Adventure Town: 12 Hours in Burlington, Vermont
Across the country, there are certain towns that just make your pulse pound. Towns built by and for adventure seekers. Welcome to Adventure Town #3 of 3. We've got a 12-hour action-packed day ready and waiting for you...
Just east of Burlington, Vermont, lies a lush valley sandwiched between the Green Mountains and Vermont's highest peak (4,393'), Mount Mansfield. Though the towns that surround the valley are small in size, they're huge when it comes to adventure.
In fact, Burlington and its neighboring small towns like Stowe, Bolton, and Waterbury are New England’s mecca for outdoor adventure: skiing, climbing, swimming, hiking, and biking. Drive 30 minutes in pretty much any direction and you're met with winding creeks, gorges, lakes, ravines, and sheer cliff faces. No wonder the Burlington area is a prime destination for adventurers seeking to challenge the elements head on.
With 12 hours on the clock in this Adventure Town, fuel up first at The Bagel on Mountain Road before heading up to Cass’s Gully—accessible not far from one of the main roads in Smuggler’s Notch State Park— will have you using hands and feet to climb at times, but 20 minutes of hard hiking rewards early risers with a panoramic view of the sun peeking over a picturesque mountainscape.
Smuggler's Notch itself, a narrow pass through the Green Mountains that is lined with 1,000-foot cliffs, is nothing to sneeze at. (Locals call it "Smuggs" or "The Notch" for short.) A great way to start off your day before heading to Bingham Falls for a spot of cliff jumping at Bingham Falls.
The falls, a series of cascades that plunge down a narrow gorge before ending in a 30 foot rush of water, are a stunning sight. Before you take the plunge into the round pool below, though, make sure you get advice from a local. Hidden underwater, rocks of varying size and height can wreak havoc with your water landing. But a local guide will know the best ledges from which to take the leap.
Dry off and you'll have just enough time to squeeze in a downhill bike session before lunch. Mountain bike tracks abound in Stowe’s hills, the perfect location for a high-paced tear over creeks and rocks. Rent your ride at At Cochran's Ski Area, you can follow the line of idle chairlifts to hit hidden berms and grooves dug out of the dense wood that covers the slopes.
You'll need to pack in some protein for the afternoon ahead of you, so fill up on burgers, brisket or double fried wings at Prohibition Pig on Main Street in Waterbury before spending the better part of your afternoon gliding through the water at the nearby Waterbury Reservoir.
The 100-foot-deep reservoir covers 850 acres and is a prime local spot for swimming, boating, fishing, and camping. You can rent kayaks, paddle boards and canoes on shore and find your bliss on the water. But don't chill too hard. Rock climbing is next!
Stowe really shows its Adventure Town stripes here, offering up a multitude of cliffs and boulders to scale. Head back to Smuggler's Notch, a local favorite because it offers multi-pitch ice and mixed routes in winter or moderate trad and hard sport routes in the summer. The Notch also has a ton of quality boulders if you'd rather bring the crash pad and climb without ropes.
Petra Cliff is another great climbing option. You'll park in front of an unassuming ranch-style home in Bolton (20 minutes from Stowe) and hike 15 minutes into its backyard. The result of this low effort is a face of schist filled with hexes and nuts--perfect for a quick afternoon session of prime climbing.
Steve and Andrea Charest head up Petra Cliffs Climbing Center & Mountaineering School, and they're happy to provide climbing and mountain-related education and recreation that's accessible to all ages and abilities.
Of course, any proper day in the Burlington area should start and finish with the sun, and finding prime seating for nature's evening light show doesn’t require hours of climbing.
It is truly difficult for photos to do justice to Vermont’s raw appeal. This Adventure Town must be experienced firsthand, the first chance you get.
THE BURLINGTON ADVENTURE PACK
- The Bagel (Stowe) - Tip: The namesake bagels are not to be missed, but be sure to also grab a large cup of Speeder & Earl’s coffee, roasted locally in Burlington.
- Cass’s Gully in Smugglers Notch State Park (Stowe) - Fun Fact: Smugglers Notch was named after smugglers who illegally imported alcohol into the country from Canada during the Prohibition Era.
- Bingham Falls (Stowe) - Tip: Bring a local if you’re thinking about jumping off of some of the higher ledges. Varying water levels can change the safety of certain jumps.
- Cochran's Ski Area (Richmond) - Tip: Before heading to Stowe, rent bikes in Burlington at Outdoor Gear Exchange, right on Church Street downtown.
- Prohibition Pig (Waterbury) - Tip: Try the Prohibition Pig Pro IPA, brewed onsite.
- Waterbury Reservoir (Stowe/Bolton) - Tip: Kayaks, paddle boards and canoes are all available for rent on the reservoir’s shore at Umiak Outfitters. Show up early for the best selection.
- Petra Cliffs Climbing Center & Mountaineering School (Bolton) - Tip: Talk to Andrea Charest about booking a climb — the rock face just happens to be in her backyard.
- Bolton Falls Dam (Bolton) - Tip: Bring your bug spray. The recreation area around Bolton Falls is known to attract swarms of mosquitoes around dusk.
- Piecasso (Stowe) - Tip: The Pablo Pesto pizza is worth writing home about. Vermont isn’t just all maple syrup and mountains… they make a decent pizza pie, too.