In three miles west from White River Junction and the I-91/I-89 freeways, US-4 climbs upstream into the valley of the Ottauquechee (AWT-ah-KWEE-chee) River. You cross Quechee Gorge almost without warning, but adjacent parking on both sides of the gorge gives you a chance to take a longer look at the dramatic little canyon or to stretch your legs along the rim-side hiking trails.
On the east side of the gorge, Quechee State Park (802/295-2990) provides access to the Ottauquechee River and also has camping with hot showers. Next to the park is the nature center of the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (802/359-5000, daily, $15 adults), an outdoor education and animal rehabilitation center dedicated to local wildlife, especially raptors. Enclosures let you get up close and personal with hawks, eagles, owls, and falcons.
West of the gorge, you can turn north off US-4 into old Quechee, a quaint town famed as the home of renowned glassblower Simon Pearce’s woolen mill-cum-art gallery. Norman Rockwell-esque Quechee is a fine example of how pleasant life can be once you turn away from the fast lane. Soak up the ambience with a stay (or just a memorable meal) at the Quechee Inn (1119 Quechee Main St., 802/295-3133, $119 and up), a half mile from town.