Over Memorial Day weekend, we were trying to find a road trip destination from our Boston base where heavy rain wasn’t forecasted. As it turned out, central to northern Vermont was lovely and dry, so we decided to head up that direction and explore!
One of our goals was to do some hiking Saturday morning, so we thumbed through our New England Hiking travel book. We looked for “moderate” difficulty hiking trails that were in areas where rain wasn’t forecasted, and decided on the Stowe Pinnacle Trail, which ended up being quite lovely.
We looked for hotels (roughly 4pm on Friday afternoon), and found a place in Stowe, which itself is better known as a winter skiing area, but also has summer mountain hikes around it, and quite a nice atmosphere. We also wanted to spend some time afterwards in Burlington, Vermont, where I had briefly lived years ago.
Getting to Stowe, Vermont
Since we were coming from the Boston area, Stowe was not a short drive, but getting to our hotel at a reasonable hour was definitely doable with a late afternoon departure. If you are coming from Burlington, Vermont, your drive will be much shorter.
- Boston, Massachusetts to Stowe, Vermont: ~3.25 hour
- Waterbury, Vermont to Stowe: ~15 minutes
- Burlington, Vermont to Stowe: ~45 minutes
The Stowe Pinnacle Trailhead
The Stowe Pinnacle Trailhead is located just a 6 minute drive outside of town, on Upper Hollow Road.
If the parking lot is full, we found that there were plenty of people parking along the road.
From there, just follow the signs to Stowe Pinnacle. Anytime we got slightly confused about the route, we found blue spray paint on a tree that marked the correct path.
Enjoy the hike and the views at the top, and then head back down the way you came. There is supposedly a meadow route that can turn the path into a loop, but does add distance and reviews indicate that it really isn’t worth doing.
As Stowe is located in the Green Mountains, you can expect the scenery to be – green. The beginning of the trail will be somewhat rough with roots and rocks, and you will definitely feel like you are hiking through a forest. There will be plenty of shade, and I felt quite peaceful.
Of course if you don’t get an early start or have a longer drive than we had, the crowds might pick up. Fortunately, even though we were hiking on Memorial Day weekend, the crowds weren’t too bad. We did have to park on the street since the parking lot was full, but we didn’t encounter too many people until our trip back down the mountain.
As we hiked, we occasionally heard the creak of a tree trying to stay upright. Since there are quite a few trees blocking the path, you may want to take these sounds seriously and be aware of your surroundings, particularly in the spring or after a storm.
At one point, we came across a teepee. Unfortunately some of the nearby trees were creaking quite significantly, so we simply snapped a picture and kept walking. On a safer day, it looked like a delightful place for young children.
The trail got significantly steeper for a short period of time.
At the top of these rocks, you will get a lovely view!
And if you got an early start, or went on a low crowd day, you should be able to find a spot to sit and enjoy your victory of reaching the top! Of course, if it is super crowded, you might simply be forced to turn around and find a less scenic place to rest.
The way back down is definitely less strenuous, although I wouldn’t call it easy.
Eventually, we made it back to the trailhead. We had a wonderful hike!
After finishing our hike, we found lunch in nearby Waterbury, then went to the Ben and Jerry’s Factory to get some ice cream at their Scoop Shop.
During “normal times,” there are factory tours and some interesting exhibits like a “graveyard” of their discontinued flavors. All that was open was an ice cream shop, where had an employee warning people that the line was 40 minutes long. We decided to skip it, since we were mostly full from lunch anyway.
We then chose to head into the town of Burlington, the largest city in Vermont. First we explored the lively Church Street.
If you happen to be visiting at meal time, this is a great street to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. We were hoping to get our Ben and Jerry’s ice cream there, but again, the line was quite long, so we decided to skip.
So, we headed down to the waterfront, stopping in Battery Park for some lovely views on the way.
At the waterfront, we were planning to walk a ways on the bike path, but since we were quite tired, we simply enjoyed the grass instead.
Not feeling up for more walking, we decided to head for the Lake Champlain islands. I was hoping to see a fun beach area on the way, but most of what we saw from the road were private beaches.
Our oldest really wanted to see the Canadian border (closed due to Covid). We found ourselves maybe 10 minutes away, so we decided to drive by, and then circled around back to the main highway.
It really wasn’t as exciting as we hoped, but it was better than exhausting ourselves with more walking.
Our original plan was to figure out the weather plans and book hotels night by night, but on Friday night, we discovered that Burlington was completely out of hotel rooms for Saturday (I suppose that can happen Memorial Day weekend). So, we decided that spending the night in Vermont’s capital, Montpelier, might be fun!
Our oldest, who is into geography trivia, discovered that Montpelier is the lowest-population US state capital at roughly 7,000 people, and apparently the only US state capital without a McDonalds.
We arrived in time for dinner and enjoyed a lovely meal on the water!