Whether you’re just starting out as a photographer, or you’ve been at it for years, there’s a good chance that the allure of Vermont in the fall will be too much to resist at some point, and you’ll become a bonafide leaf peeper. When that happens, you’ll no doubt dig deep into Vermont fall foliage photography.
If taking Vermont foliage pictures is high on your list of New England adventures, I urge you to stop in Southwestern Vermont during your next fall getaway!
I’ve lived in Vermont for a good portion of my life, but I didn’t call myself a leaf peeper until a few years ago when I started taking photography seriously. Now when October hits, I have a plan in place, and it usually involves getting up early every morning for two weeks, and driving the back roads of southwestern Vermont, which in my opinion is one of the best places to photograph fall foliage in Vermont!
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The Best Time to Take Fall Foliage Photos in Southwestern Vermont
The leaf-peeping season is unpredictable, but you’ll always find varying levels of color during the first two weeks of October in Southern Vermont. How bright and beautiful the fall foliage is from year to year depends on a lot of factors, but there’s always beauty to behold, even during years of more muted color.
We hang our hats in Bennington, Vermont, which is nestled in a valley between the Taconic Range to the west and the Green Mountains to the east. In early October, when the leaves begin to turn, I head into the mountains on either side for the best color.
After a week or two of fall foliage photography in the mountains (depending on the weather), I set my sites on the back roads, farms, and villages in the Southwestern Vermont valleys.
Hidden and Well-Known Spots for Southern Vermont Fall Foliage Photography
Southern Vermont is my home. The back roads, mountains, and valleys around Bennington are where I learned to take photos and fell in love with landscape photography.
I could not write a post like this about any other place in the world. I truly believe I have traveled and photographed every back road in Bennington and Windham Counties. For this post, I’m going to focus on fall photography in Bennington County.
When I visit a new place, the first thought that crosses my mind is, “Where can I get a good cup of coffee?” My second thought is usually, “Where can I capture the beauty of this place with my camera?” I may cover that first question in another post, but for now, let’s talk about the best places to take fall foliage photos in Southwestern Vermont.
These are some of my favorite spots to take fall foliage photos in Vermont, but they’re great spots for landscape photography in every season, not just fall! Ready to dig a little deeper into Vermont fall foliage photography? Here are some destinations you won’t want to miss!
Woodford, Vermont: the Green Mountains Turned to Gold
Woodford State Park, Woodford, VT
Woodford State Park is open from Memorial Day until the 2nd Monday in October each year. It’s my favorite spot to walk our dogs, and I always bring my camera, because you just never know. The day that I forgot to bring my camera was the time we saw a moose munching on leaves in the beaver meadow.
Peak foliage usually happens here in early October, and if you come in the early morning, you will often catch a nice fog coming off of the lake. There’s a trail around the lake, which takes about an hour to walk, and you’ll find lots of photo opportunities along the trail.
The fee to get into Woodford State Park is $4 for adults and $2 for children, and if you’re a camper, you may want to make this your home base for your southern Vermont fall foliage photography tour. There are 76 tent/RV sites ($19), 19 lean-tos ($28), and 4 camping cabins ($51) to choose from.
Roaring Branch Swimming Hole, Woodford, VT
In the summer, there is a lively swimming hole on the border between Bennington and Woodford. In the fall, it’s a lovely spot to take gorgeous fall foliage photos. Bring your tripod and capture the moving water as it tumbles over the rocks, but don’t forget to wear sturdy footwear.
To get to the swimming hole, drive east on Route 9 from Bennington toward Woodford. As soon as you see the Woodford/Bennington town line sign on the right, put on your right turn signal and pull off the road into the roadside parking area. Walk down the trail to the river with your camera.
Appalachian Trail Footbridge, Woodford, VT
The Appalachian Trail runs right through Woodford on its way from Georgia to Maine. If you have time, you can hike either north or south through the fall woods with your camera, but if you want a roadside photo opp, simply park in the main lot and walk to the northbound trailhead. Here you’ll find a lovely footbridge crossing the Roaring Branch River.
I did a few senior photoshoots here a few years ago in October, and it’s been a favorite spot for fall photography ever since. To get to the Appalachian trailhead, drive on Route 9 east from Bennington and turn into the Appalachian Trail parking lot on the left as soon as you see the Green Mountain National Forest Sign.
Shaftsbury, Vermont: Hills, Valleys, and Farms
Lake Shaftsbury State Park, Shaftsbury, VT
Another favorite destination for capturing foggy lakes, reflections, and waterfowl, Lake Shaftsbury State Park officially closes after the 2nd Monday in October, which usually coincides with peak fall foliage. If you visit later in the season, you can still park outside the gate and walk into the park. This is another great spot for dog walking in the early morning, and you will often see ducks and geese on the pond.
There is a one-mile trail around the lake with a beautiful boardwalk through wetlands and several pretty footbridges. Lake Shaftsbury is in a valley surrounded by hardwoods, and the colors usually start to peak during the second week of October. To get to Lake Shaftsbury State Park, head north on Route 7A from Bennington. Lake Shaftsbury State Park will be on the right about 1/2 mile after Clear Brook Farm.
Old Depot Road, Shaftsbury, VT
We’ve seen moose on Old Depot Road as well, and this road offers up a good mix of woods, farms, and beautiful wetlands with mountains in the background.
There are two entrances to Old Depot Road – right off of Route 7A in Shaftsbury, and another in Arlington. It makes a nice short driving loop in the fall, especially if you stop at Propagation Piece Orchard on 7A in Shaftsbury for donuts and cider, or at the Chocolate Barn for the world’s best ice cream.
Bennington, Vermont: History, Mountains, and Long Views
Old Bennington, VT
Judging by all the tour buses I see here in the fall, Old Bennington has got to be one of the most photographed places in Vermont during fall foliage. For good reason, too!
A walking tour through Old Bennington will provide lots of opportunities for Vermont fall foliage photos.
Park your car near the Bennington Battle Monument and walk down Monument Avenue. Visit the Old First Church – isn’t that white fence divine? The graveyard behind the Old First Church is home to some really old gravestones as well as the gravestone of Robert Frost.
Check out the Bennington Museum if you have time, and walk on the Wildflower Trail.
Colors peak in Bennington later than in the surrounding hills – the second week of October or later in most years. Here are some of our favorite spots for fall foliage photography in Bennington.
Bennington Area Trail System, Bennington, VT
After checking out Old Bennington, travel on Monument Avenue and turn right into the former Southern Vermont College Campus. The BATS trailhead is located on the right-hand side, but this is also currently our town’s COVID resource center with testing and vaccines happening Monday through Friday.
Trails wind through both meadows and woods on the side of Mount Anthony, which is part of the Taconic Mountain Range. This was once the campus of Southern Vermont College, but now it’s owned by Southern Vermont Health Care.
Everett Mansion, while currently closed, is very photogenic. Hopefully, the grounds around the mansion will be open soon, but there are still plenty of lovely trails that are open for hiking and mountain biking.
The meadow paths will give you the best views of the surrounding Green Mountains and the Bennington Monument. It’s also a great spot to watch the night sky.
Check out the BATS website to learn more and download a trail map.
Mt. Anthony Road: Bennington, and Pownal, VT
Mount Anthony Road is a dirt road that connects Route 9 in West Bennington to Pownal, which is just south of Bennington. It’s a narrow, windy road, traveling through stands of stately hardwoods, and then opening up to incredible views of Mt. Anthony.
Highlights of Mt. Anthony Road include an unmarked waterfall locally known as the Tubbs (look for a small parking area lined with boulders, but no signs), beautiful old barns, farm animals, and stone walls. I prefer photographing Mount Anthony in the late afternoon, just before sunset. Mid-October seems to be peak foliage here, but it’s beautiful in November too.
North Bennington, Vermont: Small Village Life Surrounded by Farms
Meyers Road, North Bennington and Shaftsbury, VT
Another favorite dirt road, Meyers Road starts on Route 7A in Shaftsbury, turns into Cross Hill Road in North Bennington, and pops out just on the border of New York and Vermont on White Creek Road. You’ll find fabulous views of Mount Anthony to the south, as well as rolling hills and plenty of farms.
This is one of those roads that you’ll drive on once, and swear that you’re going to move to Vermont for its pastoral beauty. It’s a gem! This area usually peaks around October 10 (judging from all my past photos).
The Mile Around the Woods and Park McCullough House, North Bennington, VT
This special place is a popular walking spot for locals, and it offers up some pretty spectacular scenery in every season. Park your car on McCullough Road, just past the Park McCullough House, and walk through the fields and woods. You will have some amazing 360-degree views when you get to the top of the high meadow.
Fall foliage photo ops include distant hills and mountains, a beautiful old hardwood forest, and a pasture full of draft horses. The grounds of the Park McCullough house are gorgeous as well. Early morning in mid-October is the best time to take photos here.
Arlington, Vermont: Gateway to the Mountains
Kelly Stand Road, Arlington, VT
Kelly Stand Road takes you deep into the mountains of the Green Mountain National Forest so you can explore places like Stratton Pond, Grout Pond, and Somerset Reservoir. We’ll talk about those lovelies in another post, but Kelly Stand Road is worth meandering along without a destination in mind. It is currently my favorite back road for fall foliage photography in Vermont.
It begins in East Arlington and will take you all the way to Wardsboro if you want to go that far (do it!). If you’re driving on route 7, get off at the Arlington exit. Take a right on South Road and then a right on Kansas Road, which turns into Kelly Stand Road.
This narrow dirt road follows alongside Lyman Brook for many miles. It’s closed and gated in the winter, but in the fall you can probably travel the whole length of the road without seeing another car, especially if you plan your drive on a weekday morning.
The road itself is the main attraction here, along with the bubbling brook and the incredible fall colors. Because the road travels mostly through the forest, you can get good shots at any time of day.
For the best Vermont fall foliage shots, head to Kelly Stand Road in early October.
Manchester, Vermont: A Lovely Village with Pastoral Views
The Taconic Mountains and the Green Mountains are almost side-by-side in Manchester, and the village is nestled in a narrow valley between them, making for some interesting photography spots. Here are a few spots you won’t want to miss!
Manchester Village, VT
An early morning visit to Manchester Village is an absolute must! You can park in the town near the Equinox Hotel and wander around on foot before driving north to the Northshire Bookstore (the best bookstore in the state!) and cafe.
There are some nice trails into the hills behind Burr and Burton Academy and you should also explore Dellwood Cemetery and Hildene (entrance fee) while you’re here. Early to mid-October is usually the best time to capture fall colors in Manchester.
For another perspective, drive to the top of Mt. Equinox, the tallest mountain in the Taconic Range (3,855 feet). From here, you’ll be treated to stunning fall foliage views, not just of Manchester, but also the Green Mountains and west into New York.
Equinox Pond, Manchester, VT
Equinox Pond is privately owned by the Equinox Resort, but the surrounding trails are part of the Equinox Preservation Trust. One of the most popular trails takes you around Equinox Pond, which is gorgeous during fall foliage.
Par at the Red Gate trailhead on West Union St. and hike Flatlander Pass and the Pond Loop. If you want a real workout, you can hike all the way to the top of Mt. Equinox, but that’s not something I usually do with my camera equipment.
Southern Vermont Arts Center, Manchester, VT
After wandering around Manchester Village, take West Road up to Southern Vermont Arts Center. This is a multi-dimensional arts organization offering exhibits and classes throughout the year. The grounds include large, outdoor sculptures and walking trails, with fabulous views and great fall colors.
So there you have it, my all-time favorite places for Vermont fall foliage photography in Bennington County of southwestern Vermont.
If you’ve got a passion for photography and fall colors, I hope this post will help you plan your getaway. I’m also more than happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments below.
Can’t get enough of fall foliage in Vermont? Neither can I! Check out these posts to read more!
- Visiting Vermont in the Fall: Things to See and Do in the Green Mountains
- Scenic Route 100: The Ultimate Vermont Road Trip Itinerary
- The Complete Guide to Exploring Wilmington, Vermont
- A Southern Vermont Road Trip for Leaf Peepers
More Things to Do in Vermont
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