A river runs through it, and there are mountain ranges on either side. But that’s only part of what makes the Mad River Valley so scenic. The farms and settlements are charming, too. The best way to see it all is from two wheels. A 16.3 mile loop takes you off the main thoroughfare — Route 100 — onto the back roads of Waitsfield, Warren and Fayston, through covered bridges and along ski slopes, past art galleries and antique shops.
Addison County is a biker’s dream come true. The terrain ranges from flat, open expanses along the lake to rolling roads dotted with dairy farms.
It’s easier to negotiate Stowe on a bicycle than in a car, and the popular year-round bike path is a welcome alternative to the congested Mountain Road. The 5.3-mile trail starts next to the Stowe Congregational Church and crosses the West Branch River 11 times as it meanders north past shops and restaurants.
The Charlotte-Essex, NY Ferry offers a good glimpse of Vermont’s gold coast. Drive to the dead end of Ferry Road, hop the ferry, and twenty minutes later, you’re in Essex, New York, a historic little village with its own leafy charm. You can explore the downtown on foot, but the better way to go is by bicycle. The whole area, from Westport to Willsboro Point, is a two-wheeler’s paradise. Not as much traffic on that side of the lake, either.
The Burlington Bike Path runs for miles along the city’s shoreline, north through Colchester and out onto a narrow old railroad causeway that connects Chittenden County with the Champlain Islands. The Island Line Trail ends at “the cut” — except on certain weekends when there’s ferry service across the water. Be sure to stop for “penny candy” at the historic Auer Family Boathouse, where the Winooski River flows into the lake.
Dirt Rag magazine calls it “the best mountain biking in the United States.” A Boston Globe reporter “felt like shouting ‘Wahoo’ like a kid.” The media raves are coming in about Kingdom Trails in East Burke — a huge, mapped, marked mountain-biking network in the Northeast Kingdom. About 90 percent of the pedaling paradise is on private land. Bikers come from as far as Maine and Ontario to ride the singletrack on trails called Poundcake, Todry’s Tour, Jaw, Beat Bog and — get this — Coronary Bypass.
Hiking, swimming and picnicking are popular at this South Burlington municipal park. Please, folks, no bikes on the trails.
Quarry country has its own unique beauty. Explore it the “hard” way at Millstone Hill, a bed-and breakfast located in East Barre. The proprietors have developed a 50-plus-mile network of bike trails — both challenging singletrack and more moderate ones — that brings you alongside dozens of old quarries and “grout” pile lookouts. One hundred years ago, it was the site of a small, independent quarry operation, one of more than 75 in the area. Millstone offers camping, too, and indoor accommodations start at $95. The whole lodge rents for $490. PHOTO: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
Find more than 10 miles of intermediate and advanced single track mountain bike trails, including the "Skywalker," "Yoda" and "Millenium Falcon" loops. You can also connect to the trails in the Hinesburg Town Forest, maintained by the "Fellowship of the Wheel."
On 500 acres in Williston, the nonprofit Catamount Outdoor Family Center maintains more than 20 miles of trails for running, biking and hiking. You can take part in organized races or do your own thing.
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