5. Montpelier: A City of Trails
One of the reasons Montpelier was chosen to be Vermont’s state capital back in 1805 was its central location. Nestled between the mountains, roughly in the east/west middle of the state with the Winooski River running through it, Montpelier was relatively easy to get to.
Today, that’s still true and good news if you want to base out of there to recreate. From Montpelier, it’s a 40-minute drive to the base areas of Sugarbush, Mad River Glen or Stowe. The Millstone Trails (which circle around the deep Barre granite quarries) are a 20-minute drive. It’s another 45 minutes to Groton State Forest.
It’s no wonder that when ultra-runner and social media influencer Mirna Valerio came to visit Vermont, she chose to live here. Or that other ultra-runners such as Alex Jinks (two-time winner of the Ghost Train 100-Mile trail race in New Hampshire) call Montpelier home.
You don’t need to go far out of town if you want to just get out and burn some calories. As soon as the weather is cold enough, a lighted outdoor skating rink appears on the State House lawn.
Just steps from the State House, Hubbard Park has more than 7 miles of hiking and skiing trails running through its nearly 200 acres,https://roamvt.com/ as well as a sledding hill and a cool 54-foot stone observation tower built in the 1920s. This past summer, the Montpelier Area Mountain Bike Association worked with North Branch Nature Center to add a pump track and four-miles of machine-carved flow trails to the network.
Those trails have been the site for the Frozen Onion, a mid-winter fat bike event put on by the town’s outdoor gear shop, Onion River Outdoors which also hosts weekly fat bike rides and a January candle-lit snowshoe romp with hot chocolate and bonfire.
ORO also has avalanche awareness workshops and provides skate rentals and free snowshoe rentals to anyone headed over to North Branch trails. “We really want folks out there packing the trails, not postholing,” says Jen Roberts, Onion River Outdoors’ owner.
Shop: Run by outdoor experts with years of experience in paddling, running, cycling and skiing, Onion River Outdoors has been the hub of the region’s outdoor community for years and has an extensive selection of the latest gear as well as advice on where and how to use it. Next door ROAM offers apparel that’s good for trail wear and a night out. SlopeStyle Ski & Ride also has a great selection of alpine gear. With dozens of specialty shops and boutiques featuring local artists and craftsmen (and free parking over the holiday season) Montpelier is a great spot to shop for presents.
Eat/Drink: The Three Penny Taproom is Montpelier’s legendary bar serving up a wide variety of local brews. Sarducci’s offers finer dining with views of the river and Kismet offers take-out only for its eclectic specials, which range from beef tartare to noodle soup bowls. Caledonia Spirits, makers of Barr Hill gin, also has its distillery and tap room on the outskirts of town on Gin Lane.
Stay: The Capitol Plaza Hotel is within a stone’s throw of the Capitol building and is a favorite of lawmakers during the legislative session. An elegant hotel, The Inn at Montpelier, which dates back to the early 1800s, has 19 rooms right off Main Street.
What the VOREC Grant Will Do: Working with private landowners, the town is using a VOREC grant of $25,400 to create and market a 5-mile universally accessible loop connecting downtown Montpelier, U32 High School, Vermont College of Fine Arts, Caledonia Spirits, East Montpelier Trails, and the Cross Vermont Trail.
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