From snowmobiling and skiing in the winter to hiking and swimming in the summer, New England is famed for its outdoor adventures. Varying terrain and four distinct seasons offer explorers year-round ways to enjoy nature throughout the region’s six states. For those who like to explore on two wheels, however, the tiny town of East Burke in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom might just be the ideal destination. This is the home of Kingdom Trails, a network of more than 120 miles of trails that range from rocky and steep routes with great climbs for the more advanced rider, to smooth and wide single-track paths for the younger or beginning rider.
And even if mountain biking isn’t quite your speed, East Burke has plenty to offer as a year-round adventure destination. In the colder months, for instance, there’s fat-tire biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing, too. Read on for our guide to East Burke, VT, which covers everything from riding the Kingdom Trails to exploring the beautiful town itself.
GUIDE TO EAST BURKE, VT
Make your way into the heart of East Burke and you’ll quickly become accustomed to seeing mountain bikes everywhere: leaning up against buildings and picnic tables, attached to cars, and zipping around on the trails. That’s because the expansive Kingdom Trails network has a route for every age and ability level, from families to professional athletes. It could even be argued that the network offers some of the best trails in the country, with its open vistas and beautiful views as well as the fun and challenging routes through shaded forests.
The Kingdom Trails Welcome Center, located right downtown, is the place to buy a day pass, get a map, and enlist help with plotting out a good route. Rental shops nearby can outfit riders from helmet to bike.
But with such a large network of trails, where do you even begin? Below we’ve compiled great rides for every level (each about two hours), as suggested by Collin Daulong, co-owner of the tour guide and instruction company Kingdom Experiences.
Kingdom Trails Adventure | Trails to Try
From the junction at the Kingdom Trails parking lot (2074 Darling Hill Road, Lyndonville), ride north on Bemis Trail along the gorgeous Darling Hill ridge. Once you reach an intersection, ride Loop Trail counterclockwise. On your ride, you’ll see an animal sanctuary with farm critters such as pygmy goats, donkeys, horses, and sheep. When you intersect with Bemis Trail, take it south back to the parking lot, where there’s food and libations, a bike shop, and a mountain biking instruction and tour outfitter.
From the junction at the Kingdom Trails parking lot, head east on Bill Magill Trail to the iconic Heaven’s Bench, with its 360-degree views. Head south on Heaven’s Bench Trail through classic fast-and-flowy Kingdom Trails terrain. Continue onto Ridge Trail. At the bottom of Ridge Trail, go north to find Widow Maker (not as scary as it sounds!). Take Widow Maker east, and then go north toward Leatherwood Trail and ride the Leatherwood/Riverwood loop clockwise. At the end of Riverwood, go south to ride up Connector Trail. This will take you back to Bill Magill Trail, which will return you to the parking lot.
From the Kingdom Trails office in East Burke, climb up Uptown Trail to the bottom of Herbs Trails. Take Herbs Trail to East Darling Hill Road, where you will climb to the top of the ridge. Take Loop Trail clockwise, briefly entering onto Bemis Trail before reaching Troll Stroll, one of the best descents of the entire network. Take Troll Stroll to the bottom and go south on River Run. Once you reach Burrington Bench, climb it and then take Bemis Trail south to the intersection with Bill Magill Trail. Take Bill Magill Trail east and then north until you find Pines Trail. Take Pines, which is another super-fun descent (but be careful, because there are some technical bits at the bottom). Take a left at the bottom to ride Riverwood Trail and then take Beat Bog Trail northbound. At the end you’ll find yourself at the top of Kitchel, a Kingdom Trails classic. Ride that back to town, and reward yourself with a cold one at Mike’s Tiki Bar.
The network is certainly large enough to provide a full weekend (or week) of riding. Here are some great places to eat and stay in East Burke, plus some additional off-bike adventures.
This summer tiki bar in downtown East Burke is a local favorite for grabbing some food after a long ride, listening to live music, or just enjoying a cold brew and good conversation at one of the picnic tables.
If you’ve worked up an appetite biking, skiing, or exploring in East Burke, Foggy Goggle Osteria is the place to go for a hearty Italian meal. Enjoy authentic Italian pasta, pizza, or steak and a glass of wine at this casual eatery.
Start your day or while away the afternoon with a coffee and pastry from Café Lotti, an inviting bakery that’s within walking distance of downtown East Burke. Foodies will love the variety of espresso and coffee drinks, teas, smoothies, and baked goods.
In the mood for something sweet? Family-owned RubyLee’s serves up more than 20 varieties of ice cream, five signature sundaes, homemade ice cream cookie sandwiches, smoothies, and — if you’re feeling adventurous – a maple bacon razzle blended with real bacon pieces.
Located on a beautiful property next to Dish Mill Brook and just up the hill from the Kingdom Trails Welcome Center, the Village Inn of East Burke is a great escape at any time of the year, with its full complimentary breakfast, guest kitchens, hot tub, and range of guest room options.
Every contemporary-style room in this inn has locally crafted furniture and all the amenities; depending on the room, there could also be a balcony overlooking the five-acre property, which has gardens, pathways, a wooded area, and a brook. The Willoburke offers a great respite after a long day outdoors, but should you also want to explore, downtown East Burke is only a stroll away.
Located right off a popular part of the Kingdom Trails network, the Wildflower Inn is convenient for those looking for immediate access to adventure. Plus, its hillside property offers stunning, quintessentially Vermont views. Start the day off with a pile of the inn’s famous blueberry pancakes, and end it with a meal at Juniper’s, the on-site restaurant.
Grab a snack at the café and peruse Vermont country crafts, antiques, prints, pottery, and other assorted goods at this local landmark in the heart of downtown East Burke.
A 30-minute drive from East Burke brings you to a beach looking out to Lake Willoughby, a stunningly blue glacial lake up to 320 feet deep in some areas. Framed by Mount Pisgah to the east and Mount Hor to the west, this picturesque scene is worth taking a drive to see.
Have you ever been to East Burke, Vermont?
Note: We hit the mountain biking trails of Burke Mountain with Kingdom Trails in a season 2 episode of Weekends with Yankee, our public television show in collaboration with WGBH. Check the Weekends with Yankee site to learn more about the series, plus when and where to catch episodes.