Vermont offers every conceivable comfort level when it comes to camping—from lean-tos and pitch-your-own-tent sites in the wilderness to cozy cabins to RV hookup campgrounds with laundry facilities. As fall colors emerge, turning the Green Mountains shades of golden amber, some campgrounds do close down, but there are some in operation through Columbus Day weekend, which coincides with peak foliage in parts of the state, or later. Some places to camp are even open year-round. Reservations are always wise, but they are typically not required if space is available. Here are some of the best places to camp out and leaf peep in Vermont this fall.
Rules for Vermont State Parks After November 1
After October 14, most state parks officially close across the state of Vermont but will reopen on November 1 to begin their winter season with free access and Leave No Trace rules in effect. During this time, parking is only available outside of the main gates, because the gates will be locked. At this time, there is no running water, and hunting is permitted in the parks, so precautions should be taken and campers are asked to submit requests for off-season camping.
You can hike to Vermont's highest peak and witness the most dramatic fall foliage views at Underhill State Park, which is located within the 39,837-acre Mount Mansfield State Forest. Four summit ridge trails begin in the park, making for multiple routes in and out for a variety of round-trip hiking options. There are two group camping areas, plus additional individual sites, 11 tent sites, and six lean-tos, which can only be hiked to. Underhill State Park is open through October 12 in 2020.
Apple Island Resort in South Hero, Vermont, is a top RV camping resort acting as the gateway to the Champlain Islands, a hidden gem in Vermont's northwest corner. The resort caters to large RVs but also offers campsites, cabins, and rental cottages. The view of Lake Champlain is second to none, and camping runs through October 20, which is later than many other RV-type campgrounds. Plus, this one has a golf course and the Arnold Zlotoff Tool Museum, which displays over 3,000 pieces originating from the colonial era.
Conveniently situated between the Appalachian and Long Trails, Gifford Woods State Park in Killington, Vermont, has 21 tent and RV sites, 19 lean-tos, and four cabins, one of which is pet-friendly. You can explore a rare patch of old-growth hardwood trees or take in some of the best of the state's fall colors, especially along the base of Killington and Pico Mountains, where deciduous species typically lose their leaves by late October. The Kent Brook Trail loop provides easy access to the Appalachian Trail, and there is a picnicking area for public use. You can camp at Gifford Woods State Park during the fall season through October 20 in 2020.
For completely uninterrupted access, camping in the Green Mountain National Forest is available year-round and for incredibly low fees, whether you choose a developed campground or a primitive camping area. Silver Lake, for example, has primitive hike-in or mountain-bike-accessible campsites dispersed around its secluded shores; it is located past the Falls of Lana on Route 53 between Brandon and Middlebury. In southern Vermont, Grout Pond in West Wardsboro sits in a 1,600-acre recreation area, with walk-in campsites and a few sites only accessible by canoe.
Merck Forest and Farmland Center in the Taconic Mountain range in Rupert, Vermont, offers an impressive collection of rustic cabins available year-round. All cabins are hike-in, come equipped with woodstoves, and require a two-night minimum stay on weekends. Tent sites and shelters are also scattered around the 3,100 acres of sustainably managed and preserved working landscape.
The campground at Quechee State Park sits on the site of the former recreation area of a woolen mill, which was powered by the waters flowing through Quechee Gorge, Vermont's deepest canyon. Quechee's Connecticut River Valley location and proximity to the waters of the 165-foot gorge below Route 4 on the Ottauquechee River assure breathtaking fall foliage views. The campground offers 45 sites that can accommodate tents, trailers, and even large RVs, plus seven lean-tos. You can access campsites at Quechee State Park through October 18 in 2020.
Mount Ascutney State Park in Windsor, Vermont, features some of the very best stonework crafted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. A summit road—one of the best mountain drives in New England—and a meandering trail lead to the park's famous fire tower, and the entire park offers panoramic views, especially from the summit of Mount Ascutney. There is also a hang-gliding launch point. Wooded campsites, including 38 tent or RV sites and 10 lean-tos, are open through October 18 in 2020.
For a unique experience, you can rent one of two 24-foot yurts at Maple Wind Farm. Located 25 miles southeast of Burlington in Huntington, these unique camping accommodations comfortably sleep up to 10 people and offer a special way to spend the night near the Long Trail and Catamount Trail, especially if the weather becomes too chilly to camp in a tent. There's ample parking available at the farm, and the yurts are located in a distant corner of the property, which takes about 10 minutes to reach on foot.
Located in northern Vermont, Smugglers' Notch State Park has 20 tent sites and 14 lean-tos available for camping this fall. Named after nearby Smugglers' Notch—a narrow, 1,000-foot pass that separates Mount Mansfield (the highest peak in the Green Mountain range) from Spruce Peak and Sterling Ridge—this state park provides a pristine, mountainous environment of its own, with close access to the bright fall foliage, top dining spots and the myriad of attractions near Stowe. Camping season for Smugglers' Notch State Park runs through October 12 in 2020.