Ask a Local: Kevin Stapleton
For a guy who grew up in the Midwest, Vermont’s small towns, valleys, peaks, rivers, woods and lakes make for a visual treat every time I hop on my bike. From the lakefront of the Champlain Islands to the Green Mountains, there is no better way to experience the Champlain Valley than on a bike.
The region around the Champlain Byway offers some of the most scenic and lightly traveled roads you’ll find anywhere, whether you want a gentle bike path tour, single-track mountain bike trails or a coffee shop tour, you can find it here. Every bike shop and every rider has their favorite routes. I’d like to share a few of mine.
The Champlain Islands offer some of the most scenic and flat rides in Vermont. The key to a great Islands ride is to get off of Route 2 as quickly as possible and travel along the paved and hard-pack roads that trace the shore. The terrain here is flat and the roads lightly traveled. The views of the lake and the Adirondacks to the southwest are spectacular, but be sure to soak in the orchards and dairy farms here as well. For me, the best part of any Island ride is the finish: A dip in the lake at Sand Bar State Park!
South of the Islands, the Byway travels through my adopted hometown of Burlington. Our town is blessed with a fantastic recreation path that travels over 7 miles along the waterfront. It’s a heavily-used path for bikers, runners, walkers and others so it’s no place for road warriors. The slow pace, however, helps you soak in the numerous vistas and views of the lake. At about its midpoint the path winds through Waterfront Park with access to the ECHO Lake Aquarium, the Church Street Marketplace and numerous places to eat. My wife and I can spend an entire day cruising the path, stopping to swim and eating at a downtown restaurant. If you want to get off the pavement and ride a little dirt, the Intervale Community Farm and Ethan Allen Park offer some excellent and easy mountain bike trails along the Winooski River. You might see heron, deer, otters, beavers and all kinds of wildlife. All within mere minutes (by bike) of downtown Burlington.
For those seeking a more challenging ride, there are a host of options along the southern section of the Champlain Byway. The towns of Middlebury and Bristol both serve as launching points for rides that include great climbs and some of Vermont’s best scenery. From Bristol I enjoy riding north to Route 17 over Appalachian Gap, a climb of about seven miles that serves as the finishing climb for the Green Mountain Stage Race. Departing from Middlebury offers opportunities to explore the lakefront in Addison County or to stop by the Robert Frost Farm on your way to the summit of Middlebury Gap.
These are some of my highlights, but any ride is sure to be a great one. For more information about rides, stop by Local Motion. Located on the Waterfront Recreation Path in downtown Burlington, Local Motion offers maps and information about rides throughout Northern Vermont. They also rent bikes and safety equipment.
See you on the Byway!
When not searching for great new bike routes, Kevin lives and works in Burlington.