A winter drive along Vermont’s Route 100 through the Mad River Valley is a pretty spectacular road-trip to say the least. Set between snow-covered mountains, and following the icy river, narrow gorges give way to wide farmland valleys, filling the spaces between the small towns that make Vermont so amazingly authentic. Covered bridges, shops lining Main Street, people milling about – it can often seem like a page out of an old book, but the more time we spend in the Green Mountain State, the more we realize that it’s just another part of the Vermont way of life.
Just a couple weeks ago, Michael, Orvis, and I were fortunate enough to spend a number of days in Warren, right in the middle of the Mad River Valley, and while we barely scratched the surface of all the area has to offer, we made a valiant effort at exploring as much as time allowed.
Staying at the Pitcher Inn is really all about the experience. The property is so much more than just its Relais & Chateaux affiliation, or its eleven uniquely beautiful rooms – it’s about the people, the details, the food, and the character that really make your time here exceptional. Read more about our stay at the Pitcher Inn here.
When Ari, the manager of the Pitcher Inn, told us that he takes his sweet golden retriever, Maisy, on walks along the Bobbin Mill Trail most days, we quickly moved it to the top of our to-do list. Given its proximity to the inn and the fact that Orvis is always looking for a place to really stretch his legs, we ended up visiting the trail each morning we were in Warren. The meandering path follows the cascades that make up Lincoln Brook Falls, through open woodlands and past a number of swimming holes that we’re sure Orvis would love in warmer weather.
Dear friends of ours who have ties to the Waitsfield area put the Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm on our radar and we couldn’t be happier that they did. Although the farm was officially closed when we stopped by, the Winhold family quite literally opened their barn doors to us, introducing us to their wonderfully unique silkie chickens, their sweet donkey Callie, and their stunning Icelandic horses. Signing up for one of their summer or fall trail ride tours through the Mad River Valley is now officially on my bucket list.
Upon hearing that we wanted to visit a sugar shack while we were in Vermont during the very beginning of their spring maple season, Ari and Doug at the inn arranged for us to meet with a local sugar farmer at the Westhill Sugar Orchard. Glenn Cahilly-Bretzin has recently undertaken a passion project to revitalize the trees and sugar shack that neighbor his family’s property, and that morning he spent more than his fair share of time teaching us all about the sugaring process, telling us about his plans to keep the farm small and authentic, and letting us take some photos of his trees and sugar shack. We cannot wait to see their products in local shops on a future trip to the area!
We visited The Mad Taco’s Montpelier location during our August trip to Vermont last summer, so we were especially excited about revisiting some of their delicious tacos in the original location. Simply put, you can’t go wrong here – we devoured our Carnitas and Chile Colorado tacos in minutes.
Ari made sure to highlight The Sweet Spot, right in the center of Waitsfield, for a place to pick up a post-lunch treat. We followed his lead, and after browsing the nearby Artisan’s Gallery & 4orty Bridge Boutique, we popped inside for a cupcake and a macaroon. Their homemade ice cream looked good enough to lure us back for a summer getaway all by itself!
While Michael and I were eating breakfast at the Pitcher Inn one morning, we were fortunate enough to see something that is becoming somewhat of a common occurrence in Vermont. We watched as another guest of the inn got up, left breakfast, and hurriedly walked over to the Warren Store across the street. Shortly thereafter a number of cars started to pull up with people pouring into the store. It turns out that the Lawson’s Finest Liquids beer truck had made their scheduled Thursday morning delivery, and people were immediately lining up to purchase the in-demand beers. Although this was quite the site to see, the Warren Store (a sister property of the inn) is about much more than its beer. They have a wonderful wine selection (complete with an “Ari’s picks” shelf), plenty of local goods (including our favorite Vermont caramels), a clothing store upstairs, and a fantastic deli where Michael and I grabbed sandwiches to go for our trip back to Maine.
The same friends of ours who told us about the Icelandic horses also tipped us off to one of the best access points of the Mad River Path – the West Greenway. When it’s completed, the Mad River Path will be a continuous trail from Warren to Moretown, offering residents and visitors a way to experience the same beauty of Route 100, just by foot (or snowshoe, cross-country ski, etc.). For now, a number of individual sections of the path are available for public use, and Orvis, Michael, and I spent a lovely morning exploring a good chunk of it.
Set in a rustic mill quite literally on top of the river in nearby Waterbury, everything about Hen of the Wood seems classically authentic to the locally-sourced and chef-owned mission it’s based around. We enjoyed our meal this summer at Hen of the Wood so much, we’ve included it on both our Stowe guide and this Mad River Valley guide.
Even though we spent three nights in Warren, we still managed to run out of time to accomplish every item on our Mad River to do list. Next time we hope to visit the Mad River Distillers to sample their award winning rye whiskey, and dine at the original American Flatbread location, Mint, and Peasant. Of course, the next time we find ourselves in the area during winter, skiing Mad River Glen will be at the tip top of our list! Are there any Mad River musts we missed and should be adding to our list?