6. Randolph: The Backcountry Hub
If you haven’t been to Randolph recently you need to go. Start by visiting the Outdoor Hub, a literal trail hub and source for maps and beta, located in The Gear House (a new bike shop) near the entrance to town. There, you can walk into a room with a large 3D topo map of the area showing all the new trails (and some old ones) that have been carved out of the surrounding mountains and hills of the central Greens.
There are trails up and down Braintree Mountain where the Rochester/Randolph Area Sports Trail Alliance (RASTA) helped cut backcountry ski glades. There are also maps of the cut and named ski glades in Brandon Gap (just over the hill), trails in the Sayward Town Forest, trails up and down Abel Mountain, leading out and around Vermont Technical College and soon, out toward Silloway Maple’s vast sugarbush…in short, trails everywhere. Randolph now has more than 240 miles of mapped trails for hiking, biking, cross-country and back-country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing
Some of the trails are left over from when Randolph was a burgeoning mountain bike town in the 1990s and early 2000s. But many are the work of volunteers with RASTA. Led by Zac Freeman and Rochester’s Angus McCusker, RASTA volunteers have cut and mapped routes with an eye toward making the area a center for backcountry skiing, mountain biking and gravel riding, supported with one of the first two VOREC grants.
The trail work is building on other efforts around the town. In the 1950s, Harold Farr put up a rope tow on his farm near Elm Street so local kids could ski and toboggan for free. After many bustling winters, the rope tow and area shut down in 1966. Recently, local businessman Perry Armstrong and his wife Lynn purchased the 12-acre property, reinstated a tubing hill and are considering adding a rope tow.
Two 20-something former mountain bike racers Robin Crandall and Robert Leeson, founded The Gear House bike shop in 2020. Sam Hooper (whose mother, Alison Hooper started Vermont Creamery) bought Vermont Glove, maker of goatskin hand stitched work gloves, in 2018 and, overall, there’s a new energy in town focused on outdoor recreation. Couple that with the Chandler Center for the Arts, all that Vermont Technical College offers, and the prospect of a new hotel slated to be built just off I89, and Randolph is putting itself back on the map.
Shop: The Gear House has bikes and gear for fat biking, gravel riding mountain biking, snowshoeing, camping and backpacking—and consignment gear.
Eat/Drink: Black Krim Tavern, which recently moved down the street to a new larger location, serves up mouthwatering weekly specials such as venison-stuffed poblanos. Chefs Market, located in the old train station, has locally sourced fare for breakfast and lunch and features crafts by area artists. One Main Tap & Grill also serves up meats, poultry and eggs from local farmers and Tacocat Cantina, the bricks-and-mortar version of the popular roving Taco Truck All Stars opened this fall serving local Vermont Chevon goat meat, among other things, in its tacos and burritos. The brew of choice is Bent Hill, brewed in Braintree.
Stay: A plan for a new hotel right off exit 4 on I89 has been in the works for many years but for now, options for places to stay in Randolph are limited to Airbnbs and the like. Or, head over the hill to stay in Rochester at the working farm, Liberty Hill Farm, or at Huntington House, a B&B.
What the VOREC Grant Will Do: In 2019, Randolph (in partnership with RASTA) received a $65,000 VOREC grant for marketing and events, trail design and construction projects and trailhead amenities.
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