French Hill is an 11- mile ride along all paved roads that starts in Richmond, a small town just south of Burlington. The hill itself is the route’s centerpiece and offers riders a sustained one-mile climb that hits a 9% grade. The cool thing about this ride is that there are three ways riders can attack it to provide varying degrees of difficulty. For all three take a right out of the park and ride and head west on Route 2. Things change up at the first stop light not far down the road.
What Makes It Great
The ride revolves around French Hill and whether riders want the hill workout up it, the thrilling descent down it or both. The climb up French Hill is a challenge and will create a noticeable burn. Enjoy the “brief respite” about three quarters of the way up, but don’t get too comfortable, it’s not over. On the flipside it’s a very fast, winding descent along a nicely paved road, which allows riders to open things up a bit if they are comfortable. The hill on North Williston is also a good climb, but much more moderate than French Hill. If you are looking for a challenging hill workout, the third option is your best bet.
Riders will also enjoy the views of Mount Mansfield at the base of French Hill and of Camel’s Hump heading back into Richmond along both Routes 2 and 117. The ride’s landscape helps to make the ride quintessentially Vermont with farmland, barns, horses and the Winooski River dotting the countryside.
For the easiest route take a right at the light down 117 and follow it 4.5 miles before taking a left onto North Williston. Take this to the four-way stop in Williston and take a left back on to Route 2 toward the French Hill descent and back to the Park and Ride.
The next option sits in the middle range for difficulty. Just do the route above in the opposite direction staying straight at the stop light on Route 2 and heading up French Hill for just about a mile. Turn right onto North Williston, right onto Route 117, left back onto Route 2 and back to the Park and Ride.
The third and final option is the most challenging. Follow Route 2 up French Hill to North Williston Road. Follow North Williston down until you hit the railroad tracks and then bang a youie (make a U-Turn) and head back up the gradual climb on North Williston. Take a left on Route 2 and enjoy the descent on French Hill back to the Park and Ride. Please note that this option adds a bit more mileage onto the ride.
Who is Going to Love It
Riders looking for a quick ride with variable training options will find this route fits the bill. French Hill is a nice workout for riders of all levels. If a hill workout is not on the docket then riding from the opposite side allows riders an extremely fun descent back into Richmond.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Park right off Exit 11 in Richmond at the Richmond Park and Ride. Parking is free and available all hours, although during the week the lot can be very crowded.