August is the perfect time to plunge into summer in Vermont. How many of these local favorites have you ticked off your bucket list? (Cover photo by Brian Mohr/EmberPhoto)
Ask hardcore skiers what their favorite season is in Vermont and they’ll tell you the winters are great but the summers…sigh...that’s what we live for. Summer means lakes, trails, campfires, festivals, swimming holes, fireworks and a whole lot more. Here’s your checklist, consult our calendar on page 57 and start planning.
1. Plunge into a swimming hole
If there’s one secret that Vermonters guard more carefully than winter powder stashes, it’s summer swimming holes. But we’re willing to share a few of our favorites: Near Sugarbush, just off Route 100, the Mad River plunges through the boulders of Warren Falls. In Bolton, look for the Bolton Potholes, a series of five waterfalls that spill into deep pools below. Stowe’s Bingham Falls, off Route 108, is legendary for its high dive rocks and swimmable pools. And north of Manchester, stop by the Dorset quarries on 7A. The sheer marble cliffs make a perfect diving platform into what looks almost like a natural swimming pool. As always, please be respectul of land owners and private property. www.swimmingholes.org/vt.html.
2. Zip through the forest
Ziplines keep getting faster, longer and yes, even more fun. At Stowe’s dual zipline you can race a friend at speeds of up to 80 miles-per-hour as you fly 130 feet above the forest canopy. After, head over to the Treetop Adventure Course too. Sugarbush, Okemo, Killington and Bromley offer treetop thrills as well. Tickets go from $45 to $186.
3. Take flight.
There is something magical about floating over the Green Mountains from the lofty perch of a hot air balloon. The two
places to do so—and to watch dozens of other balloons take flight—are the Quechee Balloon Festival, June 15-17 or the Stowe Balloon Festival July 6-8 . You can also book your own flights all summer with outfitters located in Swanton, Essex and Quechee.
4. Pick your own.
From June’s strawberries to August’s blueberries to October’s apples, if you name it, you can probably pick it at one of Vermont’s farms. Fill a box, pay by the weight and take the bounty home to freeze, preserve or eat fresh.
5. Spend a night on the Long Trail.
Stretching from Massachusetts to the Canadian border, Vermont’s “footpath in the wilderness” has more than 70 overnight sites including lean-tos and cabins available to anyone. These range from Taft Lodge on Mt. Mansfield (which sleeps up to 24 in bunks) to simple tent platforms. Bring fixings for dinner and your sleeping bag and plan to catch the sunrise in the morning from a mountaintop. Overnights at sites with GMC caretakers cost $5 and are available on a first-come-first-served basis, so bring a tent as a backup.
6. Play a round of disc golf
For an arguably more laid-back variation on golf, grab a few friends, pick up a set of discs (variations on a Frisbee) and check out one of the growing number of disc golf courses around the state. Vermont has some 30 courses, including ones at Okemo, Sugarbush, Bolton Valley, Stowe’s Trapp Family Lodge and Barre’s Millstone Trails. Greens fees are cheap ($5 for the day at Bolton, anyone?) to non-existant and you don’t need a cart or a caddy.
7. Soar over the Greens
If you have never soared silently over the Green Mountains in a glider, you need to. Stowe Soaring and Sugarbush Soaring have gliders that will take you up for stunning views of Vermont and beyond. Short (15 minutes) rides start at just over $100 and Sugarbush Soaring offers lessons and rentals as well.
8. Conquer a gap — or six.
If you think you’re a strong road cyclist, test yourself on some of the most unrelenting climbs in the East. Lincoln Gap features the steepest paved mile in America (from the Sugarbush side) or try the 13-mile, 1,200-foot elevation gain as Route 108 winds over the Greens from Stowe to Smuggler’s Notch. To really put a notch (sic) in your belt, link together the four gaps (Lincoln, Appalachian, Middlebury and Brandon) that make up the “LAMB” ride. If you are a glutton for punishment add in Rochester and Moretown gaps. To join a group, sign up for the Vermont Gran Fondo (June 4) which covers Lincoln, Appalachian, Rochester and Moretown gaps.
9. Picnic at a concert
Vermont turns up the volume each summer with festivals and concerts for every taste. This weekend, Sugarbush will host The Frendly Gathering on June 30. For more classical fare,
pack a picnic dinner and head to one of the concerts put on by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra all over the state or to the Marlboro Music Festival at Marlboro College for world-class chamber music. Trapp Family Lodge’s Music in the Meadow series brings everything from classical to folk music to its high meadows with stunning mountain views.
10. Skim across a lake.
By one count, Vermont has 66 lakes. But if you add in ponds and reservoirs, there are probably a hundred more. Calm, clear waters, undeveloped shores, loons calling—these are all
11. Race to the summit.
The best part about these races to the top? There’s only one hill. On July 14, Killington hosts the Killington Boot Camp Race to the Peak 5K, a run from the Ramshead Base Lodge to the summit’s Peak Lodge. On Aug. 26, the Northeast Delta Dental Race to the Top of Vermont in Stowe is open to riders and runners. Head to Magic Mountain for the Red Line Scramble on July 28. On August 11 and 12, be sure to check out the Smugglers’ Notch Mountain Race and Verticle Challenge, a sky run to the summit of Madonna Peak and a 25K trail run.
12. Follow a Paddler’s Trail
Vermont has trails for skiing, hiking and, yes, even paddling. For an unforgettable experience, paddle and camp out along the Lake Champlain Paddler’s Trail, a 125-mile route that uses a network of lakeshore and island campsites on public and private land on Vermont and New York shores. A guidebook comes with a membership fee in the Lake Champlain Committee. Along the Connecticut River, you’ll find ample camping and wildlife viewing. For an even longer trip, try a portion of the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail, which stretches through waterways of New York (starting in Old Forge), Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Find maps at their website, through the link above.
13. Find a food and wine festival
Channel your inner sommelier at some of Vermont’s summer food and wine events. You’ll find Vermont brews and spirits, farm-fresh fare, award-winning chefs, live tunes and more. This weekend, The Alchemist hosts the B3 Festival Block Party in Stowe. Mark your calendar for Mount Snow and Angry Orchard’s Rock the Roots Festival of cider and music on July 7, Okemo’s 10th Annual Hops in the Hills, Aug. 3-5 and Twiddle’s Tumble Down Festival on July 27-28. But the best place to get a true taste of the best of Vermont’s restaurants, distillers and farms is at the Vermont Fresh Network 21st Annual Forum tasting picnic at Shelburne Farms, Aug. 5.
14. Watch a Farm Ballet.
This is one of those “only-in-Vermont” things you just have to see for yourself. Chatch Pregger, a Vermonter who has trained with the Joffrey and other international ballet companies, created the Farm to Ballet Project in summer of 2015. This year, eight outdoor performances are planned at farms around Vermont, each celebrating local food and farms. For a schedule, visit farmtoballet.org.
This story was first published in May, 2016, and was updated on June 27, 2018.