Spin Cycle: A Mountain-Biking Mecca
Accessible trailheads, dynamic terrain, and interconnected riding networks have transformed Vermont into a mountain-biking mecca. Whether you are a first timer, weekend warrior, or you have a growing list of happy trails, you’ll find rides for every ability ranging from peaceful to adrenalin-pumping.
Warm up at Waterbury’s Little River State Park, which offers multi-use trails for a beginner-friendly ride. Explore historical settlements from flowing single-track where a century ago pioneers built homes, pastures, orchards, and sawmills. Travel on to the adjacent Mount Mansfield State Forest, from which many more miles of shared trails can be accessed.
Located on River Road just south of Waterbury Village on the way to the Ice Center, Perry Hill is known for classic trails that combine flow and technical riding in sweet harmony. With easy access from the parking area, there is something for everyone, particularly at lower elevations. The technical rider will thoroughly enjoy the fifteen-mile network’s significant rise, one-way trails, and rock spines. The well-maintained web of trails has its own vibe and is consistent with International Mountain Biking Association Standards.
One 2.5 hour Perry Hill advanced loop heads through the River Road tunnel and up a short, steep climb up to the main network. Take Permission to the top, descend Burning Spear to Rastaman, and head back to the logging road. Climb back to Joe’s at the top, and flow down the loamy, open-pine Campfire trail. Finish with a high speed descent back down the Fire Road. To take the challenge down to intermediate, the 40-minute Yellow Loop offers a short blast of some of Perry Hill’s finest terrain.
While not precisely “mountain biking,” the dirt roads of the Waterbury region also present a peaceful opportunity to enjoy the forest, refreshing rivers, and occasional long-range views of Vermont’s mountains and valleys. On the back roads, a mountain bike or hybrid is the ticket to open-air cruising. Design your own ride with a road map or GPS; one trek originates on the north side of the Village of Waterbury, crosses the Winooski River, and meanders to the north along River Road. For some climbing, follow River Road to Camel’s Hump Road, and enjoy a beautiful ride beside dewy, mossy Ridley Brook.
When you’re ready to move from bike fork to food and drink, the Waterbury region offers excellent post-trip choices. Stop by Prohibition Pig for smoked meat and an expansive beer and whiskey menu. The Reservoir Restaurant and Taproom has almost 40 beers on tap, as well as a full bar. Both restaurants have the acclaimed Heady Topper Double IPA, a Waterbury exclusive. Before you go, cool down in the Winooski River which edges River Road.
Nearby, Stowe offers several riding options, from beginner to expert. Parts of the 11-mile Cady Hill Forest network are open year ‘round; Adams Camp, Sterling Forest, and Cotton Brook Network are among the region’s emerging destinations. For a summer day in field and forest on a private, interconnected trail Stowe network, a day at Trapp Family Lodge is an affordable diversion.
For the most part, mountain biking in Vermont is a warm-weather activity. However, winter or “fat” biking is growing in popularity. (Crafted to grip on snow and ice, the “fat” refers to the width of the bicycle tire). Make sure to dress appropriately, ride only on substantial snowpack, and yield to others such as Nordic skiers and those on snowshoes. While a limited number of the region’s trails are available in the winter, cold-weather biking is for the hearty. NOTE: Winter “fat” biking is not permitted on Perry Hill Trails per the State of Vermont.
Bolstered by welcoming villages, quiet roads, and bike-friendly accommodations with washes and secure lockups, Waterbury is a perfectly suited home base from which to explore Vermont on two wheels. No matter what the season, round up your riders, get a grip on your trip, check before you go, and have fun creating your own “spin cycle.”