BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Mountain and lake views along with fall foliage can be had for free in Vermont's largest city of Burlington, which feels more like a big town than a city. The college town, home to the University of Vermont and a number of other schools, sits on the shores of Lake Champlain, a 120-mile lake between Vermont and upstate New York, with spectacular views of the Adirondack Mountains. The city offers a waterfront bike and walking path and parks as well as a downtown pedestrian mall, easy access to mountain hikes and foliage viewing, all at no cost.
Bike path: Burlington has a 7½-mile recreational path that runs along Lake Champlain from Oakledge Park in the southern end of the city to the Winooski River, at the northern point. The path runs through three waterfront parks, past city neighborhoods and offers bikers, walkers and runners spectacular views of the lake and Adirondack Mountains across the water in New York. Details at enjoyburlington.com/Parks/BikePath1.cfm.
Church Street Marketplace: The center of downtown is Church Street Marketplace, four city blocks paved with brick that have been closed to traffic so that pedestrians can stroll among shops and restaurants, many of which offer outdoor dining in warm weather. The array of shops and restaurants from Leunig's Bistro to Ben & Jerry's to Frog Hollow Vermont State Craft Center can be viewed at churchstreetmarketplace.com.
Waterfront park: Within walking distance of downtown are 900 feet of lakeshore, a boardwalk and benches, and a scenic boathouse where visitors can watch ferries come and go, see boats in the marina and enjoy the sunset. See enjoyburlington.com/waterfront.cfm.
Scenic foliage viewing: Less than an hour's drive from Burlington are small towns, dirt roads, farms, mountain passes and ski areas that offer grand views of Vermont's colorful fall foliage. Interstate 89 South, Route 2 East and Route 116 are all good bets for leaf-peepers. Travel to Bolton Valley or Stowe Mountain Resort or head up Route 108 through Smugglers' Notch, a narrow, windy mountain pass, between Stowe and Jeffersonville, past 1,000-foot rock cliffs and boulders. At the top of the pass is Smugglers' Notch State Park. The road is not open in the winter.
Hikes: Vermont is known for the Green Mountains, which are visible from Burlington, enticing hikers and skiers out of the city. Within an hour's drive of the city are trails to climb Mount Mansfield, Vermont's tallest peak at 4,395 feet, Camel's Hump (4,083 feet) or Mount Hunger (3,539 feet). The region also abounds with shorter, easier hikes such as Moss Glen Falls Trail in Stowe or the Sterling Pond on the Long Trail. For a list of hikes, check out the Green Mountain Club at greenmountainclub.org.