USA Radio

Northeast Kingdom

Try counting all the colours of the incredible fall foliage

In 1949, a former U.S. senator from Vermont, struck by the timeless beauty and isolation of his state’s three most northeastern counties (Orleans, Essex and Caledonia), dubbed them the Northeast Kingdom—and when fall’s riotous palette of red, orange, yellow and gold cloaks these hills, it could very well be the most beautiful place in America.

Here, thickly forested hills of sugar maple, beech and ash give way to sleepy hamlets, one-church villages and gorgeous lakes—particularly the fjord-like Lake Willoughby, often compared to Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne. The unofficial gateway to the region is St. Johnsbury (‘St. Jay’s’), where people often stop at the white-steepled Dog Chapel to leave notes and photos of pets they have lost. (A sign out front reads: “Welcome All Creeds All Breeds No Dogmas Allowed.”)

The hill town of Peacham (population 611) is probably Vermont’s finest Kodak corner during foliage season, but keep driving until you get lost, through wide-open valleys of tidy farmlands, where cows outnumber their proudly insular Yankee owners. Harsh winters and sheer isolation have kept development and tourism further south, making these back roads and lanes a paradise for cyclists as well.

For the winter sports enthusiast, the high-country area of historic Craftsbury is home to the well-regarded non-profit Craftsbury Nordic Ski Center, which features a 50-mile system of ski trails, including a stretch of the 300-mile Catamount Trail , the longest cross-country ski trail in the U.S. Summer is no less beautiful a season in these parts. Big Hosmer Pond offers rowing and paddling with miles of trails and dirt roads for biking, walking and running.

In the peaceful time-forgotten village of Lower Waterford (whose population hovers around 50), the Rabbit Hill Inn has a tradition of hospitality dating back to 1795. The Federal-style white-colonnaded inn sits on 15 unspoiled acres with a commanding view of the White Mountains to the south. Its 19 guest rooms are individually decorated (suites have gas fireplaces and two-person whirlpool baths), and dinner is an elegant three-course affair of refined dishes, like agnolotti of braised pheasant and ricotta, followed by herb-crusted Alaskan halibut. Breakfast is every bit as romantic, served by candlelight and as ample as it is scrumptious. Walk it all off on the seven miles of meandering cross-country trails near the inn.

This trip idea can be found in:

1,000 Places to See in the United States & Canada Before You Die®

Trip idea text ©Patricia Schultz. For contact information about the places mentioned and many more USA trip ideas, see Patricia Schultz's blockbuster book.

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