If you’ve never been to the Green Mountain National Forest of Vermont, you’re really missing out – here’s why.
Every year millions of people all over the world look forward to fall to watch the leaves change color – there is no better place to see this happen on the planet than Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest.
I have traveled the world in search of the best fall color and have seen spectacular foliage displays in epic places like the Great Smoky Mountains, Voyageurs, Acadia, Lake Huron, Utah’s Fish Lake, Kyoto, and so many more.
To this day I have never seen anything come close to what you can find in the Green Mountain National Forest of Vermont.
With that being said, there is a lot more to see and do in the Green Mountains than just watch the leaves change color.
In this article I’ll detail everything you need to know about seeing peak Fall foliage in the Green Mountains plus all sorts of other great tips and tricks for visiting this special part of planet earth.
Ready? Let the leaf peeping begin!
About My Travels to the Green Mountain National Forest
My latest trip to the Green Mountains was in early October of 2021 to try and catch the peak fall foliage in Vermont. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.
Each year I try to travel somewhere new to watch the leaves change and while Vermont was always on my list it had not yet come up for one reason or another.
Given my line of work, filming national parks and national forests for a living, sometimes the places choose me rather than me choosing the places.
For this trip I rented a car and drove up from New York to spend a week in the Green Mountains. Along the way I tried to stop off at all of the major towns and cities with a goal to rate the best areas of fall color and eat as many things maple as possible.
Green Mountain National Forest
About the Green Mountain National Forest
Situated in the heart of Vermont, the Green Mountain National Forest is a vast land of hardwood forests, beautifully carved by glaciers with the most spectacular displays of fall foliage in the world.
This forest is a veritable maple capital of the world with the purest and tastiest maple syrup on the planet. The landscape, while striking, is dotted with quaint and beautiful homes.
Here you’ll find wonderful nature, friendly folks, and a reverence for the natural world. While visiting, please be respectful of this treasure of a forest.
The Green Mountains also boast an massive amount of great recreational opportunities, many of which you cannot find in the National Parks.
Green Mountains Recreational Opportunities
- Mountain Biking
- Cross Country & Downhill Skiing
- Boating (kayaking, canoeing, motors, etc)
- and so much more
Things to Know Before You Visit the Green Mountains
Map: We used this one.
Guide: This one was great for hikes.
Entrance Fees: There are no entrance fees to get into the Green Mountain National Forest. This is pretty typical for national forests. Some areas are designated fee areas but by and large no fees are required here.
If you’d like to be on the safe side you can purchase the America the Beautiful Pass (which can be found at the entrance gates to most national parks or online here). This pass gets you into all National Parks, Forests, Monuments, and more including 2,000 sites for free after a one time $79 fee (annual pass).
Fire Safety: Keeping the Green Mountain pristine is easier than you think and it starts with fire safety. Fireworks are never a good idea on National Forests as they routinely start blazes. Be sure to check with the forest’s official page to learn more about current fire restrictions.
Visit with Respect: We need to keep this forest pristine. Make sure you’re prepared for this experience, including practicing Leave No Trace principles, how to backcountry camp, fire safety and more.
Sunscreen: For many of us visiting national forests in the summer means lots of sun. Seriously, some of these parks can zap you if you don’t wear sunscreen. We happen to like this one because it works AND it’s not full of a bunch of chemicals.
Insect Repellent: You hope not to need it, but you want to have it. We typically bring an Eco-Friendly Insect Repellent with us just in case.
CAUTION: Vermont is a hot spot for ticks carrying Lyme disease. Be sure to take proper precautions when hiking through the forests. Summer is *the* month for ticks so come prepared. I recommend this tick spray that worked great for us.
Dogs are allowed in national forests including the Green Mountain.
Details About the Green Mountain National Forest
Closest Cities: Manchester, Middlebury, Lincoln, Warren, Stowe, Burlington, more
Established: April 25, 1932
Size: 400,000 acres
Native Land: Abenaki, Mohican
Entrance Fees: Free
Green Mountain National Forest Map
Where is the Green Mountain National Forest?
The Green Mountain National Forest is located in southern and central Vermont and split up into two parts and two ranger districts.
Green Mountain Ranger Districts
- Rochester Ranger District
- Manchester Ranger District
Getting to Green Mountain National Forest – Directions & Location
The Green Mountain National Forest’s location in Vermont makes getting to the forest relatively easy with lots of options including simply driving from a surrounding area or flying into any number of nearby airports.
Closest Airport: BTV – Burlington International Airport (30 miles from the north half of Green Mountain)
Other Airports: Albany International Airport (ALB) is located just 45 miles southwest from the south half of the Green Mountain. Alternatively you could easily fly into another major airport like Boston, NYC airports (JFK & LGA), and drive a few hours to the forest.
The best way to get to the Green Mountain is typically flying into Burlington (BTV), renting a car, and driving to the forest.
Depending on which part of the forest you are trying to visit will determine the drive time but typically somewhere from 1 hour (north half) to 2.5 hours (south half) depending on which part of the forest you’re headed to.
Green Mountain National Forest Video
The idea behind this film was to give folks a breathtaking and deliberately slow look at the Green Mountain National Forest during peak fall foliage.
This film is a deviation from our traditional 3-5 minute series on national parks and forests. The reason we chose to release this film in a 10+ minute version is that we wanted folks to be able to slowly take in the views at a relaxed pace.
We may, in the future, release a version more fitting of our typical style of film.
Seasons & Weather
The Green Mountain National Forest sees four distinct seasons – a vibrant spring, warm summer, gorgeous fall, and snowy winter.
Best Time to Visit the Green Mountains
The best time to visit the Green Mountain National Forest is during Fall when the forest explodes with kaleidoscopic fall foliage.
The Green Mountains are a world renowned fall destination so be prepared for lines.
When is Peak Fall Foliage in Vermont?
With the effects of climate change becoming greater each year it is becoming harder to predict when peak fall foliage will hit Vermont. For the Green Mountains, I recommend visiting between early to mid October for the peak fall foliage in Vermont.
Planning for the 8th – 14th of October should be just about right.
As a rule of thumb, it’s better to get there too early when there are green leaves still on trees than too late when there are no leaves on trees.
Green Mountains Seasons
Spring on the Green Mountain National Forest
Spring is a great time to visit the Green Mountains as temperatures are cool to cold, crowds are down but increasing, and the deciduous parts of the forest (most of it) come back to life.
As a rule of thumb, the later into Spring the better the weather will be which means more access to forest recreational opportunities.
Summer on the Green Mountain National Forest
Summer is a great season to visit the Green Mountain National Forest. Temperatures range from warm to downright hot so make sure to pack and dress accordingly.
Summer is a popular time to visit the forest so crowds will be up but still nowhere close to what you will see in the fall.
CAUTION: Vermont is a hot spot for ticks carrying Lyme disease. Be sure to take proper precautions when hiking through the forests. Summer is *the* month for ticks so come prepared. I recommend this tick spray that worked great for me.
Fall on the Green Mountain National Forest
Fall is the best time of year to visit the Green Mountain National Forest. Crowds are up during the fall but the autumn foliage is world-class.
All of the second-growth hardwoods make for a spectacular display sure to delight the leaf peeper in all of us.
Winter on the Green Mountain National Forest
Winter is cold and snowy on the Green Mountain National Forest. If you love winter sports then you can find plenty of great winter recreation opportunities all over the forest.
While fall is beautiful, winter is where the fun really begins.
Winter recreational activities include:
- Downhill skiing
- Cross Country Skiing
Best Things to Do On The Green Mountain National Forest During Fall
1. Smugglers Notch
Smugglers Notch is probably the most scenic place on the forest (and the world for that matter) to soak in jaw-dropping fall foliage. Every square inch of this area is drenched in spectacular colors.
The best time to visit Smugglers Notch is early in the morning around sunrise before traffic consumes the area. The top of the notch narrows traffic to one passable lane which creates some epic traffic jams.
Why It’s Called Smugglers Notch
According to the Vermont Historical Society notch got it’s name during the War of 1812 when smugglers used the pass to smuggle goods and material between the US and Canada. The passageway is chocked full of massive boulders that were convenient to hide behind.
NOTE: The notch road closes seasonally in winter.
2. Middlebury Gap
Middlebury Gap is one of the best places to see Vermont’s fall color at it’s finest. The gap itself refers to the area between Middlebury and Hancock.
Luckily for motorists, Highway 125 spans the entire length of Middlebury Gap giving tourists prime viewing opportunities.
3. Appalachian Gap at Buels Gore
Technically this area is located just north of the south half of the Green Mountain National Forest. Nonetheless it is a striking place to see fall foliage.
The windy road that leads through Appalachian Gap is quite scenic and provides access to the excellent autumn scenery. Note the small pond near the top of the gap.
At the top of the gap itself is a great viewpoint (one of very few on the forest).
4. Route 100
There are many incredible drives through the Green Mountain National Forest. Of them, Highway 100 is a stand out for exceptional fall viewing.
Mountains pop up on either side of the road throughout the drive along with vast hardwood forests full of color in the fall.
5. Stop In A Scenic Town or Two, Like Stowe
Vermont is chocked full of beautiful and quaint New England towns and cities. These places are equal parts charming and beautiful. Some that I recommend seeing are:
6. The Vermont Country Store
Located right on the border of the northeast corner of the south half of Green Mountain National Forest is an absolute must stop for everyone visiting the area – the legendary Vermont Country Store.
This store is world-famous for it’s quality goods and maple everything. Maple syrup, maple candies, maple candles (we bought one) – if you can add maple to it, it’s in there.
Right next to the store itself is an ice cream shop (also run by the Vermont Country Store) that sells “maple creemees”. Call me a maple nut but it’s probably the best ice cream I’ve ever had.
Make sure to route to the original store in Weston, Vermont to see the store in it’s full splendor.
7. Warren Falls
Another great roadside stop is Texas Falls located off Highway 125 near Middlebury Gap. This series of cascading waterfalls is a peaceful pause on your trip.
There are several great trails in the area that loop around the falls following Hancock Branch Creek. This area is chocked full of incredible foliage as well.
Where to Stay – Camping & Lodging
The Green Mountain is home to a host developed campgrounds, dispersed camping, as well as cabins for rent.
- Chittenden Brook Campground
- Moosalamoo National Recreation Area
- Moosalamoo Campground
- Silver Lake Campground
For dispersed camping options visit the USFS dispersed camping page.
For more about camping on the Green Mountain National Forest visit the USFS camping page.
Lodging in the Green Mountains
I recommend camping on this spectacular forest. If you’re set on staying inside a hotel with all of the creature comforts, I recommend the towns of:
Stowe, Burlington, Middlebury, Killington, Warren, Manchester, & Rutland (there are so many more).
Driving the Green Mountains
Driving on the Green Mountains National Forest is a breeze as the roads are pretty much all paved. Some roads are dirt and gravel but by for the most part driving conditions are great.
That does change however in Winter, when roads conditions can be dangerous. Despite regular plowing this area sees a lot of snow and ice so be please be careful.
Photos of Green Mountain National Forest.
- Acadia National Park
- White Mountain National Forest
- Finger Lakes National Forest
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Summary | Leave us a Comment!
That’s a wrap folks! Hopefully you feel like you’ve got a good handle on your next trip to the Green Mountain National Forest. Please leave me a comment below and let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Hope to see you on the trails sometime soon!