East Burke, Vermont, is the singletrack capital of New England. The tiny town — which is closer to Montreal than to any major American city — has a 100-mile-plus trail system that includes a wide variety of super sweet, narrow, twisty trails.
The Kingdom Trails system was developed and is maintained and patrolled by a local non-profit and is almost entirely on private land — a model that other communities could model. Like ski runs, the trails are ranked as green, blue, or black, including some double- and triple-black diamond trails (the triple black diamond runs, all near the top of the Burke Mountain ski area, are recommended only for riders with long-travel bikes and full-face helmets).
The trail ranking system makes it easy to enjoy Burke with a family or a group with wide ranging abilities. But don’t let the families and newbies on rental bikes fool you — the seemingly endless variety of creatively laid-out, narrow and twisty trails will leave everyone smiling.
East Burke is in the Green Mountain State’s so-called “Northeast Kingdom,” an even-more sparsely populated sector of a state that’s not exactly crowded in any region. The town contains just a hint of gentrification — a brew pub, a trendy breakfast cafe and a Vermont-style general store offering tourist trinkets — but generally maintains a feeling of quiet remoteness.
It’s a long way from almost anywhere — three hours from Boston, two hours from Vermont’s largest city, Burlington — but it’s an easy drive from the south, since it’s not far off of Route 91, the major route between southern New England and Montreal. So you can bypass Vermont’s notoriously slow backroads and save the twisty-turny for the riding. – Steve Frothingham
If you go: East Burke, Vermont
- Must-do trail: Upper Dead Moose Alley, a black diamond that switchbacks up (then down) Burke Mountain.
- Best bike shop: There’s just one: East Burke Sports, across from Bailey’s general store.
- Best map: Pick up a Kingdom Trails map when you buy your trail pass at the general store.
- Best coffee: Bailey’s. Try the pizza-by-the-slice, too.
- Riding season: May to October-ish. The Kingdom Trail folks are careful to protect their trails from mud-season riding. Check Kingdomtrails.org for season opening times.
- Getting there: Drive Route 91 from Boston/Connecticut/NYC. Fly in to Manchester, N.H. or Burlington, Vt.
- Lodging: Bed & breakfasts near Burke are quaint, but not cheap. If you bring a few friends, consider renting a house or condo at the ski area, camping at the Burke Mountain campground (right on Dead Moose Alley), or the bike-friendly Super 8 in St. Johnsbury, 16 miles to the south.
- Other: Brush up on your French if you want to chat with your fellow riders. East Burke is very popular with Quebecois riders.
- Other, part 2: The road riding is excellent in the Northeast Kingdom, too.
- Web site:www.kingdomtrails.org