I asked this question at 4:30 in the afternoon as my friends and I took a trailside break, nibbling on yet another ClifBar to fuel the climb back out from the river. I’ve never been to Kingdom Trails before, and have heard nothing but amazing things. We’d been riding their favorite trails all day, and I was curious. My friends looked at me like I was crazy but after a long pause said … “I don’t know. It just is.”
But that’s where Kingdom Trails gets you. The trails are sublime. And I’m once again late to the party on this.
Here are my Top 5 reasons Kingdom Trails are basically The Best:
1. The trails are purpose-built. This is probably the most significant factor in why the trails are so great: Kingdom Trails are built to maximize your fun and have opportunities to dial in the experience to your skill level. Love railing berms? Getting some sick air off jumps? Screaming across narrow bridges? KT lets you do that. Just want to relax on singletrack that pops out of the woods into a field straight from a Dirt Rag photo shoot? KT has that too. The trails I rode were not too technical despite the Black Diamond Rating – but I attribute that more to skill-building by riding locally on hiking/biking trails full of natural features. Stand-out trails from the weekend were Kitchel, Troll Stroll, Pines, Coronary Bypass, Farm Junk, and Skydive.
2. The trails exist because of a collaboration between Advocates and Land Owners. Your day or season pass doesn’t fund some corporate entity out to make money on mountain bikers – the trails exist because of an agreement between a charitable conservation organization and landowners. This brings an important distinction that encourages everyone to be on their best behavior. Riders respect the trails more because who wants to be That Guy who ruined the fun for everyone.
3. KT doesn’t engage in price gouging. A day pass is $15 and a season pass is $75 – only 5 visits to make it worth your hard-earned money for a season pass. My friends and I rode for 3 days and barely scratched the surface of the volume of trails available to ride. If KT is within a 3-hour drive or you can plan more than one long weekend devoted to riding, a season pass is the way to go.
4. KT helps fuel the economic engine of Burke, Vermont. The trails are usable can be used year-round, weather permitting – and outdoor recreationalists need a place to stay. We booked a campsite at Burke Cottages & Campground, which has several large sites to choose from and a brand new shower house. Only a short drive into town for passes, bike rentals, or a hearty meal at the end of a long day on the trails. And the warm shower felt great after a long day on the trails. Also a convenient opportunity for tick checks.
5. There is a lunch shack in the middle of the woods. Probably the most brilliant business concept is the lunch shack in the woods. We had been riding hard all morning and getting hungry. No need to leave the trails to refuel or gnaw on bars and goos all day (although you totally can and the Country Store has ridiculously good breakfast and lunch options). We joined the throngs of riders at the lunch shack for a quick wrap, chips, and a refreshing beverage. Stone benches under huge pine trees dot the area around the shed, providing respite and shade.
Bonus Reason: The Views. The trails and the views are some of the most beautiful I’ve had the privilege to experience. Do yourself a favor and climb to Heaven’s Bench. Take a minute to look around when you pop out of the woods into a field.
I had the privilege of renting a Santa Cruz 5010 C XE for the weekend and I can’t speak highly enough of this bike. Nimble, playful, and spry, the bike climbed and descended with ease. A mere 27 pounds, the bike felt light yet stable. There were a few places on Kitchel, in particular, where the bike certainly wanted to get some air. The wingspan of the handlebars felt wide but over the three days, I got used to it. I forgot to ask for a women’s saddle (or to bring my own) so let’s just say downtown wasn’t terribly happy after 3 days of riding.
But I will say – I think this trip solidified the bike I plan to buy once I’m fully employed again. This bike just made me happy.
Do yourself a favor and book a vacation up to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and hit the Kingdom Trails. You will not regret it.
See you out there!