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Friday Ride: Pine Hill Park, Rutland, Vermont

Work began on Pine Hill Park’s 16 miles of singletrack by in 2001 by a local mountain biker and Vermont Mountain Bike Association Vice President, Michael Smith. His dedication, along with that of volunteers and youth groups he's worked with to build out and refine the trail system, has yielded a network that isn't unending like other Vermont systems such as Kingdom and Ascutney. Pine Hill's trails, however, are built with more handiwork per foot than nearly anywhere else you'd hope to ride in the area.

 

Pine Hill Escalator
The smooth, flowy handiwork of Escalator. Photo: Ryan Dunfee

 

A repair-focused bike shop sits a couple feet from the dutifully landscaped trail head, which is equipped with an oversized map display and complimentary trail maps and doggie bags. Once you start peddling, you soon notice that cleared rocks neatly line the trails like some sort of English garden, and that nearly every corner is bermed. Trail grades have been planned seriously enough to allow you to stay in the middle chainring on nearly every climb. Seven professionally built wooden bridges include a Chinese-timber arch bridge over a creek, a centrifuge berm, a full suspension bridge, and another based on the Fibonacci sequence. All of them are built with decking material that holds its grip even when wet. It could be the most well thought-out singletrack network in New England. And for those who love root-free flow (albeit with some loose rocks), Pine Hill is all about it.

 

Pine Hill 999
A berm on every corner. Is that too much to ask? The 999 trail. Photo: Ryan Dunfee

 

Most bike rides over an hour at Pine Hill Park require a few different figure-eights across the trail map, which more or less ascends a hillside from the top of the map to the bottom. Any ride requires a climb up Shimmer and over the Chinese bridge to the rocky overlook with great views of Rocky Pond against the silhouettes of the Green Mountains to the north. From there, ride through Stegosaurus, Overlook, and 999 (all in the same area), or take a few curvy blasts down Strong Angel and Svelte Tiger. The freeride-only Broken Handlebars is lined with jumps. And there are high-speed runs down non-technical singletrack trails like Droopy Muffin and Rembrandt's Brush.

 

Pine Hill Rocky Pond Overlook
The Rocky Pond Overlook. Photo: Ryan Dunfee

 

No finish at Pine Hill Park is complete without at least one run down Halfpipe and into the newly-built trail alongside Escalator where you first climbed in. Halfpipe is, much like the name implies, a run of 180-degree berms laced with jumps manageable for anyone with a trail bike, and the new trail that connects across the fire road gives up a bunch more railing berms before the final one drops you right into the parking lot. Thankfully, those desperate to eek out one more bermy descent before calling it a day are faced with a pretty smooth and reasonable climb back up to the top of Halfpipe.

 

Pine Hill Final Descent
A fresh berm on the final descent of Pine Hill. Photo: Ryan Dunfee

 

While the Pine Hill Park network won't hold you over for a full weekend of riding, it's a pretty amazing for an hour and a half during a Vermont bike trip that might see you downhilling at Killington (roughly half an hour away), checking out Ascutney's forty miles of STAB trails, or heading farther up north to places like Kingdom Trails. Kudos are owed to the locals who have kept this Rutland gem humming over the years.

 

The parking lot for Pine Hill Park is located outside the Giorgetti Athletic Complex, which houses the Flip Side skatepark. The address is 2 Oak Street Extension, Rutland, Vermont. For more info, check out PINEHILLPARK.org.  Access to the park is free and trail maps are available at the trailhead.