Who just wants to stand around and watch the red and gold leaves slowly fall from their tree branches to the ground as we move from summer to fall? Instead, take in the changing seasons while you're on the move. From hiking through Vermont’s North Woods to fishing in Michigan like a literary legend, we searched the country for the best spots to get the true autumn experience.
The North Woods Retreat
Check in is simple at Wheeler Pond Camps: Guests receive a padlock code and a hand-drawn map. That's it. The two camps, Beaver Dam and Hadsel Mares, hide within the wilds of Willoughby State Forest, a pristine valley beyond the borders of vibey West Burke. As with most experiences in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, a night at these remote cabins is equal parts rugged and hip - as removed as these cabins may be, they tend to attract more Kombucha-swiggers than survivalist types.
Visitors to the Green Mountain Club's loveliest outposts low-gear it along bumpy Wheeler Mountain Road away from Rt. 5, the area's main thoroughfare, toward the Gnome Stair Trail, which winds between granite boulders and towering maple trees. After a short hike, overnighters find their trail-side accommodation, enter their codes, and push open creaking doors that reveal basic rooms kitted out with bare bunks, stacks of abandoned board games, and small signs asking visitors not to feed the mice. There's no running water, no power, and no cell signal. There is, however, a wood stove for warmth and acres of kindling outside.
Perched on the shores of Wheeler Pond (more of a lake in our estimation), the cabins are the ultimate New England hermitage. Travelers here are more likely to see beaver cubs splashing around, families of loons bobbing past, and grazing whitetail than day trippers carrying tote bags full of syrup. Come late September, moose arrive along with a kaleidoscopic display of foliage. Light filters through the yellowed leaves, rendering the landscape in a warm sepia.
The Northeast Kingdom area has long been popular with bikers and hikers thanks to the immense trail network that winds through and around local diary farms and lakes. There are twenty-two miles of trails within the park surrounding the Beaver Dam and Hadsel Mares cabins alone. The best nearby trail leads up 2,371-foot Wheeler Mountain and offers trekkers an exquisite view of Eagle Cliff, a bald face that plunges down toward the tranquil waters of Willoughby Pond, which reflects the host of nearby peaks.
More information: Wheeler Pond Camps are owned by Vermont's Green Mountain Club and cost $65 per night or $300 per week (guests bring their own sleeping pads and bags). When you're ready to head out into civilization, The Parker Pie Co -roughly 10 miles down the road - is a converted country store where bearded locals chase butternut soup with craft ciders.
Credit: Courtesy Green Mountain Club