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Friday, October 14, 2016

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails - East Burke, Vermont


It wasn't until I moved to Utah that I rode my first mountain bike.  I quickly adjusted to this new hobby and started to enjoy time spent on trails on my bike.  Utah's trails are basically steep, climbing a lot of elevation over relatively pretty well-groomed trails.  When I moved to New England and took my bike on the trails here, it was entirely different.  No real elevation and the trails are technical, with a lot of roots, rocks, and bridges over streams.  When I heard about a group trip to Kingdom Trails in Vermont, I was eager to take my bike on some different terrain.  I was excited to experience some groomed trails, and even find some elevation in Vermont.  Off to the Northeast Kingdom we went.  

Biking Trails at KT


"Kingdom Trails is a charitable non-profit conservation organization, driven by a volunteer Board of Directors, working in partnership with private landowners, local businesses, government agencies and other non-profit organizations to create and manage out-door recreation opportunities and preserve and protect trails. During all seasons of the year we offer an extensive trail network for non-motorized, multi-use recreation activity. Currently, all mapped trails in our local area are on private land. Kingdom Trail Association was formed to create legal access to these trails and manage the system. In order to generate the funds needed to maintain the trail system and manage usage on private land the Association requires all users to purchase either a Day Member Pass or a Membership to access the trail system. We strive to keep our rates extremely low so that everyone will be able to enjoy the trails…"
We really enjoyed this trail system.  It was a great system of groomed trails where you could bike an interconnected system of varied skill levels, and even find some elevation. What is really important to remember about this area is that most of the trails run through private land.  Because of this, its important to be extra courteous and aware of what you are doing and your surroundings.  Don't change at your car, don't let your dog run loose, dont ride in groups bigger than 10, and ride single file on the roadways.  All it takes is a few losers to ruin it for everyone else.  Respect the trails and the people who allow the trail system to be there.  

Trails by Heavens Bench by the Bike Shop/Barn

Foliage in the town of East Burke

Downtown East Burke 

Before I get into detail about the trail, I have to mention the town.  The town is 100 percent devoted to being a bike town.  For my Utah friends, it's like the Moab of the East.  It is the mecca of mountain biking, snow mobiling, hiking and outdoor activities.  The streets are mobbed by bikers who I have to admit, often have little regard for the cars on the road.  There are mountain bikes parked outside of every restaurant and no, there are so many that you don't have to lock it.  There are some great spots to grab food and a beer, ranging from the Bike Shop to Mike's Tiki Bar where you can see riders drinking beer and waiting in line in front of the food truck. 

Everyone in this town is wearing bike shorts and helmets, and there are quite a few bike shops.  The town is also home to quaint bed and breakfast inns and hotels.  But don't worry, there are campgrounds available if you are a budget traveler like I am.  We ended up camping at the Burke Campground, close to all the trails and happenings of downtown.  The more time we spent in this town, the more we fell in love.  

If you like both biking and beer, this might be your place. Between the Barn (which is located somewhat in the middle of the trail system at the top of the hill), and Mike's Tiki bar (located downtown, at the bottom of most trails), there are a lot of great stops for a beer, beer and burrito, or just a short break. Our group tended to ride hard in the morning, and then slow down in the afternoon ending at Mike's Tiki bar. Both locations have great local beer selections (and Vermont has great beer). Iconic Vermont with some of the prettiest landscapes I have seen here in New England.  Rolling hills, horse farms, historic homes, old inns, and the most amazing display of fall foliage. If you bike, you will love this town.  But even if you don't bike, this town is worth spending some time in. 

Walking the trails with Olive - enjoying the views of East Burke 
So there you have it.... a network of trails in an awesome town.  Kingdom Trails was established in 1994 and is a 100 mile trail system in the town of East Burke Vermont, an area known as the Northeast Kingdom. It's about 4.5 hours from my home in Connecticut, and pretty close to the Canadian border.    Because of this, about 75% of the people on the trail seemed to be French Canadian, and the signs were in English and French. 

The trail system is great for riders of any level and are rated like the ski mountains, from the most difficult black diamonds to the easy green trails.  You can find a list of beginner and family friendly trails here. Because of the diversity of trails you have a wide range of people on the trails.  You have everything from groups of expert bikers to beginners and families.  I was really surprised (and happy to see) so may families out enjoying the trails.  

Signange along the trails 
Olive and I walking the trails 
DOGS:  I guess we can't mention who uses the trails without mentioning who can't.  Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on trails on the weekends.  With the amount of users on the trail on the weekends, it keeps both the canines and the riders safe.  "Kingdom Trails always encourages its members and guests to leave their dogs at home. If they so chose to bring their dog Monday through Friday it must be in control at all times, preferably by a leash". 

Because Olive was not allowed to bike on the trails on the weekend, we took turns hanging with Olive while the group was out biking.  After my turn biking, I went into the bike shop to inquire the best places to walk my dog.  To my surprise, they said I was more than welcome to walk Olive on a leash on the trails, the concern was with dogs off leash on busy weekends with a lot of users on the trail.  I stayed off any of the single track, and chose the wide open trails through the fields to take Olive on a walk. 

Day pass attached to the bike seat 
To use the trails, first, you must sign the waiver, something you can do in the shops or online.  Next, you need to either A:  Buy a day pass for $15 for B:  Buy a season pass for $75 which is good for a year (not just the season).   The fees go towards helping to maintain and build new trails in the network.  You can buy the passes downtown at the Kingdom Trails Welcome Center from May to October (478 Rte 114, East Burke, Vermont) and from December to April, at The Kingdom Trails Nordic Adventure Center (2059 Darling Hill Road in Lyndonville). They also give you a map when you buy a pass, and the awesome staff at the Welcome Center can help you plan a few routes that best match your skill level.   Make sure you attach your pass somewhere visible.  We didn't see anyone checking, but your seat is a great spot to attach your day pass. 

Believe it or not, the trails are open most of the year.  In general, the Bike Trails open as weather permits in May and generally close by October 31st- this year, if the weather permits, they will stay open until November, 2nd. Trails are closed the month of NOVEMBER and then open back up in for "fat bike" season, biking with extra wide tires through the snowy trails (their demo day is in March).  If you rather ski, the Nordic Trails open as early as snow conditions permit and close by April 1st.

The Bike Shop (front) 
The Bike Shop has to be the cutest bike shop/cafe/bar I have ever seen.  If you are looking for the bike shop on your GPS or Map, it is also known as The Village Sport Shop.  It is in an old barn serving bikes, espresso, soup and beer all in the same building.  You can rent a bike, shop around for some gear, and even get your bike fixed.  Or you can sit at the bar while enjoying an espresso on a cold fall morning or maybe a cold beer after a long ride.  There are tables and chairs outside where you can sit around a fire, and of course, there are bikes and bike racks everywhere.  

If you are shuttling/meeting bikers, this is also a great meeting point.  When we were switching out bikers (taking turns babysitting babies and dogs) this was a great meeting spot.  There is a large network of trails leaving right from this area, including the super scenic trails rolling through fields and pasture to "Heavens Chair". 

The Bike Shop
The Bike Shop 
Riding to the trails from the Bike Shop 


Trail Map from Kingdom Trails

As you can see by taking a glimpse at the map above, there are a LOT of trails. The trails throughout the Kingdom are absolutely gorgeous and varied (especially in October!). You had groomed trails through the woods with roots, sharp turns and banks. Then you had large open fields, rolling hills, and sections of road you had to bike to get to the other trails. I spent about four hours riding on Sunday morning, on some single track through the woods and back to the barn across the rolling hills and green fields.


Trails by the Bike Shop

Their website has some great information on the trails. Again, your best bet is to go to the welcome center and ask for some recommendations based on your skill and comfort level. "Darling Hill holds the majority of our singletrack trails. Situated on one of the more picturesque hills in Vermont, these trails wind through a wooded and pastoral setting. Burke Mountain: On the shoulder of Burke Mountain there are a variety of trails aimed at the intermediate and advanced riders.Some of the more renown trails are Tap n’ Die, Sidewinder, Troll Stroll, Kitchel, Tody’s Tour, Coronary Bypass, Pines, and Webs". 


 It is important to note that trails may be closed, or conditions compromised based upon the weather. When I was biking, I was a little nervous about the slick wet leaves on the ground after last nights rain storm.  I didn't have an issue but if you want to check, up to the minute trail openings/ closures and alerts can be viewed on Trailhub.



Biking to "Heavens Bench"

There are some cool stops along the way.  First of, down in the woods at the end of some single track you have a cute little hut serving lunch, snacks, and water.  Not far down the road from the bike shop, was my favorite spot, The chapel on Darling Hill, Lyndon.  We left the dense woods, biked up a single track trail follow a few switchbacks and arrive at this gorgeous pavilion, down the road from the church.  This was such a scenic spot where bikers stopped for a quick break at the church, and sometimes a photo op. 

The chapel on Darling Hill, Lyndon
The chapel on Darling Hill, Lyndon

Trails by the Bike Shop
Parking Signs for KT bikers 

For the Winter Nordic Season, please park in the following designated parking areas:
Kingdom Trails Nordic Adventure Center at 2059 Darling Hill Rd. Lyndonville, VT.
The yurt is open 7 days a week 8:30AM-4PM- directions and ticket purchase
Vermont Children’s Theatre on Darling Hill in East Burke
Self pay kiosk with maps available

For the summer Bike Season, please park in the following designated parking areas:
East Burke Sports parking lot
The Inn at Mountain View– This lot requires a $5 Fee which supports the “Rescue Animal Sanctuary” (NO RECREATIONAL VEHICLES (RV’s) or large vans PLEASE)
Darling Memorial Park
Burke Mountain Base Lodge, mid Burke, or the summit



Trails by the Bike Shop passing a residence 
Foliage in East Burke, Vermont
All in all, it was a great weekend with good friends and a lot of Mountain Bikes.  If you enjoy mountain biking, this is one of the best trail systems in New England.  If you want to see some amazing fall foliage is a quaint Vermont Town, this one is about as pretty as it gets. Great trails, great town in picturesque Vermont. 

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