Our 3-day itinerary for exploring Stowe and beyond
We took a fall trip to Vermont (and New Hampshire) that exceeded our expectations! If you are a family like ours that loves the outdoors, the mountains, waterfalls, and everything maple-flavored, this is the trip for you! Vermont was just dreamy, and I can’t wait to go back!
We booked this trip to Vermont and NH on a giant whim – after our first hastily-planned trip fell through! Enter my friend, Tara, from the blog Backroad Ramblers. I met Tara on a blogging trip to Marietta, Ohio back in 2017 and we both hit it off as fellow homeschooling moms. During the pandemic, Tara started her own niche site, Vermont Explored. I messaged Tara asking what she would suggest for 3-days in the Stowe, Vermont area. Where could we camp? What hikes could we do with the kids? She wrote back within a few hours and I convinced Mr. Yoder to pick my choice of Vermont over his choice of Michigan.
So here’s what we did on our getaway to Vermont! (We also went to New Hampshire but had 2 days of cold, hard rain. So today, I’m just sharing our 3-day Vermont itinerary in the hopes that it helps you also plan a trip.)
We planned our trip so that we could maximize our time in Vermont. That meant 10.5 hours of driving in one day! Our kids were champions, but to get through the last leg of the trip, we definitely let little Louisa OD on some Bubble Guppies.
We arrived at the Hampton Inn Colchester (north of Burlington), fed the kids some snacks out of the cooler, and got into bed.
Day 1- Burlington, Vermont and camping at Little River State Park
Burlington was a destination that I hadn’t planned to love! When we were originally booking the trip, we were focused on camping, but knew we wouldn’t make it to Vermont in time to set up camp for the night.
Burlington’s location on Lake Champlain makes it such a stunning destination! The view of the lake and the Adirondack Mountains is just breathtaking. The place to take in this view is at the top of Ethan Allen Tower.
Ethan Allen Tower is located in Ethan Allen Park (shock). Not only is this the highest point in Burlington, but the tower also adds an additional 40′ to the view! The hike to the tower is short but steep, and the last bit of the climb requires some mobility over rocks and roots. While I thought Ethan Allen was just the name of a furniture store, it turns out that Ethan Allen was a Revolutionary War Hero who led the Green Mountain Boys and settled in Vermont.
Ethan Allen Park is also home to a nice playground. The kids would have been happy to stay here longer, but Mr. Yoder and I wanted to explore downtown, Burlington.
Burlington, Vermont is the largest city in the state and home to a thriving arts scene and plenty of outdoor pursuits. We walked along the lakefront and then tried to find lunch downtown, but it proved difficult to find a kid-friendly place on a quiet Monday. We ended up at Burlington Bay Market & Cafe. The deck of this sandwich spot overlooks Lake Champlain. It’s an affordable spot for lunch with kids on the fly.
After lunch, we promised the kids a maple creemee! I’d heard about this maple soft-serve cone just about everywhere and I’m never one to turn down ice cream! Talk about an idyllic place to eat an ice cream cone- on the banks of Lake Champlain on an unseasonably warm day!
After our sugar rush, the toddler was melting down, and we decided to head to the campground.
However, once we began our drive, nearly everyone fell asleep in the car, so Mr. Yoder appeased his wife with a 20-minute detour to see downtown Montpelier, America’s smallest state capital- and the only capital city without a McDonald’s! (Save that fact for a future Jeopardy episode).
After that quick pitstop, it was 20 minutes to Little River State Park Campground and our first-time adventure as camping as a family of 6.
We arrived around 4 pm, and it’s a good thing we got there with plenty of daylight! Oye! Our first time unloading a family of 6, setting up the tent, unpacking our air mattresses and sleeping bags, and making dinner was every bit of crazy that we expected.
Little River State Park is located within the Mt. Mansfield State Forest and is the state’s largest campground with approximately 80 campsites. It’s only 15 miles from downtown Stowe but takes approximately 30 minutes to make the drive with the road coming into the campground being a rough, gravel road.
When I booked the Little River State Park campground, there were only two sites left and I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, this was my first time EVER booking a campground. I booked the site that was closest to the playground, but the “playground” turned out to be some old swing poles and a small playhouse. Thankfully, Louisa was smitten with the playhouse, but the big kids were really hoping for something bigger to occupy their time.
Day 2 – Exploring near Stowe, Vermont
After a good night’s sleep, we woke up early the next morning ready to explore the Stowe region.
We began our day just north of Stowe at Bingham Falls. The hike down to the falls is 1/4 mile trail that is rather steep! Good hiking shoes are a must, and this isn’t the place to bring toddlers that aren’t attached to your back. 😉
After working up a sweat, we decided to drive up Smugglers Notch Road. This 3.5-mile Scenic Byway is notably Vermont’s most dramatic road. This area got its name from the smugglers who used this rugged path through the mountains to move supplies to and from Canada during the War of 1812. Now travelers to the area maneuver through a boulder-laced highway to catch a thrill and an amazing view! Unfortunately, the Barnes Camp Visitor Center had no available parking, so we just chose to turn around.
Coming back down the mountain towards Stowe, we were all getting hangry and ready for lunch! We decided to eat out instead of trying to eat the food that we’d packed for camp. Lunch found us dining at Ranch Camp in Stowe. This is a unique dining spot, as the restaurant is also a bicycling shop. We picked it for the beautiful outdoor dining area, which was convenient for letting our rambunctious toddler run around.
After our bellies were full, we traveled just up the road to Percy Corn Maze. Percy Corn Maze is the perfect stop to add to your fall Vermont itinerary! A Corn Maze with a view of the Green Mountains? They don’t make them like this in Ohio! 😉
I would love to say that this corn maze was easy, but we definitely struggled! They said it would take 30-40 minutes and I think we were closer to an hour! Yikes! The boys ran ahead and then went back into the maze to look for us. Don’t ask how that went. I will not be earning Mother of the Year for 2021. Ha!
Day 3 – More fun around Stowe
On the last day of our 3-day Vermont itinerary and we wanted to finish our Stowe Bucket List, but still get back to the campsite fairly early because we’d have to start organizing our items for the morning’s departure to New Hampshire. After a quick breakfast, we headed out to the Cold Hollow Cider Mill for a cider slushie & donuts. The Mill is a great place to shop for local products, especially a wide variety of maple syrup! The boys enjoyed playing a game of corn hole while I played, “chase the toddler.”
I think this is one of those places you have to stop for a taste of Vermont, per se, but if you’re looking for an Ohio alternative I’d recommend Apple Hill Orchards in Ontario for the apple donuts and Hillcrest Orchard in Walnut Creek for their apple cider slushie.
After the sugar rush of the cider mill, the kids were content, so we drove up the road to the Moss Glen Falls hiking area, only a 5-minute drive from Stowe. Moss Glen is located in a beaver habitat, so it was cool for the kids to see trees that were taken down by the resident beavers. Much of the hike is a boardwalk, and the parking lot only holds about 10 cars. There is a port-a-john at the trailhead.
The .25-mile hike leads to this amazing waterfall. Such a beautiful spot! I’d feel comfortable hiking with kids 4 and up here, but any smaller and you would want them attached to you.
After the hike, everyone was hungry (I sense a theme, here) and so we drove down to the Waterbury Reservoir for a picnic. The Reservoir is free if you’re camping at Little River (it’s actually just the other side of the reservoir from the campground). This was a great place to let the kids play and the restrooms were very clean. It was also very empty on a weekday in September.
With bellies full, Mom was singing, “The hills are alivvveeee with the Sounnnddd of Musssiiccc…” (and that was before I’d even had a beer, LOL). Yes, next we traveled to Von Trapp Brewing Bierhall. The Von Trapp family settled in Vermont and eventually built a lodge, but the Brewing Co is a new addition as of 2010.
The bierhall is kid-friendly. We visited on a cloudy, but warm day, so we found a picnic table on the parameter to enjoy our beers. There were lawn games for the kids and they were happy to not be tied down to a table. If you want to eat from the dinner menu, you will have to eat inside or at the outdoor tables that are adjacent to the dining room.
The kids were getting tired and anxious to head back to the campsite, so we decided to make just one more stop in Waterbury Center. This little shopping center just south of Stowe is home to the Cabot Farmer store and Lake Champlain Chocolate Company. We were surprised to find free samples in the Cabot store (yum!) and great prices on our favorite cheeses. Then we walked to Lake Champlain Chocolate Company and tried more local favorites – a maple flavored milkshake and a SAP soda- also made from the sap of maple trees.
At this point, we’d hiked and picnicked, and tried everything from local beer, cheeses, donuts, ciders, slushies, and sodas – that it was time to call it a day! We headed back to our campsite and made a light dinner and s’mores and attempted our first time taking a pay shower. After 3 days of Vermont’s best camping and hiking, we all needed a rinse.
After we tucked the kids into our Coleman tent, Mr. Yoder and I reminisced on the times we spent camping with his parents, and the disbelief he had that it was actually MY idea to take this trip. We’d had perfect weather for camping, the little one had slept better than expected, and we had fallen in love with the Vermont landscape. And then, a skunk walked right through our campsite. Hahaha!!! Ohhhhh, that’s is who went through our trash the night before. Thankfully, he meandered away and we popped in the tent, dozing away in a happy food coma.
3-day Vermont itinerary with kids
For a Google map of all of our stops, check out this link: Map of our 3-day Vermont itinerary.
Want to see our camping gear? We have a full list at Amazon.
Check out more about Little River State Park at Vermont Explored.
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