Travel 6 minutes 11 January 2023

Road Trip Along the Vermont Cheese Trail

Cheese, brews, and views in the Green Mountain State.

When one thinks of Vermont, maple syrup, fiery foliage, and ski runs are the clearest hallmarks of the Green Mountain State. Over 2.5 million gallons of maple syrup are produced in the state, however, there's another delectable resource the state has in spades: cheese. In addition to providing locals with tons of flavors, Vermont's cheesemakers are also making their mark nationwide supplying countless restaurants across the country with their rounds and wedges.

For those not equipped to tackle the slopes, don't fret: the Vermont Cheese Trail, a smattering of 45 dairy farms, lends equal parts excitement and deliciousness. Some farms are open for visits while others make their products available at farmstands or shops, including cheese by-products like butter, soap, yarn, and occasionally ice cream.

There are enough activities to keep everyone from snow bunnies to outdoor adventurers in check year-round. Below, the towns to explore, where to buy and try cheese, and the best spots to stay on Vermont's cheese trail.

Stowe in fall, Mount Mansfield in the background © DonLand/iStock
Stowe in fall, Mount Mansfield in the background © DonLand/iStock

Jasper Hill Farms in quaint Greensboro, VT is the most prolific of Vermont cheesemakers. Brothers Mateo and Andy Kehler along with their wives, Angie Kehler and Victoria von Hessert, respectively, started their business to highlight the need to buy better and buy local. "We set out to demonstrate it’s still possible to make a good living milking cows on a rocky hillside farm in northern Vermont," says Mateo. "We understood that if our cheese wasn’t consistently great, we wouldn’t accomplish our missions: keeping the farms in our community thriving, keeping kids in our school, and keeping our general store, Willey's, going." It worked, as the pair now employ more than 100 people in a town with a population of around 900. Their neighbors and community are a vital part of Jasper Hill's success. "Our approach has been creating products that are reflective of the beautiful place we live. Terroir is pregnant with all kinds of economic, cultural, and geographic references, but our terroir reflects the four towns surrounding us and our six neighbors from whom we buy milk," says Mateo.

"Gramercy Tavern and Craft were our first restaurants where we Fedex’d them cheese directly," says Mateo. "I showed up to do a staff training and had the most incredible culinary experience. It completely blew my mind." Today, their cheese is served at a slew of Starred restaurants across the country: Thomas Keller's Per SeThe French Laundry and BouchonBlue Hill at Stone Barns (who have a custom cheese), MoMA's restaurant The ModernSepia, Le BernardinDanielJean-GeorgesThe Inn at Little WashingtonAtelier CrennBenu, Monsieur Benjamin, and State Bird Provisions.

If that seems like a lot, it is, but it's due to the complexity the team brings to cheese. Take one of Mateo's favorite cheese, the Bayley Hazen Blue. "It's the most complicated cheese we make, [and] after 20 years we're still learning." Similarly, the Alpha Tolman requires a bit more effort. "We make all our own cultures and rennet, and we’re fermenting our own whey to make this cheese, so it has the collective memory of its ancestors, all the previous batches of Alpha Tolman."

Jasper Hill Farm's Bayley Hazen Blue © Bob M. Montgomery/Jasper Hill Farm
Jasper Hill Farm's Bayley Hazen Blue © Bob M. Montgomery/Jasper Hill Farm

While Jasper Hill Farms isn't open for visits, Willy's, the general store in Greensboro, stocks all of their cheeses, as do loads of cheese shops and supermarkets across the country. If you've searched for reasonably-priced, non-imported crème fraîche in the US, you probably know Vermont Creamery. It's far from the small dairy farm it was in 1984 (its parent company is Land O'Lakes), but it still sources milk and cream from nearby goat farms. Find their cheeses on the cart at Two Star Daniel in New York, along with those from Woodcock Farm (Weston, VT) and Lazy Lady Farm (Westfield).

Lazy Lady Farm's goat cheese © Lazy Lady Farm
Lazy Lady Farm's goat cheese © Lazy Lady Farm

Brattleboro and Bennington
If you're starting your trip at the southern edge of of Vermont, pass through Brattleboro, Bennington, or both. They're less than an hour apart from each other. Below, some key points of interest to enhance the experience.


  • Bennington Battle Monument: Take in sweeping views from its 306-foot-high observation deck of the surrounding states and their rolling green hills, rivers, and lakes. It's a particularly pretty vista in autumn.
  • Bennington College: Small, well-regarded liberal arts college with peaceful campus and busy events calendar.
  • Park-McCullough is a 35-room Victorian-era mansion open for tours Memorial Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day. 
  • Along Main St near South S are a handful of shops—antiques, a thrift store, chocolate, books, made in New England goods, and art prints.


  • Stop at Grafton Village Cheese and Retreat Farm to taste one of Grafton's delicious cheddars and then stretch your legs on the farm's walking trails and forest playground.
  • Main St and Flat St have a handful of small shops, including a bookstore. Pick up picnic provisions at food co-op and drive just across the bridge to Wantastiquet Mountain Natural Area in NH.
  • Raise a pint at microbrewery Whetstone or at Hermit Thrush, who brew a range of sours.

Brattleboro © samuel howell/iStock
Brattleboro © samuel howell/iStock

From Brattleboro, continue north to Woodstock. Get your cheese fix on the way at Vermont Shepherd's farm store in Putney. Yesenia and David Ielpi Major make their seasonal sheep and cow's milk cheeses along with sheep's milk soap, lamb meat, and maple syrup on their 250-acre farm. Depending on the season, you might find fromage blanc and a two-year-aged invierno, a soft-to-semi-hard natural rind cheese made from sheep and cow's milk, or a semi-hard vierno, a sheep's milk cheese aged four to seven months, plus sheep's milk gelato made. In New York, find their cheeses on the menus at Roberta's, Sunday in Brooklyn, Frenchette, Cookshop, Electric Lemon, Blue Hill at Stone Barns and in LA at A.O.C.

A mile up the road lies Parish Hill Creamery's farm store featuring Alpine-style cheeses from cheesemakers Rachel Fritz Schaal and Peter Dixon. Their four cows, Helga, Abigail, Clothilde, and Sonia, graze at a nearby school and yield delicious product, like their two-month-aged smoked Kashar, a Balkan-style "pasta filata" cheese (a pulled-curd cheese) featuring a mild, buttery, slightly peppery flavor, with an extra oomph thanks to being smoked over Vermont apple wood.

From here, drive directly to Woodstock or make a 45-minute detour to Big Picture Farm. Those taking the trip had better be passionate for goats; you can hang out with a crew here while munching on goat-milk caramels (US$12) and then swing through the shop for goat cheese and goat-milk chocolate. 

Vermont Shepherd's cheeses © Vermont Shepherd
Vermont Shepherd's cheeses © Vermont Shepherd

Stay the night in Woodstock at the venerable Woodstock Inn (see where to stay), whose restaurants showcase a wide assortment of Vermont cheeses. The hotel partners with the neighboring Billings Farm & Museum, where you can learn about the history of farming in Vermont, meet the farm crew (cows, goats, horses, chickens, sheep), and buy some Billings cheese and ice cream. If you visit in late July or early September, the astounding 20,000 square-foot Sunflower House will be in full bloom, courtesy of the Inn's gardener Ben Pauly. The 100-plus varieties of sunflowers, 18-inches to 14-feet tall, create a fun (and not terrifying) labyrinth.

Woodstock itself is the picture of New England charm, boasting Vermont's oldest bookseller (Yankee Bookshop). Other highlights in town include the library (housed in an 1884 pink sandstone building) which sells secondhand books, a 135-year-old country store, a glass-blowing and pottery workshop, and a handful of charming, local-focused boutiques.

A ten minute drive from Woodstock is Queechee Gorge, with several peaceful, shaded hiking trails and its eponymous gorge, which beckons for a dip come summer.

Queechee Gorge © Wirestock/iStock
Queechee Gorge © Wirestock/iStock

Like Woodstock, Stowe so visibly channels the picturesque idea of New England that it looks like a film set. It's really just two streets, so you can putter around for half a day, popping into shops like Stowe Mercantile (bulk old timey candy, Vermont jams and craft beer, teas, their own baking mixes), The Current, a contemporary gallery in an 1861 Greek Revival house, and Bunya Bunya, which sells boho women's clothing and accessories. There's a flat, easy bike trail that runs 5.3 miles from Stowe to Top Notch Resort on the Mountain Road; bikes can be hired at MountainOps, which gives right into the trail, or in Stowe itself. Sage Farm Goat Dairy has a farm store open from 10 until evening from April to November; depending on the season, you might find a round of pretty chèvre with fresh herbs, flowers, or spice blends or a wedge of Justice, a two-month-aged raw goat’s milk with layer of vegetable ash.

From Stowe, it's a quick hop over to Burlington on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain.

Snowshoeing in Stowe © Dennis Curran/VT Department of Tourism & Marketing
Snowshoeing in Stowe © Dennis Curran/VT Department of Tourism & Marketing

Burlington feels positively urban compared to the other tiny towns in this guide. If you arrive in time for sunset, get a prime view over Lake Champlain from Waterfront Park. Take advantage of Burlington's walkability by going on a brewery crawl (the city has 10 breweries) or going on foot to the South End, a revitalized formerly industrial area that's now home to galleries, breweries, cafes, a biodynamic wine bar, a live music venue, and an outpost of homegrown chocolate brand Lake Champlain Chocolate.

Sunset over Lake Champlain in Burlington © Hello Burlington
Sunset over Lake Champlain in Burlington © Hello Burlington

Where To Stay

If you're driving north to Vermont, break up the long journey with a night in the Berkshires. This stretch of western Massachusetts encompasses seven towns and is beloved for nearby hiking, museums like Mass MoCA and the Clark, music venue Tanglewood, Edith Wharton's home, and loads of indie shops, cafés, and restaurants. 

North Adams, MA
Outside the town center, on the road to neighboring Williamstown where the aforementioned Clark Museum is, you’ll find another piece of reclaimed Berkshires heritage: TOURISTS, a Sixties motor lodge reborn as a modern, hip little country boutique hotel. There's a summer-camp-esque conviviality here where guests, both adults and kids, play cards at wooden picnic tables or splash about in a nicer and bigger version of a backyard pool.

Woodstock Inn
Woodstock, VT
Vermont may have a reputation for low-frills, homespun charm, but this is an entirely different Woodstock, both literally and figuratively. The Woodstock Inn was founded by Laurance Rockefeller, and it’s stayed true to its aristocratic spirit: this is one of the most elegant hotels in the whole of the Northeast. The rooms are meticulously designed and fantastically luxurious as well. Its restaurants feature many ingredients from the hotel’s own organic garden, while a full-service spa, tennis club, and facilities for Nordic skiing and falconry provide year-long entertainment.

The Woodstock Inn & Resort
The Woodstock Inn & Resort

The Lodge at Spruce Peak
Stowe, VT
The Lodge at Spruce Peak makes intelligent use of high-quality local materials, with stone from local quarries and timber from local forests. It’s a year-round resort with golf, a spa, and fly-fishing excursions in addition to the main ski season event. Even outside of ski season, the events calendar is packed, with farmers' markets, film screenings, concerts, fitness classes, farm-to-table dinners, arts and crafts sessions, and guided hikes, along with robust family programming. The (very well-heated) pool is open throughout the year to work off some of the delectable dishes featured at the resort restaurant. Spruce Peak hits it out of the park with cuisine that wouldn't look out of place in a more urban environment.

Hotel Vermont
Burlington, VT
Just a few minutes’ walk from the shores of Lake Champlain, this centrally located hotel offers city views, stone-tiled showers, and a variety of simple but neat, modern, and very comfortable rooms. Several of Burlington’s premier bars, restaurants, and gastropubs are just down the street, and its lakeside location puts the city’s attractions within easy reach. Parking directly below the hotel.

The Lodge at Spruce Peak
The Lodge at Spruce Peak

Hero image: Jasper Hill Farm's Winnimere
© Lark Smotherton/Jasper Hill Farm


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