Kingdom Trails & Burke Mountain

After our night in Island Pond, we hit the road again. We drove to the southern end of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom to the town of East Burke. East Burke is the mountain biking Mecca of New England, and is home to the Kingdom Trails Association. Kingdom Trails is a multi-use trail system. In summer, it is primarily a mountain biking hot spot and in winter the trails are great for cross country skiing. I didn’t have much time to explore the trails, and it had rained so much, they were in delicate shape. I didn’t want to contribute to any trail damage and I didn’t want to trash my bike/clothes.

So, I rode my mountain bike up the Burke Mountain toll road.

Burke Mountain is a hill with a ski resort, and there is a fabulous access road to the summit. With muddy trails and a need to get some hill training in, I rode to the base from the center of town, then rode the 3.7 miles to the top. I leaned my bike against a tree, then climbed the fire tower to the absolute top at 3267 feet. The Green Mountain Club has a great book on Vermont’s fire and observation towers. This one had the patented 360° view with only a little obstruction from the adjacent telecommunications tower. It isn’t the prettiest summit, but the views, even on a hazy day, were fabulous. The view west to Lake Willoughby particularly good.

Burke Mountain Terrain Info


Mountain Hill Climb

As for the ride to the top of Burke, it was a doozy. I’ve done the Mt. Washington Hill Climb four times, so I have experience with steep New England roads. Mt. Washington is by far the hardest hill I’ve ridden, but Burke is up there with Brasstown Bald a hill in Georgia, and some of the other steep ones in the Northeast, such as Whiteface Mountain (long, but not as steep), Mt. Greylock, Mt. Equinox, and Mt. Ascutney. There is even a race up Burke, which I didn’t know about until now. I would love to go back and compete on a road bike. However, this past weekend, I was happy to have my low geared mountain bike. Unlike Washington, you can descend Burke, and it is a wild ride down. I reviewed my options with help from the map. I could ride the road, which was a straightforward descent with a handful of switchbacks, or I could go off-road on one of two trail options. Upon closer inspection, the map had a couple of serious warnings about descending these trails: 

The DH Trail which braids the East Bowl Trail is a trail designed for experienced riders and can be ridden with a full suspension bike and normal equipment. ( We highly recommend a full suspension bike for this steeper descent trail,) 

Required for use of the FREERIDE TRAIL:
Kingdom Trails pass, Min. group size 3 people, Full Face Helmet, Elbow & Knee Pads
Full body armor (i.e. shoulder, chest, legs), Full Suspension Bike, With at least 5 inches of travel, Cellular Phone, First Aid Kit

I was alone, I had a phone, I had a mountain bike, but only 80mm of front suspension, I had a regular helmet, I had no pads…I thought, you’ve got to be kidding me. I rode over to the edge and looked down. I got vertigo and decided to take the road. It was the only safe choice. I have to replace my disc brake pads before the Hampshire 100 in three weeks, but I was back in town in no time.

I tested out some of the nearby Kingdom Trails, including the Pump Track, took a dip in the East Branch of the Passumpsic River, then joined Deb and Shep for lunch at the River Garden Cafe. This restaurant was heavily damaged last spring when the center of town was flooded due to an ice dam. They had just reopened, which was nice to see. All in all, it was a great trip to East Burke and a fine weekend in Vermont.

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