Are you ready for a Vermont road trip featuring far-reaching pastoral views, historic New England towns, and plenty of opportunities for recreation, great food, and historic attractions?
Vermont has no shortage of scenic byways and beautiful stretches of pavement, but one of our favorite road trips travels for 176 miles from Pownal near the Massachusetts border to Highgate near the Canadian border.
I’m talking about Vermont Route 7, which travels through fertile river valleys; alongside, but not in the Green Mountains; and finally, along Vermont’s largest lake.
This scenic road trip is full of natural beauty, fun towns, and interesting attractions. It’s perfect for a long weekend, but if you have more time, take it!
Ready for a weekend full of lovely walks and rambles, fun historic sites, local food and drink, and even a few awesome places to take a summer dip?
We’re going to begin our Route 7 road trip in Bennington and head north on Route 7 to Burlington. Feel free to flip this itinerary around if you want to start in Burlington and head south.
Day 1: The Shires of Southwestern Vermont
Today you’re exploring the beautiful and historic towns of Bennington and Manchester, Vermont. Driving time: Depends on where you’re coming from.
Explore the Old Bennington Historic District
Bennington is a small town (population 15,000) with a walkable downtown and historic sites dating back to the Revolution. Start your Vermont adventure by exploring the village of Old Bennington, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Park your car at the Bennington Battle Monument, and from there you can meander around on foot. Not only is the Bennington Battle Monument Vermont’s tallest man-made building, but it is also our most-visited state historic site.
The Monument was completed in 1889 to commemorate the Battle of Bennington, which took place on August 16, 1777, during the Revolutionary War.
Between May 1st and October 31st, you can ride to the top of the Monument in an elevator for spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. The Bennington Monument and gift shop are currently open between Thursday and Monday, from 9 am to 5 pm.
Next, stroll down Monument Avenue past many Revolutionary War Era homes and on to the Old First Church, which was the first gathered church in Vermont. Although the lovely church that stands there now isn’t the original, it’s been around since 1805.
Behind the Old First Church, you’ll discover one of the oldest cemeteries in Vermont. Many of the gravestones here provide stellar examples of historic death imagery that was popular during the late 1700s. Robert Frost, Vermont’s most famous poet, is buried here, along with his family.
Follow the signs to his grave, you can’t miss it.
Read Next: 7 Beautiful Spots to Visit in Bennington, Vermont
Lunch: Madison Brewing Company
428 Main Street, Bennington, Vermont
When we want casual fare and locally crafted beer at decent prices, we head to Madison Brewing Company on Main Street in Bennington. The food is reliably good, the atmosphere is friendly, and the service is great. They have several vegetarian options, which I appreciate, and good burgers, which Eric loves.
The beer menu changes with the season, but you can always get our favorite, Old 76, which is an English Yorkshire-style ale. It’s very malty and strong – perfect for a fall road trip. In the summer, I almost always get the IPA.
With a strong focus on Vermont history and art, Bennington Museum includes a huge treasury of cultural artifacts and works of art, including the largest public collection of Grandma Moses paintings in the world.
Grandma Moses lived just over the border in New York and was a self-taught folk artist who began her painting career when she was 78 years old. She is a local legend in these parts, and experienced critical acclaim across the country during her lifetime and beyond.
Permanent collections include several galleries of fine and modern art, a textile gallery including one of the oldest American flags in existence, and an eclectic mix of special exhibitions.
Bennington Museum has variable hours, depending on when you visit. Between June and October, it is open every day except Wednesday, from 10 am to 4 pm.
Covered Bridge Tour of Bennington County
As you head north on Route 7A through Bennington’s shopping strip, take a detour onto Route 67A to visit three covered bridges in Bennington and North Bennington. All three covered bridges cross the Walloomsac River, and they are all within a few miles of each other. You can easily view all three covered bridges in less than an hour.
Here’s a quick overview. For a more detailed description with photos of each covered bridge, read: Discover the Covered Bridges of Bennington County.
- Silk Road Covered Bridge, Bennington, Vermont: The current Silk Road covered bridge was built in 1840. It is the oldest covered bridge still standing in Bennington County.
- Paper Mill Village Bridge, Bennington, Vermont: The current Paper Mill Covered Bridge was built in 2000 and is a replacement of the original that was built in 1889. This is a Town lattice truss spanning 122 feet along Murphy Road.
- Burt Henry Covered Bridge, North Bennington, Vermont: The location where the Burt Henry Covered Bridge spans the Walloomsac River has been an important crossing since early colonial times. The original covered bridge was a double-span, built in 1840, but was entirely replaced as a single-span in 1989.
- Arlington Green Covered Bridge, Arlington, Vermont: The Arlington Green Covered Bridge is the most photographed bridge in Vermont. This is also a great spot to take a dip underneath if the weather is cooperating.
- Chiselville Covered Bridge, Sunderland, Vermont: The Chiselville Covered Bridge was built in 1870 and sits high above the Roaring Branch River, almost 40 feet.
Drive to the top of Mount Equinox
If you have time and enough sunlight, we recommend ending your afternoon with a lovely drive to the top of Mount Equinox on Mount Equinox Skyline Drive.
Located off Route 7A between Manchester and Arlington, Skyline Drive is the longest privately owned, paved toll road in the United States. It ascends 3,248 feet over 5.2 miles to the top of Mount Equinox, which is the highest mountain in the Taconic Range.
4566 Main Street, Manchester Center, Vermont
We love the outdoor seating area at Seasons in Manchester, so if you’re traveling during the summer or fall, we definitely recommend it!
The maple roasted pear and arugula salad is great if you want something light, and they also have a unique selection of sandwiches and burgers. I hear the fish tacos are awesome too!
Seasons is open Wednesday and Thursday from 12 pm – 8:30 pm, Friday and Saturday from 12 pm – 9 pm, and Sunday from 12 pm – 4 pm.
Where to Stay in Manchester
- Luxurious: Built in the 1880s, the Inn at Manchester is a historic bed and breakfast on four landscaped acres, but within walking distance to the town’s historic district. Beautifully appointed guest rooms all have modern comforts and luxurious linens. Children over 13 are welcome.
- Budget: Manchester View is a cozy motel-style inn with an outdoor pool, farmhouse decor, and rooms with fireplaces. Breakfast is included.
- Camping: If you plan on camping, head north out of Manchester to Emerald Lake State Park. This beautiful lake provides some of the west swimming in Southern Vermont, and there’s a nice hiking trail around the lake as well.
- Vacation rental: Need more room to spread out? This dog-friendly carriage house apartment is located right in town and sleeps eight for an affordable price.
Day 2: Manchester to Middlebury
Continuing north on route 7, today takes you on a few outdoor adventures and an exploration of the historic city of Rutland and its fabulous murals. Total driving time: 78 miles
Breakfast: Up for Breakfast
4935 Main Street, Manchester, Vermont
Start the day off right at the bustling Up for Breakfast on Main Street in Manchester. Treat yourself to the french toast with real maple syrup and a side of local sausage. Might as well overdose on the maple goodness with maple lattes too!
Up for Breakfast is open from Monday, Thursday, and Friday from 7 am – 12:30 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 7 am – 1:30 pm.
Explore Hildene: The Lincoln Family Home
Robert was the only child of Mary Todd Lincoln and President Abraham Lincoln to survive to maturity. Robert Todd Lincoln built Hildene in Manchester, Vermont as a summer home at the turn of the 20th century.
The mansion has been beautifully restored to include the estate, gardens, a working farm, a restored Pullman car, and woodland trails.
Hildene offers guided and self-guided tours of the house. We recommend visiting when the peonies are blooming in May and June. They are highlights of the back garden and the views are incredible.
Lunch: Roots Rutland
55 Washington Street, Rutland, Vermont
After exploring, Hildene, drive a half-hour north on Vermont Route 7 to the industrious and dynamic city of Rutland.
Roots is a fairly new gem of a restaurant in Rutland with an eclectic menu from minimally processed, locally grown food.
Although the menu changes with the seasons, we’ve always had the good fortune of a stellar dining experience. There are a lot of amazing vegetarian options too! Current favorites include fried Brussels sprouts, which I can never turn down, and the pan-seared tofu served over Chermulla beet & potato hash with spinach & roasted garlic aioli. Yum!
Roots Rutland is currently open from 12 pm to 9 pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Check out the Incredible Murals in Rutland, Vermont
For years, Rutland has been known as a no-nonsense, working-class city with a cute historic district and a history as one of the world’s leading producers of marble. But, Rutland has an up-and-coming art scene that is worth checking out.
Not only is the downtown area home to five unique art galleries, but downtown Rutland has also commissioned 15 larger-than-life murals that have been painted on historic buildings and walls throughout the city.
Park your car in downtown Rutland to explore the murals and the downtown area. Downtown Rutland Partnership has also created a Downtown Rutland app with a map to help you find all the murals and other works of art.
Dinner: Fire and Ice
26 Seymour Street, Middlebury, Vermont
From Rutland, continue north on Route 7 for about 32 miles until you get to Middlebury, which you’ll be exploring tomorrow.
Fire and Ice is a uniquely decorated restaurant with delicious food – mostly steak and seafood, but there are a few nice vegetarian options as well. This cozy restaurant has been a Middlebury institution for almost four decades! Eat in the cozy dining room or outdoors on the patio, but be sure to make reservations ahead of time. Oh, and for dessert, get the Vermont Mud Pie!
If you are looking for more casual fare, the attached Big Moose Pub has a tavern menu and bar seating. Fire and Ice is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday from 4 – 8 pm, and lunch on Saturdays and Sundays starting at noon.
Where to Stay in Middlebury, Vermont
- Luxurious: Swift House Inn is located just two blocks from downtown in a former governor’s mansion on four acres of land. The upscale rooms are spread across three historic homes.
- Budget: I have always wanted to stay at Middlebury Sweets Motel, which is a budget-friendly motel with a candy theme! You’ll find Middlebury Sweets on the property – the largest candy store in Vermont!
- Camping: Rivers Bend Campground provides waterfront camping with full hook-ups and an outdoor pool in nearby New Haven. It’s one of the very few private campgrounds we recommend.
- Vacation rental: Need more space? Rent this three-bedroom home within walking distance of downtown Middlebury. It’s pet-friendly and includes a fully-stocked kitchen.
Day 3: Middlebury to Burlington
Today you’ll leave Middlebury then drive north to Burlington. As you drive north on Route 7, you’ll finally get a glimpse of our beautiful Lake Champlain, which is 124 miles long and covers 490 square miles! Lake Champlain is the sixth largest lake in the US, after the five Great Lakes.
Be on the lookout for our loveable lake monster, Champ, who is said to be a cousin of the Loch Ness Monster. Total driving time: 35 miles
Breakfast: Otter Creek Bakery
14 College Street, Middlebury, Vermont
Whether you want to relax with a croissant and a cup of coffee or go all out with a breakfast pizza, you can do it at Otter Creek Bakery Great outdoor seating with coffee drinks, and it’s centrally located on College sSreet.
Otter Creek Bakery is open from 7 am – 2:30 pm from Monday through Wednesday, and 7 am – 4:30 pm from Thursday through Saturday.
After breakfast, take some time to stroll around downtown. Pop into a few shops and check out the view of Middlebury Falls.
UVM Morgan Horse Farm, Weybridge, Vermont
Did you know that the Morgan horse is one of the earliest horse breeds developed in the United States and that it is the state animal of Vermont? I’ve been visiting the Morgan Horse Farm ever since I was a kid and read Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry. This is a working horse farm that was created in 1907 to improve the breed. 1n 1951, it was transferred to the University of Vermont.
Take a tour of this beautiful farm and learn about the history of the Morgan horse. The views alone are worth the trip, but the horses make it extra special! Advanced registration for tours is currently required.
Read Next: 95+ of the Best Things to do in Vermont
Lunch: 3 Squares Cafe
141 Main Street, Vergennes, Vermont
3 Squares Cafe is a casual, eclectic cafe in Vergennes Vermont, which you’ll drive through on your way to Shelburne.
Follow the signs to Vergennes as you’re driving on Route 7 and make the left-hand turn into town. You can’t miss it! While you won’t have time to explore Vergennes with this itinerary, I recommend giving more than a drive-by if you have time.
3 Squares has been around for at least a decade, and it’s one of our favorite stops when we’re road-tripping on Route 7 in Vermont. They’ve got a fun selection of hot sandwiches, burgers, and vegetarian options, and a great atmosphere inside and out.
3 Squares is open Thursday to Monday, from 8 am to 5 pm.
Rent Bikes and Explore the Bike Path in Burlington
Make your way into downtown Burlington, Vermont, and park in one of the many parking garages or in the public parking lot near the Burlington Waterfront. Your next stop will be Local Motion to rent bikes for the afternoon.
Local Motion is a nonprofit organization that advocates for active transportation and safe streets. It’s located right on the Burlington bike path along Lake Champlain. At Local Motion, you can rent regular bikes, tandem bikes, child bikes and trailers, and E-bikes. You should reserve your bikes ahead of time so that you don’t miss out.
Once you have your bike rental, head north on the Burlington Greenway (bike path), which runs for 14 miles along Lake Champlain. You will see lots of places to stop and explore on your journey, including the Burlington waterfront and a few small beaches.
Here’s a trail map to help with planning.
Anywhere along the bike path makes the perfect sunset spot, so if you have your bike rental for more than a single day, definitely take advantage!
Dinner: Honey Road
156 Church Street, Burlington, Vermont
There are a lot of great restaurants in Burlington, and it was so hard to choose a favorite spot to recommend, but I’m going with Honey Road because I’ve been craving their small plates and cocktails for months. If you can’t get a table at Honey Road, reach out and I’ll try and recommend something else.
I’ve been obsessed with Honey Road since it opened a few years ago. Featuring Eastern Mediterranean cuisine in a small, but bustling restaurant, Honey Road is one of the top-rated restaurants in Burlington and 100% worth the effort it takes to get a table.
If you think of it, reserve several days in advance, so you don’t miss out. Small plates make it easy to mix and match your meal with your travel companions, which also means you can try more food!
Honey Road is open for lunch and dinner between Tuesday and Saturday, 5 – 9 pm.
Enjoy Nightlife in Burlington
Up until now, you’ve been driving through rural Vermont and enjoying small villages and outdoor recreation, but Burlington is our big city and it has real nightlife! If you’re craving a night on the town, tonight is your chance!
While I can’t predict what the music scene will look like during your trip, here are some great spots to imbibe. Pick up a copy of Seven Days when you get into town for a taste of what’s happening while you’re there. Here are some of the local hot spots.
- The Archives: Beer, cocktails, and vintage arcade games are exactly what you’ve been looking for.
- ArtsRiot: Indoor/outdoor seating, great cocktails, a robust food menu, and art. What more could you ask for?
- Red Square: Known for its robust drink menu, live music, and DJs, Red Square is perfect for late-night adventures!
- Three Needs Taproom: A Burlington staple for decades now, the Three Needs is the place to go for craft beer and cocktails, a game of pool, and cozy outdoor seating. This gem of a place is not to be missed!
Where to Stay in Burlington, Vermont
You have a lot of choices for lodging in Burlington. While I recommend staying somewhere within walking distance of downtown, those choices are a bit on the pricey side. I’ve included a favorite motel in Colchester if you want a budget option.
- Luxurious: Hilton Garden Inn Burlington is within walking distance of Church Street, shopping, restaurants, and nightlife.
- Budget: Starlight Inn is actually in Colchester, a few miles outside of Burlington, but it’s right next to the drive-in movie theater and all the rooms have a movie theme. We are huge fans of quirky motels and this one is awesome!
- Camping: You can actually camp right in the city at North Beach, right on the bike path. Sites are not secluded, but this is a great way to stay on the water for an affordable price.
- Vacation rental: Need more room to spread out? This historic home on VRBO sleeps six and is within walking distance of downtown. It’s got three bedrooms, a full kitchen, and two parking spots.
Read Next: The Best Things to do in Burlington, Vermont in the Summer
Route 7 Vermont Road Trip FAQs
We get a lot of questions about traveling through Vermont, so we just wanted to take some time to answer the ones we get most often. If you have any other questions about road-tripping in Vermont, simply leave a comment and we’ll answer ASAP.
Should we drive Route 7 in Vermont from south to north or north to south?
Honestly, for this particular road trip on Vermont Route 7, it doesn’t really matter which direction you choose. If you are flying to the area and renting a car, you may want to base your decision on where you can get the cheapest, or easiest flight.
If you fly into Albany International Airport (ALB) in New York State, you will be an hour from Bennington in Southern Vermont. We find lots of great flight deals in and out of Albany, which is the closest major airport to home for us. If you’re a fan of Southwest Airlines, like we are, then Albany Airport is a great choice.
Burlington International Airport (BTV) also has good flight deals and car rentals too!
When is the best time to travel on Route 7 in Vermont?
Route 7 is a well-maintained US highway, so technically, you can drive it during all four seasons. We recommend taking this Vermont road trip between May and October so you can take full advantage of farm stands, hiking, and swimming (okay, you may not want to swim in October, but you get the idea).
The speed limit on Route 7 varies from 25 mph in towns and villages to 55 mph on certain stretches between towns, so no matter what time of year you plan to drive it, plan on taking your time!
When should we drive on Route 7 to see Vermont’s fall foliage?
That’s the million-dollar question! Instead of mountains along the Route 7 corridor, you’ll mostly get rolling hills and farmland. Because of the lower elevation, the trees tend to change a bit later than in the mountains. Fall foliage is reliably beautiful during mid-October.
Will we have access to amenities while driving on Route 7 Vermont?
Definitely! Route 7 connects a number of small towns, plus the relative metropolises of Rutland, Burlington, and St. Albans. In just about every town, you will find gas and groceries, and many towns also have numerous hotels, vacation rentals, and campgrounds. Yes, Route 7 in Vermont is mostly rural, but you’re never very far from civilization.
What to Pack for Your Vermont Route 7 Road Trip
Wondering what to pack for your Route 7 road trip? I recommend keeping it casual. This part of Vermont includes lots of opportunities for outdoor exploration, and very few opportunities for nightlife unless you count chasing fireflies and relaxing under the stars.
One exception is Burlington, which is a hip college town with live music happening somewhere every night of the week. One outfit for “going out” should be enough. Here are some more packing must-haves to help you make the most of your trip.
- Activewear – Since you’ll be spending plenty of time outdoors, you’ll want to pack comfy clothes that are suitable for hiking. Opt for sturdy non-cotton pants (like these) and a breathable, moisture-wicking shirt. Merino wool shirts will keep you cool when it’s hot out and warm when it’s cold out, plus they don’t stink like polyester blends and they dry quickly.
- Sturdy shoes – In summer, sandals that can double as water shoes are fantastic for the lakeshore and rocky swimming holes. A pair of rugged hikers will be great for everything from walking in the woods to strolling through town.
- Swimwear – Do not come to Vermont in the summer without a swimsuit! There are just so many great places to cool off! We use these quick-dry towels when traveling because the heavy cotton ones take too long to dry.
- Jackets – Yes, the weather in Vermont is fickle, even in the summer. Between late May and August, you will be fine with a fleece and a rain jacket. For early spring and fall travel, add a down puffy jacket and a wool hat. These down jackets pack down really small and are perfect for travel.
- Your Camera – Perhaps your phone doubles as your camera. Awesome! If your phone camera leaves something to be desired, consider bringing a separate camera to capture all the beautiful scenery. If you want a dedicated point-and-shoot camera that packs neatly into a backpack, check out the Canon PowerShot SX740. Overall, this little camera takes better photos than the best smartphone with a powerful zoom and 4K video. I love traveling with mine!
Where to Next?
After traveling along Vermont’s eastern border and the shoreline of Lake Champlain, you can continue north into the Lake Champlain Islands, or head east into the Green Mountains.
A Route 100 road trip would bring you south again, and we have another 5-day road trip itinerary for Route 100 if you want to extend your trip.
If this is the end of your Vermont vacation, you can easily hop on Interstate 89 south toward Boston, or cross into New York and drive south on Interstate 87 to Albany International Airport.
Resources for Planning Your Vermont Road Trip Itinerary on Route 100
We’ve been traveling around Vermont for a pretty long time, but we’re always discovering new places to go and cool things to see. Here are the books, maps, and resources we used to plan this journey.
- For great book recommendations about adventuring in Vermont, read Books About Vermont for Exploring Like a Local.
- Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing – This is our one-stop shop for finding cool things to do throughout the state. Sign up for their mailing list or order a free vacation guide before your trip.
- VermontBeginsHere – Plan your stay in Bennington, Vermont.
- Manchester, Vermont – All the happenings in and around Manchester, VT.
- Downtown Rutland – Things to do and places to eat and stay in Rutland, Vermont, including a map of the murals we’ve mentioned in this post.
- Experience Middlebury – A great resource for exploring Middlebury, VT.
- Hello Burlington – All the best things to do in Burlington, VT, and the surrounding communities.
- Accommodations – We love both small hotels, camping, and vacation rentals, depending on the trip. When booking a hotel room, we love Booking.com. If are traveling with our family or need more space, we look for apartments or houses on VRBO, which has a better track record and cancelation policy than Airbnb. We love The Dyrt for reading campground reviews.
Vermont Route 7 Road Trip Summary
Here’s a quick at-a-glance summary of your Vermont Route 7 road trip itinerary. Be sure to bookmark this post so you can come back to it later.
- Day 1: The Shires of Southwestern Vermont
- Day 2: Manchester to Middlebury
- Day 3: Middlebury to Burlington
More Things to do in Vermont
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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 (pre-order your copy for the 2023 release date in May).