Set in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom – the most rural and undeveloped part of the state – the area around the Passumpsic River in Burke is ideal for foliage viewing. The scenery – postcard-perfect farms; manicured inns; and stately, impossibly large maple trees lining the gravel roads – make it something you want to bottle up and take home to enjoy.
I still remember the first time I came upon Darling Hill Road. At the end of a mountain bike ride on the Kingdom Trails, a 100-mile network that traverses this region, I gasped to catch my breath when I reached this gravel lane – and not only because I was exhausted from riding. The massive maples that line either side of Darling Hill paint an Impressionist canvas during foliage season, when these trees, which have been around for longer than most of us, metamorphose from green to the warm colors of foliage.
Be sure to see the forest through the trees; look beyond your immediate surroundings for an incredible view. To the west you can see the two mountains that make Willoughby Gap – they are distinct by their rounded appearance, separated by a gap featuring steep drops to where Lake Willoughby was carved out by a glacier. Look to the east and you’ll see Burke Mountain with its ski trails, distinct because it is the tallest mountain in the foreground.
The Appalachian Gap is what a transmission’s low gears were made for. Steep, windy, hairpins, you name it – if you love to drive, you’ll love this road.
The “App Gap,” as locals call it, straddles two counties – Chittenden and Washington – and can be accessed by Vermont Route 17. You’ll encounter stretches of 15 percent grades before reaching the top of the gap, where Vermont’s 272-mile Long Trail hiking route crosses the road. On the east side of the gap lies Mad River Glen, a cooperatively owned ski area situated on Stark Mountain that is known for its testing terrain and low-frills environment. On the west are the mountain towns of Bristol and Starksboro.
There’s a parking area at the top of the gap that is a perfect place to pause and enjoy the view. Lake Champlain, our “Great Lake,” lies to the west, flanked by the Adirondack Mountains of New York. At certain times, these mountains appear purple. In foliage season, you can see a virtual rainbow of colors, starting with the purple mountains and progressing with the blue lake and the green, yellow, orange, and red leaves of the surrounding mountainous forest, which includes Camel’s Hump State Park.
Sky Barsch Gleiner is the editor of Vermont Sports magazine. She enjoys travel and outdoors writing, whether she’s trekking in the Himalaya Range, walking on volcanoes in Hawaii, or driving a Subaru in her own beautiful state of Vermont.