Located within easy distance of three ski areas (Bromley, Magic and Stratton) and miles of hiking trails in the Green Mountain National Forest, there is much more to this southwestern Vermont town than the designer outlets. For year-round recreation, Manchester makes a great getaway if just for a weekend. Here are some suggestions:
Hike Mount Equinox
The tallest mountain in the Taconic Range, Mount Equinox dominates the area skyline. With an elevation gain of 3,235 feet, over 5.2 miles, it’s also home to the longest privately owned toll road in the United States. Equinox Skyline Drive and about 7,000 acres are owned by the Carthusians, a Roman Catholic monastic order. Shortly before reaching the top, their monastery is visible to the southwest from a flat stretch of road. When you reach the top, hike a short distance to Lookout Rock for views east across the Green Mountains.
Wander Merck Forest
In the 1940s, George Merck (founder of the Merck Pharmaceutical Company) began buying parcels of land that now make up the 3,000-acre Merck Forest and Farmland Center. Today, the Center features over 30 miles of trails open year-round. The Center also offers educational programs and a working farm. At the end of the day, get a campsite or spend the night in one of eight hike-in cabins available for rent. Each differs in style and sleeps between two and 15 people andcost $50 to $90 a night, depending on the cabin.
Overnight at Stratton Pond
From the trailhead located a short drive from downtown, the trail leads 5.4 miles into the Lye Brook Wilderness, a 14,600-acre preserve in the Green Mountain National Forest. The trail passes the 125-foot Lye Brook Falls (the longest waterfall in the state), Bourn Pond to Stratton Pond, located in the shadow the Stratton Mountain, the tallest mountain in Southern Vermont. Spend the night in the Stratton Pond Shelter or a campsite on the shore and in the morning, link up with the Long trail for a 3-mile hike to the summit of Stratton Mountain or head back to your car. Pick up maps and information at the ranger station on Route 30.
Mountain Bike, Then Take A Dip in Dorset Quarry
The Manchester Mountain Bike Club has worked with private landowners to build a short network of trails in nearby Dorset. Once you are hot and dirty from those rides, spend the later afternoon lounging in the sun or cool off after a long bike ride at this abandoned marble quarry just minutes north of Manchester on Route 30. The far end features sheer faces with cliffs up to 20-feet high to jump from and flat decks for sunbathing while the shallow end is more popular for families. There are a few sculptures carved in the rock to find. On summer weekends the quarry can be packed with families with coolers and radios. Parking can be difficult, so check back in the evenings or during the midweek when the crowds are gone.
Fish the Battenkill
There is a reason that Charles Orvis started his legendary fishing company in Manchester and it’s called the Battenkill. This gentle, scenic river is great to fish, paddle, or just float. The upper section near Arlington features flat water good for fishing and bird watching, the middle here, you’ll find thick woods interspersed with mountain views, sandbars and shady stretches around Eagleville Covered Bridge. Orvis offers a one-day fly fishing school for $245. For daytime canoe rentals, check out Batten Kill Canoe Ltd., located on 7A between Arlington and Manchester.
If you’re on your way to or from your latest adventure, stop by Bob’s for delicious diner fare a setting complete with polished steel trim, lots of neon tubing and a friendly staff can direct you to the trailhead, gas station or wherever you’re headed next. Depot 62 is an eclectic combination of a Turkish carpet and furniture shop and organic Turkish bistro. The Perfect Wife and it’s tavern, The Other Woman, is a Manchester classic and still where everyone goes for a beer, great pulled pork sliders, a round of foosball and to watch the game.
Stay in Style
Manchester is known for its grand hotel, The Equinox Resort & Spa. The historic hotel not only has pretty cush accomodations but also plays host to the Land Rover Driving School and a golf course that has been named one of the 75 best in the U.S. by Golf Digest. There is no shortage of other historic inns as well, such as the classic, chintzy Inn at Ormsby Hill, the more updated Hill Farm Inn and the Inn at Manchester.