Summer is exquisite in New England, and this time of year in Middlebury, Vermont is no exception. Nestled in the agricultural valley of Addison County, Middlebury features lush farmland along rolling hills, a quaint New England downtown, wetland meadows thrumming with birdsong along the banks of Otter Creek, and the backdrop of the Green and Adirondack Mountain landscapes.
This natural beauty has inspired many visual artists, including Middlebury’s own Woody Jackson, whose signature Holstein cows appear on every carton of Ben & Jerry’s. But beyond the stunning visuals, the natural landscape is a playground for both kids and grownups, on land and in water, for both the adventurous spirit and the ambling soul.
Mother Nature’s Playground
Middlebury is home to some of the best hiking and biking trails in northern New England, such as the nearby 16,000-acre Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, providing 70-plus miles of multi-use trails. Within Moosalamoo we recommend the Silver Lake Area Trails and Rattlesnake Cliffs Trail, but check the Green Mountain National Forest Day Hiking website to see if any trails are closed for Peregrine falcon nesting.
Other favorites within a short drive from downtown include the Snake Mountain Wildlife Management Area or Bristol Ledges, a short, steep hike to the panoramic views of Bristol village.
For easier hiking, try the scenic gorge at Texas Falls Recreation Area, or enjoy the wild blueberries along the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail in Ripton. Those interested in a more meditative forest experience will love the Spirit in Nature Interfaith Path Sanctuary.
Or, if you appreciate art as much as the outdoors, check out Lemon Fair Sculpture Park, an outdoor, self-guided tour of more than 50 contemporary sculptures located off Route 74. And if you’re just looking to hike or bike without ever getting in your car, the 19-mile Trail Around Middlebury (TAM) encircles the community.
Mountain biking enthusiasts will find an array of trails within the Middlebury/Rochester District of the Green Mountain National Forest. The Addison County Bike Club is a great resource for detailed descriptions and conditions of nearby trails.
Road biking devotees will find their sweet spot, too. The “Heart of Vermont Bikeways” guide provides information on several themed road bike loops in Addison County. Frog Hollow Bikes in Middlebury offers additional trail and route loop information, as well as bike rentals.
Visitors interested in leisurely pastimes can explore Middlebury College’s 18-hole Ralph Myhre Golf Course, open to the public and offering equipment rentals, food and beverage service, and spectacular views of the Green Mountains.
Middlebury has its own water recreation spots that are even closer than Lake Champlain. Branbury State Park on Lake Dunmore is ideal for swimming, boating, and fishing—and offers boat rentals, concessions, and restrooms. Swimming and non-motorized watercraft are also permitted at Fern Lake, a gorgeous little secluded lake in Leicester.
Try canoeing and kayaking in the Lemon Fair Wildlife Management Area or the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area to view Vermont’s abundant waterfowl.
You can even find high-quality, easy access fishing within 15 minutes from downtown Middlebury. The confluence of the New Haven River and Otter Creek supports brown and rainbow trout. Belden Falls on Otter Creek is another productive area, and the north branch of the Middlebury River in Ripton is highly recommended for picturesque small stream fishing. Middlebury Mountaineer is the angler’s best resource for equipment and supplies, and up-to-date information on temperatures, hatches, and the most prolific spots.
Looking to extend your stay in Mother Nature’s playground? Branbury State Park has 36 RV/tent camping sites and seven lean-tos, and nearby Kampersville and Waterhouses also offer tent and RV camping with full amenities and easy access to Lake Dunmore. The remote Moosalamoo Campground in the Green Mountain National Forest offers 19 primitive campsites, and Silver Lake Campground provides hike-in only campsites along the eastern shoreline of Silver Lake. Backpackers will find ample overnight opportunities in the Bread Loaf Mountain and Joseph Battell Designated Wilderness Areas.
Arts & Culture
Central Vermont’s natural beauty is a muse for artists and makers alike, and Middlebury certainly celebrates its creatives. Visitors can peruse professional artwork at Edgewater Gallery’s two locations in downtown Middlebury, and the Jackson Gallery in the lower level of Town Hall Theater. Local makers are also central to summertime Saturday markets at the Stone Mill Public Market and Middlebury Farmers Market.
The Town Hall Theater (THT), the crown jewel of Middlebury’s performing arts scene, is home to the Middlebury Community Players and the Opera Company of Middlebury. THT has modified its programming to offer performances both online and in-person at Middlebury’s historic Marble Works district.
Amble through the Henry Sheldon Museum in downtown Middlebury telling Vermont’s storied history, and visit the Vermont Folklife Center to see living cultural exhibits of the state’s diverse communities. The UVM Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge is home to the oldest continuous Morgan horse breeding herd in the world. Pre-registration is currently required for visitors, so contact the farm prior to your visit.
If you’re visiting Middlebury for a day, a weekend, or longer, visit Experience Middlebury for lodging, dining, and shopping options. You may even want to add another day or two just to sample Middlebury’s craft beer, wine, cider, and spirits. The Middlebury Tasting Trail has detailed information on tasting room hours for seven local producers, all within just a few miles. Cheers!
Special Summer Events
Middlebury residents are ecstatic about the return of their annual summer events this year. On July 10, the annual St. Stephen’s Peasant Market returns to the town green, featuring a community-wide flea market, children’s activities, and homemade fruit pies.
The Middlebury Festival on the Green, a weeklong summer concert series, returns in early August to showcase Vermont performers. The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival is scheduled from August 25 to 29, and is expanding its viewing schedule to offer more screenings of its featured films.
Finally, the THT and Better Middlebury Partnership will host an end-of-summer bash on August 21, with live music, food and drink, games, shopping specials, kids’ activities, and more.