Explore VT From These 8 New Basecamps

7. Poultney: The Southwest Kingdom

Over the past few years, the area around Poultney that was once the source of slate for much of Vermont has seen so much trail building some folks have started calling Slate Valley the “Southwest Kingdom.” 

With Morrisville trail builder Hardy Avery and his partner, Caitrin Maloney (former executive director of Stowe Land Trust) moving into town recently, an off-the-grid bike shop named Analog and an ambitious plan to build and map more than 20 new miles of trails in 2020 (adding to the 40 existing miles) “Southwest Kingdom” may well be building a reputation that follows in the footsteps of Kingdom Trails.

Getting ready for a a full-moon snowshoe on Slate Valley Trails, in 2019. Courtesy photo

Some of the multi-use Slate Valley Trails, many cut and groomed by Avery, look through the forested hills above Lake St. Catherine, offering stunning views to the west. 

There are three major networks that spiderweb out from parking hubs at the Fairgrounds, Endless Brook and Delaney Woods and work is being done to connect them. You can also ride the D&H Rail Trail from Castleton to the New York border (about 10 miles) and plans have been in the works to connect the northern portion of the trail with the southern portion, which runs from West Pawlet south to West Rupert, another nearly 10-mile ride.

If that’s not enough, Slate Valley Trails has also mapped an extensive network of gravel rides.

Events are still going strong here. The September 2020 Slate Valley Scramble sent runners on a half-marathon scramble on the trails. In October, Analog Cycles, wove many of the Slate Valley routes into an ATB (All-Terrain-Bicycle) race that involved taking selfies at various checkpoints – including one on an island in a pond (accessible by paddleboat). The shop has also hosts a variety of other events. 

In winter, some of these trails firm up for fat biking, but snowshoeing and ski touring (when the snow is thick enough), can be just as fun. The area is also popular with snowmobiles and the Poultney Fish & Game Club’s “The Frosty” tournament usually draws ice fishermen from around the state to Lake St. Catherine.

Ice fishing on Lake St. Catherine. Courtesy photo.

Poultney has also been the home of Green Mountain College, which closed in 2019. In the fall of 2020, Raj Bhakta, the founder of Whistle Pig distillery in Shoreham, Vt., purchased the campus’s 22 buildings (many red brick classics built in the 1800s) and 155 acres.

Bhakta has moved his family there and intends to revive the college as an educational institution with a focus on sustainable agriculture.

Shop: Analog Cycles is an off-the-grid bike shop in East Poultney that carries All-City, Surly, Rivendell and more and also does custom builds and fitting. Mart’s Sporting Goods on Main Street has everything hunters and anglers need. Rabidbaits.com, maker of acclaimed fishing lures, is located in Poultney and owned by two of the area’s prominent fishermen, Bob Scott and his son, Bob Jr. It does online sales only.

Eat/Drink:  A sign of the evolution in Poultney is evident with a glance at the menu at Taps Tavern, a gastro-pub with specials such as Maple Bacon Poutine or Pumpkin Cauliflower Mac n’ Cheese. Poultney Taco Experiment has eat-in and take-out and smokes their own meats.

Stay: Bentley House is a classic Victorian B&B right in town. In Wells, Pond Mountain Inn offers a loft apartment and garden cottage off a renovated farmhouse and has winter specials. In Fair Haven, the Maplewood Inn, Marble Mansion Inn and Haven Guest House are also B&Bs located in historic homes.

What the VOREC Grant Will Do: Poultney is using the VOREC grant of $20,874 to help attract visitors to the area and let them know about the growing trail system. It is creating maps and brochures as well as a website portal for its trails. The town will also conduct an economic assessment of area trails.

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