The Best Trail Running in Burlington with Ultra-Runner Nick Yardley

Nick Yardley celebrating his 2012 UTMB finish
Nick Yardley celebrating his 2012 UTMB finish Nick Yardley
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In 1986, Nick Yardley, now President of Julbo USA, came to the Northeast from Yorkshire, England to be the lead climbing guide for International Mountain Climbing School in North Conway, New Hampshire. A decade later he moved to Vermont to take a job with a specialty retailer. That’s when trail running became his primary sport.

“When arrived here from the UK and started running in New England’s dense forests, it was a little claustrophobic and uncomfortable,” remembers Yardley. But now he’s fallen in love with what he calls the “green tunnel effect” of Vermont’s stunning woods, that he says helps him get into “the zone.”

Nick Yardley running in the 2014 CCC: Courmayeur Champex Chamonix
Nick Yardley running in the 2014 CCC: Courmayeur Champex Chamonix Nick Yardley

Yardley considers trail running a ‘junior’ version of mountaineering. “You’re mentally and physically engaged, but its moving light through the terrain instead of being weighed down with ropes and a rack. Mountaineering—you fall and you die. Running—you fall and you scrape your knee.” Yardley mountaineers as well as runs in winter, and claims that running is the best training you can do for ice climbing Mt. Washington or an assault on a larger peak in the Alps, Himalayas or Rockies.

Another reason that Yardley loves to trail run in Vermont: the culture. Some of the best trail runners in the US come from Vermont, including Aliza Lapierre, Kasie Emman, and Jack Pilla.

Where should you run when you come to town? Here are Yardley’s favorite loops for trail running in Burlington:

1. Camel’s Hump State Forest, Huntington

The start of the Burrows Trail, Huntington
The start of the Burrows Trail, Huntington Gribbin Loring

Run access trails for the Long Trail, which follows the spine of the Green Mountains from Canada to Massachusetts. Start on the Forest City Trail, connect with the Dean Trail, then link to the Monroe trail, which will take you to the summit of Camel’s Hump, Vermont’s third highest peak. After taking in 360° views, descend Camel’s Hump via the Burrows Trail .

Why Yardley loves it: “It’s all runnable, technical trail. It flows better than the trails on Mt. Mansfield, and you get to circumnavigate the mountain, never backtracking, always on a new trail.” Yardley says that it’s also a great run in winter. “Snowshoers pack the whole thing out and it’s like a racetrack. You can generally run the whole mountain in the middle of winter with spiked running shoes—no need for crampons—and it’s lot easier going because the rocks are filled in, which smooths out the terrain. And because you’re in the trees, you’re protected from bad weather.

2. Honey Hollow, Duxbury

This popular winter Nordic ski used to be part of the Long Trail, now it’s part of Vermont’s Catamount Trail, which, like the Long Trail, runs the length of the state. Start at the Honey Hollow parking lot in Duxbury. Then follow the signed Catamount Trail until you hit double track. Follow old dirt track for a five or seven mile loop.

Why Yardley loves it: “I’ve seen loads of wildlife up there—bear, moose, porcupines and deer, and I love the consistent 2.5 mile hill through beautiful hardwood forests. The area has a lot of history. There are old stonewalls and other remnants of old settlements. On the descent, you pass one of the most gorgeous views in VT. In winter, if they’re logging the upper section of the road, the road is plowed and it’s one of the best places in the state for hill repeats. And, when it’s plowed you can run in regular sneakers instead of spiked ones.”

3. Preston Loops, Richmond

Built by mountain bikers and mapped and maintained by the town, Preston Loops are the start of superb singletrack where riders and runners share the trail. The official loop is around two miles. Explore side trails and you can get up to 16 miles of running on switchbacking singletrack.

Why Yardley loves it: “Bikers know how to make moderate gradients good for climbing better than runners. So you can run everything on the Preston loops—you don’t have to walk. It’s an intricate network of trails, with good footing, and fun to find your way. You can get a lot of miles out of a small surface area.” Yardley warns, however, not to try these trails in winter because they’re impossible to follow.

4. Catamount Outdoor Family Center: Williston

A runner hitting the trails at the Catamount Outdoor Family Center
A runner hitting the trails at the Catamount Outdoor Family Center Rajan Chawla

A pay-to-run adventure center, Catamount’s 20+ miles of trails are where many locals go for group runs and the community race series.

Why Yardley loves it: “Every Tuesday night, 250-350 come out for the 5K series. It’s been going on for 20 years, and all ages of runners participate including a lot of families.”

5. Island Line Rail Trail, Burlington

Heading out toward the islands on the Island Line Trail
Heading out toward the islands on the Island Line Trail Ellentk

This multi-use trail runs from Oakledge Park in Burlington’s South End into the Champlain Islands when the bike and pedestrian ferry is running—open daily from 10am-6pm until Labor Day.

Why Yardley loves it: “Most of the Rec Path is paved, but there are plenty of dirt detours off the trail—make sure to explore the network behind Burlington High School. The causeway is super unique—it’s an old railroad converted to trail, a thin strip of land that extends for 2.5 miles out into Lake Champlain, with marble blocks on either side holding it all together. It’s a surprisingly long out and back, even without taking the Ferry into South Hero.”

6. University of Vermont, Burlington

This three mile loop, which starts at the UVM Gym, is a combination of pavement and dirt, and it’s Burlington’s most popular lunch run.

Why Yardley loves it: “It’s a great social run—you always see other riders and runners out there. You’re in downtown Burlington, but you’re on trail, in open fields and woods, and you can run to it in minutes from the heart of downtown Burlington.”

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