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Weekend Getaway: Plan an Adventure on Vermont Route 30

When it comes to exploring Vermont, there’s no shortage of picture-postcard views, but there are so many spots that don’t make it onto travel brochures.

The small towns along Route 30 in Southern Vermont are so much fun to explore.

Spots where locals and visitors gather for roots music jams on the weekends.

Where the local swimming holes beckon to families looking for a lazy day by the water.

Where every corner market sells produce, meat, and cheese lovingly produced by our neighbors and friends.

This is the kind of experience you’ll find on Vermont Route 30 in Southern Vermont — a winding road along the West River that takes visitors through farmland and forests, small villages, and beautiful recreation areas.

If you’re longing for a slower pace, more time outdoors, and perhaps a touch of nostalgia, this weekend getaway may be just what you need.

This weekend getaway explores Vermont Route 30, including the towns of Brattleboro, Dummerston, Newfane, Townshend, West Townshend, and Jamaica. It’s the perfect little adventure for summer or fall.

At-A-Glance: A Weekend on Vermont Route 30

Here’s a bite-sized snapshot of everything you need to know to plan your trip weekend getaway exploring Route 30 in Vermont.

  • When to Go: Mid-May through October
  • Where to Stay: The historic Newfane Inn (built in 1787) is the perfect home base for this getaway. Travel north to explore Townshend, West Townshend, and Jamaica, or south to explore Dummerston and Brattleboro.
  • How to Get There: The nearest airport is Albany International Airport (ALB), which is two hours from Newfane.
  • How to Get Around: We recommend renting a car or driving your own for this trip.
  • Top 3 Highlights: Swimming in the West River, the scones at the Newfane Store, and the Food Truck Round-Up at Retreat Farm.

Introducing the Vermont 30 Collective

The Vermont 30 Collective is a unique initiative that brings together local farmers, shopkeepers, and business owners to work together to drive economic development, visitation, growth, and well-being in this beautiful region of Vermont.

Through a multi-tiered approach to marketing and community engagement, the Vermont 30 Collective is improving the vitality of the small towns along the Route 30 corridor while protecting the area’s historical, cultural, and agricultural heritage.

Grab the Vermont 30 Collective Guide to explore more of the incredible local businesses in the region.

Stay at the Newfane Inn in the Village of Newfane, VT

The Newfane Inn from the village green in Newfane.
The Newfane Inn from the village green in Newfane.

During my recent visit to explore Route 30, I was fortunate to stay at the historic Newfane Inn.

This beautiful historic inn features four spacious guest rooms — perfect for solo travelers or couples, and four multi-room suites — perfect for families. The rooms are beautifully decorated, and all include luxurious linens, antique furniture, and a welcoming personal touch that you won’t find in corporate hotels.

A blue bedroom in the Newfane Inn.
My comfy room in the Newfane Inn

There are beautiful common spaces for relaxing, and a light breakfast is provided daily.

The Newfane Inn is located along the Village Green, with its massive shade trees and frolicking swan fountain, and it’s across the street from the Newfane Store, which sells killer scones, sandwiches, Vermont gifts, and all the necessities you may have forgotten.

My favorite sitting area in the Newfane Inn.
My favorite sitting area in the Newfane Inn.

The location is perfect for wandering around one of Vermont’s most picturesque towns, so make time in your weekend for strolling.

Outdoor Recreation Along Vermont Route 30

No matter where I travel, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’ll be hunting for outdoor recreation nearby, and this trip was no exception.

Route 30 runs alongside the West River for much of its length, so there are many opportunities for swimming in the summer, but there are also lovely hiking trails, campgrounds, and bike paths.

Here’s an overview of some of our favorite spots for low-key outdoor adventures along Route 30.

Ride the West River Trail

The upper section of the West River Trail goes through Jamaica State Park

The West River Trail is a beautiful scenic path suitable for walkers, bicycles, and cross-country skis. More than 130 years ago, it was laid with a narrow-gage track on a 36-mile route between Brattleboro and Londonderry.

While the West River Trail is not completely connected (yet), two sections can be used for recreation — almost 18 miles between South Londonderry and Townshend and six miles between Brattleboro and Dummerston. Note that a few sections around Ball Mountain Lake and Dam are suitable for foot traffic only.

The trail through Jamaica State Park is especially pretty, with several spots to stop and swim in the West River and historical markers along the trail.

Lower Section trail map (pdf)

Upper Section trail map (pdf)

Hike to Hamilton Falls or the Overlook in Jamaica State Park

Enjoying Hamilton Falls

Jamaica State Park is a gem of a park tucked away next to a rustic mountain village of the same name. Jamaica, Vermont, may not be the Caribbean, but it’s as welcoming a place as you’ll ever find in the Green Mountains. 

Hamilton Falls is a 125-foot waterfall formed by a series of horsetails and slides as Cobb Brook thunders over the rocks into a deep gorge.

This is one of Vermont’s most beautiful waterfalls and is 100% worth the trek to get there. Swimming is prohibited here, but there are some nice pools at the bottom of the falls for wading in.

The trailhead to Hamilton Falls is on the West River Trail, 2 miles from the Jamaica State Park parking area.

From the trailhead, it’s another 1.1-mile hike to the falls. You can hike the entire 6 miles (round-trip) or do what we did — ride your bike 2 miles in, lock it up at the trailhead, and continue on foot to the falls.

** Flood update: Part of the West River Trail in Jamaica State Park suffered a landslide after heavy rains in 2023. Follow the alternate route to Hamilton Falls, which is posted at the Jamaica State Park contact station. ** 

According to signs located around the falls, many people have lost their lives while scrambling around. For your safety, please don’t climb on the falls. Keep your feet firmly rooted on the ground and enjoy the view. 

The view from the Overlook Trail in Jamaica State Park.

The Overlook Trail begins in the Jamaica State Park campground next to the Hackberry lean-to. It’s a 2.5-ish mile loop that is moderately steep but well-marked and heads up to the summit of Little Ball Mountain. 

Read Next: 7 Memorable Experiences in Jamaica State Park

Hike up Black Mountain in Dummerston

View from the top of Black Mountain in Dummerston.
View from the top of Black Mountain in Dummerston

Black Mountain (1,279 feet) in Dummerston is a steep-sided, horseshoe-shaped peak with a rolling, wooded summit ridgeline studded with granite outcroppings.

Its dry summit supports Vermont’s only pitch-pine and scrub oak woodland, a natural biosphere more commonly found along New England’s coasts and points south. While the 3.1-mile loop through Black Mountain Natural Area features frequent steep climbs, the footing is not difficult, and the variety of landscapes is pleasantly distracting.

Painted white and blue blazes mark a previous land boundary and should be ignored; follow the yellow-and-green plastic trail markers put in place by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Due to the sensitive ecosystem on Black Mountain, dogs are not permitted on this trail.

Visit the Townshend and Ball Mountain Dam

Ball Mountain Dam in Jamaica, Vermont.
Ball Mountain Dam in Jamaica

The massive Ball Mountain and Townshend Dams were constructed between 1957 and 1961 to control floods on the West River. The Ball Mountain Dam is 247 feet high and 915 feet long, and the Townshend Dam is 126 feet high and 1700 feet long. These are awesome feats of engineering and cool to see in person.

I’ve only seen Townshend Lake and Ball Mountain Lake during low-water periods in the summer, but both are great for swimming, kayaking, and fishing.

The Army Corps of Engineers releases water from Ball Mountain Dam during two whitewater weekends—one in May and one in September. This controlled release makes for fantastic whitewater paddling, and Jamaica State Park fills up quickly during those weekends. 

Swimming Holes on the West River

West Dummerston Covered Bridge

If you drive along the West River on Route 30, you will see numerous pull-offs along the side of the road. If it’s a summer weekend, you’ll also see plenty of parked cars, indicating good swimming nearby.

The West River is fantastic for swimming in, with good access and plenty of room to spread out. As long as you don’t go after a heavy rain, you’ll find that most spots are great for families — shallow along the shore and not too swift.

We especially love swimming at Salmon Hole in Jamaica State Park (entrance fee, no dogs) because there are restrooms and a playground for kids, but swimming underneath the West Dummerston Covered Bridge is also a treat.

The Historical Society of Windham County and The West River Railroad Museum

The West River Railroad Museum in Newfane, Vermont

What is now the scenic West River Trail was once a precarious railroad between Londonderry and Brattleboro.

Completed in 1879, the Brattleboro & Whitehall Railroad (renamed the West River Railroad) was going to be the answer to the closing of mills and farms, and towns that were losing residents to the western frontier. The railroad was built with narrow-gauge tracks for a higher degree of curvature, and it quickly became known as 36 miles of trouble.

The wood-burning locomotives were not powerful enough to pull the cars up the narrow tracks. Passengers would often get out and walk along the tracks because it was faster than riding. Construction and maintenance problems, heavy snow, and constant flooding meant that the trains were never on time, and wrecks were common. 

Before too long, the railroad began competing with buses and automobiles and entered a period of economic decline. The 1936 flood proved too much for the struggling railroad, and with much of the track missing or in disrepair, the company filed for abandonment. 

The Newfane Railroad Depot, constructed in 1880, was almost identical to most of the other depots on the West River Railroad. It had a small waiting room, ticket office, baggage/freight room, and telegraph operations.

The Historical Society of Windham County purchased the station in 2014 and held a grand opening for The West River Railroad Museum in 2017. Visit on Saturday and Sunday between 12 and 4 pm.

Explore Retreat Farm in Brattleboro

Food Truck Roundup at Retreat Farm in Brattleboro.
Food Truck Roundup at Retreat Farm in Brattleboro.

There are so many reasons to love Retreat Farm in Brattleboro and so much to do when you get there. This beautiful property includes the Retreat Farm Store, numerous historic barns, walking trails, farm animals, and a forest playground.

Retreat Farm is a nonprofit organization that aims to grow a community of people who care about the land and each other. They collaborate with farmers, producers, and artists to lift up agricultural, creative, and land-based businesses and experiences that make Vermont unique.

Visit Retreat Farm between dawn and dusk to explore the Public Common and trails, and check out the Retreat Farm Store daily from 10 am to 6 pm.

If you are in the area on Thursday evenings in the summer, you won’t want to miss the Food Truck Roundup, which features live music, lots of space to sit, picnic, or dance, and an amazing collection of food vendors.

Where to Eat and Drink Along Route 30

While you won’t have endless choices for eateries along Vermont Route 30, there’s enough farm-fresh Vermont goodness to keep your taste buds and your belly smiling all weekend long. Here’s a sampling of the yummy offerings available between Brattleboro and West Townshend on Route 30.

Divine Pastries at Fire Arts Cafe in Brattleboro

A selection of mini quiches at Fire Arts Cafe in Brattleboro
A selection of mini quiches at Fire Arts Cafe in Brattleboro

Wake up early and drive a few miles outside of downtown Brattleboro for the best French pastries this side of the Connecticut River. Fire Arts Cafe is a stunning bakery and coffee shop where you can start your morning with a buttery croissant and a rich maple latte. Or maybe a slice of quiche and a steaming mug of tea. Decisions, decisions!

When you’ve had your caffeine fix and your fill of flaky pastries, head next door to Fire Arts Vermont, a combination glass-blowing and ceramics studio with a beautiful gallery featuring a colorful mix of ceramics and glass art.

Fresh Produce at Dutton Berry Farm

Get your summer berry fix at Dutton Berry Farm in Newfane. Pick your own berries in season, or choose from a huge variety of farmer-grown products, including fruits and veggies, baked goods, eggs, cheese, jam, flowers, and homemade fudge.

During my recent visit, strawberries were in season (yay!), but I also grabbed a few baskets of red currants, raspberries, and cherries to get me through the weekend. Berry season is short in Vermont, so it’s best to grab ’em while you can!

Delicious Sammies and Scones at the Newfane Store

Apricot and chocolate scone at the Newfane Store.
Apricot and chocolate scone at the Newfane Store.

No matter what time of day you visit the Newfane Store, it’s busy — in the morning, residents grab coffees and pastries to eat on the way to work, and retirees relax in the small, bright seating area in front of a large picture window.

People trickle in and out of the store all day long, grabbing sundries, sandwiches, and cold beer before heading back to work or adventuring in the mountains. Tourists stock up on Vermont gifts — t-shirts, stickers, and unique gift items not usually found at the corner store.

The lunch and dinner specials are anything but ordinary — savory hand pies (chipotle chicken, Mexican brisket, ham and cheddar), plus tasty wraps, soups, and salads.

On my last day in town, I grabbed a maple latte and an Apricot chocolate scone, and two weeks later, I’m still thinking about it!

Picnic Fare at Lawrence’s Smoke Shop and River Bend Farm Market in Townshend

Locals grab groceries at River Bend Farm Market in Townshend, and it’s the place to go for staples like milk, bread, and laundry detergent. They also have a nice craft beer selection, an amazing butcher shop, fantastic produce, and a deli.

Combine your trip to River Bend with Lawrence’s Smoke Shop next door for all the supplies you’ll need for an elevated picnic (the Townshend Dam is a great spot for al fresco dining). This is the place to stock up on maple products, smoked meats and cheeses, and eclectic souvenirs.

Community Cafe at the West Townshend Country Store

The small dining area at the West Townshend Country Store

The West Townshend Country Store may look like dozens of other Vermont country stores, but it’s far from commonplace. This welcoming space is the hub of the neighborhood, housing a nonprofit community center dedicated to promoting local agricultural, economic, and social activities.

Organized by The West River Community Project, this multi-faceted space includes the West Townshend post office, a wonderful donation-based cafe, a thrift store upstairs, the Townshend farmers’ market, a community kitchen space, and a live music venue.

Community events are scheduled throughout the week, including pizza night and live music on Friday, past on Saturday evenings, and a roots jam with brunch on Sunday.

Dinner at Fat Crow in Newfane

A mouth-watering burger and fries at Fat Crow.
A mouth-watering burger and fries at Fat Crow.

The first thing you’ll notice upon entering Fat Crow in Newfane is the three motorcycles on display above your head. The next thing you’ll see is the massive wood-fired oven behind the bar. This small, vibrant eatery is always packed, and while the space is cozy, eclectic, and inviting, the food draws the crowds.

We had the garlic parmesan cauliflower with chipotle ranch for an appetizer, which was lovely, but Eric adored his ribeye steak with bone marrow butter — a splurge for him, but one he has mentioned several times since visiting.

Fat Crow definitely fills up, so be sure to make reservations, even during the week.

Ready to plan your perfect summer or fall getaway in Southern Vermont? Vermont Route 30 is full of surprises and perfect for outdoor lovers!

Hey, looking for more spots in Southern Vermont to explore this summer? Here are some posts you should check out! Take a look:

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Jamaica State Park and Retreat Farm in Brattleboro, Vermont. Text overlay: Weekend Getaway, Vermont Route 30, a Complete Itinerary.

Tara Schatz is a freelance writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Vermont Explored and Back Road Ramblers, an American road trip blog. She is also the co-author of the 3rd edition of AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont, released in May 2023, and the author of 100+ Wonderful Ways to Experience Vermont.