Transform Your Vacation into a Playcation

By Patrick O'Donnell

Discovering and exploring local parks, mountains, villages, lakes or rivers close to home is the Vermont way of life. So it is no wonder that during the summer and fall, our cars and trucks are loaded with road and mountain bikes, kayaks, canoes, and various pieces of recreational equipment on their way to a local trailhead, boat launch or other hidden gem of a place, here in Vermont. Vermonters invite you to play in our backyards; uncover a stunning scenic lookout or a peaceful, solitary spot amid the business of life... adventure is always around the next bend in the road.

Hiking and Walking
Experience Vermont, one step at a time! Our mountains are accessible, with trails that are usually within a very short drive, and our villages are quaint. One of our treasures is America’s oldest long-distance hiking trail, the Long Trail. Whether you enjoy a day hike to one of our many summits, like Wilmington’s Haystack Mountain, or make your way through the whole state, end-to-end, south to north, along the Long Trail, there is perhaps no better way to experience Vermont than on foot, where one can literally stop and smell the wildflowers along the way. From shorter, family-friendly hikes up Mount Philo, located in Charlotte with views of Lake Champlain, to more challenging climbs up Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump with views all over New England and the State of New York, Vermont offers the right hike for whatever one is looking to accomplish. To find hiking on state lands, family-friendly hikes, or inn-to-inn guided hiking tours, see our e-Guide, or visit the website of Vermont State Parks (

You may desire a different sort of path to hike, one that is flat and paved. Take a stroll through any of our Designated Downtowns, many of which have walking tours as well as asphalt recreation paths (see our e-Guide to contact Designated Downtowns). Or travel just outside of a town to walk the acclaimed dirt roads or woods of Vermont. There are plenty of wooded trails that are perfect for easy or moderate day walks, such as Hubbard Park, a 200-acre park not far from downtown Montpelier, with approximately 7 miles of hiking trails, wide dirt roads, two picnic shelters, a soccer and ball field, a small pond, a sledding hill, and a 54-foot stone observation tower.

You want bike friendly? Take a ride in Vermont. Roads, forest trails, urban paths, mountainsides…wherever you prefer to ride, we have the terrain for you. Some of the best road cycling in the nation is along Route 100, and some of the finest mountain biking in the country is in the Northeast Kingdom.

Vermont has hundreds of miles of roads and trails. Whether you crave a gentle, scenic, leisurely ride, a grueling single-track ride, a kid-friendly bike path wandering through a village with shopping stops along the way, hill workouts on mountain access roads, or lift-accessed adrenaline-fueled downhills at ski resorts, our plentiful bike centers, tour operators, bike organizations, resorts, and accommodating lodging options will help guide you along the way.

Try an organized Vermont inn-to-inn bike tour – stay in beautiful, comfortable inns throughout Vermont while cycling some of the most stunning locations in the world. Many touring companies feature inn-to-inn tours in which you ride at your own pace with an engaging leader and enjoy amazing views, fine food, and great lodging. (See our e-Guide for resources on organized biking trips).

All levels of mountain bikers will enjoy the multi-use Kingdom Trails of East Burke. These well-groomed, maintained trails will take you through some of the country’s finest single-track riding through the beautiful Northeast Kingdom of Vermont ( Also, Vermont’s ski resorts are open in the summer and fall, with plenty of recreational activities and mountain bike trails. From the extreme to the mainstream, you can find trails at both alpine resorts and cross-country areas. Check the website of the Vermont Ski Areas Association to find a resort open for biking (

Other mountain biking options include the Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston, just outside of Burlington (, and the bike terrain park for both mountain and BMX bikes at Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center in Grafton. The park includes three terrain loops with jumps, switchbacks, teeter-totters, and a recently finished “Ravine Run," an exciting series of drops, deep turns, and bridges down the side of Grafton Ponds’ steep ravine. The facility also has guided tours, for all levels and abilities (

Vermont is a golfer’s paradise! With a natural landscape well-suited for challenging but very playable courses, and the many ski resorts with famous mountains turned into breathtaking courses, it has never been easier or more fun to play a few rounds in Vermont. The Vermont Golf Association features courses designed by such renowned golf architects as Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones, Sr., Graham Cooke & Associates, and more (

Both ski resort golf courses and public golf courses fare very well in scenery and design. Haystack Golf Club in Wilmington is a Desmond Muirhead designed 6,549 yard, par 72 championship course (; The Okemo Inn in Ludlow offers golf packages (; Stratton Mountain Resort has a championship, 27-hole golf course with a slopeside village (; The Village Green at Stowe is a family condominium resort on the Golf Course in Stowe (; and Sugarbush Resort in Waitsfield is home to a Robert Trent Jones, Sr. golf course (

Fishing is a favorite pastime of visitors and Vermonters alike. As one of the few activities that will engage the passions and interests of everyone from kids to great-grandparents, fishing in Vermont is sometimes challenging, often exciting, and always rewarding, no matter how your catch stacks up. With more than 20 popular species of game and panfish to be found in the lakes, ponds, rivers, and brooks of Vermont, chances are the catch will be just fine.

Take advantage of lessons from a number of local outfitters, or even take part in one of the many competitive, fundraising derbies held on Lake Champlain each year, such as the LCI Father’s Day Fishing Derby, A Vermont Top Ten Event, in June ( Try an Orvis-endorsed fly fishing excursion in Essex at The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort (; pick up a fly rod at the Orvis Manchester Fly Fishing School, situated in the heart of Vermont's Green Mountains, at The Equinox Resort in Manchester Village (; or enjoy private fishing on Lake Champlain when you stay at Charlie’s Northland Lodge on North Hero Island, with discounts available especially for anglers (

Whether you are a novice angler or have experience, fishing in Vermont is truly a special activity for family and friends of any age. Permits are easy to come by as well. Contact the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife for more information (

In Vermont, swimming is cool! Literally - the water of our lakes, rivers quarries and beaches are always refreshing. From beaches to a backyard pond or pool, to jumping off the high cliffs of a deep rock quarry, to the crater-like pools and waterfalls of our mountain-fed rivers. Swimming is a Vermont summertime tradition and one can find great places for swimming almost everywhere in the state.

A popular swimming destination is North Beach in Burlington, open May 1 through October 7  ( Here you can enjoy everything Lake Champlain, Vermont’s largest lake, has to offer. Ask your innkeeper or concierge where you can find other nearby swimming holes and beaches in which to cool off.

Float, paddle, motor, sail, cruise…so many ways to explore, so many options, that suit every mood and budget! Nothing compares to the feeling of being on a boat or personal watercraft: from the thrilling speed of a powerboat or jet ski to exploring coastlines in kayaks and canoes to the wind power of a sailboat, or the simplicity of floating lazily down a river on a tube. Our waters are for enjoying.

Looking to explore the water in a more elegant style? Vermont has cruises as well. The Spirit of Ethan Allen III is a floating restaurant, banquet facility, and cruise ship on Lake Champlain, offering themed dinner cruises such as the Rum, Rasta, and Reggae Dinner Cruise, All That Jazz Dinner Cruise, and the Murder Mystery Dinner Cruise, to name just a few. This cruise takes you on an entertaining adventure like no other ( Vermont Discovery Cruises offers various multi-day and -night vacation cruises aboard The Moonlight Lady, exploring the vast coastlines and interiors of beautiful Lake Champlain from its base in Burlington toward the southern reaches of the lake and even up north into Québec, Canada (

More Outdoor Adventure
Vermont is also a destination for extreme outdoor pursuits: glide through our skies with a parachute on your back, with the fall foliage surrounding you; or climb boulders in Bolton or scale the Notch (Smugglers’ Notch in Jeffersonville). Whether rock climbing, caving, hang gliding, whitewater rafting, or skydiving, Vermont has a thrill-seeking environment for you to chase. Visit the Vermont Outdoor Guide Association for more information and resources to plan an extreme adventure in Vermont (

From cycling to rock climbing, fishing to hiking, and golf to paddling and swimming, Vermont has incredible outdoor opportunities for fun. In our easily accessible state, you could even visit all four corners of Vermont in one day! Imagine what you could find with a little more time. Join us in Vermont this summer and fall for a fun vacation in our incredible state.

Patrick O’Donnell, the travel marketing specialist for the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing, enjoys exploring Vermont’s mountains, waterways, trails and backroads with his family.