From trail passes to après ride beers to disc golf, here is what you need make the most of Millstone.
In 2005, Barre’s former quarry lands opened to the public and 32 miles of recreational trails were created, giving access to non-motorized vehicles. The trails are currently maintained by the Millstone Trails Association and made possible through agreements with local landowners and a crew of volunteers. For bikers, day passes ($10) or memberships (available through the Vermont Mountain Biking Association) are required. Passes can be bought at Onion River Sports and Slopestyle Ski & Ride, both in Montpelier and Morgan’s East Barre Market and Lawson’s Store in Websterville (Lawson’s is cash only). To access the Barre Town Forest, park at 44 Brook St. near Lawson’s Store in Websterville or at the Barclay Quarry lot at 111 Barclay Quarry Rd.
Where to Ride
The Millstone Trails are divided into three areas: the Barre Town Forest, Gnome Man’s Land and Canyonlands. The Barre Town Forest is the largest of these areas at 400 acres and includes multiple large loops with trails appealing to novice mountain bikers. While technically not in the Town Forest, the nearby Whetmore and Whetmore Heights trails have one of Millstone’s most sustained climbs as well as quarry relics. Gnome Man’s Land, has more advanced terrain. In addition to Roller Coaster, try the Angry Gnome trail, which crosses wooden bridges over rocky gaps. Harrington Heights, Harrington Ridge and Vortex feature steep climbs, stretches of exposed granite, constructed bridgework, loose rocks, and slippery roots. To the south of Gnome Man’s Land and the Barre Town Forest is the Canyonlands, which includes advanced and intermediate trails including the Fellowship Ring, a long and twisting singletrack trail (take the first left onto it when you arrive). It’s named in honor of Chittenden County’s VMBA chapter Fellowship of the Wheel, which helped design and build it. This area is also home to some working quarry roads, so it’s best to stick to the trails.
Hike to quarry views
For a day hike or a break from riding, the Town Forest and Gnome Man’s Land offer a number of hiking trails accessed by way of the VAST trail or other doubletrack bike paths. In the Barre Town Forest, head to the Rock Tower, the Empire Lookout, Pierre’s Point and Lovers’ Lookout. The outcroppings feature mellow ascents about a mile apart, making it possible to link them together in a day. In Gnome Man’s Land, park your bike at side of Roller Coaster and hike less than half a mile to the east-facing Sunrise Lookout, which overlooks a deep abandoned quarry with sheer rock faces.
Outfitting and gear
The Magic Wheel Bike Shop in nearby Graniteville has closed as the owners transition to a new location in Barre, with plans to reopen in 2016. If you’re headed to or from the trails and need any repairs, rentals or just an energy bar, be sure to check out Onion River Sports in Montpelier. Slopestyle Ski & Ride on River Street is another great resource in Montpelier and also offers day passes for riders to the trails. The Millstone Hill Touring and Recreation Center is located close to the trails in Websterville. In addition to passes and information on the trails, the Touring Center features Vermont food products, crafts, art and antiques, as well as a small bike shop with a fleet of Jamis bikes available for rental. On your way out of town, stop at one of the last remaining Army-Navy stores in the state, located a short drive out of Barre on Route 302.
Sleep in a (restored) barn
Staying within biking distance of the trails is easy with a selection of local inns and campsites. Millstone Hill (www.millstonehill.com), located just north of the Barre Town Forest, has restored barns, lofts, studios and cottages available for rental, starting at $95 a night. For a classic bed and breakfast experience, check into the Maplecroft Bed & Breakfast located a short distance from downtown. Owners Dan Jones and Yasunari Ishii offer three guestrooms and two suites, all with private baths. The pair have gone to great lengths to preserve the Victorian charm of the building, first constructed in 1887, and rooms start at $100.
Located about four miles (downhill) from the trails, downtown Barre is a good spot for your post-ride celebrations or recovery. The Cornerstone Pub and Kitchen in downtown Barre is a local go-to choice for for pub fare with eight signature burgers and plenty of beers on tap. For those who crave sushi or sashimi after a ride, head to Asian Gourmet for all your favorites. Split a pie at Positive Pie, a Vermont pizza chain with locations in Montpelier, Plainfield and Barre. Try their hand-tossed thin crust pizzas like the Moonshadow (red sauce, walnuts, artichoke hearts, spinach, roasted red peppers and feta), or the Smokehouse (barbeque sauce, bacon, chicken, red onion and bleu cheese crumbles). Wash that down with Queen City Brewery’s Oktoberfest, a traditional German Märzen-style lager with toasty malt profile. If you’ve spent the night in the area and are in need of breakfast sustenance, make a visit to the L & M Diner. It’s informal and fast diner fare with pancakes, eggs and bottomless cups of coffee, all served by an efficient and friendly waitstaff.
Play a round of disc golf
If you still have time and energy, take a few throws around the 18-hole Quarries Disc Golf Course located around the Barre Town Forest. With beginner and advanced tee boxes, the course uses the natural features including piles of grout (discarded granite pilings). Eight different configurations allow groups to circle back to the parking lot from various baskets. The fifth hole plays 130 feet over a quarry. If the disc goes for a swim, consider it a goner.