XNHAT+Cross Vermont Trails Bikepacking 2022

a bikepacking adventure featuring family time

Last summer, my girlfriends and I set out to end-to-end-to-end the Cross New Hampshire Adventure Trail (XNHAT), adding in a loop into White Mountains National Forest. We ended up cutting the trip short due to inclement weather but the stunning scenery and ample off-road riding opportunity made the route a group favorite.

My friends gently tease me that I’m a Finisher or Completionist … that I like to Do The Whole Thing when it comes to adventure (which, 100% Facts). I’ve been trying to figure out how to end-to-end the XNHAT all year (without having to ride the route in both directions just to get back to my car).

PROLOGUE

Logistics are always the hardest part.

I realized I could extend the trip and ride my bike across Vermont too. Figured 3-4 days to do both, could camp or book rooms depending on the weather and if I could get anyone to go with me. (Spoilers, I’m learning people are more likely to adventure with me when I say I booked lodging for the trip)

GAME ON …. if I can figure out how to get to the start. Originally planned to take Amtrak from NY to Portland, ME and then …. figure out how to get to Bethel, ME, about 65 miles away. A solid day on the bike, or an expensive Uber ride. Amtrak has a train that runs from Burlington, VT to NY so I was set there.

I was talking to my oldest (adult) kid in Philly, and they decided that sounded like a super fun trip to do together. Later, I was telling my sisters and one of them decided this was going to be her birthday present to herself – fly out to Vermont and ride bikes with her big sister and oldest nibling.

SCORE. the Squad has been assembled. The plan has been created. It’s GO TIME.

But wait, Laura … what about transportation because this is a one-way trip?

So glad you asked. We originally booked a pickup from Maura: At Your Service. Maura provides transportation services predominately in the Presidental Range area, but will also do pick-ups in Burlington (among other locations). I scheduled with her almost a month in advance, as we were planning to need the ride right before Labor Day Weekend and I didn’t want to scramble for such a long ride (Bethel, ME is about 3+ hours from Burlington, VT). Unfortunately, the week before she had to cancel but provided contact information for two other ride services (Priority Transportation and Trail Angels Hiker Services) that may be able to take our (very long) journey.

Dan at Trail Angels was available and a fantastic driver. All three services were wonderful to speak with; definitely recommend reaching out to them for long or short shuttle needs.

Day One
Bethel, ME – Whitefield, NH
52 miles, 2,390′ climbing

Setting out under sunny skies and virtually no humidity, we rode into the town center for breakfast only to find the diner packed and a sign on the door indicating they were short-staffed and patience was requested. So we hit up the Walgreens next door for breakfast-y foods, ate in the parking lot, and wandered over to the paved bike path to begin the journey. The bike path had painted games for kids, including fun options for those with mobility chairs, which was super cool to see.

The first 13ish miles are a lovely paved backroad that runs along the Androscroggin River.

North Rd in Maine

There wasn’t a sign when we crossed into New Hampshire, but we found the stone marker that denotes when you’ve crossed state lines.

Crossing from Maine to New Hampshire

North Road continued for a bit until we turned right onto Hogan Road, a true gem of the route.

quick water break

Lunch in Gorham for delicious sandwiches and salads followed by coffee and ginger molasses cookies at the cafe bookstore. We still have another 25ish miles to go before we can stop, so we shove everything into our bags and get back to riding.

The Presidential Rail Trail alternates between crushed stone, rustic double-track, and mowed grass. The trail gently ascends from Gorham for about 10 miles before tipping down towards Whitefield. The gravity assist is most welcomed, as was the beautiful views of the Presidential Range from the trail.

if you are heading westbound, make sure you turn around every once in a while

The trail ends at the Mount Washington Regional Airport – from there it was a short ride to our room for the night.

Day TWO
Whitefield, NH – Woodsville, NH
32 miles, 677′ climbing

Short day means more time. We decided on a late start and to relax at lunch. The first 7 miles out of Whitefield aren’t super fun – NH 116 is a paved highway with a nice wide shoulder, but logging trucks passing at 55 mph can be unnerving. There was a new section of rail trail going into Littleton, so we detoured off the highway and enjoyed 4.5 miles of scenic gravel doubletrack along a winding stream.

After a leisurely lunch on a patio, we continued down the trail. It’s all downhill to Woodsville, so we cruise through the rest of the trail. The trail here had a significantly higher number of ORV and ATV riders that were 100% courteous – but it was so dry that we were choking on dust after they passed. We stopped briefly at the Bath Covered Bridge before continuing on.

We arrived at our next room for the night with plenty of time to get cleaned up and walk to dinner. Walking after a day of pedaling feels nice.

But more importantly, we did it! We finished the Cross New Hampshire Adventure Trail!

day THREE
Woodsville, NH – Montpelier, VT
44 miles, 1,835′ climbing

The previous two days had been sunny with minimal to no detectable humidity, but day 3 was definitely muggy. We had a huge breakfast, filled up our water bottles, and headed out to tackle Vermont.

The Cross Vermont Trail is still very much in process of creating a contiguous off-road experience, in stark contrast to the Cross New Hampshire Trail which is mostly on snowmobile and ORV/ATV trails. It’s advisable to be comfortable riding on the road with cars.

It’s a short downhill to the river and then it’s back up again for a bit.

Starting the Cross Vermont Trail

It wasn’t very long before we detoured onto our first off-road segment.

yaaassssssss

From here we bounced between gorgeous forest trails and state highways to get to the next trail.

Brown Drive was a lovely dirt road that leads to the Pine Mountain Wildlife Management Area, which was amazing. A fellow bikepacker passed us while we took a short break, the first bike traveler we’d seen on the trip.

so peaceful

I am truly going to run out of synonyms for gorgeous on this section of the Cross Vermont Trail because it’s RIDICULOUS how stunning Vermont is.

And then we entered Groton State Forest. What a treat!! We refilled our bottles in the campground and enjoyed the gentle ascent to Mashfield.

At lunch, we saw the bikepacker who passed us previously. Ryan had started in Portland, ME a few days prior and was hoping to ride across the northern parts of the country, eventually getting to Washington State. It was cool to chat with someone else on an adventure and we wished each other safe travels as we departed.

The next several miles are on US Route 2, which had minimal shoulder and a 55 mph speed limit. My sister, kid, and I rode as a group to keep ourselves visible until we could get to the next side street.

quintessential Vermont

The next side street had the Big Hill of the day but put us on the most magical 2 mile trail through the woods near East Montpelier.

seriously, this was the gem of Vermont

More time on US 2 into Montpelier before hopping on the town trail and getting to our next lodging and dinner. Montpelier is one of my Top 10 Vermont Towns I Love, in no small way because it was the first place I visited to ride a gravel event (shout out to the Muddy Onion Gravel Grinder!)

DAY FOUR
Montpelier, VT – BURLINGTON, VT
48 MILES, 1,952′ CLIMBING

Our last day of adventure brought much colder weather and rain. We picked up breakfast sandwiches to go in town and hit the road while the rain was still a light mist/drizzle.

We pulled over in Waterbury to eat our still-slightly-warm sandwiches before embarking on a long stretch on River Road.

This is where the rain came down in earnest. There is no redeeming value in riding your bike in the rain, it just sucks. Each mile just gets you colder and wetter, and you don’t want to stop and enjoy the surroundings because you’re cold and wet and just want it to end.

We pulled over in the parking lot of a brewery that we thought was closed, but upon seeing people go in, we sought a brief refuge of appetizers and hot tea (and a beer because, brewery). The rain ends and we embark on the last few miles into Burlington.

Arriving at the Burlington Bike Path, we took a quick celebratory photo before riding to our hotel room to clean up and get one last dinner together. My sister’s flight home was suuuuper early the next day.


EPILOGUE

While this wasn’t the most challenging trip, it was one of the most personally rewarding. My sister is an ultra-runner and my adult kid rides recreationally but has completed long-distance rides in the past. To be able to spend four days with nothing to do but hang out, eat, ride bikes, take goofy photos, and create inside jokes is time well spent.

The terrain varies from pavement to very rustic singletrack, but the grades are gentle which lends itself to a more relaxed social pace. The scenery is gorgeous, reminding me that there’s still so much of my own country that I haven’t seen and deeply want to experience.

This route can be done with camping as well but that will add a few miles per day to get to a campground site. Some areas might allow primative camping; check with the land owners/managers before relying on that option.

We brought 2 32-oz water bottles each to always have an ample supply, but also brought my MSR TrailShot water filter. We did not run out despite temps in the 80s and the days getting progressively muggier (before raining).

Both the XNHAT and Cross Vermont websites are full of inside tips, resources, trail conditions, updates on connectivity, and more. I definitely made donations to each organization when I got home to honor our trip but also, help keep these trails available to all.


Where We Ate & Stayed

Mountain Village Lodge – Bethel, ME
The Pie Hole – Bethel, ME
Butcher’s Daughter – Gorham, NH
White Mountain Cafe & Bookstore – Gorham, NH
Art Gallery Hostel – Whitefield, NH
Littleton Freehouse Taproom & Eatery – Littleton, NH
Village Pizza – Woodfield, NH
Nootka Lodge – Woodfield, NH
Marshfield General Store – Marshfield, VT
Montpelier Inn – Montpelier, VT
Three Penny Taproom – Montpelier, VT
Capitol Grounds Cafe – Montpelier, VT
Stone Corral Brewing – Richmond, VT
Gaku Ramen – Burlington, VT
Kru Coffee – Burlington, VT

See you out there!

Author: Laura

wife. mother. kick-ass girl. all mountain, all road adventurer by bike.

One thought on “XNHAT+Cross Vermont Trails Bikepacking 2022”

  1. What a great adventure! I love your last comments about riding with your sister and your adult kid. Photos are gorgeous, and very helpful that you told us where you stayed and ate.

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