Your mountain biking bucket list
Spring is here and the mountain biking in the valley is heating up with new trail systems to check out, races to enter and opportunities to meet other riders at a host of exciting events. We checked with the people who know the trails the best – the chapters of the Vermont Mountain Biking Association that manage and maintain the trails — and came up with a bucket list of trails to ride and events to enter that shouldn’t be missed this spring and summer.
Ride somewhere new
Your local network of trails may be fun, but there’s more riding to be had around the state – and a lot of it. Need some suggestions? Look no further:
- Waterbury’s Perry Hill attracts riders from all over the East Coast and beyond with technical, Enduro-style riding with a big and steep initial climb followed by more downhill-oriented trails awaiting the intermediate to advanced rider.
- Stowe also has a vast trail network, from the moderate, well-mapped system accessed from the Cady Hill parking area on the Mountain Access Road, to the famed Kimmers, Hardy Hall and Pipeline trails further up near the Trapp Family Lodge. The area also holds a network of old school trails, which you may be able to find with some help from local shops. Connect all of them together and you can ride the area for weeks.
- The Montpelier area is home to outstanding trails on Irish Hill (opening May 15), North Branch Park (opening Memorial Day) and in East Montpelier.
- This spring, Green Mountain Trails in Pittsfield invites riders to jump down the Rabbit Hole. Finished late last year, their newest trail is a fast and curvy ride on stone and ledge surfaces that whips through a spruce forest on tight turns with a few pleasant surprises for the more advanced rider.
- In the Mad River Valley, the Revolution trail behind American Flatbread is a local favorite and allows for easy access into the Camels Hump State Forest trails, where the famed old school trails Cyclone and the Clinic meets the newly revised GS and classic Enchanted Forest.
Across Route 17, Chain Gang is not to be missed.
- In the southern Champlain Valley in Addison County, look up the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, a 16,000-acre pocket of Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest with more than 37 miles of designated point-to-point mountain biking trails. It’s wild and remote, but still just a 15-mile drive from Middlebury or 25-miles from Rutland. The challenging Chandler Ridge trail was completed just a couple years back and is for the intermediate to advanced rider offering a 13-mile loop of scenic riding in the Breadloaf Wilderness, that has some wonderful moderate to beginner sections along the Leicester Hollow trail.
- For beginners, intermediates and families, check out Pine Hill Park in Rutland, as well as the updated trails around Blueberry Lake in Warren. Trails in Northfield, especially around Norwich University, are well worth the drive, easily accessible and great for all ability levels.
- Ascutney has more than 50 miles of trails managed by the Sports Trails of the Ascutney Basin for the cross-country rider looking to rack up a lot of miles. It’s also the home of the famed Vermont 50-mile bike or run that’s held in the fall and scheduled this year for Sep. 27.
- Then there are the Millstone Trails near Barre, a system of 60 miles of track with 10 lookout points with views of quarry ponds and surrounding mountains. The network features everything from family-friendly routes to tight and technical singletrack. You can learn more at www.millstonetrails.com.
- As always, if you haven’t made the trip to Kingdom Trails in East Burke, be sure to set aside a weekend this year. Over 100 miles of pristine trails has consistently made this the top of our Black Diamond Awards and this year was no different. It gets kudos from locals, and draws bikers from around the nation.
Head to a bike swap
If you’re looking to trade or buy components, frames or entire bikes, head to one of several bike swaps closest to you. You’ll be able to meet other riders, get rid of your old stuff and maybe score a deal on the parts you need.
The Waterbury Area Trails Alliance and the Vermont Mountain Biking Association is holding a free bike swap open to the public on May 9 in Waterbury. Preregistration isn’t required, and you get to keep 100 percent of your sales. A number of shops around Vermont hold bike swaps, including Onion River Sports in Montpelier, Earl’s Cyclery & Fitness in South Burlington, and Ski Rack in Burlington — all held on the first weekend in May.
Enter a group ride or a race
Riding’s more fun with friends. This spring be sure to sign up for the Gravel Grinder on April 19, a 25-mile ride covering some of the finest hills and dirt roads in the Waterbury area. Funds raised will go toward the maintenance of the Perry Hill trails.
Another classic ride, the Muddy Onion, returns on April 26. The fully supported ride, presented by Onion River Sports in Montpelier, covers 34 miles of scenic dirt roads and finishes with a barbeque, chocolate bacon and maple syrup shots.
In the Northeast Kingdom, the Rasputitsa ride covers 45 miles of rugged gravel roads at the height of mud season. It’s not for the faint-of-heart and it’s scheduled for April 11.
This year, Sugarbush and the Mad River Riders have created a schedule to offer women’s Wednesday rides starting mid-June through August. The rides will alternate between starting at American Flatbread for cross-country riding and at Sugarbush for downhill riding. Mountain Bike Vermont team member Alison Zimmer will be on hand, leading the rides and coaching.
We all love our trails, but they wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for a hardworking group of volunteers that go out and keep the trails in top shape. This spring, get your hands dirty at a workday. The Stowe Mountain Bike Club holds a workday on May 16, and will construct three to four new trail links in the Cady Hill Forest. The Montpelier Area Mountain Bike Association holds their workday on June 6. Check with your local chapter for more dates and locations near you.
Take a break from the climbs and experience the thrill of downhill riding at some of Vermont’s biggest mountains. Killington, Sugarbush and Mount Snow resorts all have downhill trails from beginner to advanced and base areas complete with rental gear and bikes, uphill lift capacity, private and group instruction and organized rides.
This year Sugarbush is making a new practice zone, allowing beginners to ride the “magic carpet” with bikes for beginner/kid practice. The resort is also working on a new beginner trail from the top of the lift, as current riding off the top is intermediate to advanced.
In Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Q Burke and Kingdom Trails have teamed up again to operate the Q Burke Mountain Bike Park, a gravity-fed system of banked turns and technical downhill riding. The park also operates clinics for newer riders.
Get to a festival
There’s nothing more fun than when mountain bikers get together for a few days of riding, followed up by parties and rallies. The New England Mountain Biking festival, June 19-21 at Kingdom Trails, features a weekend of riding, demoing the latest mountain biking gear, camping, live music and more.
That’ll get you psyched for the Vermont Mountain Biking Festival, scheduled for later in the summer on July 31-Aug. 2 in Brownsville, Vt. with riding on the Sports Trails of the Ascutney Basin.