Say the words “scenic byway” and you’re likely to think of some of America’s most iconic roads: the historic Route 66 that crosses two-thirds of the country, or the dramatic Highway 1 that meanders down the central coast of California.
But in many states, there are smaller, lesser known byways that comprise the National Scenic Byways Program, a collection of American roads that have been preserved and recognized for their scenic, historical, archaeological, cultural, natural, or recreational resources (the six “intrinsic qualities” that the program is based on).
You haven’t heard of most of them — in fact, few have federal distinction even though they’re funded by the program. States can establish their own scenic byways, and in the Green Mountain State of Vermont (the sixth smallest and second least populous in the country), there are 10 such byways that travel through some of the most stunning views in New England.
When I was putting together the itinerary for my book tour, I knew I needed to put Vermont on the map. So many things about the state intrigued me: the dense greenery, the maple syrup and maple beer, the birthplace of Burton Snowboards, Bernie Sanders (#FeelTheBern!), and the fact that a long-ago generation of my husband’s family hailed from Rutland.
I didn’t even know about the state scenic byways until we crossed the border from the Berkshires into Vermont. We found ourselves first on the Shires of Vermont Byway, then wandered up to Burlington on the Lake Champlain Byway and eventually to Stowe on the Green Mountain Byway.
We passed artsy towns, charming villages, rustic farmhouses, covered bridges, and rolling hills as far and green as the eye could see. The byways of Vermont are as much a destination as they are a means of getting around.
I’m a big believer in hopping off the interstates and getting lost on a road trip. The more twisty, turny, dusty, remote, obscure, and unpaved a road is, the more alive I feel.
There’s a saying out there… some people vacation, while others travel. I’m firmly in the travel camp. I love to explore and see a side of places most people tend to gloss over. To me, finding a jewel of a red barn on a country road in Vermont is just as special as visiting a destination like the Shelburne Museum. I’d even go so far as saying I treasure the journey more than the destination itself.
I love to drive… and drive… and drive, for hours at a time. Let myself zone out on the passing scenery, delight in the local flora and fauna, discover a roadside creemie, crack open a Heady Topper (rated the best beer in the world, no less) while taking in a sunset over Lake Champlain. And when my husband was itching to feel the breeze on his back, he took to the road on his skateboard…
Special thanks to Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing for arranging my complimentary accommodations on this visit. In Burlington, I highly recommend the Lang House on Main Street, a beautiful bed-and-breakfast only minutes from downtown, yet still feels worlds away. The hospitality is top-notch and the breakfast is a real treat for a foodie like myself.
If you love a good adventure, Stowe Mountain Lodge — situated atop the state’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield — is a classy alpine-style lodge with quick access to the slopes in winter and myriads of hiking and biking trails in summer. Don’t miss Cady Hill if you’re into mountain biking! (Followed by an après-ride creemie, of course.)
This post is brought to you by Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that support Garden Betty.