Distance: 41 miles
Time: 1 hour
Season: Late spring to mid-fall. Fall foliage is spectacular, and warming influence of Lake Champlain often extends peak season well into October.
Start at the northern end of Vt. 22A in Vergennes. At 1 square mile, it claims to be the smallest chartered city in the country—and you’ll notice that the tidy 19th-century downtown quickly gives way to pastures.
Continue south on Vt. 22A into the predominantly agricultural community of Addison. The marshy lowlands that lie off to your right, starting about 5 miles south of Vergennes, are part of the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area, a stopover for waterfowl using the Lake Champlain migration corridor. In the background in New York stand the high peaks of the Adirondacks, dominated by 5,344-foot Mount Marcy. Less imposing, though far more accessible, is 1,287-foot Snake Mountain, which rises in a long ridge to the left of Vt. 22A, just beyond the intersection with Vt. 17. (Turn right here if you want to take the Lake Champlain Bridge to New York State.) To reach the trail to the top of Snake Mountain, turn left onto Vt. 17, then right after a mile, and left after another 3.3 miles.
Mountains, high or low, do not figure in the immediate landscape as you drive south along Vt. 22A. Traditionally a dairy state, Vermont has been steadily losing individual farms over the past few decades. But in the gently rolling lowlands of the southern Champlain Valley, dairying is still king.
Unlike the rocky Green Mountain foothills, this fertile terrain encourages the consolidation of smaller farms into large operations and the maintenance of economically viable herds of cows numbering in the hundreds.
Head down Vt. 22A through Addison and Bridport, and you’ll see pasture after pasture dotted with black-and-white Holstein-Friesians, Vermont’s most popular dairy cow, as well as the occasional herd of fawn-colored jerseys or fawn-and-white guernseys.
As you enter the village of Bridport, 10 miles south of Vergennes, you will pass the right turn onto Vt. 125 west, an alternative way to the Lake Champlain Bridge. Just ahead on the left is Vt. 125 east to the college town of Middlebury, 8 miles away. Drive another 10 miles through the dairy country south of Bridport to reach Shoreham, whose antique shops, inn, and country store lie just to the right of Vt. 22A on Vt. 74. Shoreham looms large in Vermont agriculture: Here, as in the Champlain island communities to the north, the temperature-moderating influence of the lake encourages apple growing. Late summer marks the opening of numerous roadside stands and pick-your-own orchards.
A right turn onto Vt. 74 at Shoreham leads you, in 5 miles, to the little ferry for Ticonderoga in New York State. Fort Ticonderoga, now restored to its Revolutionary-era appearance, was the British stronghold captured on May 10, 1775, by Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen, legendary leader of Vermont’s Green Mountain Boys. If you take the ferry from Larrabees Point near Shoreham to the New York side, you will be following in the wake of Allen’s wooden boats.
Back on Vt. 22A, continue 6 miles south past Shoreham to reach Vt. 73 at Orwell. A left turn here leads directly into the village, with its handsome green and 1810 Town Hall; a right will bring you, in 6 miles, to another Revolutionary War site, Mount Independence. Interpretive trails here connect remnants of a 1776 fort built to block a southward British drive. The lake and mountain views alone are worth a ramble along the trails.
Just 1.5 miles south of Orwell on Vt. 22A, look to your left for Historic Brookside Farms, a 1789 farmhouse with a stately 1843 Greek Revival front and a beautiful freestanding curved staircase. Not a working farm at this time, Brookside serves as a B&B with miles of trails for nature hikes and cross-country skiing.
As you drive south of Orwell, notice how the terrain becomes increasingly hilly, and the ubiquitous Champlain Valley dairy farms begin to give way to woodland. Roughly 5.5 miles past the Vt. 73 intersection, you can stop at a pleasant picnic area on the left. A mile and a half farther is a right turn for Benson, a tiny village from which a network of gravel roads spreads out toward the narrow southern tip of Lake Champlain. Continue south for little more than 6 miles to where Vt. 22A meets US 4. Head east from here to Rutland on US 4 or west into New York State; just ahead is the town of Fair Haven, where brick storefronts face the green in a scene little changed over the past century.
Map and information originally published in National Geographic's Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways
On the Way: Farm stands abound, but keep an eye peeled for "you pick" orchards where you can sample the wares fresh from the tree.
Don't Miss: If Fort Ticonderoga's authentic fife-and-drum corps isn't thrilling enough, sign up for specialty tours that include nighttime firings of the fort's cannon.
Side Drive: From Vergennes it's just an hour detour to Waterbury, home of the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory tour.
Be Safe: When stopping at roadside stands, be sure to pull as far off the pavement as possible.
Motorcyclist Memo: Remember those spectacular fall colors can be so distracting that some leaf-peeping car drivers may fail to see motorcyclists.