As ski season fades to memory and “mud season” finally releases its boggy grip on the Green Mountains, Waterbury transforms into a mountain-biking mecca, with over 70 miles of world-class biking trails traversing beautiful and rugged mountain terrain. Most of our local mountain bike trails are maintained by the Waterbury Area Trail Alliance, a collective group of volunteers that has constructed, shaped, and improved the biking trails in our area since 2015, promoting bike culture and sustainability through their efforts. Their interactive trail map is handy for researching routes before your visit and getting up-to-date trail conditions.
From the renowned Perry Hill trail system, just one mile down Main Street from our historic Waterbury bed and breakfast, to other expansive networks of trails just minutes away, the options for riding are endless. Plan your Vermont mountain-biking getaway this spring or summer, and add these top-notch trails to your riding itinerary!
Biking Trail # 1: Perry Hill
The Perry Hill trailhead is bikeable right from our front door, a leisurely cruise through downtown Waterbury to the base of the hill, where you can warm up on the pump track. With 10 miles of trails split up between lower and upper sections – the peak stands at an impressive 1,332 feet in elevation – start with the 1.4-mile Campfire trail, which is family-friendly yet fun and engaging for all biking levels. From there, link into Red Tape or Burning Spear, which get into more intermediate terrain, while the steep rocks and sharp turns on Joe’s and Six Flags are a thrill for more advanced riders. Head out early or late in the day to avoid the weekend crowds, and it’s worth more than one visit to explore all the different trail linkups.
Trail # 2: Little River State Park
Just a 5-mile bike ride or drive up Little River Road, the Little River State Park trail system is one of the best in the area, with multiple loops of biking trails starting near the lower section of the Waterbury Reservoir. You might start with the Dalley Loop, which involves steady but gradual climbing, spread out over the 4-mile section. From Dalley, you can amp up by linking into Highbridge or Stonewall, each adding some difficulty and varying scenery. One unique aspect of riding through this area is its history – it was once a small farming community during the early-19th century, marked by plaques along the route.
A few miles further north, where rivers and streams feed into the northern end of Waterbury Reservoir, the 7-mile Cotton Brook Road loop follows a path used for snowmobiling in the winter. Although it involves 1,300 of climbing overall, the grade is gentle and rated as beginner level, with fantastic views throughout the route. As you climb higher, you’ll be greeted with direct sightlines to Willey Hill, which stands tall at over 1,200 feet on the other side of the pristine lake. On a hot summer day, cool down after your ride by swimming in the refreshing water of the Reservoir (fun fact: it is the 9th-largest body of water in Vermont).
Trail # 4: Bolton Valley Resort
In a time when ski resorts have merged in nationwide corporate deals, Bolton Valley is the rare exception, still locally owned and run by the same family who founded it in 1966. In addition to the hometown feel and affordable lift tickets, their focus switches to mountain biking during the summer, with exhilarating high alpine biking.
Once exclusively for expert bikers, their MTB trail map now has miles of beginner and intermediate runs, including the newly-built Ebascootcha trail, which crisscrosses the entire width of the mountain throughout its 3.3 miles and 1,000 feet of descent. Rentals are also available on-site, with various full-suspension bikes to choose from (including for younger riders) and half and full-day lessons. If you’re new to the sport, their rentals and lessons are a perfect way to learn how to take the chairlift with a bike, cruise down wide-open runs, and get a feel for true mountain riding.
Biking Trail # 5: North Branch River Park
In addition to its charming downtown historic district and influential role as the capital city, Montpelier (a 20-minute drive southeast from Waterbury) also has some of the region’s best mountain biking conveniently located in the town center. The Winooski River branches off in two directions at Montpelier, with 10 miles of trails in the North Branch River Park along the northern fork.
Start your day riding on the flat and scenic river trail, which follows the river’s path through wetlands (excellent for birdwatching, too) and links up to singletrack of varying difficulty. The trail map includes longer upper sections like Barred Owl Blvd, with just enough climbing to test endurance. And in a unique touch, a few trails like Hermit Thrush, Snipe Hill, and Roll Call feature one-way biking in a single direction, so you can get into a serious flow state without worrying about any oncoming trail traffic.
And we haven’t even mentioned the multitudes of trails in nearby Stowe and the Mad River Valley, both 20 minutes away! But that would be another whole blog post… Stay with us and plan your unforgettable Vermont mountain-biking adventure!