The Best Free Activities in the Mad River Valley

The Best Free Activities in the Mad River Valley

There are few things I love to do more in the summer than a spontaneous trip on a budget. It seamlessly satisfies the travel bug while keeping my wallet content. The Mad River Valley is the perfect place for a spontaneous weekend trip! With countless outdoor activities, sights to see, and towns to walk around, you’ll never be bored. But like with any trip, it’s easy to spend more on cute knick-knacks from local country stores and renting gear to use than initially planned. To help you plan your ideal spontaneous weekend getaway and stick to your budget, I’m giving you just a few free things to do in the Mad River Valley! The list goes on, depending on the gear you have on hand, but here are a few suggestions that take little to no equipment or money spent!

Sightseeing Covered Bridges

What’s more Vermont than a covered bridge?! You don’t have to save your scenic covered bridge tour for foliage season, though it is beautiful! These bridges are just as fun to see all year round. The Mad River Valley has 3 covered bridges to admire. The Great Eddy, Pine Brook, and Warren Village covered bridges. Each is found in different parts of the valley with scenic views in between. Follow this route created by the Mad River Valley Chamber and witness all there is to stop and see along the way, or just enjoy the drive!


The Mad River Valley is filled with all levels of hiking and walking paths. Each range from accessible and easy nature trails to multi-day treks across the mountain tops. On any trip to the Valley you can pick a trail to venture on and you’ll always see something new. Some wind through dense woods, some take you around ponds and waterfalls, and plenty have scenic vistas to stop and enjoy the view. We’ve done a blog post about some of our favorite hikes in the Valley, which is a great place to start!

Have a river day

This is probably my favorite way to spend a weekend day in the Valley. With so many great river spots to choose from it’s easy to make a day of it! Just as if you were to have a pool or beach day, you can hang out at the river just the same. I always grab whatever snacks and drinks I already have, some beach chairs, and blankets and that’s all you need. Once you get your spot at the river, it’s easy to spend hours there. You can relax, read, swim, tan, float, and play. There are endless amounts of fun to have in the crystal clear waters of the Mad River.

Visit Art Galleries

The Mad River Valley is a valley filled with arts and culture. It’s a creative hub with tons of makers and artists eager to show their work. There are a few shops and galleries around that are typically free to visit. It gives visitors a glimpse into the area from the scenic painted views to the local resources used to make pieces. This is an activity that all ages of people can access and appreciate on a quick trip into the Valley! A few worth visiting are the Artisan’s Gallery, Bundy Modern, and Moosewalk Studios and Gallery.

Take a scenic drive

Probably the easiest activity to do when visiting the Mad River Valley is to simply go for a scenic drive. It’s not hard when the Route 100 Scenic Byway passes right through the valley! It’s recognized as one of the most scenic byways in New England. No matter the time of year, and even on a rainy day, it’s a drive with views that just can’t be beat. Route 100 starts in Southern VT and is 146 miles long. The portion that meanders through the Mad River Valley is a great glimpse of what the state has to offer. If you want to go off route a little bit, you can end your scenic drive at the top of the Appalachian Gap off of Route 17 to catch the sunset.

Find Free Local Events

The Mad River Valley has happenings going on all year round! During the summer is when the community loves to get together, and almost always revolves around live music. Two local, free to access events are the weekly Round Up on Wednesdays by The Sweet Spot in Waitsfield, and the Waitsfield Farmers Market every Saturday! The Round Up is a community event filled with music, food, and friendship. It’s located down by the river where you can just hang out. There’s always tons of food and drinks available, great live music, and people to meet. We recently talked about how great the Waitsfield Farmer’s Market is in another post, so you won’t want to miss that!

Head to our homepage and see new events, new lodging, and new things to check out every week!

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