From Highways to Byways

As carriages of the nineteenth century gave way to automobiles, RVs, bicycles and motorcycles of the twentieth century, Vermont’s scenic, historic highways and backroads have presented visitors with attractive touring routes. Within the last decade, several of the meandering roads created by generations past have received official recognition by the National Scenic Byways Program.

The National Scenic Byways Program is a collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads, based upon state and community assessments of special historic, natural, cultural, scenic, archeological, or recreational resources along that byway. Administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Program “creates a distinctive collection of American roads, their stories and treasured places.”

In this collection of American roads, there are 188 designated byways, throughout 46 US states. Eight of these designated byways are in Vermont. Along all the byways, there are local information resources and services for visitors.

One of Vermont’s five state byways, the Connecticut River Byway, also enjoys federal byway designation. In 2005, the Connecticut River Byway became the first Vermont byway to achieve this national recognition.  Following the Connecticut River from the Massachusetts line to the Canadian border, the route includes 500 miles of two-lane roadways, and winds through 53 communities, located in both Vermont and New Hampshire. Along this byway, visitors will find “Waypoint Centers”providing educational and interpretive information, in addition to visitor services and restroom facilities.

As New England’s longest and most powerful river, the Connecticut was a thoroughfare and fishery for native Abenaki, and early European settlers. A tour along the river evokes the history of the Revolutionary War at Fort No. 4, and the legacy of the water-powered mills dating back to the nineteenth century. The 465-foot Cornish-Windsor covered bridge, connecting Vermont and New Hampshire, is just one of several historic bridges traversing the river.

The Lake Champlain Byway, at 81 miles, is the longest and northernmost of the other cultural, historic, and scenic routes. From south to north, the route includes the communities of Middlebury and Vergennes along US Route 7, passes through Burlington and Winooski, then follows US Route 2 through the Lake Champlain islands to the Canadian border.

Spectacular views of Lake Champlain and the surrounding mountains, as well as recreational opportunities and year-round cultural and community events, can be found along this byway.  The c.1783 Hyde Log Cabin, located at the northern end of the route in Grand Isle, holds the distinction of being one of the first structures built in the region.

The Green Mountain Byway runs through the towns of Waterbury and Stowe on Route 100 in northern Vermont. In addition to views of scenic farmlands, forests, and meadows, Mount Mansfield at the north end of the byway, is Vermont's highest peak. The region is home to several state parks, and is a popular area for year round recreation including, bicycling, skiing, paddling, golf, and hiking. This route is also known for a wealth of cultural attractions and festivals.

In central Vermont, the Mad River Byway incorporates sections of Routes 100, 17 and 100B along the northern-flowing river. Connecting the four villages of the Mad River Valley in the Sugarbush and Mad River Glen region, the route is an expression of classic New England: mountain ridgelines, winding river, hillside farms, steepled villages, period architecture, and covered bridges.

Traversing central Vermont is The Crossroad of Vermont Byway on Route 4 which extends from Hartford to West Rutland. This scenic 50 mile stretch winds through towns and geographic areas defining the diversity of the Vermont landscape. Highlights of the drive include Quechee Gorge, formed 13,000 years ago, numerous quaint villages, and the Killington area which is a mecca for summer and winter recreation enthusiasts. The west section features the historical mining town of West Rutland and the West Rutland Marsh, a 451 acre wetlands popular with bird enthusiasts.

The Scenic Route 100 Byway runs north and south between Pittsfield and Andover. The scenic drive, also known as the Skier's Highway, hosts some of the areas best recreational amenities for both summer and winter enthusiasts. The route includes the highway crossing of the Appalachian Trail, the Killington region and the historic home of President Calvin Coolidge in Plymouth. The Lakes Region nestled in the mountains is a popular place for camping and boating and is not far from Okemo Mountain. This is one of the most scenic drives during foliage season.

The Stone Valley Scenic Byway begins at the intersection of Routes 30 and 7 just north of Manchester, and follows Rte. 30 to Poultney., near the New York border. In addition to the rich agricultural lands along the Mettawee and Poultney rivers, this was also an area of slate and marble production. The route is characterized by dramatic mountain slopes, and includes a section along the eastern shore of the lovely Lake St. Catherine.

The Molly Stark Byway is also known as Vermont’s Heritage Trail. Connecting Brattleboro and Bennington along the historic rolling mountains and hills of southern Vermont via Route 9, the Trail was named after the wife of General John Stark, who led the American revolutionaries to victory over King George III of England in the pivotal 1777 Battle of Bennington.  Following the course of an old turnpike across the spine of the southern Green Mountains, the route traces the path that General Stark and his troops followed on their triumphant march home after the successful battle.

Traveling along roads our ancestors used for generations instills in us a deep connection to the land and the people. Take a ride and experience the stories and rich resources along Vermont’s recognized byways.

For web addresses and contact information for each of these byways,  please see: www.vermont-byways.us.