Top Five Places to Mountain Bike: #3: Vermont's Kingdom Trails
It’s late July here in Vermont, and the rain has finally stopped pouring down on a daily basis. So finally, I can pull my Cannondale out of the garage and head, once again, into the woods. I’m new to Vermont. Only been here a year. But I’ve discovered a few things about biking here in Vermont.
The first is it’s weird. Out West, where I learned to ride, almost all bike rides are on public lands. Here, they’re on private lands as often as public. Sometimes it’s a collection of neighbors coming together to create a trail system. Sometimes it’s a college. Sometimes it’s on public lands. But it’s a hodgepodge of ownership.
Next, it’s smooth. The trails I’ve ridden in Vermont are mostly soft soil, fast, bermed, and buffed out. This is beautiful trail. None of Colorado’s rocky terrain. This is a soft and beautiful ribbon through the forest, and reminds me so much of northern Idaho’s riding.
Third, it also, often costs money to mountain bike the Green Mountain state. It seems that half the places charge you so they can maintain the trails. This is a shock to a Western rider. But it makes sense. There’s no Forest Service trail crew to maintain these trails since so many of them are on public lands. So, often, someone is hired to maintain these trails. And that means that I have to pay $10 to ride. That’s a hard pill to swallow.
Finally, the riding is great. Vermont might be known for maple syrup and farming and skiing, but it’s got some great biking to be had.
And the best place to bike in Vermont is Kingdom Trails. How good are the Kingdom Trails? They’re not just Vermont great. Nor are they just New England great. They’re world class riding. Dirt Rag Magazine said, “Home to the Best Mountain Biking in the US.” And good enough that Bike Magazine said they are the best trail network in all of North America. Yup, that includes all of the western US and Canada. And their trail system is located in East Burke, which was recently named one of the 101 best outdoor towns in America.
Last summer, my first summer here in Vermont, Sarah and I were brought to Kingdom Trails by our two friends, Tim and Alex. The first few rides, I spent most of my time trying to figure out where the heck I was on the trail map. But once I figured it out, what I realized was that I was on some amazing terrain. There are some steep, curvy descents that take you from ridgeline down toward the river. Then there are long, smooth trails that run beside the river. Then either gut-punch climbs back toward ridgeline or slow slogs up, up, up to ridgeline. There’s also incredibly bermed trails. Another trail offers these massive serpentines. Another is mostly wooden bridges that start out wide and grow more and more narrow until the last bridges are maybe a foot wide.
And some of these trails pass beautiful Vermont farms. Some pass bed and breakfasts and eateries. One trail passes both a place to buy local meat and a theatre. In the distance you can see Burke Mountain (which is covered in downhill trails) and wind turbines cranking out electricity. It’s rural, bucolic, peaceful, smooth, fast. It offers some great beginner’s terrain, plenty of intermediate terrain. And advanced terrain as well. And if my numbers are right, there’s over a hundred miles of trails. And it’s all on privately owned land.
And after biking, we always head into East Burke to grab
some food at the East Burke General Store, maybe grab a beer at the Pub Outback
or an ice cream at Chappy’s Ice Cream. And when we’re there, we’re not weirdo
bikers in some town, we are the town. Bikers are everywhere. They’re on their
bikes. They’re at East Burke Sports, a great little bike shop. They’re grabbing
groceries at the East Burke Market. On a weekend day, this town crawls with
bikes. It’s a biker’s heaven. And you can ride right from town to trails and
from the trails right to town.
So, for me, the king of the trails in Vermont is Kingdom Trails! It’s about as good as it gets.
Next month, we return to Colorado, to the towns where I grew up and to desert and mountain biking.