountain|
|Day 2||Mt. Philo | Shelburne Bay | Burlington OR Camel's Hump|
|Day 3||Adirondack State Park|
Morning: After a relaxing night’s sleep at your lakefront cottage hideaway, you’ll be rested and ready for an early (yet leisurely) morning hike along the Button Bay trail. Following past the golf course, this 2+ mile excursion will bring you through vibrant forest trails to Button Bay Point where dramatic views of Lake Champlain and the foliage across the lake await. There are many opportunities to extend your morning hike with loops and trails leading throughout Basin Harbor’s stunning 700-acre property.
Once you make your way back to the cottage, it’s time to fuel up for breakfast/brunch at the unbelievable Ardelia’s breakfast buffet. Like everything at Basin Harbor, this buffet is comprised of quality ingredients and perfect presentation. We were particularly partial to the whipped ricotta crepes (with caramelized bananas!) and the chef-carved sea salt & maple candied bacon station. What a way to start the day!
Afternoon: After breakfast, it’s time for the second hike of the day (we have to burn off those crepe calories somehow). Twenty minutes down the road (we suggest taking Jersey Street to really capitalize on those Autumn views) in nearby Addison, VT, you’ll find Snake Mountain. Pay no attention to the name, we’ve yet to spot a snake while hiking here, instead, you’ll find peaceful wooded trails and sweeping summit views. There are several routes to choose from, but we suggest the West Trail to Hotel Overlook.
A four-mile out-and-back hike (~2.5 hours round trip), the trail up is moderately rated with one or two steeper areas, but primarily consisting of gradual and consistent elevation gains. As the name suggests, there was a stunning hotel at the top of the mountain at one point, but a fire in the mid-1920s left just the large foundation behind. This foundation is the perfect spot for a picnic or water break as there are many nooks and crannies to lean against and rest up for the hike back down. The views here are stunning and endless, as you look out onto Lake Champlain, local farmlands, and the Adirondacks below.
Post hike, it's time to hit the charming streets of Vergennes. Head back north (this time taking VT22-A) and you’ll find quaint village shops and delicious eateries around the central town green. Take a breather and dig into the culinary wonders at Vergennes Laundry. Part bakery/part café, with a dash of Montreal flair and French gourmet tradition. We usually like to give a specific recommendation on what to order, but quite honestly everything here is next-level delicious. Just a few doors up, be sure to visit some excellent boutiques, like The Joy Shop and Malabar, where take-home treasures abound.
Evening: When you’re planning on six hikes in three days, it’s important to take your downtime seriously. Luckily Basin Harbor has all your basecamp needs covered. Dinner reservations are waiting for you at Basin Harbor’s Red Mill, a renovated sawmill serving up local comfort foods, cold beers, and excellent cocktails. After dinner, you’ll find movie nights, bonfires, or calming lakefront strolls before hitting the hay for a great night's sleep.
Morning: A leisurely morning awaits, as you either grab a hot coffee and breakfast sandwich from Basin Habror’s Breezeway Cafe or hit up the breakfast buffet for round two (with all the options they have to choose from, there’s no way to have tried them all in just one go!).
After squaring away breakfast, head up Rt. 7 until you get to Mt. Philo State Park in Charlotte, VT. The perfect hike to start your day, Mt. Philo has several routes to the top, but we’ve always been fond of the Summit Trail from the lower parking lot. While steep in spots, the trail is well maintained and there are many great places to stop, rest, and enjoy being out in nature.
Massive boulders, winding trails, and secret turnoffs are all part of what you’ll find on the lower section of this trail, followed by a quick ascent up steep, yet fun, routes to the summit. Expect this 1.7 mile out and back trail to take roughly an hour and fifteen minutes round trip, but we absolutely suggest budgeting additional time to spend at the top. Long views of Lake Champlain, from beyond Basin Harbor to the south and past Burlington to the north, are always worth the extra time to appreciate.
Afternoon: After taking in Mt. Philo, you’ll continue heading north on Mt. Philo Road, which is particularly stunning this time of year. Winding country roads, with excellent views of Vermont Farmland and fall foliage can be found everywhere you look as you make your way to Philo Ridge Farm for an early lunch.
This 400-acre sustainable farm, cafe, and restaurant is one of our absolute favorite stops in the entire state, as their attention to detail and quality is top-notch. Farm-fresh, seasonal ingredients make the sandwiches, salads, and soups absolutely mouth-watering, and with the fall bounty recently harvested, you can rest assured that your lunch will be phenomenal.
Following lunch, drive north along Lake Champlain to the Shelburne Bay Loop at Shelburne Bay Park. Following the shores and rising above in dramatic fashion, you’ll find cliff faces looking towards both Burlington and back to the east, small bridges crossing babbling brooks, and gentle woodland paths. This 2.5-mile loop will take approximately an hour to complete, but if you want to continue the adventure, Shelburne Farms is just two minutes away where miles of additional trails can be found.
After hiking along the lake, it’s time to make your way to Burlington where you’ll find the many eclectic shops of Pine Street. We love stopping into The Soda Plant, a small business market collection featuring more than 40 studios, galleries, shops & services. You’ll also want to make a pit stop for a chocolate tasting at Lake Champlain Chocolates - who can resist?
Evening: As the sun sets, you’ll make your way to either Church Street Marketplace (a pedestrian-only street lined with restaurants, shops, galleries, and more) or to Waterfront Park (a Lake Champlain boardwalk with stunning views), for an evening stroll. After getting some air and seeing the sights, it’s time for dinner, and while there are many excellent options to choose from, we love the timeless classic American Flatbread.
Wood-fired pizzas served around multiple hearths, this warm and welcoming atmosphere is just what the end of day two’s adventure called for. All the pies here are excellent but we always seem to gravitate towards Punctuated Equilibrium (kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, fresh rosemary, red onions, Vermont creamery chevre, mozzarella, grana padano, fresh herbs) and Power to the People (chicken, buffalo sauce, red onions, carrots, blue cheese dressing, mozzarella, grana padano, fresh herbs).
Day 2 Alternative: Hinesburg
Now if you’re in the mood to kick things up a notch and really test your hiking mettle, this slightly more aggressive option is up to the challenge.
Morning-Afternoon: Breakfast this morning is at Three Squares Cafe in downtown Vergennes. As the power you need to conquer the peaks, it's best to eat up. Also, grab one of their sandwiches or burritos to-go as a summit meal refuel.
Afterward, you’ll be heading east to Huntington, VT to find the third-highest mountain in the state, Camel’s Hump. Appropriately named as you'll see, Camel’s Hump is a challenging hike and a ton of fun, so bring extra water. A six-mile out-and-back hike, Camel’s Hump will make your legs burn and your heart pound, but the steep path up is packed with scenic lookouts and unique natural features that bring you above the treeline.
The summit scenery is certainly the payoff as on a clear day, the foliage views that await are nothing short of breathtaking. With 360º panoramas, the mountains and the trees below are filled with vibrant reds, oranges, greens, and yellows that would make any painter proud.
Evening: After your four-and-a-half-hour adventure, you’ve earned some well-deserved R&R back at Basin Harbor. Take in the sunset at your cottage and catch up on some reading, make the most out of their hot tubs and pool, or enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail at the Champlain Lounge.
No matter which route you take, be sure to find your way to Ardelia’s for dinner as Chef Chris Bonniver has prepared an unbelievable Fall Dinner Menu. From 24hr Slow Roasted Bone-In Short Rib (charred sweet onion soubise, porcini mushroom, olive oil marcona almond, hakurei turnip, coca nib, and sorrel) to Kabocha Squash Ravioli (brown butter, crispy sage, confit cranberry, caramelized walnuts, salsify, mascarpone cheese, and fig), and Scuttleship Farm Lamb Shank (white beans, garlic sausage, escarole, roasted peppers, preserved lemon, arugula chimichurri, and Lucques olive vinaigrette) - your dinner will be just as sensational as the views from your hike.
Now we know that this is a Vermont-centric guide, but one of the amazing things about having Basin Harbor as your foliage home-base is their proximity to Adirondack State Park.
Morning: After a quick breakfast sammie from Breezeway Cafe, it’s time to head out on a guided tour of the largest park in the United States, which just so happens to be across the lake. A short, scenic boat ride on Basin Harbor's EScape brings you to a cliffside cove where you’ll head out into the park for a hike amongst the pristine landscape. A moderately difficult hike, you can expect winding trails through deep forest paths, and gorgeous fall scenery on this hour-and-a-half day-hike. As you head back across the lake, take in the views of Basin Harbor from this vantage point, as it has welcomed visitors from near and far to enjoy foliage in Vermont for five generations.
Afternoon: It’s time to check out and reflect on the simultaneously relaxing and adventurous time you’ve spent amongst the Green Mountain foliage. From fine dining to mountain-top picnics, casual waterfront strolls to thrilling, heart-pounding expeditions, boutique shopping to hot-tub decompressing - this has been a trip to remember and be proud of.
Fall into Foliage: To book your own Autumn Adventure and enjoy discounted room rates of up to 35% off during most weekdays, make Basin Harbor your Fall Foliage basecamp and find your cottage now.