It's true: Vermont is a mountain biking mecca. With more than 1,000 miles of legal trails and more than 26 Vermont Mountain Bike Association chapters—not to mention plenty of local clubs and countless pay-to-ride areas—it's no surprise that so many local riders swear by Vermont singletrack.
If you haven’t sampled the huge variety of cross-country, enduro, and DH trails here, check out one of these summer bike fests in Vermont and make mountain biking in the Green Mountain State a regular event.
Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is legendary for its riding and its natural beauty. Each June, New England Mountain Bike Association’s NEMBAfest takes over East Burke, Vermont’s Kingdom Trails . Nearly 2000 riders come from northeastern Canada and New England to pedal, camp, demo bikes, and socialize with the tribe in one of Vermont’s most iconic and verdant settings.
It’s a mellow scene with riders of all ages from kids to grandparents, set atop Darling Hill, with it’s sweeping views of mountains on both sides. There are free shuttle rides from “downtown” East Burke to the base of the liftserve DH trails on QBurke Mountain as well as the Darling Hill camping and trail network. The expo features brands and shops with demo bikes, half a dozen food trucks, gear vendors, raffles, music every afternoon and night, a bonfire, and tired, happy riders.
And it’s family friendly. “Families and kids are the future of our sport,” said Philip Keyes, NEMBA executive director. “We strive to make everyone feel at home.” NEMBA does that with affordable family pricing, a special quiet camping area, and programming specifically for kids. Parents can let their kids loose on a kid-specific test track that’s entirely visible from the expo, or watch them cycle through Highland Mountain Bike Park’s kids’ skills area. Highland also puts on an assortment of non-biking kids games in the demo area, from sack races to water balloon fights, and there are led kid rides.
“I’m not hardcore,” said Mary Yates, from Bristol, Vermont who came to the festival with her seven year-old daughter. “But it’s an awesome feeling to be in such a beautiful spot with so many other people who love mountain biking—we’ve had a great time and I can’t wait to come back next year.” For more information, visit www.nembafest.com.
The riding in Ascutney , VT may be one of Vermont’s best-kept secrets, and VMBA Fest is trying to spread the word on the area’s exceptional network and easy access to Boston, New York, and all points south. This year, Vermont Mountain Bicycle Association will hold the 8th VMBA Fest with Sport Trails of Ascutney Basin (STAB) in and around East Windsor, VT July 31, and August 1st and 2nd.
The festival, “might be the best mountain bike deal in the country,” according to Vermont Mountain Bike Association Executive Director, Tom Stuessy. “Riders can pretty much plant themselves at the fest for the weekend—there’s onsite food, camping, and every kind of led ride you can imagine from kids rides to women’s rides, epic rides, skills clinics, and beginner, intermediate and advanced rides, and more. There will be plenty of demo bikes to test, as well as vendors, live music, and a Long Trail beer garden. And you get all that for $65 for the three day weekend.
VMBA Fest is a more intimate event, with around 325 participants. Most come from out of state, and around half are women. And, there are loads of families too.
Sport Trails of Ascutney Basin, which hosts the festival, maintains around 30-miles of single track. The Ascutney Trails have been in the news lately. The town of West Windsor is trying to buy the closed Ascutney Ski area with the help of Trust for Public Land to further develop its network. Participate in led rides, and you can ride all of the networks’ current trails and more. The area has extensive networks of unmapped private trails that are opened up and guided during the weekend, usually by the guy who built them. And, even with 300+ riders on the trail, it’s rare to run into anyone else. Nighttime shenanigans include music and the famous Vermont Mountain Bike Olympics where you can try your talent at track standing, race a technical obstacle course raced on tiny bikes, and wind up for a huffy toss.
Can’t make a fest?
This week, VMBA released a statewide map of 16 trail networks. The map also highlights rider friendly food, lodging, and local bike shops. Most Vermont riding is on private land—the map is a true testament to the successful relationship building spearheaded by VMBA, state support of developing mountain biking, and a commitment to keeping Vermont rural. Stuessy says, “Mountain biking is making significant progress in Vermont and contributions to it’s economy and landscape. Thanks to chapters, public and private land managers, and sponsors coming together to share the story of the special riding scene here, we were able to make this map.” The map is available at local outdoor stores. Access more maps of local networks, as well as ski passes, shop deals, and more, by joining VMBA .