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Friday Ride: Kingdom Trails, Burke Mountain, Vermont

If you were trying to sell your bike junkie buddy from Colorado on moving to New England, you'd be right where I am— flowing through the 100-plus miles of buff, winding single and doubletrack that weaves from beech stand to cow pasture to red oak grove to open field overlooking the quintessentially Vermont landscape of Caledonia County, Vermont. This is the home of Burke Mountain and the Kingdom Trails. Small dairy farms, white church steeples, and rolling mountains stretch to the horizon. Come foliage season, all of it swathed in the bleeding reds, yellows, and oranges of fall. This is the best sell for New England mountain biking I've ever seen.

 

Kingdom Trails Burke Vermont
The Kingdom Trails are unique in an otherwise rough and rocky New England mountain bike landscape. Photo: Ryan Dunfee

 

Kingdom Trails is the now illustrious trail network that winds in a giant loop from Burke Mountain—where a growing lift-serviced bike park weaves and jumps through three trails down Burke Mountain—to the bulk of the network winding through the sandy loam making up Darling Hill Ridge. For New England mountain bike riders used to pounding through tight networks of trails through thick woods riddled with back-breaking rocks and roots, Kingdom is a welcome change. We found almost no rocks on any of our four-hour rides, and instead mostly buffed dirt with the odd root connecting a milieu of Eastern microclimate.

 

Over the course of our Kingdom Trails experience, we passed through stands of Beech, Aspen, and Red Maple, the ground changing from orange to yellow to red as the well-marked trails wind through the woods. We climbed up to a field anchored by a rusting abandoned farmhouse, then cut off onto a favorite, Tap 'N Die, which drops and berms its way up and down creek bed walls and then delivers us to a quiet section of riverside cross-country until a climb to a lunch spot with a shack selling home-made energy snacks and delicious deviled eggs. Little English is heard, as the quick access from Quebec means you'll be sharing the trail with a lot of French Canadians.

 

 

Burke Mountain’s Bike Park is a rising star in the New England Mountain Bike scene. 

 

From there, we skirted over to Sidewinder, a giant rollercoaster of a run with huge arcing turns climbing the valley walls, the exit of each turn accelerating you to the base of the valley. Expect your suspension to bottom out as you hoot through each g-out. Then we climbed back up and to The Chapel— a gorgeous private church of grey stone overlooking cow pastures and the valley of East Burke, which serves as Kingdom's signature landmark.

 

We then descend across the hill and back towards town, with options ranging from wide Nordic trails to singletrack lined with long, narrow bridges through swamps, ridge climbs, meandering hilly trails ducking through the taps and pipes of a working sugarhouse, to Kitchel—a full-fledged bike park trail lined with tabletops and sideways berms back to town. The sheer diversity of what we've just been able to see and ride in the past few hours is overwhelming.

 

If you go: Access to Kingdom's cross-country network goes for $15 a day. If you're within driving distance, you'll be tempted to pop for the $75 season pass after a day here. Burke Mountain bike park tickets, which include lift tickets and access  to the cross-country trails, go for $30. A season pass to the bike park, which also includes an annual membership to the Kingdom Trails, is $270, or $100 for kids or seniors, and are available HERE.  Info on lodging, which runs from campsite to condos to B&B's, is available at www.kingdomtrails.com. East Burke has a tiny downtown with a country store, bike shop, and a few bars and restaurants. Burke Mountain will host the New England Mountain Bike festival from June 21-23.