The Island Rail Trail is a 14-mile long route of mixed pavement and packed gravel that combines the Burlington Bike Path, the Colchester Causeway and the Allen Point Access Park. This rail to trail was originally built as the railbed for the Rutland-Canadian Railroad and has since been turned into a stunningly scenic multipurpose trail for runners, walkers, bikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
What Makes It Great
The scenery along the entire 14-mile ride is unbeatable. Riders cruise along the shores of Lake Champlain and are treated to unobstructed views of the lake, sailboats, lighthouses, amazing sunsets and the Adirondack Mountains. The trail itself offers an appealing landscape of beaches and shoreline parks which are beautiful to ride through or to stop and enjoy the surroundings.
The trail starts at Oakledge Park in Burlington and travels north past a handful of beaches and waterfront parks before heading across the Winooski River Bridge, a half-mile long elevated bridge over the Delta flood plain that connects the Burlington Bike Path to the Colchester Causeway. The Causeway extends three miles out into Lake Champlain and ends in the middle of the lake. There is a seasonal bike ferry that brings riders across to South Hero and Allen Point Access Park.
The Causeway is definitely the highlight of this ride. Built as an access point to connect the New England coast to the Great Lakes area for the railroad, the Causeway now sits atop huge marble boulders and is like an arm that extends out three miles into the middle of the lake. Standing at only 10 feet wide and surrounded by water on both sides, the trek out on the Causeway gives riders the feeling of skimming across the water.
While the bike path can be very congested in town it tends to thin out after points north of the Burlington’s New North End heading into Colchester. It’s very flat and while the southern eight miles of the trail are paved, the northern part is packed gravel, which may make travel with a road bike tricky.
Who is Going to Love It
Riders of all levels looking for a scenic ride. Riders can choose to do the full 28 mile loop, just the eight mile Causeway loop or pretty much any distance in between depending on the start. The path is very flexible in that way. And, the views are unforgettable, so riders looking for some great photo opps need look no further.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The beginning of the path starts at Oakledge Park in Burlington. Parking is available, but May 15 - Sept. 3 there is a $5 per vehicle daily parking fee ($6 for non-residents) between 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Riders can also choose to begin their ride at other various locations, parks or beaches along the path. Parking and costs for each may vary.