Stowe, Vermont is best known as a winter hotspot for skiers and snowboarders, so when I recently visited over the summer, I expected to find a sleepy mountain town. Instead, Stowe was booming—the off-season is really the new “on-season.”
Stowe cherishes its small-town charm, and with warm (but not hot) weather, boutique hotels and resorts, and fresh mountain air, the the best time to visit Stowe is from late spring through early fall. And with Vail Resort’s recent purchase of the mountain, the area could see even more off-season development and new businesses.
The Best Things to Do in Stowe in the Off-Season
Here are the best things to do in Stowe when the snow isn’t falling.
Go for a Day Hike
There are dozens of popular trails in Stowe, making a day hike the perfect way to enjoy the weather, views, and, in the fall, foliage. The Stowe Pinnacle Trail is one of the best things to do in Stowe for leap-peeping views, and the steep but manageable hike to the summit is mostly shaded. The trail is about three miles out-and-back, enough of a workout to earn you some brews post-hike.
Another great trail is the Sunset Rock Trail, which starts right in town and can be done in under an hour—yes, the sunset views are amazing. If you’re chasing waterfalls, check out the Moss Glen Falls Trail, a 2.9-mile route that’s suitable for all levels.
Take a Dip in a Swimming Hole
You’ll find the breathtaking Bingham Falls swimming hole along the Mill Trail, or near a parking lot located just a few minutes’ drive from Topnotch Resort. The waterfall is part of Smugglers’ Notch State Park and can get crowded during the weekends and in nice weather. There are a few different rocks you can use to plunge into the chilly water—just use caution.
Go Horseback Riding
There are a few horseback trails in Stowe, and Topnotch offers both guided trail rides and riding lessons at its Equestrian Center. The trails in Stowe are flat and scenic, perfect for a first-time rider.
Go on a Brewery Tour
Stowe has one of the best craft brewing scenes in New England, if not the entire Northeast. From the cult favorite (and often sold out) Heady Topper by The Alchemist to the newly opened Von Trapp Bierhall, you could spend a day (or weekend) touring Stowe’s breweries. And that’s exactly what you can do with Rick Sokoloff’s 4 Points brewery tour—with groups of four or more you can customize your stops and leave the driving (and knowledge) up to him.
Whether you’re looking for intense mountain biking or a leisurely ride, biking is one of the best things to do in Stowe. The Stowe Recreation Path is a 5.5-mile greenway that runs from Topnotch Resort (the access point is across the street) to Stowe Village. It’s a flat, picturesque path with covered bridges, open farms, and winding creeks. There are a few other access points along the way, but the full-length ride is a leisurely way to spend a morning or afternoon.
Adrenaline junkies can opt for some mountain biking down or around the mountain. 4 Points also offers mountain biking tours and lessons (as well as a popular brewery/mountain biking combo tour—don’t worry, you bike first). With local guides and awesome trails, these tours are suitable for all age and fitness levels.
Relax at a Spa
After a day of hiking or other outdoor activities, finding a relaxing spa is one of the best things to do in Stowe. Most mountain lodges have their own spa, but you can typically purchase a day pass if you’re not a guest.
Go to the Top of Mt. Mansfield
Whether you hike to the top or cheat and take a gondola or drive, enjoying the highest point in Vermont is one of the best things to do in Stowe in the off-season. Famous for its silhouette shape—locals will be happy to point out the nose, upper lip, lower lip, and chin—there’s tons to do besides skiing on the mountain.
Besides countless hiking trails, the mountain is home to an Adventure Center—known for its zip-line course down the mountain—as well as the Cliff House Restaurant, the Gondola Skyride, biking trails, a visitor’s center, and more.
Shop for Vermont Specialties
Don’t let its size fool you. While Stowe’s Main Street is small, the town is packed with cafes, ice cream parlors, galleries, restaurants, and boutiques. Shaw’s General Store is a must for mountain gear and souvenirs.
And don’t leave town without your Vermont staples; you’ll find plenty of maple syrup, farm-fresh cheese, and cider donuts here, too.
Embrace the Farm-to-Table Concept
With more than 7,000 farms in the state, you’d better take advantage of fresh food and meats while you’re in Stowe. Go full throttle at the local Sunday farmers’ market and bring home your own fresh goods. Or get hands-on and do your own maple sugaring at Nebraska Knoll Sugar Farm.
Don’t worry: If you’re just looking for some locally sourced ingredients at dinner, there are plenty of farm-to-table restaurants in the area. Favorites include Flannel, Plate, and Edison Hill Inn‘s dining spaces.
You can also look for the Vermont Fresh Network logo on a restaurant’s website to ensure it uses local Vermont ingredients.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 10 Best Off-Season Mountain Towns
- How to Spend a Weekend in Stowe, Vermont
- 10 Best Romantic Vermont Resorts and Hotels