When the weather’s divine and you’ve got a setting as gorgeous as Spruce Peak at your doorstep, why not dine en plein air? Whether you’re craving an adventure, a romantic getaway, or laid-back family time, seek out these Instagram-worthy picnic spots where getting there is half the fun.
For Nature Lovers
Barnes Camp Boardwalk
This is your best bet if you’re hoping to spot wildlife. The trail begins at Liftline Drive behind Spruce Camp and connects to the Long Trail via Switchback Terrace for about a quarter of a mile before sharply descending to the Smuggler’s Notch picnic area. Dine under the canopy of trees and then continue south along the Long Trail to connect with the Barnes Camp boardwalk, which curves through wetlands.
This rich ecosystem—home to beavers, ducks, great blue herons, deer, black bears, and moose—was inaccessible to visitors until October 2017, when the boardwalk was built. (Construction had to be rerouted after beavers built a giant dam in the proposed path—you’ll see it at the end of the walkway.) The short boardwalk terminates at historic Barnes Camp, a century-old former ski dorm located at the base of Smuggler’s Notch and Mt. Mansfield national forest.
Roundtrip, thismoderate hike clocks in at about 1.5 miles. Alternately, you can drive north on Route 108 to Barnes Camp, and enter the handicap-accessible boardwalk from there.
This secluded lookout provides a feast for your eyes and your taste buds. From the deck of the Club, follow the path that meanders above the magic carpet and up the hillside to the top of Sunny Spruce. The hike is short and mellow, but you get serious bang for your buck. Snuggle up on a cozy picnic blanket while soaking in a jaw-dropping panorama of the valley and Mansfield, the slopes awash in a rainbow of wildflowers.
Pop your picnic supplies in a backpack, lace up your hiking boots, and walk or drive up Big Spruce Road to the Mt. Mansfield Academy Ski Club building. From there, trek up the service road that twists up the mountain to the top of the Smuggler’s Notch ski area. The wide trail, bordered by wildflowers and blueberry bushes, is ideal for families or groups of friends.
You’ll definitely get your Strava steps in, as the fairly steep path logs quite a bit of elevation change. (It’s four miles long roundtrip.) But your efforts will be rewarded with an incomparable view from the top of the Sensation lift. Spread your picnic blanket right there—or if you want an extra adventure, head a bit further.
The first offshoot on the right leads to the Long Trail and Sterling Pond, where you can enjoy an unforgettable lunch and chilly swim at a magical, crystal-clear pool nestled high in Mansfield’s peaks. Just be sure to bring a map with you; the unmarked trail is easy to miss.
Or venture onto the third side trail on the right. It’s a short distance to the Spruce Peak Lookout, a large, flat picnic-perfect ledge boasting vistas of Camel’s Hump, Bolton, and Mansfield’s iconic ridgeline.
Spruce Peak Village Green
Nestled in the heart of the Village, the Green is surrounded by views of Mt. Mansfield and Spruce Peak. Arrange a picnic blanket on the lush grass and play a few lawn games before chowing down. Then pop over to the snack stand and cool off with a local craft beer and a maple creemee (the Green Mountain State’s twist on soft-serve ice cream). Tip: Plan your picnic for Friday afternoon, when you can enjoy live music and a summery cocktail from the WhistlePig Pavilion while browsing our bustling artisan’s market.
Wrap up the afternoon with a stroll through the community gardens behind the Pavilion, where we grow fresh veggies for our restaurants. Challenge your kids to a chess match on the over-sized chess board there, or bocce on the courts in front of the Spa. Then head to the Enchanted Forest playground (located behind the Performing Arts Center), where the whole family can try their hand at completing a low-height challenge course. If all that playtime makes you hungry again, snack on the wild raspberries and blackberries that circle the playground.