For The Foliage–And The Cheese: Vermont Cheese Trail
Sites: Bennington – Green Mountain National Forest – Plymouth Notch – Plymouth – East Warren – Middlebury – Shelburne Farms – Shelburne Museum – Burlington – Milton – Highgate – Barre – Websterville
This 340-mile trip is all about celebrating the beauty of fall and the taste of cheese because, why not? Take advantage of Vermont’s scenic and billboard-free roads as you calmly wind through the mountains along Route 7. Pass by cheese-makers, historical sites, fantastic museums, and fun Vermont cities and towns all nestled into bright and fiery foliage.
Begin your trip in Bennington, a sweet and picturesque town great for walking and home to wonderful dining and Bennington Pottery. Between the iconic covered bridges, Fallapalooza, and a claim to some of the best foliage sites in the state, Bennington is a worthy starting point.
Next, head north on Route 7, which cuts straight through the Green Mountain National Forest, until turning onto Route 100 north and heading up to Plymouth Notch, the birthplace of former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge. The Coolidge family general store from the 1920s still stands, selling penny candy and other forms of nostalgia. Then zip up to Plymouth to begin your cheese extravaganza at Frog City Cheese, located in the old Coolidge family cheese factory. The original Coolidge recipes are still used to make a unique, yet “old-fashioned, unsophisticated cheese,” according to cheese-maker Tom Gilbert.
Next, to East Warren! Take Route 100 along the Green Mountains and find Three Shepherds of the Mad River Valley. Cow’s and sheep’s milk from valley farms is used to make cheese here. The panoramic view from Mad River Valley is amazing, and from April to October you can sign up for cheese-making classes. Nearby, the Schoolhouse Market has excellent selections for fashioning a picnic.
Around the many turns of Lincoln Gap mountain pass, you’ll venture into Champlain Valley and take Route 7 north to Middlebury, a pretty college town where you’ll find the Vermont State Craft Center. After wandering the streets of Middlebury, move on to Shelburne Farms, an agricultural and environmental educations center. Taste Shelburne Farms’ Gilded-Age pedigree cheddars, see the roaming cows, walk the eight miles of relaxing trails, or even spend an evening at the Inn at Shelburne Farms.
Next, consider visiting the Shelburne Museum, featuring architecturally diverse houses from various eras as well as an astonishing collection of artifacts, folk art, 19th and 20th-century American paintings, and European Impressionism.
Only about 20 minutes away, Burlington, the biggest city in Vermont, is a fun, young town with great food, music, shopping, and views. Walk down pedestrian-only Church Street and check out the Lake Champlain waterfront. By then, you should be ready for a cheese marathon. North of Burlington, you’ll hit Willow Hill Farm in Milton, where they make nine varieties of award-winning cheese.
To the northeast on Route 78 is the low-tech and no frills Green Mountain Blue Cheese creamery of Highgate. Next on the Cheese Trail is Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. in Websterville. This is the last stop on the trip, so thank the goats from the 25 surrounding local farms that gave the milk to make the chèvre, pack your car with cheese, and turn back down the leaf sprinkled road.
For the road trip that doesn’t even require you to leave your couch, check out Vacation on Blu-ray and DVD (available now).