Essential RV Vermont:
The Ultimate Guide to Adventures
in the Green Mountain State
by Jake Poinier
Vermont is known for its picturesque mountains and the highest maple syrup production in the U.S. (500,000 gallons annually), while its dairy production has helped it garner fame for outstanding cheddar cheese and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. The Green Mountain State has long been an escape for residents of New England’s bigger metro areas—for hiking, biking, and boating in the summer, and skiing and snowboarding in the winter—but it has successfully maintained its quiet, rural vibe. An RV adventure here will confirm what Vermonters already know: Why it consistently ranks among the top states for happiness!
Perched on a hillside, Burlington overlooks Lake Champlain and offers views of New York’s Adirondack Mountains to the west. With a population of about 45,000, Vermont's largest city retains a small-town feel. A browse through the city’s pedestrian-friendly shopping district, known as Church Street Marketplace, greets visitors with ample arts and culture at numerous galleries, studios and events—along with cafés and restaurants that are perfect for people watching as well as grabbing a bite to eat.
The Waterfront Park and Burlington Bike Path are popular for running, cycling, walking, and picnicking, and feature numerous festivals during the warm-weather months. Particularly if you’re on a family RV trip, ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center is a must-see for an understanding of the region’s natural history and geology. Adjacent to the aquarium, Lake Champlain Navy Memorial is located in the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain's Hoehl Park. Lake Champlain itself offers endless opportunities for exploration, stretching for 120 miles along the Vermont–New York border, all the way to Quebec. With a largely undeveloped shoreline, it’s an idyllic scene for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing—or hopping aboard one of the many cruises available.
Atop the hill, you’ll find the picturesque University of Vermont. In addition to touring the campus, the Robert Hull Fleming Museum of Art is worth a stop for its eclectic collections of American, African, European, Ancient Egyptian, and Middle Eastern art, as well as Vermont artists. South of town, notable sights include the open-air Shelburne Museum, which features 39 historic buildings and the historic lake steamer SS Ticonderoga. Wine lovers will want to pay a visit to nearby Shelburne Winery for a tasting and sampling of local cheeses.
Where to Stay: If you want to be right in town, North Beach Campground is right on the lake, with 137 shaded campsites and a sand beach. Additional options just north in Colchester include Malletts Bay Campground and Lone Pine Campsite, both of which have full RV hookups and ample amenities.
Montpelier is the smallest state capital in the U.S., but it’s central to plenty of attractions in the northern part of the state. Constructed in the 1830s, the Vermont State House’s Greek Revival building features Doric columns, ornate furnishings, and an iconic gold leaf dome. It’s well worth a tour, as is Rock of Ages, the world’s largest deep-hole dimension granite quarry where they quarried much of the rock for the state house. For a different perspective on the capital—and fantastic foliage views in the fall—climb The Tower in Hubbard Park. Montpelier is also home to Farm Maple Sugar Works, where they’ve been making tasty syrup for eight generations.
For skiers and snowboarders, the nearby town of Stowe is best known for the Stowe Mountain Resort, but its location—sandwiched between Mt. Mansfield State Park and CC Putnam State Forest—makes it a year-round destination. Activities include hiking, biking, paddling, golf, gondola rides, and ziplining from the state’s highest peak. History buffs will want to check out the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum, while fans of The Sound of Music should add the Trapp Family Lodge to their itinerary.
Just south of Stowe, the quaint town of Waterbury is the home to one of Vermont’s most famous tourist attractions: Ben & Jerry's ice cream. The 30-minute guided factory tour gives you the scoop on the ice-cream making and packaging process, and wraps up with a sampling of the flavor of the day before you grab a cone to go and some logoed gear. Ice cream isn’t the only foodie attraction in town: Cold Hollow Cider Mill is not only New England’s largest cider producer, they operate a popular bakery known for its cider donuts. When you want to work off some of those calories, take a hike in Camel’s Hump State Park. The Camel’s Hump View trail is the easiest and shortest; the Long Trail is the rugged section that takes you to the summit.
Where to Stay: Lazy Lions Campground in Barre and Onion River Campground in Plainfield are the closest to Montpelier. Little River State Park in Waterbury, part of Mt. Mansfield State Forest, has 81 RV/tent sites and a sanitary dump station, but no hookups. Gold Brook Campground is in Stowe, and receives positive ratings for being well maintained and quiet.
Described by Reader’s Digest as “the most charming small town in Vermont,” Manchester lives up to the billing. Arts and music are augmented with farmers markets, restaurants ranging from homey to fancy, bars with local wines and microbrews, and cafés. It’s a favorite of shoppers, thanks to an amazing array of outlet stores, locally owned boutiques, and the renowned independent Northshire Bookstore.
Several other nearby towns warrant a look when you’re in the area. Dorset, home to the first marble quarry in the U.S., features numerous historic buildings and easy access to miles of hiking and biking trails. Bromley Mountain Ski Resort isn’t just for downhilling—during the summer, the triple-tracked alpine slide provides an epic adrenaline rush among many other features of the Mountain Adventure Park.
Where to Stay: In addition to a full range of amenities, Camping on the Battenkill in Arlington is a best bet for boaters and anglers who want to hook a native trout in one of the best fishing streams in the East. Dorset RV Park has full-hookup pull-through sites as well as no-hookup sites. Areas for RV Camping within the Green Mountain - Manchester District include Greendale Campground and Hapgood Pond Recreation Area, both of which are northeast of Bromley.
Brattleboro is tucked in the southeast corner of Vermont, where the West River meets the Connecticut River. Like so many of the Green Mountain State’s towns, Brattleboro teems with a mix of history, arts, and festivals, plus outdoor adventure on the water and in the state and local parks. In under an hour, you can get to Mount Snow and Stratton ski resorts as well as all of the other recreation opportunities within Green Mountain National forest.
Brattleboro’s shopping and restaurant scene prides itself on being locally owned, so it’s truly a place for that one-of-a-kind experience. Located next to the historic Creamery Covered Bridge, the Brattleboro Area Farmers Market ranks among the best around, particularly given the surrounding area’s small farm culture. While many farmers markets close up shop during the winter, this one moves indoors to Main Street.
Where to Stay: Just south of town, Fort Dummer State Park offers 50 tent/RV sites on 217 acres of forest land; there are no RV hookups, but there is a dump station. North of town, two options that receive high marks from RVers are Brattleboro North KOA Journey in East Dummerston and Kampfires Campground, Inn & Entertainment in Dummerston.
Vermont’s second-largest city, Rutland sits in the shadow of Killington, the state’s largest ski resort. During warmer weather, it’s equally popular for its downhill mountain biking, an adventure center and 18-hole championship golf course, and gondola rides and hiking. In addition to outdoor activities, the town offers a vibrant arts and culture scene, centered around Chaffee Art Center, Chaffee Downtown, the Paramount Theater, and the Norman Rockwell Museum of Vermont—plus countless independent galleries and artist studios.
Vermont is famous for its historic covered bridges, with more than 100 sprinkled throughout the state. The stretch of Route 4 from Rutland to the New Hampshire border offers a convenient way to view four of the best known: Lincoln Covered Bridge, Middle Covered Bridge, Taftsville Covered Bridge, and Quechee Gorge Bridge. All are picturesque, though Quechee might provide the most spectacular views: a waterfall spilling into Vermont’s deepest gorge, with the Ottauquechee River 165 feet below.
Where to Stay: Iroquois Land Family Camping is the closest place to set up for the night, located on the southeast side of town. A short drive to the west opens up additional options, such as Lake Bomoseen KOA Holiday, Big D Campground in Castleton, and Half Moon Pond State Park in Hubbardton.