Route 100: The Skiers’ Highway

Known as the Skiers’ Highway, serpentine Route 100 manages to pass the base of nearly every major ski resort in southern Vermont. From Ludlow south through Jamaica, Stratton, and West Dover, any doubt that skiing is the cash cow of the state’s most lucrative industry—tourism—is quickly dispelled by the clusters of inns, sportswear shops, vacation real estate offices, and restaurants along the way.

In recent years, downhill mountain-bikers and inn-to-inn cyclists riding Route 100 have made the region more of a year-round recreation center, but overall you still get the sense that, pretty as they are with their village greens, old homes, and hand-carved wooden signs, many of these Route 100 towns spend the warm months convalescing.

Rochester and Granville Gulf

Route 100 runs through the geographical and spiritual heart of Vermont, winding from curve to curve past cornfields and fat cows lazing in impossibly green pastures, alongside gurgling streams, up and down switchbacking passes, and generally setting the standard for what scenic roads ought to be. Route 100 runs right at the edge of the Green Mountains National Forest, parallel to Vermont’s beloved crest-line Long Trail, and every so often passes by a picturesque gas station-cum-general store, selling everything you’ll need to keep you on the road, from gas to maple-syrup milk shakes. Up and down the whole state of Vermont, Route 100 is a wonderful drive, as are just about all of the roads that intersect it.

North of US-4, the first place you come to along Route 100 is Pittsfield, an all-in-white hamlet set in a pastoral valley and surrounded by hayfields and acres of corn. From here Route 100 edges east into the White River Valley, passing through Stockbridge, which centers on an ancient-looking Ford dealership, and a couple more places that seem to exist solely on maps. The next stop is Rochester, at the junction with Route 73, which heads west over scenic Brandon Gap. Rochester is a proper Vermont town, with a village green, a bandstand, and the excellent Rochester Café & Country Store (802/767-4302), serving breakfast and lunch, and bread pudding and milk shakes—yum.

Across the river and away from Route 100, the Liberty Hill Farm & Inn (802/767-3926, $139 and up per person) is a family-friendly farm-stay B&B and has a working 261-acre dairy where you can hike, bike, fish, or help feed the cows, chickens, and cats.

North of Rochester, Route 100 passes through a still-working landscape, with ski club cabins sharing the roadside scene with a few barns and remnants of historic sheep pens. The one don’t-miss highlight of this middle section of Route 100 is Granville Gulf State Reservation, about 30 beautiful miles north from US-4. The Green Mountains rise steeply to either side of the road, and just off the west side of the road, delicate Moss Glen Falls tumble down through craggy cliffs to a gurgling stream. A short boardwalk leads to the foot of the falls from a small parking turnout.

Wilmington and Route 9

Route 100 catches a panoramic view of Mt. Snow as the roadway descends into Wilmington (pop. 2,225), a picturesque village of 18th- and 19th-century shops and houses built along the Deerfield River. Wilmington also has some great old-fashioned places to eat, like Dot’s Restaurant (3 W. Main St., 802/464-7284), a white-clapboard Vermont institution, famous for its pancakes, burgers, chili, and pies. Nevertheless, the warmer months see a fair bit of activity in the galleries and antiques shops, and for classical music lovers, the Marlboro Music Festival (802/254-2394 summer only) marks summer’s zenith at Marlboro College, a dozen miles east toward Brattleboro on Route 9. Between mid-July and mid-August, several score of the world’s finest classical musicians perform here in one of the nation’s most distinguished annual chamber music series.

Heading westward toward Bennington, you can continue west on Route 9 to Bennington and follow US-7 south through Williamstown, or you can make your way south through the much less developed areas along Route 8 and Route 100, which take you through the heavy-duty mill town of North Adams.

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