Saxon Hill, located in Essex, is part of the 90-acre property owned by the Saxon Hill School District in the Saxon Hill Forest. This small network of trails offers 5.7 miles of up and down running through the surrounding pine forest. The trails head up right from the beginning and there is little break to the climb until runners reach the hill’s pinnacle. At this point they will experience a fast and flowy descent that twists, turns and loops around itself the entire way down. As these trails were built with mountain biking in mind, runners should pay attention to the trail signs as there are a handful of trails designated for downhill only.
What Makes It Great
There are three primary trails within this system: Flo, Extendo and Freefall. All of them are fun to run especially on the way down, but getting up isn’t awful. It is a gradual, but sustained climb full of twists and turns and has a nice flow to it, providing runners with a good workout, but not overtaxing them. Once runners reach the top, it’s all downhill from there with loops and switchbacks on fast, curvy trails the whole way down. Runners can pick up some speed and fly back to the car.
Built specifically for mountain biking, the trails offer runners banked boardwalks to run across adding a little something different to the forest run. The trails are rooty and rocky so watching foot placement is important. FreeFall is a jump trail built for advanced mountain bikers so keep this in mind before running it.
Being a forest, the area is also full of wildlife with racoon, fisher cat, bobcat, rabbit, deer and bear. During winter runs, it’s fun to find the tracks of all these animals along the trail even when the animals themselves stay hidden from view. In the winter locals snowshoe here, making the trails navigable for runners.
The trails are managed by Essex Parks and Recreation Department and maintained by Fellowship of the Wheel, a local non-profit that advocates for and maintains 100 miles of public multipurpose trails in Chittenden County, VT. There is a kiosk with a trail map at the trailhead off Saxon Hill Road or you can contact Fellowship of the Wheel for more information.
Please note that the trails to the left off of Saxon Hill Road are the ones open for public use. The trails to the right side of Saxon Hill Road are on private land and are no longer open to the general public.
Who is Going to Love It
Runners looking for a comfortable uphill challenge with a really fun descent will find these trails a perfect fit. The area is close to downtown Burlington making it a great choice for a quick run before or after work.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Park at the end of Saxon Hill Road. Turn at Saxon Hill Auto off of Route 15 and bear right until you reach the gate. This very small parking area is the only spot approved by the Town of Essex to park for access to the Saxon Hill trail network. There is space for two or three cars without blocking the private driveway.
Trail users are asked not to park on Thompson Drive because access to the trail from there is across private land.