Idyllic Trail Riding in the VT Kingdom
3 Sep 2014
This was one of the easier moves between locations on the ECRT. In fact, we didn’t actually move at all, keeping our base at Burke in order to explore the Kingdom Trails network. Not a classic gravity bike park but an established mountain bike trail network none the less, and as the concept of “bike parks” grows, more and more trail centers will no doubt be developed to cater to all aspects of riding, be it up, down or anything else! And as we said, it’s increasingly difficult to separate KT from Q-Burke Bike Park as riding destinations, as they are linked with trails and compliment each other so well.
The village of East Burke, with Mount Burke in the background.
The central hub of the Kingdom Trails network is the small town of East Burke, just up Route 114 off Interstate 91 in the top right hand corner of Vermont. The focal point in the village is East Burke Sports – an awesome outpost of mountain bike swag and the source of quality Trek and Santa Cruz rental bikes if you need one. Just across the street and down a little footpath you’ll find the Kingdom Trails Association office, which is where you’ll need to go for your trail pass. The trails at KT actually run across the land of 55 different private landowners, so the pass is required to allow the team to manage and maintain the whole trail system. Remember, KT has a full-time staff and trail crew, but is not a ski resort destination with all the associated infrastructure and winter revenue that brings. So they have to fund it all somehow! $15 will get you a day pass ($7 is you’re 15 years old or younger), and you can get an annual pass for only $75. There’s only limited parking at East Burke Sports, so you’ll likely find yourself in the big car park behind the KTA office. There are a few other parking ‘hubs’ around the trail network, but this is where the action is, so if it’s your first time make sure you come here.
The East Burke Sports bike shop has everything you need.
When you’re ready to head out on the trails, the most popular route initially is to head behind the bike shop along the river for about 100yards, cross over the river, and begin the climb up East Darling Hill Road. The picturesque Darling Hill is where you’ll find the majority of the single-track trails in the KT network. Trail grading follows the standard green, blue, black, double black you would be familiar with at gravity bike parks. But remember this is a trail center so don’t expect gap jumps and rock drops. The trails are all-mountain, and the grades represent an increase in technicality from one level to the next.
Follow the path to the KT office to pick up your trail pass.
It’s important to note that the majority of trails are not for the sole use of mountain bikes! They are actually designated as “multi-use”. However the location has become so well associated with mountain bikes, that it seems to dissuade hikers from venturing on to the trails, at least it’s pretty rare to see anyone. And besides, there are plenty of other hiking trails in the State so maybe the ramblers are happy to leave a little bit of it just for the riders!
The brilliant switchback turns on the Sidewinder Trail.
For our first exploration we headed out with Lil Ide, KTA Operations Manager and sister of trail builder Knight Ide. We were joined by Peter Wakeling from the KT Trail crew, and by Amy Mansmann, who works at the Burke Mountain Academy and also happens to be the wife of Mike, the manager at East Burke Sports. We headed out to one of the furthest points on the trail system at its southern tip. Old Web’s is a beautiful section of twisting trail through open woodland that leads you down the Market Café, open on the weekends only (11-3, cash only) that provides snacks and drinks to keep you moving.
Heading in to the Old Webs Trail.
From there we dropped in to Sidewinder, one of only a few one-way only trails at KT. A very cool sweeping trail leading down a natural gulley, with the switchback turns running high up each side, making you feel like a snowboarder in a halfpipe! This is certainly one of the more freeride oriented trails at KT, with most other trails being gently undulating single track winding through idyllic woodlands, that can be ridden in either direction so gradient is never really that steep. If you wanted to find the perfect location to introduce your mum to mountain biking, or any MTB rookie for that matter, Kingdom Trails might just be the place.
The market cafe at the bottom of Old Webs.
Back down in East Burke, there’s a great pump track to have a play about on at the end of the day if you still have any energy left. Head over the wooded footbridge at the back of the bike shop car park and follow the trail around and then dropping left down through the trees. When you’ve had enough, come back to the wooden bridge and follow the path down to the river – you can’t miss it. Always great to finish the day with a swim, and there’s usually plenty of people splashing around, especially on a hot day.
Lil on the pumptrack near the village.
If you need something a little more extreme when it comes to your cool-off, then take the drive up to Willoughby Gap. It’s about 20 minutes to get there following the back roads – some of them just gravel, but it’s definitely worth it. Approaching from the south with the lake on your left, you’ll spot a small parking area on the left, about a mile after the White Caps Campground at the end of the lake. This is where you’ll find Devils Rock – a popular locals lake jump and a great place to launch in! The slightly freaky thing about this one though is the apparent shallow depth of the water. As it’s so clear, you can see the bottom of the lake, right where you launch off the rock! You really need to make sure you jump ‘out’ from the rock, rather than just off it. Better to go for a swim first to scope it out.
High-fives all round at a KT trail head.
The pumptrack from the air - just 'cos these shots are cool!
The popular local jump spot of Devils rock - remember to jump OUT!
The stunning view through Willoughby Gap.